5 Tips for Nailing Your First Summer Project Car

The weather is warm, the sun is shining, school is out, and that all means one thing. Summer is officially here, and that means it’s the perfect time to start a new car project. If this summer is going to showcase your first project car, here are some tips and tricks to help you nail your first summer project car.

1. Beware of Rust

If you’re looking for a budget project car, remember one golden rule: beware of rust. You may find a spot or two here and there — it happens with older cars, no matter how well they’re taken care of — but don’t take on a tremendous rust restoration job as your first project.

It’ll cost you a ton of money and chances are high that you’ll give up half-way through because it’s too much for a beginner to handle. Plus, if you pick up a project car that’s got rust on the frame, you might as well take it to the junkyard. Beware of rust when choosing your new project.

2. Stick To Your Budget

Project cars aren’t cheap but that doesn’t mean you should mortgage your house to rebuild your project — unless you’re planning on living in it, and we don’t recommend that. Set yourself a budget — either monthly or per paycheck, whatever works best for you. — and stick to it, within reason.

If the part you need is on sale and it’s a little bit over your budget for the period, feel free to buy it, especially if the price will be back to normal by the time your budget resets. For the most part, though, stick to your budget and don’t empty the bank trying to rebuild your summer project car.

3. Choose an Easy Build

Don’t pick the most complicated — or the newest — car to restore for your summer project. A lot of more modern cars rely on computers and advanced electronics that it seems like you need a degree in electrical engineering to figure out. Start with something simple, like:

  • Scion xB – The exterior is kind of goofy looking, but the engine is easy to work on and easy to boost.
  • Lexus SC 300 — You can pick up a used early to mid-90s Lexus for less than $7,000, and they’re fantastic beginner resto cars.
  • Any Honda Civic — There are so many aftermarket parts for the Honda Civic that you won’t even know where to start.

Start with something easy and work your way up to the more complicated projects as you gain experience and confidence.

4. Make a Plan

Now that you’ve got your project car on-hand, it’s time to start planning out your project. What do you want to do first — get it running, modify the engine, or improve the exterior?

Write out the big steps first, then break each of these down into smaller projects. If you want to get it running, for example, the first thing you need to do is figure out why it’s not.

5. Don’t Just Bolt Things On

We mentioned bolt-ons for the Honda Civic and while the parts might fit that doesn’t mean you should just start bolting on every add-on that crosses your path.

There’s no guarantee that your stock engine will survive the extra power of a supercharger or turbo, even if you install it correctly. Work up to major power modifications slowly, and make sure that you aren’t going to blow up your engine the first time you rev it up.

Don’t Rush, and Enjoy Yourself

Don’t rush through your project car this summer, especially if it’s the first one you’ve ever done. Enjoy it, because while you may work on new projects over the years, you will never work on your very first summer project car ever again.