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.   

Jan 18, 2012


Snow day.   Rally car.  Whats the difference?

It’s been about 72 hours since I signed the agreement to put my AWD Jeep SRT8 on consignment at Landmark Motors in Kirkland.  It started snowing about 5 minutes later and hasn’t stopped since.   Now snowed in, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on some of the AWD cars that I currently don’t own.  Any of which could get me to work better than my Carrera 2S with summer tires on it.

Each car is presently listed on eBay, and under $50K.

The logical choice to bemoan first would be the Carrera 4 since it’s from my favorite manufacturer, Porsche.  It all started with the AWD 959 of my teenage dreams.  Offered since as early as 1990 (perhaps even 1989.5, for you hair splitters) Porsche has offered an AWD variant of the tail happy Carrera.  Why didn’t I buy one?   Because the split rear grill/spoiler on the C2S looked cooler.

Audi Quattro, Shit yes. Audi offers a  very capable race-bred AWD system, which is why they have so many ski racks attached to them.  They've been offering up cool Quattros for a long long time.   If you like cool little switches and gadgets, Audi is for you.  They’ve been offering AWD in the 4S and 6S for a long time.   They lean heavier toward the luxury side of sportiness with the 6S, but it’s got a Lamborghini motor!!!  I don’t know crap about the engine but it sure sounds cool saying it out loud.   One more thing, don’t let the paddles fool ya, its an automatic.    Stretch your money to the max and find a rare Audi RS4, just skip the boy racer colored interior options.  You can even get a Quattro convertible, that way you don't have to miss out on the rattles and squeaks when you're driving in the slush around stranded trucks that forgot to lock their hubs.

Volvo.  Anything with an “R” in the name should suffice.  Although not more than a hotrodded safety machine,  I feel these cars are a great mix of sportiness and luxury.  They aren’t too common, so you’ll feel special owning one,.  Isn't that what its all about?  They go pretty cheap, which is good because  you'll need some extra cash for the transmission repairs.

Subaru, no list of amazing AWD cars would be complete without an STi.   Rally inspired,  and very available, you can't deny how cool these things are.  Try to buy one that hasn’t had the shit beat out of it by some 20yr old.   No need to remove the wing on your STI, because the cops will still recognize you.  Don’t skimp and get the lesser, but ample WRX.  You’ll need the STi's extra power to compensate for the crappy interior and coffee can tailpipe. 

Still ugly after all these years.  The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO goes like a raped ape.   How can you go wrong with an intercooler that big.  Located between the beneath the Audi in class and above the Subaru in trim, these are almost acceptable. I’m skipping the reliability issue, so you’ll have to figure that out yourself.  The EVO is fast and it’s AWD!  Nuf said.  These cars can be found for a great deal, which means boys have treated them savagely.    Try to find someone selling one who has grey hair.    Oh, here's another hint, if it comes with a set of track tires, skip it.
Mitsubishi EvoMitsubishi Evo

Volkswagon Golf R....  Which sould be available as soon as the snow melts.   Damn.
For now, I'd just buy two R32s.  That way I can get a total of 4 doors, which is what I like best about the new "R"


Dodge Charger SRT8.  Don't laugh these 6.4L motors lay down brutal torque.   A lot of young sports car enthusiasts don't know what that can feel like.  If feels good, let me tell you.  So why not a sedan or wagon with such power, and AWD?  Don’t the cops drive these now?  That’s how they catch up with the EVOs and STis I guess.   Oh, did I mention you'll get 13mpg? 


Honorable mention: Lexus IS250 AWD.  While not a sports car, they are pretty sporty and are a durable bargain.

Even if you buy one of the above be careful that some 3500lb, idiot propelled missile, doesn’t hit you.   For me, I’ll keep the Carrera 2S and snowshoe to work till I can afford one of these as a second car.  Or maybe just call in sick and blog.