Does your project have a plan?

David S.
By David S. Wallens
May 27, 2024 | Column, Blog, Project car | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

So tell me about your latest project. Can you picture the outcome in your mind or are you just flinging parts in a general direction in hopes that some divine entity smiles upon your haste and miscalculations?

Believe me, I’ve seen plenty of builds that could best be described as rolling chaos: no direction and even less cohesion. Sorting and drivability? What’s that? In fact, labeling these builds as “rolling” would be charitable. Most are perched on jack stands or tucked into corners of garages for eternity.

As the great Carl Heideman has taught us, having a plan can pay significant dividends. (By the way, look for a Carl story soon about successful project car planning.)

I know I tend to overthink things, and of course my cars are no different. They might not be radical, but as Chris, our video editor, has noted, they’re clean–and come together exactly as envisioned. The stance looks right, the wheel-and-tire package perfectly fits. Little details found throughout help tell the story. It’s not an accident, happy or otherwise, that my 1984 Porsche 911 wears New York registration stickers from the same year.

This weekend, I scored a small win by capturing a project exactly as originally pictured.

I recently decided to create a photo series of friends seated across the table at Waffle House. Why? I like my friends, I like photography, I like Waffle House. Logically, it’s also something we can do 24/7 pretty much anywhere here in the Southeast–rain or shine, even.

Bette, a dear friend, agreed to be the first. Going in, I had a few small technical questions floating in my head regarding lens, lighting and composition. Could we pull it together–and while keepings things a bit on the D.L.?

I got there first and grabbed a table that gave me a view of the grill–a perfect background for the shot.

While we ate–cheese omelet with grits and a biscuit for me–my camera sat on the table. For this, I brought my Fuji X100V. It’s a powerful, compact camera that most people don’t notice. Its leaf shutter is also rather quiet.

[How I rekindled my love affair with photography]

While Bette’s wife got up to pay the tab–she’s the sweetest–I looked at Bette: Ready for a few shots?

We popped off the first one and I quickly glanced at the image. Good light, good composition. There’s the contrast of the cool subject against the chaos of the grill.

Sometimes it’s also good to be lucky: Her red flannel paired perfectly with the Christmas decorations.

Bette tilted her head a bit and gave me a confident stare–we’re comfortable working together. I got this, her look said.




Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

I snapped the image that you see here 41 seconds after that first test shot.

A family with small, vibrating children waited in the wings. The bill had been paid, I had my shot exactly as envisioned–the warmth, the contrasts, the mood.

Let’s roll, I said.

Project stalled that could use a little jumpstart? Perhaps picture the final product and then work on a list of what it will take to get there.

Create a mood board. Collect images that can share ideas or provide direction. (Sarah and I have used Pinterest to collect and share ideas for magazine layouts.)

There’s no need to work in a vacuum. Let’s hear those plans and ideas. I have heard that sharing your goals with others can help keep you on track.

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dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/6/23 3:26 p.m.

Project started this week.  


As delivered to the shop this week. I am having bring it back to life. I realized about a year ago that I will never get to it.  I got the car partially taken apart in boxes for less than challenge $$$$. Someone else's project. Missing a couple things but should be all in under 10k. Was hoping to bring it to a challenge. But life and Covid got in the way. Now I want to save it and just have a fun car.  

Noddaz GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/6/23 3:38 p.m.

I guess it would be nice if I had a clear end goal for projects.  On my Eclipse I wrote a list of things it needed on the windshield with a paint pen.  It is no longer readable.  *sigh*

APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/6/23 3:55 p.m.

I always have a plan or my projects.  Being an engineer they're often even documented.  Race car projects usually even have a written budget and schedule.  Some projects, like my fuel injection conversion on my Seca 650 Turbo don't have written budgets, schedules or plans because that feels too much like work but I do have a clear end goal in mind.

z31maniac MegaDork
12/6/23 4:01 p.m.

The BRZ is mostly done. At this point it's what, if any, lip kit do I want to put on it. 

Down the road I may do an intake (just for the noise they are proven not to make any power) and a UEL for the Subie rumble, but that's going to wait a bit. 

Right now I'm trying really hard not to order a Traxxas TRX-4 Rock Crawler and customizing it like crazy.

AMiataCalledSteve HalfDork
12/6/23 4:14 p.m.

Sometimes goals change, though even if a goal changes, it doesn't affect the project if you move slowly enough lol.

I bought my stock car project because it was cool, I had space and it was super super cheap. My initial goal was to make something street legal out of it, so I started working on getting it running since it had been sitting outside for about 2.5 years. As I did that, I decided the whole street legal, body-grafting project I had in mind was out of my wheelhouse so I decided I'd shift my focus to track work only. Of course, I still had to get it running for that.

Once I got it running, I drove it up and down my street twice and then started taking it back apart to make it more track worthy. The biggest step for that was upgrading the oil delivery system, which I have been inching towards for the last 1.5 years haha. Like I said, I'm moving really slow...

L5wolvesf Dork
12/6/23 4:23 p.m.

I have various projects in various states of project-ness. Some people (with limited vision) might say too many. All have a detailed plan on my computer.

55 Ford Customline "Cat's Cruiser" – disc brake, small block and interior swaps,

64 C10 – 348 engine, trans and disc brake swap, need to get engine rebuilt and find a trans

68/9 Wards Mojave "McQueen" – CB550 motor swap, need to strop frame and powder coat

70 Fiat 850 SCCA H-Production – swap out empty wallet for full one,

Tom1200 PowerDork
12/6/23 4:36 p.m.
L5wolvesf said:


70 Fiat 850 SCCA H-Production – swap out empty wallet for full one,

You need to bring that vintage racing; as it's not going to be hugely competitive with the hyper developed Sprites, just slap some fresh tires on it and have fun with the rest of us mid pack cars.

Tom1200 PowerDork
12/6/23 4:39 p.m.

The Datsun is a 39 year running rolling project - it's getting a freshly built motor which will be about a 12-15hp boost.

The yet to make it to me Foxbody is going to get a horsepower boost of 25-50hp

L5wolvesf Dork
12/6/23 5:00 p.m.
Tom1200 said:
L5wolvesf said:

70 Fiat 850 SCCA H-Production – swap out empty wallet for full one,

You need to bring that vintage racing; as it's not going to be hugely competitive with the hyper developed Sprites, just slap some fresh tires on it and have fun with the rest of us mid pack cars.

I have a built motor in it but it has the PBS head so its not eligible for vintage. There is a lot of other work to do too.

The original Fiat head was a good part of why the 850s had problems. Short version is: when I discussed it with SCCA they were afraid of the PBS head. By the time they agreed to it most, if not all, of the 850s had left H-Prod.

Datsun240ZGuy MegaDork
12/6/23 5:04 p.m.

I have a plan.  It's been in my head for 40 years now.  I just got the car 8 weeks ago, stay tuned.

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