Jan 21, 2012

Buy, Don't Build

Buy, don't build.  Or should I say: Buy from fools.

Fools for building or fools for selling, it makes no difference, the value to a buyer can often be the same.  I'm republishing this older blog as a reminder to myself mostly.  If you want your car to go faster, consider buying a faster car.  Without a doubt some moron has already spent huge money and time making his car as fast as you want yours to be.  Benefit from the stupidity of people like me, people who improve their cars out of irrational addiction. Find these people who do things right because they can't help themselves.  Buy our their cars, because once done, we're they're too dumb to keep them..

Sad Story #1. My Pal Craig's MINI Cooper S: exhaust, suspension, brakes, head work, pulleys, gauges, and much more than I can remember.
Sold to make room for a little one and an SUV.  Perhaps the saddest tale of all, except for the buyer of course.
                                                         
If your dream is to build, then build. But building a car is not the best way, economically, to acquire the car of your dreams. Buying someone else’s project may be a better way to get what you want.  You can safely assume that more money has been spent on the car than you are going to pay for it. Rest assured, if you find a car that suits you, there will still be plenty to do to make the car your own. From a good cleaning to porting your own heads, there is always enough work left over with any car.  I promise.

A word of caution, don't buy a "built" car because you can't yourself.  An understanding of the modifications is very important if you are going to buy the right one.   How else will you know if it was done properly?  A modified or restored car can be a can of worms that will suck your wallet completely dry.  Done right, and sold for the right reasons they can be an opportunity for major satisfaction.   If you can't tell the difference then you might consider buying a new car, or at least a stock machine. 

The buyer of this Cobra 289 USRRC Replica from ERA Replicas easily saved $10-15K over building one himself.
He then went on to enjoy porting his own heads, dyno tuning his Webers, and retrofitting a pin drive wheel setup.
  He wisely followed my advice and still enjoyed making it his own.  This story happened twice actually.


**Enter the story of my 1986 Saleen Mustang.

Much to my surprise, the Cobra replica was not an ideal daily driver. Aside from being uninsurable for that kind of use, it was not exactly waterproof, not to mention, manual steering made Seattle's endless parallel parking a challenge. My 1992 VW Golf was a bit embarrassing to drive when I visited my other, richer, car buddies in the auto club. So, I set out for a more impressive daily driver.

This Mystic Cobra which is clearly NOT my Saleen, is about as hot and as custom as they come.
It sold for a fraction of what it cost to build, a small fraction.
 I watched the building of this car and know no expense was spared. 


Craigslist provided a 1986 Saleen Mustang that I scored for $4500. Earlier Saleens were a bit rare, and this was 1 of about 300 cars built that year. It had very high miles, was parked outside for the past 14 years and needed just about everything fixed. It was a perfect opportunity for a guy with my skills and connections to restore the car to it's former 80’s glory.



18K Miles 400hp, mostly stock $84,950
If you are going to modify for power, then
 consider the one below.
41K Miles, 480hp after $13,000 in upgrades
Which makes the price lower, not higher
$69,950  Good ROA for a well built car.

NOS (new old stock) ground effects were located in New Jersey. We made some replica’s of the original Saleen decals, and sent the bent up wheels off to be straightened. Then, performance time was at hand. I sold an extra motor through the shop that we built with the Cobra project’s byproducts (kind of like an after-birth, like Danny Devito in Twins). That sale netted me $5,000 in shop credit... a windfall. I ran the gauntlet in performance parts shopping: subframe connectors, intake, roller rockers, exhaust, ported heads, shifter, leather seats, ECM upgrades, you name it. Then Little James and I drank RedBull and worked all night for a week. Little James was one of Blood’s resident Mustang experts, and luckily, he didn’t like going home much.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Sadly I didn't own a camera back then so this is the only photo.
Like every cool car I've ever owned, I miss it terribly.

Let’s say I had about $14,000 into that car, once you add the purchase price, the shopping spree, and the value of the free labor from Little James. After completion, the car was pretty cool, fairly loud and very stiff. My wife loved the way people looked at her when she drove it, but hated that she needed a sports bra due to the Saleen's suspension.


[does a photo of your project go here? let me know]


When finished, I found I was still spending about $400/month in little repairs and improvements. Mustangs are addictive like that. Oh, and the wheels were still slightly bent. My mind began to wander... what would $400/month buy me after using the Saleen as a down payment?

It took us about $100,000 to put the first ever 4.6L 32-Valve SVT Cobra motor into a Cobra replica properly.  
Even after multiple awards and a 3 page featrure in Mustang and Fords magazine it went for under $40K

My calculations left me with a hankering for a 1998 E36 M3 Convertible, so I placed the Saleen for sale for $10,000. I knew all the places to list such a car and blanketed the country with ads. No bites. After 6 months of lowering my price, I hit rock bottom. I dropped the car off at KompactKarKorner (www.kompactkarkorner.com) for consignment. My need for that M3 was becoming urgent by that time. They talked me into expecting $6,000 for the car and said they would keep anything earned beyond that. I paid them $300 to clean my already clean car and got a ride home. When I got home there was a message on my machine, “please come and pick up your check, the car has sold.” They never even washed it.

Restorations too. It ain't cheap to bring something back to its original glory.
Don't kid yourself. A crapped out, cheap Shelby GT350 probably doesn't exist.   

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