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Hagerty Employee

Discouraged with your project car? A drive may be all you need

Toiling for untold hours in a dimly lit garage, oily tools in hand, can be deeply fulfilling. I've certainly experienced it. However, the work still saps my energy in a strange way. I liken it to a small drain on a battery in storage. To a point, that slow current flow is a good thing and keeps the battery healthy but, if left unchecked, even the tiniest draw can exhaust the battery's charge. Too much work, even on a car that's particularly meaningful to you, can leave you unable to summon the motivation to walk into the garage.


A drive in your project car might be the perfect pick-me-up.


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Thank you for sharing.  You mentioned the leaky water pump which I remember well.  I am sure you know about this.  The water pump was not designed with a water tight seal.  It has a wire rope which is coiled around the water pump shaft just under the large nut on the front side of the pump.  To seal the leak, you hit the grease fitting with a shot or two of grease and then you snug the nut enough to stop the leak.  I used a small flat water pump wrench designed just for this purpose.  At some point the rope wears out and you just replace it.  I kept the grease gun under the front seat!


The one on this car is quite corroded. I have it on the list to replace in the near future, but really am not too worried about it. I keep it greased enough to not pour coolant out, and thats good enough for now!
New Driver's not a Real, Overwhelming project unless it's currently not able to be driven

Intermediate Driver

Kyle I have my Dad's A. I've had it for a couple of years now. My Dad was meticulous about how he looked after it. the restoration was done 20 years ago and it still looks fresh with the exception of some body filler that cracked on the back fenders. I have spent more time wrenching on this vehicle than driving it but I have to admit that a drive in it definitely recharges my wrenching batteries. Thanks for your article.

New Driver

Excellent observation. I know I have run into this situation also where a project somehow sucks the fun out of it. I have gone down the hole where I get projects going on each of my cars, and all the sudden I have nothing left in running condition to "recharge the battery" as you said. My commitment has been to keep the big projects to one car at a time so I always have something to drive and remember why I do this.



Tanks for the "recharge" piece.  I have a 65 Impala SS convertible I have been "Working on" for almost 20 years.  With less than 100 miles on it in the last 15 years due to IT WONT RUN syndrome it's hard to get back into it.  Your article helped greatly! 



Stay motivated! The car sure sounds worth it.

Advanced Driver

I too am inheriting my dad's 1929 Model A Tudor.   It was originally my Great Grandmother's car who purchased it in 1929 from a bank after the original owner could not fulfill his payments.  She paid the remaining balance (around $275 according to my dad), who used to have the information showing the transaction date and the amount, but does not know where it went.   in 1956 It ended up going to my dad and was originally Blue, with Yellow Wheels (apparently dealers would paint the wheels for you in 1929 as they all started as black).   He did not think the Blue was cool for a 1950's kid, so he ended up painting it all Black, painting the bumpers, wheels and all the exterior nickel plated parts Gold, put a new Canvass on the top, rebuilt the engine (which it did not need to be done according to him) and he drove it to High School, then to Carnegie in PA for one year.  The following years he drove Uncle Albert's Pontiac to College as the Model A does not have heat.  My Aunt then drove it to high school and in 1962 it went into a barn where it rested peacefully until around 1980.  I remember the trip to Ohio, I would have been around 7 when we loaded the 1929 A on a trailer and brought it home to Michigan.   He bought a 6V battery, cleaned out the gas tank did some tinkering and drove it around the block in our neighborhood, and once again it parked until 1999.  Then in 1999 he drove it from our home to our shop where it sits about 30 feet from where I sit..   Currently the Odometer reads 63,036 original miles, and we are to eventually put the car in my name... 

It is in fantastic condition considering everything, There is no rust on the car as it has been stored inside all of its life.  The wheels could really be tumbled and repainted, It does have an old barn smell to the interior, which interestingly the original covers is still on the seats, and things like the window seals are completely gone.  So there are some things which will require some freshening up before I go too far with it.
Fortunately I have several derivable projects 3 of which are show worthy, so I can always go to another finished project and take one of those for a spin when I am in the mood...  I look forward to a new adventure into the world of Model A's as it seems they are pretty easy to work on...  Everyone warns me that I will invest more into it than it is worth, which seems to be my MO as every car is worth way less than what I have invested.   I do it not for the finish line or the profit, but for the journey... 


Since I didn't have a license when I was working on my first project (I was 10), and because my projects never came home running, I would take a "drive" in my project in the garage to gain inspiration. My parents would often come into the garage and see me sitting in the driver's seat with a huge grin as I envisioned tooling down a twisty road or getting ready to launch down a quarter mile.
So "take a drive" can be done even in the most true sense of a project!

Intermediate Driver

At 72 years old I'm finding that my battery runs down quicker. Like the old saying goes

"The mind willing the body's not". There one thing that hasn't changed,when I do finish a project(even thought it might take twice as long) the big smile still feels good.

New Driver

30 Model A, great choice!  Nothing perks one up like driving the A for a while lut in the country.  My 30 Tudor has been quarantined since February and it generally was driven each Saturday.  I topped up the battery charge a month ago and had a glorious little trip through the Texas countryside, can't beat it. 

Thanks for the article, makes remember there are better days ahead even for an 88 year old.

Keep on driving, GTRacer, San Antonio  


I had a rule that once a vehicle was roadworthy, I’d never spend more time working on it that driving it.


I had the exact same experience!  I have a '67 Mustang Fastback.  It was purchased without a thorough inspection and turns out to need some major steel and electrical work.  And, as you mentioned, you don't want to make the mistakes of previous owners and only band aid a solution.  So, you get these plans in your head.  Complete tear down, shop the things you don't have time/space for and sweat equity and few dollars spent over time will cover the rest.

But, nothing saps your motivation than like a classic car you can't enjoy.   I found it difficult to get the energy to get up, get prepped and even fix the simplest of things because they were things that should be done way AFTER other stages were.

Well, I had a change of mind.   

After a battery change, some new fuses and some shifter work, I took the car for a quick two miles spin.  It turned into 20 miles before I knew it.  I only realized how far I had gone because my face literally started to hurt from the permanent grin that I was apparently sporting.

Now, I have re-organized the project state list.  I am fixing the thing I can, and purchases I can afford now, even though I may not be ready for them yet.  This has allowed me to keep the car running and keep my excitement level on top.

Then, when I am ready for a strip, steel and repaint, I will have minimal downtime before I can get back on the road again.

Good luck everyone!

Intermediate Driver

My projects are all smaller size because they are two wheelers, but there's always a moment when I'm taking things apart to fix A, discover B, take some more stuff off, and there's problem C and D, and I realize that I haven't been taking pictures along the way and I've got parts and tools all over the place.  Panic.  Stop unscrewing things, break out the plastic bags and start putting stuff into groups, and then the thought that this time I've gone too far and will never get it all together again.  That has never really happened, but the worry has never gone away.  I tend to put things back together too soon, just to be sure I can, then I have to take them apart again.  Walking away doesn't help, then I worry more.  So I just keep on, muttering to myself and wondering what the heck makes me want to do this.  Over and over, all my life, I've been taking things apart and putting them back together.  


"Take the thing OUT, for cryin' out loud" is most excellent advice, especially just to wake oneself up to why in the world we bought it in the first place. NOW you remember

Remember too, to have one of those ever-faithful friends tag behind with some jumper-cables and maybe a (hopefully-not-needed) tow-rope. 

Either way, and no matter the outcome, you'll either re-commit, or commit yourself


As I get older I'm finding I'm taking a lot longer to complete projects. What's actually happening is, I'm doing the job right, not fast. Doing things right typically makes the repair last longer & looks better too. The peace of mind knowing you did all you could do, is worth a lot too.


How does the old saying go, good, fast, or cheap? pick two. I don't have a ton of cash so my decision is typically made for me. I also like doing things right the first time. Sounds like you do too.
Pit Crew

Take it for a drive is wonderful advice. I like you have to temper the itch to go too deep down the rabbit hole as I work on my projects. I am currently trying to give the frame on my old 1990 Chevy pickup some love and every time I go under it I want to fix a brake line or change that shock etc... The problem is that there are 3 other cars to take care of too so I have had to be smart about which projects get priority and the money. I have noticed that I have developed a serene patience for just working steadily and have just enjoyed the wrenching. Before the pandemic I was always rushing to get a job done. Now it is a bit like therapy and the satisfaction is deeper when I see the finished work.

New Driver

I bought my 1966 Corvair to drive it. Just so. Because of that, though it was barely a rolling shell when I got it, my priorities were, 1) Brakes 2) Gas 3) A driver's seat, and 4) new wires and plugs. I even painted it before anything else.  Once it was kinda-sorta on the road, it was easier and more satisfying to do the rest.

Once it was kinda-running and I could at least drive it around the block, 

Pit Crew

Once again I am the weird person in the crowd. I find the journey of fixing a car most satisfying. Once it is fixed and drivable I find it less interesting. In fact because I know all the work and mechanical bits I keep being concerned that they all keep working.  Maybe it is a little of the mechanics make poor race car drivers. We don't want to hurt the car. Others drive with the ignorance is bliss attitude.

Advanced Driver

You hit the nail right on the head, Kyle!  I've had people talk to me about their vintage cars, telling me that they were going to effect a repair the cheapest and fastest way possible and, down-the-road, would do a comprehensive repair.  My response always is:  "How many times do you want to be broken down at the side of the road before you decide to do it right?"  I always get that hang-head response and a very sheepish smile.  They know that I am right.  jay salser


Thanks for positive post. I keep looking for excuses to drive somewhere. This virus and now the lack of car cruises, swapmeets, and social distancing makes it tough to enjoy a ride especially when theres no destination to obtain. Can only go is so many circles....


Got my '29 Town Sedan last fall, wires bad, leaking everywhere, water, oil, grease, gas.  Took engine out, overhauled it in my farm shop, new rings, valves, etc.   Put all new bearings in the tranny, the sealed kind.  New water pump shaft/bearings, all new modern black plastic wire, all connections soldered.  Had radiator fixed, ground the ex' manifold to make it flat (by hand), today there are NO leaks, none, you can drive it to California or New York no problem, it's all original including the interior, all I've done is maintenance.

I did sandblast wheels, painted, new tires, even has original top, I used Flex Seal on that.

Only time I wasn't driving the car was during the overhaul & tranny job, driving gives inspiration, make you want to do more, keep going.   Get it running, use it, no trailer queens in my pole shed.

Pit Crew

My first car was a 1931 Model A, purchased in 1969 when I was 13. I can relate to the need for a drive. Mom and dad went out for dinner, and though I was not supposed to drive the car, it seems a friend of mine came over and we decided to go around the block. What we didn't know was the prior owner had repaired a defective throttle return spring with a rubber band. Yep, the rubber band broke and the mighty 40 horses kicked into gear! Luckily, there was the throttle control on the steering column and it worked- probably saved our lives! The Modal A made it back to the house, never did tell dad about it... 🙂


Sounded like a brand new engine, when you drove away!


It certainly isn't! My father swapped this engine in at some point in the late '60s. I asked him about it last year, if he ever checked the babbitt in the bottom end, rebuild history, etc. He said he bought it from a junkyard and put it in the car. Over 50 years later it still putters right along.
Pit Crew

I had the opposite experience. My 1946 Hudson pickup sat in my garage for 20+ years while I tried to figure out an odd overheating problem.  About 4 years ago, I decided it was time to get serious. I think I found and fixed the problem, but I also converted it to 12 volts and added a pusher fan in front of the radiator.

Then I took it out for a test drive. 10 miles out, 10 miles back.  The cooling system was working fine, but the anxiety of worrying if something else was going to break led me to realize that I enjoyed looking at it more than I enjoyed driving it. So, I decided to sell it and let someone else actually enjoy driving it.


Thanks for the encouraging article. I am working on restoring a 1942 MB Willy’s. The Willys (Will-this-ever-end) JEEP (Just Empty Every Pocket) mantra keeps playing in my mind as I spend hours on this vehicle. I have not driven it yet as the entire vehicle has been disassembled and every part refurbished, repaired, restored or rebuilt along the way. No, reassembled not in the 5R’s of this “project vehicles” yet, but....

The conclusion is targeted for May 2021, lockdown or no lockdown.

I keep thinking of all the places this vehicle has been and experiences it has endured as well as the lives of the assembly plant workers, soldiers and previous owners that have touched this vehicle before it fell into my hands. Sometimes I feel as if their presence is more real than imagined. I swear during moments of stymie, the answer becomes so clear and fresh, as if a guiding hand from the past has lent a hand.

For now this is what keeps me refreshed and re-energized. But that first drive....

Highest Regards, Jay Turnbull

New Driver

There's nothing like driving a Model A to put a smile on your face!  Now if I can just get that '49 Studebaker going . . .