Chevy High Performance - - Contents - Text & Pho­tos: Chris Hol­strom Chris Hol­strom is the owner of Chris Hol­strom Con­cepts, a hot rod shop in Puyallup, Wash­ing­ton, that spe­cial­izes in re­pair­ing and build­ing high-qual­ity mus­cle cars and hot rods.

Make sure you know the “true costs” of a project car be­fore you start your “per­fect” build

I’ve got a con­fes­sion to make and I don’t think I’m alone here. I love old, junk cars. I mean I re­ally have a thing for cast-off, for­got­ten, ne­glected, rusted-out hulks sit­ting dor­mant for years. Se­ri­ously, I would rather wan­der around a wreck­ing yard full of junk than stroll through rows of shiny cars at the lo­cal cruise-in. When I spot the right project, I pic­ture in my mind what it would look like with a cer­tain stance, en­gine setup, and ev­ery­thing needed to make it the per­fect car. What I don’t con­sider is all the hours and thou­sands of dol­lars nec­es­sary to pull off that vi­sion.

For ex­am­ple, a few years back I pur­chased a very rusty 1966 Chev­elle that had some lo­cal street rac­ing his­tory. Ba­si­cally, the car was used and abused for years then put away in a field where the mice do ... well, what mice do. Let’s just say it was a com­plete bio­haz­ard in­side. Ahh, the per­fect project car for me. I rolled up my sleeves and with the help from a few friends we re­placed a cou­ple truck­loads of sheet­metal, ditched the drag race gear, in­stalled a new Art Mor­ri­son frame with Baer brakes and beau­ti­ful Forge­line wheels. It looked awe­some!

We were mo­ments away from tak­ing it out and en­joy­ing it, right? WRONG! Af­ter hours and hours of clean­ing out the an­i­mal ex­cre­ment and grind­ing rust, all I had was a cool and ex­pen­sive Chev­elle sit­ting in bare metal. There was no en­gine, paint, in­te­rior ... noth­ing. There was a long road to the fin­ish line. Then I re­al­ized that the older I get the more that time be­comes a rare com­mod­ity. This car rep­re­sented an­other 2,000 hours of my life.

I jumped head first into a project without fully count­ing the cost. I be­lieve there are still more un­fin­ished clas­sic cars stashed away in barns and garages than com­pleted ones. They range from the old guy that says, “I’ll get to it one day. It’s not for sale,” to the com­pletely ripped apart restora­tion project dis­sected by some over-zeal­ous handy­man.

Let me of­fer some ad­vice when it comes to buy­ing or restor­ing a clas­sic Chevy.

I think the first step is to be bru­tally hon­est about the three re­sources ev­ery­one pos­sesses in vary­ing de­grees: money, tal­ent, and time. For in­stance, I had the money to buy a trick Mor­ri­son frame and the tal­ent to pull it off, but with three kids un­der the age of 10 and a busi­ness to run, 2,000 hours of my life away from fam­ily to build a car sounds like a ter­ri­ble idea.

Here are some ex­am­ples to drive the point home.

Let’s say money is tight but you can do some wrench­ing on your own and $15,000 is the max bud­get to build a car. Then I wouldn’t buy a $10,000 en­gine-less 1957 Chevy project need­ing ex­ten­sive re­pairs. In­stead, I would search for the clean­est 1980’s El Camino or ’79 Camaro I could find and mod­ify the sus­pen­sion and in­stall a 383 and have a blast. Just this morn­ing I saw a mid ’70’s Camaro with an LS swap and $14,500 price tag. The deals are out there.

What if you’re at a point in life where the kids are off to col­lege and the money is there to buy your dream high school car—prob­a­bly a 1969 Camaro. A quick search on eBay brings up four-dozen pos­si­ble can­di­dates. $40,000 seems to be a com­fort­able price. You could pay more, but it’s still hard to wrap your head around the fact that a car you could have had for $3,500 in high school is so ex­pen­sive in 2018. Buyer be­ware, there are peo­ple that are in the busi­ness to trade rust, body filler, and junk driv­e­trains wrapped up in a shiny paintjob for your hard-earned cash. Have the car in­spected. These same thieves also run restora­tion shops. If you are low on tal­ent or time and need to pay some­one for work, do the nec­es­sary home­work be­fore buy­ing a car or hav­ing a shop work on your baby. I have seen many dreams that turned into night­mares by shops un­able to de­liver on the work promised or cars pur­chased on­line but not in­spected.

The last thing peo­ple con­sider when build­ing or buy­ing that Chevy is be­ing hon­est about the in­tended pur­pose.

The in­tended pur­pose of a hot rod for me is driv­ing the wheels off it, whether that is on the track or street. The per­fect night would be hit­ting our lo­cal high­way that takes you through some twisties on the way to the

Pa­cific Ocean. I don’t en­joy wip­ing cars down or stress­ing about where to park. That brings me back to the 2,000-hour Chev­elle prob­lem. In all re­al­ity, the car was go­ing to be too nice for me to en­joy. I sold it to buy a ’68 Camaro that in six weeks we trans­formed into my per­fect car. It’s loud, has patina, sports boosted LS power, big brakes for my new­found au­tocross ad­dic­tion, and a smelly old in­te­rior per­fect for tak­ing the kids out for ice cream!

What is your per­fect car?

Do you have what it takes?

Just sayin’

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