How To Build And Finish A Project
"For sale: unfinished project. Best of everything. Ran out of money and time. My loss, your gain. Price: cheap!"
We've seen a ton of ads just like this and you probably have, too. Many of us (the author included) have had the dubious honor of placing such an ad. It's no fun.
Starting a project is easy, but finishing is quite another matter.
What's the best way to finish a project? We'll explore a few different approaches and methods. We'll also talk about the best ways to get in over your head, get discouraged, and quit. Before you turn another wrench or spend another dime, check out the rest of this story. What follows is our best advice about how to get it done.
Choosing a Project
What's the best blank canvas? It's the one that fits your 'wheeling needs, your budget, and most importantly, your life.
What trails do you want to run? What size tires are best for these trails? What other hardware (axles, lockers, etc.) is needed for success? Chances are you already know the answers to these questions.
As for budget, you don't need mile-deep pockets to build a worthy trail rig. Of course, you can't build a project with empty pockets, either. Do you have some parts you can trade with other 'wheelers for the stuff you need? Are there other skills you can offer in exchange for off-road hardware? If you can paint, weld, or turn wrenches, chances are you can do some successful bartering.
A project must fit your life. If you've got a place to work on a long-term project, you can build something that takes longer and is more involved. Having a workspace also lends itself well to buying something on the cheap that needs to be completely re-done. Something else to consider: if you need to carry extra passengers, you'll need to find a rig that's got the required interior space.
There's another factor that comes heavily into play. It's the aftermarket support, or lack of it, that a given vehicle enjoys. Owners of JK Wranglers can go and pluck almost anything they need from the aftermarket vine. Owners of Nissan Pathfinders know the meaning of "slim pickin's."
Our top choices for a budget rig: the Jeep YJ Wrangler, the '79-to-'95 Toyota 4x4 pickup, the '84-to-'89 Toyota 4Runner, and the Suzuki Samurai. These rigs are capable on the trail, benefit from widespread aftermarket support, and can be purchased for relatively low bucks. Older rigs, such as the Scout 800 or Scout II, can be bought for reasonable amounts, but they're not as easy to find. We'd be in remiss not to mention the Jeep CJ-5, which was produced in prodigious numbers over a wide span of years. Do a little hunting and you can come up with an inexpensive CJ-5.
"Go Big or Go Home" Revisited
While the saying sounds cool, it's also a recipe for project completion disaster. Going bigger and better means you'll spend all your time building instead of on the trail. If you can't go big, you don't have to stay home. Instead, go just big enough, and then go everywhere you've been dreaming about.