Jim’s Blog: Finding the Payoff

Last Friday, I took a day off work and spent it at my dad’s house, wrenching on his 1968 Camaro. The car is in the absolute final stages of reassembly after restoration, so we worked on things like adjusting the hood fit, wiring the dash gauges, installing the front bumper, and bolting in the driver’s seat. At the end of the afternoon, we dumped five gallons of gas in the tank and rolled the car outside. And then, finally, after 15 years of on-again off-again restoration work, Dad fired the Camaro up, let it settle into a lopey idle, pulled the shifter into gear, and let off the brake. The Camaro’s Rocket Racing wheels sparkled in the summer sun as the car rolled under its own power for the first time.

This was a big moment after a lot of time and money spent. Seeing and hearing the car run and move underlined its complete transformation. When I helped him drag the hulk home in 2002, it was a rusty acorn-filled shell of a Camaro. On Friday, it became a car again.

We have not yet run the car down the road, mostly due to a lack of registration and insurance. But that’s next.

The end of a restoration is undoubtedly one of the biggest payoffs for a car person — especially after years of work. But while I was stoked to see this Camaro more or less complete, it also has me wondering what’s next. After all, maintaining a car and building a car are two very different things. What’s going to take up time now that this project is complete?

Throughout this process, and with the other cars I’ve had a hand in rebuilding over the years, I’ve learned that for me the payoff is more in the project than in the completed product. I like driving old cars, but I love building them.

How about you? Would you rather spend your Saturday working on a restoration or sitting at a show? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.