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  August 24, 2012
Flexing Your Muscle (Car)...

"There never seems to be enough time to do it right... but somehow there always seem to be enough time to do it over."
~ Robin Stark, Software Engineer

A young friend of mine recently purchased a 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe. He really didn’t spend too much money to purchase the car... that’s probably because it isn’t drivable...

... yet 

This car is a project car. It’s a car that has a good engine, a rebuilt transmission and drive train, and a seemingly good frame. Other than that, this car is a complete rebuild. 

The car’s interior appears to have been burnt out in a fire (although it wasn’t really in a fire) so the head-liner, carpets, seats, seat belts, dashboard and arm-rests all need to be replaced. All of the rubber needs to be replaced including the tires, hoses and all of the seals around the car. The braking system need to be repaired. The suspension system and all of the bearings need to be replaced.

The wiring, gauges, and lighting need to be completely removed and a complete new electrical system needs to be installed.

Under the current paint, several areas of cancerous corrosion can be seen, so all of the car’s paint must be stripped, the corrosion ground out and repaired, and then the car must be repainted top to bottom.

Once all of these items have been addressed... all of the systems repaired... all of the parts replaced... then this car will be a beautiful classic show-car with years of enjoyment still to come.

Now the young man who purchased this particular car is not necessarily a man of financial means. He is also without any transportation at the moment.

Therefore an important decision will need to be made shortly as to which direction this restoration project will precede.

There are really only two possible choices - other than to abandon the project and try to sell the car as is: 

  1. Do a complete restoration
  2. Make only the necessary repairs in order to begin safely driving the car as soon as possible.

Complete Restoration - Choice 1

If the decision is to completely restore the car, then the engine and drive-train should be removed. The interior should be gutted. The other components should be removed, cleaned and/or repaired. The body panels need to be removed and stripped to the metal.

Starting just from the basic frame, the car should be rebuilt and restored with each layer being placed upon another. Perhaps start by rebuilding the engine and transmission, then rewiring the entire car, repairing and replacing the suspension system, reinstalling the drive-train, repairing/replacing the exhaust system and hoses and cables for the braking and cooling systems, completely redo the interior, repaint the body, replace the tires and rims, and finally add all of the chrome, rubber seals, lights and other "finish" parts.

Start from ground zero, and build up from there until the project is complete.

This option takes time, money and an extreme amount of patience but in the end you get a completely restored classic vehicle that its owner knows inside and out. Every nut every bolt...

Fix and Drive - Choice 2

The second option is to realize that the engine, transmission and drive train are generally sound so leave them alone. The time, money and efforts should be directed in making repairs to the car to make it drivable in the least amount of time for the least amount of money.

Once the car is running, then other repairs and restorations can be made on an "as needed" basis.

Make wiring repairs to all of the head, tail, brake, and back-up lights, turn-signals, emergency flashers, dashboard instruments, and windshield wipers. Seats and seat belts need to be added. New brakes and tires need to be purchased and installed.

Performing these simple repairs will allow my friend to drive his new purchase in a safe manner. It may be in need of cosmetic repair, but it is relatively safe to drive and he has cool transportation (what 16-year old wouldn’t want to drive to school in a classic American muscle car?). Choice number 2 is quick, initially less costly, and relatively easy.

At some point in the future, he can invest in new carpeting, headliners, body work, and a quality paint job.

He undoubtedly will end up making needed repairs to the suspension, exhaust, cooling, and brake systems spending more money than he would have had he opted for choice 1 (due to the disassembly and removal of parts in order to reach the areas of the needed repairs).

Those are the trade-offs... drive the car now versus drive it later... spend less money today versus spend more money later... drive a beautifully restored classic versus driving an visually challanged vehicle...

The above story illustrates all of the choices that we make each day in our businesses, homes and relationships.

Do we labor with our current IT systems trying to keep them up and running well past their useful life? How much time is lost to unproductivity when our computers and/or phones go down? How much money does it cost us to have IT service providers constantly come to our facilities to make repairs? When do we say enough is enough and opt for a replacement instead of another "band-aid"?

Do we put off needed repairs to our homes, telling ourselves that our roof can make it through another winter? Instead of doing it right the first time, we economize by replacing a few shingles at a time. Then we are surprised to learn that we have leaks, extensive dry rot, or termite damage costing us several times more than what it would have cost us to do it right in the first place.

When do we take the time to call up an old friend? When we need something from them? We haven’t taken the time to properly maintain many of our friendships but now we need to ask a favor from them. Creating and maintaining friendships take time and effort.

Many times our most favorable rewards come from doing something right rather than doing it expediently or on the cheap.  Other times, it makes sense to make repairs instead of rebuilding from the ground up because resources are just simply not available at this time or because the overall system isn’t really that bad off.

I do understand the impetuous nature of a teenager wanting to drive his first car (a really cool car at that), so I suspect that he’ll be opting for decision number 2... however sometimes it might be better to have something great in the future rather than having something average in the present.

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we always try to do things right the first time.


Jim Kalb

www.optifuse.blogspot.com (blog archive)

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