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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

5 pieces of terrible advice I've been told about project cars | Hagerty Media

Thanks to the advent of the internet, automotive enthusiasts have never had it easier. Finding project cars, parts, and how-to details is downright simple and allows just about anyone with an inkling of passion for cars to join the community. However, it also allows just about anyone to declare themselves as an expert and spew advice far and wide.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/5-pieces-of-terrible-advice-ive-been-told-about-p...
133 REPLIES 133
Bostwick9
Intermediate Driver

Or if that term is being used in place of "boosted" it might mean power brakes.
No one knows what to call a hard top any longer.

DanC
Pit Crew

Carpenters know, measure twice...cut once. The worst advice is buying without inspecting first. Internet car buying...especially classics...opens you up to all kinds of problems. I recently drove 8 hours (one way) to look at an internet project. That was the best 16 hour day I spent in a long time. Oh it looked OK, until you really looked. Body fitment was off by 2 inches in places, new parts looked great in pictures until you turned them over and found rust on underside of pistons/cylinders; and sellers rehearsed dumb statements of "that's the way I bought it" or "if you would have asked for more photos"... Reagan said it best..."Trust but verify". I have purchased nearly a dozen cars from far away, and NEVER finished the transaction until a crawled under them and drove them when possible. The best money I ever spent was inspecting cars that I ultimately walked away from.
RJ
Intermediate Driver

"The best money I ever spent was inspecting cars that I ultimately walked away from."
Truer words were never spoken - I've done it many times, but failed to do so twice, and still regret both times. First and last car I purchased on feeBay was a nicely pictured 544 - the wet pavement in the pics should have been a clue. Car was nasty, but I had towed an empty dolly from MI to TX, and "didn't want to waste the trip" Stupid.
cw
Pit Crew

Keep a journal of all the work, parts and adjustments along the way...
Timbo
Intermediate Driver

Add to that journal the price of everything. It will surprise you how far overboard you've gone and not be able to recoup it, so make sure you enjoy your vehicle when you're done. Unless it's a Cobra or Ferrari, you'll never see most of your money again.
Historian
Detailer

Who buys, builds or customizes a car to recoup their money?? Idiots. I am building my car because I love it and want to drive it. If I want a investment, I'll look at real estate or the stock market.
JAG
Intermediate Driver

This is a very good article, and the comments are good as well. Although I do think that everything does go better with and LS, not all vehicles need one. One bad piece of advice is staying with a carburetor. FI is just better all the way around, unless you have 100% original intent, no matter if you drive it all time or it sits. I have both on old cars and FI in the end is always better. Now, my L98 TBI did cost me a set of injectors, but it beats the hard to start and fuel odors form my Holley's and Q-jets. Last piece of good advice. Find some non ethanol fuel, it will pay huge dividends.
MrBill-1943
Intermediate Driver

Completed my Resto on my 87SS and can assure you that while paint makes you feel good the later in the project the better. When it comes to parts, buy as needed as best guess could cost you BIG $$ and prats that will sit and sit. Another is search the net for parts suppliers as opposed to some of the more popular big box types as you will get better pricing as well as better freight terms. Next what ever you plan on spending, add at least 10%. I am leaving the final Buff and Cut till after 6 months letting all the little issues shake out then and when they do will do it. I was also told that I should change my drums to disks, did not and will not as she still stops as good as she did in 1987. Regarding the motor swap, still have my original with 103,000 miles that is well taken care of with oil changes at least once a year as I only dive her about 500 miles a year.
DC
Intermediate Driver

“. If drum brakes were so bad they would not have survived in production as long as they have. It’s a 100-year-old design that you can still find on dealer lots today.”

Thank you sir !
Rider79
Instructor

While not extinct, rear drums are rather uncommon on new cars in the US today. And, I do not believe that any NEW automobiles or light trucks for sale here, have front drums.
BULLITT65
Pit Crew

Disc brakes are a fairly inexpensive upgrade these days, and do not have the brake fade drums will have after a little while. Disc are good from beginning to end, drum are good when new, but even half way through the brake shoes life cycle you can tell they are not responding as well. If I made a top 5 things I would add to a car to make it more road worthy, disc brakes may be #1. Drum are operable you just have two drive a little more pre-cautiously.

Lightning1
Detailer

Yea, the buy it now stuff, my advice to a prospective restorer is find out what parts are not likely to be reproed and when you run across it buy it. Soft items are reproed. I looked at a disassembled (bad sign) and painted 7 years ago Blazer sitting outside that the owner bought all the repro soft items and put them in a shed full of rats. Then wasn't happy with my $2000 offer (he wanted $6k) because I couldn't find "everything needed to restore it" other than chewed up garbage.
Lightning1
Detailer

As far as disc brakes, long haul 18 wheelers use drum brakes. Drums work if you do them right. Don't buy parts at discount stores, go to the industrial part of town that does large truck brakes. The shop will be grungy but the old guy in the back knows what he is doing. Bring all your brake parts with you and they will know exactly what you need.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

The Drum Disc argument can be solved with one simple question. How do you plan to use the car? If you want a perfect show car that will be driven on open roads and to local shows the drums are probably going to be fine. If the car is going to see a few highway trips a year, some back and fourth to work a few times a week in Summer, maybe a weekend getaway or two every year then the investment in at least front discs might be worth it.
DaveVan
Intermediate Driver

I agree with 4 out of the 5. in 2020 I finished a many year ground up resto fo my 66 Mustang 2+2. Body work was last......and done twice as the first time it was done poorly. I used good parts.....a number were Chinese but made there by name brand vendors. You can not purge ALL China parts without spending HUGE money. No LS in a Mustang....easy. BUT...my 46 Ford I bought came with a 350/350 combo.....and folks tell me all the time I need a LS swap.....NOPE!! if any swap is done it will be Coyote but doubt that will happen as the 350 cranks up and runs well.
I do feel Disk brakes are almost required. Drums on the Mustang with 300 hp is just scary. My bone stock unrestored 73 Javelin has it's drums....and I MUST keep that n mind when I drive it.....and they are the best drum parts I can find.
Driver needs disk brakes.
elldorado2000
Intermediate Driver

If drum brakes were so good, they would still be on the front wheels of every car. "I think we are going to put drum brakes on the front of our cars from now on", said no manufacturer ever. Disc brakes are easier to service. Why drum brakes are still standard equipment on some cars is beyond reason.
Bokeoyaji
Intermediate Driver

You've misunderstood what was said. Disc brakes are far superior than drum brakes, for sure. The point was, that giving advice to convert to disc by default is a bad advice. Classic cars don't need the upgrade, requiring aftermarket equipment that can be costly, or if lucky, you might find a car with the correct factory option at a junkyard for less. The decision to get the upgrade depends on what you want to do with the classic car. If you want to turn it into a racer, then upgrade. If you're only going for a spin around town on weekends, then no point in upgrading. The bottom line is, does it make sense to do a disc brake conversion knowing how you're going to use the car? Also, if you just want the "cool" factor, no one is really stopping you from doing anything.
Kyle
Moderator

Drum brakes still exist because they work, and work well. In fact, I have heard from folks familiar with GM's engineering team that Chevrolet only took the drums off the Colorado because of perception and appearance. Drums were more than adequate, but buyers had the impression they were smarter than the engineers...
Historian
Detailer

It doesn't take much to be smarter than Chevy engineers! My C4 Corvette is a prime example!
jluvzcrz
Pit Crew

Some good advice all around. Mine is general in nature but I think it applies to working on cars. A few sayings I have learned over the years, "Experience is recognizing a mistake when you make it for the second time." This goes hand in hand with "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement." And perhaps my favorite is to think clearly when listening to advice from so called "experts" because sometimes "An ex is a has-been and spurt is a drip under pressure." Have a great day everyone!!
DC
Intermediate Driver

“Just LS swap it”
“However, it also allows just about anyone to declare themselves as an expert and spew advice far and wide.”

Hahaha, again amen!

There’s easily 500 HP in first gen mild tuned SBC. IMO, if one can’t have fun w/500, how were the 325 GTOs and Chevelles (not to mention 427/435 Corvettes)
tolerable ?
twa2471
Pit Crew

All good advice as I've been restoring cars for well > 50 years. My latest, a 71 Boat Tail Rivi I drove for 2 years first and got all the mechanical 's up to snuff well before I did anything else what so ever. That's always step 1 IMHO.

Heck even after that was done and I had started stripping the car for body work I even drove it to a car show with no door, 1/4 or rear window glass, all the trim removed , no bumpers and the trunk and interior completely stripped clean and freshly spatter painted and sitting on a 5 gallon bucket sense the show was only 8-10 miles away. Every one commented on how much they,,, Just Loved,,, my new bucket seats,,,,LOL!!!

Funnest part of all,, I walked away with a first place in the under restoration class that day,,who'd a even thunk it ????
Kyle
Moderator

I can't in good conscious tell anyone to drive a car without a seat. It's just not worth it. You've done it, I've done it, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
Lightning1
Detailer

And the LS swap advice, now that everyone is going LS, all the cool gen 1 SBC stuff that used to be expensive is now cheap. Try to sell an aluminum intake for gen 1. They used to be $200 to $300, now you are lucky to get $100 for a nice one. So now building a Gen 1 is cheap and easy.
salsa96
Intermediate Driver

With old cars, parts availability eventually becomes an issue. If you actually plan to drive your project once finished you should consider regular maintenance stuff like brake parts. I did a common upgrade to my 240Z brakes by swapping the fronts with 2nd generation Toyota 4Runner calipers and changing the rear drums to disc brakes from a 240sx. An adjustable proportioning valve and proper brackets also were needed but what I have now are better brakes and easier access to replacement parts as needed.
chrlsful
Instructor

I'd hafta say the article is OK but not oriented toward the most helpful (to the new to this). It leaves out the 1st steps, even for those more experienced. Research in several forms are pieces of a staged model of a rest0mod or full mod project. Research the model AND research this specific xx# of yr old car/truck etc I have in-front of me right now. Decisions based on this would be a nxt step. That includes a comparison of the 2 - a how to get there (sequence of operations & budget). Now we have a time & $ plan plus a technical one. Just like an upcoming vacation - I spread out the experience, research the geog area, map out some visit sites, look at pic of the place, etc, etc. That plan should be wrked thru to the end of the project. I see too many hack jobs from changes in mid stream. The understanding was not there from the beginning - poor research. Ideas late in the game came along. I have simplified it a good deal but believe these points to be important in the job (buying the project is nother full article for this topic).
Maestro1
Instructor

Kyle, excellent and I thank you. My full sized cars all have disc brakes in the front, which the Impala in the barn just got. The smaller stuff stays with drums, no reason for altering anything. I don't convert engines but I do install electronic ignitions where I think it's necessary and where 6 volt systems exist I usually convert to 12 volt for easier starting and less grief in general. I think upgrading cars for safety reasons (I forgot; I have high intensity taillights for my 41 year old pickup so people will see me from the rear) is a good idea if one drives one's collection, which I do. Thanks again.
97Cobra
Intermediate Driver

Good advice BUT the LS swap is not the way to go for everything. WHY would you buy NOS parts for your Ford or a Chrysler Fiat and drop a LS in it. There are better engines. WHY not use a Hemi or Coyote.
okfoz
Intermediate Driver

Cost, An LS Swap is cheap, Coyote, or Hemi is much more expensive. But I agree, if I had an old Ford and wanted to swap in something newer, I would go with a Coyote, even if it was more, and a Dodge would be a Hemi...
CraigCopple
Pit Crew

That’s in the eye of the beholder. Of course if you’re a Ford guy, you would favor the Coyote.
Zephyr
Advanced Driver

Worst advice ever - buy an old classic, restore it and sell it for a big profit. Except for multi-million dollar cars I have never seen a restored car that would sell for anything close to the amount of money that it took to restore it.
elheadflat
Intermediate Driver

I always tell folks 10 years and ul be happy.
TG
Instructor

The only people who make money flipping cars is used car dealers. They do it by selling many cars at a few hundred dollars profit instead of trying to sell one car at a few thousand dollars profit
Zephyr
Advanced Driver

They are also able to buy used parts at wholesale prices from wrecking yards and have a full time mechanic working for them.
Bostwick9
Intermediate Driver

Correct. The absolute worst reason to buy an old car.
Speculators have done a lot of damage.
okfoz
Intermediate Driver

Most wrong thing I have ever been told was "Drum brakes do not stop as well as Disc Brakes" My 67 Riviera has these HUGE drum brakes and I locked them up, all 4 corners at 70mph on the Ohio Turn pike when someone cut me off... Yeah, the car skidded but it will stop... If I was going to race the car, then Disc Brakes might be a way to go, but in my instance Drum brakes work just fine.

Fast forward 10 years and I bought an 87 Firebird Formula with Disc Brakes and the thing would not stop at all. Ended up buying 12" Baer Disc Brakes because the original disc brakes would not stop the car, it stops now...
oldmustangs49
Pit Crew

My experience with OEM parts and aftermarket parts is with fenders for a 1970 Mustang. We had 1 NOS fender and 1 aftermarket fender. I could have put the NOS fender on blindfolded, it fit that well. The aftermarket fender looked like a Mustang fender but that was about it. It didn't fit anywhere and had to be modified heavily to fit reasonably well. I would suppose they might be making them better now.

Scary
New Driver

My wife's parents bought a early 1965(1964 1/2) Mustang new. She bought it from them as her first car. We live in the rust belt. When I got my hands on it in early 2000 it had terminal rust. I spent 13 years restoring it to better than new, but not a resto mod. Other than the color, I followed all of the original specs and did a complete restoration sometimes called a nut and bolt restoration. I took absolutely everything apart(engine, steering box, trans, window frames, etc..) and finished them back to original specs. I did cheat in a few areas like stainless steel brake and fuel lines, a fuel pump that allows ethanol fuel, and POR15 as the primer for the underside and inside of the car. I kept drum brakes all around. I didnt upgrade the 260cid V8, but when it was apart I did grind the exhaust ports to match the manifold, and polished the input side. I also put on period correct bias ply tires that have about 3.5 inches of contact patch. Drums will clearly stop the wheel, tires slide as expected. But since it isnt my fast performance car and I dont drive it fast, I opted for original over upgrades.
Punk
Detailer

Good stuff here! On the issue of 'buy only NOS parts' as an owner of 50+ year old English cars, the saying should be 'buy only quality parts'. NOS is pretty hopeless for most things even if you could find them unless its a tail light lens or something. The first time I restored my E Type I bought new bumpers. They were made in Mexico. When they came I took one look ta them and sent them back and took my bumpers to the platers. When I restored the paint again 20 years later, the bumpers didn't need to be plated again. But when I needed a new heater blower for my Sunbeam, the only option was a new part made in Turkey. It was cheap, and it works great! So you have to be choosy.
CPrize
New Driver

Always be budget conscious when making project decisions. Sure an uncommon engine or drivetrain might seem like a good idea but future maintenance or rebuild costs might change your mind. Odd choices can mean parts are difficult to find or worth a mint. A viper V10 for your hot rod is great until you find out it's $300 for an oil pan gasket.
As for brake or other upgrades make sure they are fit for purpose and be aware that it may impact the value of your vehicle. For a resto-mod it may be a positive impact however for a restoration it may be negative.
When seeking advice more is better but do your homework and confirm if the advice you are getting is correct.
knucklebusted
Intermediate Driver

The problem with the disc brake advice is that drums lock so much easier than discs due to the self energizing nature of the leading shoe. Discs are much more difficult to lock up and much quicker to respond. If you need drums to be original, that's fine but discs are safer and will repeatably stop every time after the first time. Drums get hot and experience more fade as well. Don't get me started on driving a drum brake car through axle-deep water. You have no brakes the first time you hit them after they are wet.
Bostwick9
Intermediate Driver

It was a part of Driver's ED instruction than when driving in the rain and through pools of water one should tap the brakes to dry them before going into that "first time you hit them when wet" situation in the first place.
Knowing the limitations of what one is driving keeps one out of those situations.
Richie
New Driver

Well I think that everyone has a different situation. When I started my resto mod I really didn't have a plan. I know I wanted to get it painted. The body was a rust free car and all original panels. I started to remove all the stainless and bumpers. once I got to that point I realized that the engine had to come out to paint the firewall...never thought of that when i started, By the way i had never done anything like this before. I was a mechanic by trade. Well needless to say the project snowballed. It took me 5 years and was really happy the way it turned out.



hunternicholas
Intermediate Driver

I think the LS Swap thing is getting close to having run it's course. Guys are starting to get sick of hearing about it, and it's getting boring. At this point I'm not really interested in who stuffed an LS into whatever. On second thought, I'd like to see the results of an LS Swap into a motorhome. Oh wait...I think I've already seen that.
Rust-aholic
Pit Crew

As far as disc brakes I think if a car with drum brakes has been modified for performance drum brakes can be kind of scary. I had a 1966 pontiac lemans with a mean 400, the drum brakes faded and the fronts cracked in half twice!
Kyle
Moderator

I can't say I've ever heard of or seen a drum brake crack in half. That's interesting.
Historian
Detailer

Had a old Chevy PU with front drums. Put new bonded shoes on it. A few months later, on the freeway, a blind old lady in a Caddy cuts in front of me and slammed on her brakes. I hit my brakes. The bond on one shoe broke loose, and a chunk of brake material got caught between the drum and the opposite shoe. The drum snapped, and I had zero stopping ability. I swerved onto the shoulder, and coasted to a stop. From then on, I would only buy riveted brake shoes.

elheadflat
Intermediate Driver

I have advised guys to avoid disc brakes on very original cars that don't get driven alot, Most recently a real nice 1966 SS396. A lot of guys didn't bother with discs simply because of the drag on drag cars...back off the shoes a bit and no friction loss...more importantly though is the fact that disc rotors rust in our climate when sitting unused.
Most recently a Healey I'm doing...alot of machine shops go .030 over and new pistons......our engine had a very small ridge so my engine builder advised to simply clean up the bores (after we checked and measure for wear....new rings, and do everything else (Line hone etc) and check for cracks etc....I don't think I'll be driving it alot...but even if it uses a bit of oil we should be Ok.
Another thing...if a car has good paint and its not lacquer you don't have to strip it for a driver repaint....have done this on a lot of my cars with great success.
TerryD
New Driver

I personally don't like LS swaps,mostly because I recently retired as a repair shop owner and a used car dealer.The LS engines are like everything.They are great when they are great.However,they do have oil pressure problems,cylinder head cracking problems,and camshaft problems.Ever change a cam in an LS engine?You have to pull the cylinder heads.Ever replace a rear main seal in an LS engine?It's not for an amateur mechanic.And I simply do not want my service engine soon light to come on in my 55 Chevy.As for disc brake swaps,yes,definitely .Most of us don't drive these drum brake cars enough to keep things working as they should,so the first few times you step on the brakes they are likely to pull one way or the other,hopefully to the right,I convert everything I own to disc brakes and dual master cylinders for safety.
drjim
Detailer

"Throw away that QudraJet and put a Holley on it".

The only thing "wrong" with a QuadaJet is that most people don't have a clue about how they work, or how to adjust them.

And in 50+ years of working on them, I've NEVER seen the well plugs leak, so put away the JB Weld.....

- Jim