Winter projects are excellent ways to stay busy and enjoy car things while you can’t do as much driving or have as many events as the warmer months allow you to experience. The only problem is, you have to have a place to work, a project to work on, and a goal to get you through. Too often enthusiasts fall into the same rut of making excuses, losing motivation, and stagnating their build process for one reason or another. I am no exception, this has happened to me. What you have to remember is the winter won’t last forever and if you want to see your project on the road when the weather improves, you can’t put off all those little things that keep your car from being road or track-ready. Today, we’re going to talk about winter project dos and don’ts so your next build actually sees daylight.
First of all, if you haven’t already begun to consider what your winter will include, you’re way behind. That’s ok, just don’t wait too long to decide on something because, while it may feel like it lasts forever, the winter will be over at some point. At the least, you should be coming up with a plan and setting deadlines. Don’t just set one ‘finish’ date; give yourself action items. Make sure you have the car by one date, the teardown finished by the next date, and parts ordered so they arrive when you are ready to begin.
You really have a few options when it comes to your winter project. You can either start a new build, finish one you already have, or rebuild something you already have. Since it is only a few months, you really should pick something that you can complete around that timeframe. If you think a full engine swap, body restoration, custom paint job, and one-off three-piece wheels are going to happen at that time, you’re delusional. Decide on something realistic. An excellent project is getting a car ready for the first drift event. Ideally, something that doesn’t involve more than basic maintenance, maybe a few mods, suspension, wheels, and safety equipment. A drift build doesn’t have to be some pro-2 car. I had an e36 328i that I swapped an M50 manifold, replaced the starter, installed racing seats/harnesses, aligned, and put back together that was all finished by the time winter was over. While I never ended up drifting it myself, I sold it to some folks who needed a turn-key drift car and they had a few seasons of success with it. That was easy, I was able to set goals (make it run, get the interior together, get wheels, tires, brakes done, etc) and was finished by spring.
Chances are, you will need to get tools and parts for your project to happen. Most people don’t have all the parts they need just laying around, so make sure your orders are placed early as you decide what direction to take so you aren’t waiting around when you finish stripping the car down. As you go along, you will probably find you need a few tools to make your job easier, too, so go ahead and budget for those as well.
We mentioned you need to set milestones in the form of action items that keep you motivated and accountable to finish your car, but it is also important to think about what you want to do with the car so you don’t lose direction or get bogged down with some aspect of your build that may not be all that critical for what you want out of your car. If your plan is to be at a show with your car, maybe don’t spend most of your time building a roll cage when you could have spent that time getting your fitment just right and making your engine reliable enough to drive to whatever show that might be. If you plan on racing, you probably shouldn’t worry too much about fixing the air conditioning or radio when your time could be better spent setting up your safety equipment. You get it.
Just remember the point to a winter build: get as much done as you can while you aren’t able to drive so when the weather warms up you spend as much time driving, racing, attending shows, whatever, as you possibly can. Set goals along the way and make sure you stick to them. If you say you want to ave your car stripped down by Christmas so all your parts arrive when they are ready to be installed, do that. Don’t slack. Don’t think ‘oh, I’ll get to it.’ You’ll either have a bunch of parts that can’t be installed because you haven’t removed stock stuff or you’ll be waiting around for parts and won’t be able to do anything on your project for weeks if you wait to order stuff after you’re done stripping it down. Maximize your time now so you can spend it working consistently, taking up the cold months with diligent work, and before you know it, your project will be finished, the weather will be warm, and you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor all summer long.