Hooniverse Asks: How did your “cheap” project car prove itself the opposite?

The initial cost is a money appetizer. You whet your wallet when you see that title signed over with your name on the bottom. A few thousand bucks and you’re rolling along in a clean, cool new machine. And then you hear a noise. Or you see a drip. Or you smell something in a fleeting moment. The noise/drip/smell go away, but then it happens again. And again, but this time it’s louder/bigger/stronger, and it’s not going to stop. Welcome to the world that is your new project car.

With my Montero, I’ve been sailing along swimmingly. I’ll have a proper update for you soon, but the gist of what’s going on can be explained quickly. The good news is that I’ve got a fresh set of BFGoodrich KO2 tires waiting to be installed. They’ll be wrapped around a set of Turbomac HD Classic wheels from Fifteen52, and I can’t wait to see the wheel-tire set bolted to the truck. My completely broken inclinometer has been swapped out for one that sort of works. It doesn’t have the mineral oil inside but the gauge itself functions through a series of manic bounce actions. I’ve installed a Clarion M508 headunit to replace the aged Blaupunkt unit that was installed prior.

On to the bad…

I’d recently had a shop balance the driveshafts, examine the transfer case, and check on the various fluids floating around inside this rig. While at the shop, the rear brakes were replaced as well. That shop didn’t notice any drip, even though I said for them to take a look for such a thing. I got the truck back when I returned from driving the Honda Talon SxS and was excited to hop behind the wheel. As I spent the next few days and weeks with the truck, I noticed spots of oil that seemed to grow in size. I thought I was going crazy, as I recently changed the oil myself. I double checked the drain plug and filter, but assumed I still managed to mess something up because… well, it’s me.

It wasn’t me

Then I started crawling underneath the truck to pinpoint where the drips were coming from. Was it the transfer case? The oil pan? Wait… it looks like it’s coming from a spot between the engine and transmission. Shit. It’s the rear main seal. The amount spent on the recent work would’ve easily covered the rear main seal job, and I wish I’d have just spent the cash on that. But now I’m quickly turning my “cheap” project truck into something other than that.

Still, I am enjoying it. I love the way it looks with its two-tone 90’s paint job and square lines. It drive well and I look forward to getting it dirty once I’ve got those KO2 tires in place. But I’ve already spent far more than I intended this early in my time with the truck. And I’m sure we’re not done yet. The other day while driving my wife and daughter to dinner, my clutch went and stayed near the floor. I could still shift but I had to kick it up with my foot to get it to come back up. It had not done that prior and it hasn’t done that since… but I could feel my wallet tingling in fear.

What project cars have you experienced that started cheap, and then turned out to be anything but?

By |2019-03-25T20:31:01+00:00March 26th, 2019|Hooniverse Asks|54 Comments

About the Author:

Jeff Glucker is the co-founder and Executive Editor of Hooniverse.com. He’s often seen getting passed as he hustles either a dark blue 1974 Mercedes-Benz 280 or 1991 Mitsubishi Montero up the 405 Freeway. IG: @HooniverseJeff