Budget Revisited

Re-visiting the Disgustang to Mustang Budget

It seems like ages ago that I began this project; a lot can happen in two years.  Even before I started, I knew restorations often turned into money vacuums, and I constructed my budget with that in-mind.  Between poor planning, unrealistic expectations,  scope changes, and unforeseen other costs, the price tag of a restoration can quickly balloon out of control.  I knew all that when I planned out the Mustang budget.  Did it help?  Maybe, but I’m still way over.

I won’t publicly admit how far I’ve gone over so far, but I can tell you that I could’ve bought a complete, fully restored car for less.  My repeated justification, though, is that any car, even a so-called fully restored example, will need something.  The challenge is finding out what that something is, and whether it matters.  Bad restorations abound, and as several car guys have said, “if you could make a profit on a restoration, you’re not doing it right.”  When you buy a finished car, you don’t know what’s inside the engine, the transmission, the rear end, the steering box, etc.  You don’t know if someone replaced all the suspension components, how recently they did their maintenance, whether they reused portions of the old wiring harness, or whether they properly dealt with rust.  You have to take their word and scrutinize every piece of documentation they provide.

I won’t ever have to do any of that.  With the exception of the engine, I’ve personally touched every bolt.  I know exactly what’s under the skin, I know it’s done correctly, and I know that if there are going to be any problems, they probably won’t be major because everything on the car is new.  Every bolt with a torque specification has been tightened to factory tolerance, everything has been installed in accordance with the factory assembly manual.  I’ll have a brand new Mustang when I’m done.

That being said, I probably could’ve purchased a restored car AND had money left over to fix whatever it needed and I’d still be ahead of where I am now.  So the question becomes, where did I go off-track?

The bodywork and the engine are the two primary culprits, for both have proven to be double my initial estimates.  Bodywork was way more expensive than I’d anticipated, and I still got away cheaply compared to some other folks out there.  I’d foolishly assumed that there would be more mid-priced shops out there–something between Maaco and the big boys–who would be able to do a great job for $3-4,000.  Let me tell you: they don’t exist.  There are some guys who paint cars for $3,000, but they cut a lot of corners.  I’ve just glad I found Bill.

While the body overage was the result of poor estimation, the engine overage was entirely my fault, and I won’t apologize for it.  I could’ve bought a crate motor for less.  I could’ve bought an off-the-shelf mass-production rebuilt stock engine for way less.  I could’ve easily fit a standard, stock engine rebuild into my target number, and I would’ve had money to spare.  I could’ve probably taken the block that came out of the car and had the cylinders honed, the crank turned, bought a new cam, fitted new pistons, had the rods reconditioned, the heads rebuilt, and put the thing back together myself…for half of what I ended up paying.  Instead, I chose to have a professional build me an engine that will be more powerful and reliable than the stock motors ever were, and I also got a great education from a master engine builder.  Even though going way over on the engine has put me into a tight spot from a financial perspective, I’d probably do the same thing again if I had it to do over.

I’d budgeted 10% extra for contingency and overage, but I blew through that after a few months.  My advice to anyone out there contemplating a restoration is to be honest with yourself.  Be honest about your capabilities, your time constraints, and your financial means.  And whatever you think it’s going to cost…double it.  And don’t be surprised if your budget exceeds even that number.

“No matter what you’re into…this will cost you more.” -Jay Leno

1 thought on “Budget Revisited”

  1. Andrew, no sympathy from me! Just like you, I’m not really surprised you ended up spending more $ than you originally planned. Okay, you spent more than it would have cost to buy a similar looking car already totally restored; BUT, your Mustang is a lot MORE than any other restored Mustang; and as you know, you got a lot more than can be measured in dollars.
    Buy one already restored, and you don’t get the experiences you had, the people you met and worked with, the comfort of knowing and understanding absolutely everything about your car, the pride of knowing you completed a difficult task, etc. My guess is you’ll enjoy such feelings many times over when you look, drive, and talk about your Mustang—can’t put a price on such things. I’m sure, you’ll get your money’s worth many time over. No sympathy, but as you can tell a tad of envy.

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