When to give up on a project vehicle?

One of those questions that I force myself to ask when working on a project truck or car is “When to Give up?” If you mess around with enough mechanical things you often find yourself at prohibitive price points where there is diminishing returns on investment, and there also arises the question of “how much do you really want it?” And that’s on top of space and time requirements.

I let the 1989 Le Barron Turbo go because I just didn’t like it enough to spend any money on the free car. I had to let the 1975 Buick Skylark go because I just didn’t have space, money, or time to do it in a way that I would want. I just couldn’t throw a Chevy 350 in there and get the Buick that I wanted out of it, and a used, running Buick 350 that isn’t in Smog mode is a very rare gem even in car capitol Los Angeles. After a year of no progress it had to go!

1975 Buick Skylark

Yet, sometimes a project comes along that you just can’t quit. And I recently heard an awesome story in the documentary “Secrets of the Cosomodrome” on Netflix that was to amassing a piece of motivation to not relay.

I love the American space program. I am convinced that it gave us so much and could give us much more if properly funded. I just turned 31; I am enough of a geezer to say that I find it pathetic that people nowadays are to content to have an Iphone 7 replace a 6. They could be walking on Mars! We lost that pioneer spirit! And, I’d be willing to put some money down that if we spent half of what we do on electric cars, self-driving cars, and a who bunch of other things I don’t really want anyways like a cell phone waking me up in the middle of the night… on the space program we’d already have those things and a lot more! Even Obamacare would probably be cheaper!

Yet, I’ve recently found out sometimes this attitude gets used by propaganda. I’ve heard complaints that we are using Russian rockets. My first thought was “Absurd! We went twice as far!” I have mixed feelings on Russia in other fields; I remember when Pierce Brosnan was James Bond, James Bond movies were good, and the Russians where suspect and B-role commie bad-guys. So buying Russian rockets had to just be cheap-skate congress short changing us again.

Except, the story was far more complex as the documentary laid out. Long ago, the Russian rocket scientist used to be a lot more “grease-monkey” than our egg-head NASA types. The had factories where the machinist actually shifted designs and they did lots of practical testing and blowing stuff up. It was like they where the NHRA to our Toyota.

They just didn’t have money to do otherwise. And they where really desperate as the 60’s wore on because they just couldn’t match American’s ability to work hard and be industrious. So they had to work really smart. We made the Saturn V to be a freaking fist pointed skyward. Brute and simple and safe. They had to use 30 different mini-engines to have the same effect, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that 30 different engines means that there is a lot more room for mistakes.

So the Russians basically decided to “turbo-charge” the engines (you can look up the NK-33 if you care about the specifics). Thing was, this meant that they had to do a lot more testing and R&D than us. So we got to the moon way before their engine was even ready. By then it was too late.

The lovely politiburo decided to shutter the disgrace to communism and destroy everything. I’ve had to sell a project that I’ve worked a little while on and been broken up. But these guys had spent a lifetime working on something, finally built it, and when they were about to test it… they had to close shop and destroy all their hard work as a “national shame.”

NK-33 Rocket

Ok, so what does this have to do with motivation or deciding to call it quits? It just sounds like something everyone already knows. Russian Commies where jerks. This is something everyone already knows!

But the story didn’t end there. When the wall fell, us Capitalist wanted to see all the things the Russians had done. And while there, the Russians started talking to us about “supper engines.” And, like all “good” Americans the engineers asked themselves, “who doesn’t like more HP?!”

Well, it turned out that the comrades had decided to be a little less than chummy with their stupid orders and had hid the NK-33 engines in a big warehouse. When they showed the Americans it was like we had the biggest nerd “barn find” in history!

Long story short, we tested the engines. We got the specs. It was impossible. The Dyno had to be lying! But the hard facts where the Russian “turbo” worked (imagined I’d never say that sentence!). The engine design was by the Lockheed engineers statement 25% better than anything we had. And that answered why all the rockets nowadays are Russian parts. They had the right old project in the garage!

It’s a totally different kind of machine, but the story seems so familiar. The project ends, its locked up, the machine and all the dreams behind it are locked away to rot; someone holds onto it because they know something is there.

And the way you know if a project is worth saving, worth holding onto, is if that “something is still there.” Restorations are not something that the average person makes money on. And in the 4×4 world that is doubly true. A brand new Wrangler still requires A LOT of money to be totally awesome. And off-roading is a habit that breaks even those!

So the question of worth is not about money. And that is for many of us very liberating if we really embrace it. Some projects are a way to smack 30 engines in to get the kick of one bigger one born out of necessity. Some are matters of rebellion, like my own which is founded on the stance the 4×4 shouldn’t be a game preserved only for those with lots of disposable income but with good American know-how can be made accessible to all that seek it. Some are memories we hold dear like hand me downs and Dad’s old rig.

I would rather spit than say that only rich people can “pay to play” and you can’t self teach. And I think many of us would rather cuss than give up our fond memories. And it never sits right to just walk away. These are things we value by virtue of who we are.

Other times, there is no reason other than the struggle itself which I’m always 50/50 on.

And we also have to ask are we going towards the end or just enjoying being stuck in the middle. Or worse yet, are we even trying? I’m not a fan of a truck on blocks or people asking a lot of money for things they think someone else values.

That’s why I think most people dislike rig snobs. They not only don’t add value to themselves, they take it away from others.

And for me at least, that answers the question. When do we give up on a project? We give up when it’s not something we value but something that takes value from u

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