So you finally took the plunge and bought your dream car. Sure, she’s a little rough around the edges but you knew what you were getting into… or did you? It’s easy to get excited when you first get a new project; you have a vision for what you want the car to look like, sound like, drive like and to achieve that goal, you start ordering performance and cosmetic parts from overseas and at obscene costs.
It’s cool, you budgeted for this when you bought the car and you just want to make it your own as soon as possible. But you’ve skipped a few vital steps and that might cause you some serious headaches and a few extra thousand you didn’t plan on spending. To help you out, we’ve compiled 10 things you should do when you first take on a new project. So, without further ado and in no particular order, let’s get to it.
Don’t forget the basics
This one is both the most obvious and yet the most overlooked part of project car life. Even if the seller tells you – or can even prove to you – that some recent maintenance or servicing was done, it doesn’t hurt to get the car to a shop and to make sure all your fluids are fresh and that your brakes will actually stop the car.
As a bonus, it’s a good opportunity to get a proper look at the car on a lift for what will probably be the first time, a great way to give it a good check over and make sure nothing is obviously broken or leaking.
A full fluid change can be done relatively and inexpensively and the price that you pay now will pay dividends in the future, both for your wallet and your stress levels. Brakes are obviously also one of the most important components of a car and it’s worth having a look at those and considering changing the pads as one of the first jobs you do. The last thing you need is to lose your project car over inefficient or badly worn pads, another relatively inexpensive and quick change that will save you lots of headache in the future.
Do some research
We know, you’ve already done all your research before you bought the car. You know everything there is to know about each model year, each tiny little spec differentiation and the top things that go wrong. But it still doesn’t hurt to get deep into the forums, subreddits and Facebook groups either way; it’ll help you identify some of the most effective first mods to do to the car and maybe help you source parts more efficiently.
And of course, owners forums are the best source of knowledge for troubleshooting any particularly tricky issue that your car decided to throw up at you at the worst possible time. It’s almost guaranteed that someone online has had the exact same problem as you and knows the cheapest and most effective way to sort it, again saving you tons of cash and headache trying to diagnose it yourself.
Start with the most effective mods
The thrill and addiction of building a project car is at its best when you make a change that you can truly notice, be it in how it drives, how it looks or how it sounds. Tying into the previous point of doing some research, find out what the most popular changes are to your particular car and consider starting down that path as a first stage of modification. Case in point, scour GT86 and BRZ forums and you’ll find that getting some unequal length headers, a new exhaust system and a tune can help negate that notorious torque dip smack bang in the middle of the rev range, plus it makes the car sound badass. An efficient mod you’ll really feel the difference by doing. Find out what’s best for your goals and get started there, after all, hundreds of other owners have already done the research and testing for you!
Get it detailed and the interior fully cleaned
The older the car is, the more relevant this point is. It could have 30 years of hidden dirt inside and scratches on the outside. Investing in a decent exterior detail and a full interior shampoo can transform your car, restoring it to its former glory and making it feel as good as new. It can also be a great opportunity to find bits you have overlooked in your excitement to buy the car – maybe there’s bodywork or interior damage you didn’t see – a few extra jobs to add to the list in the pursuit of making your build perfect.
Prioritise making your build safe
Look, we already know. You want more power. Or you want more low. We get it. You can totally do it. But do it safely. Don’t turbocharge and tune your car without thinking about critical things like tires, brakes, suspension – not only will it handle like a dog, but you’ll be potentially risking lives as your car will have more power than it’s capable of handling.
Similarly, don’t cut corners when going after fitment and stance – spend the extra money on the right parts that can get the car sitting perfectly. Oh and please, please, please don’t just cut the springs.
In short, cutting corners only makes bigger problems later on and potentially makes your car worse to drive, so do things properly and you’ll keep grinning from ear to ear.
Don’t drive it like you stole it – you didn’t!
We’re not saying don’t have fun in your car; after all, that’s probably a huge part of the reason you bought it. But with the car scene getting more and more popular, the cars we enthusiasts love are getting rarer and of course, more expensive. Not to mention, driving at ten tenths on public roads is dangerous to pretty much everyone in a 1km radius of you. Don’t risk totalling your car that’s getting harder and more expensive to replace – there’s plenty of tracks in the UAE offering track days and roll racing events if you want to see just how powerful your car is. It’s ok to have fun on the streets, but keep it within safe limits and you’ll appreciate the car more at those times when you do get to slam your foot to the floor in a safe and controlled environment.
Know what your end goal is
Something that you need to decide fairly early on is the end goal for the build. Are you building a lightweight track car that also works as a daily? Or a drift build that you don’t plan on registering and can be as wild as possible? Or maybe you just want to do some subtle, ‘OEM+’ style mods to make the car what it should have been out of the factory. It’s important to decide these things early to avoid wasting money on the wrong parts down the line, or worse, making an irreversible change to your car that renders you unable to register it anymore – big problem.
Things may change during your build and you may decide to go in a different direction, but having a tangible goal will help optimise the work you do. As a plus, you can work more closely with the workshop you chose for your build and make sure everyone is on the same page, making it more efficient and cost-effective to get where you want to be.
Take advice from those that came before you
This is particularly important here in the UAE. There’s a few obstacles here to overcome when building a car that you may not have faced in your home country – mainly centred around registration. A lot of modifications will cause you problems with the RTA – research what others have done and take a step back before you fit something to the car that the RTA won’t like.
Local knowledge also massively comes into play when it comes to parts as well as which workshops to choose. Low levels of local parts availability means that often you’ll be ordering parts from throughout the globe – work out where is the best place to order from based on the experience of others and utilise that to save a few dirhams on your build costs. Kanzen Motorsports online shop is a great example of that; we can take all the headache out of sourcing parts and then of course, get them installed for you.
Find a workshop you trust
Probably the most important point on this list is to find a workshop that you can trust. Building a relationship with a workshop can help optimise your build, getting you to your end goal faster and in a more cost-effective way. At the same time, using the same workshop for the whole project will enable them to become incredibly familiar with your car and your goals, meaning they can advise you on what would be best to do next to keep the car on the road.
Finally, enjoy it
Building a project car can be stressful, expensive and frustrating. But the key thing to always remember is why you started down this journey in the first place. It was a dream of yours to own the car. It’s one of a kind, it’s yours and it’s awesome. Don’t forget to appreciate it every time you turn the key (as long as it starts). Keep fixing things and adding new parts and as time goes on, that frustration and stress will disappear and all you’ll be left with is a clean, reliable car that you can be proud of.
So there we have it. Have you recently bought a project car and missed a few of these steps? Book a visit to Kanzen Motorsports and we’ll help you make sure the car is safe and then work together on a build plan to turn it into something to be proud of.