That Special Project Car You Wish You Had Time For

Someday, I hope I can turn My T-Bird into the car I've always dreamed about.

It sits alone in the cold, darkened one-car garage, tires slowly flat-spotting. The interior has developed that fragrant eau de mildew aroma. It's been close to a decade since the engine turned over. Every time I see it, I wince. Then I start to fantasize, to calculate how much it would take to get my project car running again, or better yet to really do it up right.

But once the dollars start adding up in my head, I realize yet again that I have neither the time nor the money. Heck, I don't even live in the same state as the car. I'd hate to have to sell it, but I'm starting to think I should. That, or maybe it'll end up as one of those barn finds in a couple of decades.

It wasn't supposed to be this way when I bought the 1967 Ford Thunderbird from a friend in the early '90s for a cool $1,200. It was a Georgia car, sky blue with a black vinyl top. Not having been subjected to harsh Michigan winters, the body was relatively rust free. It ran okay but needed some TLC. The aircraft-inspired grille with the hideaway headlights and sequential rear turn signals were cool, but what really hooked (suckered?) me were those doors. Although it was a two-door for almost the entirety of its life span, for a couple of model years beginning in '67, the Thunderbird came with four doors of the suicide (aka coach or rear-hinged) variety. I dug them so much that I dug up the cash to buy it.

The first decade or so I owned it, I drove it quite a bit, even rolled in it during the first Woodward Dream Cruise back in 1995. But as the years wore on, I parked it more. I had every intention of making it a project car, to tear it down and rebuild it, but it always got put off for other things. Then I moved to California, and the T-Bird essentially moved into the garage for good.

My guess is that more than a few of you reading this have similar stories of your own. We even have a show called "Garage Squad," available to stream at MotorTrend On Demand or on the MotorTrend television channel, dedicated to helping folks get their long-neglected projects out of the garage and back on the road.

I thought a lot about my poor, neglected T-Bird as we put together the August 2019 issue of the print magazine. We have two car-restoration-themed stories in that issue, one centering on the pitfalls around maintaining classic, high-end exotics and collections and another about automakers who have created special divisions dedicated to revitalizing the seminal cars from their history for their present owners.

If you're wondering whether it's a good idea to invest in that rare supercar you've always dreamed about, you may want to find out if you can find parts for it—or you may end up having to have them made from scratch, which will cost a lot of scratch. Then again, you can always have one of the official manufacturer outfits do it all for you and save yourself the hassle. Either way, you're going to pay up, something that's not usually an issue for the people who buy these types of cars like the rest of us buy groceries—people like Bruce Meyer.

There's no shortage of fortunate folks out there with amazing car collections, several of whom we've featured over the years. Meyer is one of the most remarkable. Far from babying his stable of mega-machines as if they were priceless works of art, he often gets out and drives them—hard. He's also generous with his time and his cars. But what really sets Meyer apart is his devotion to sharing his love of cars through his longtime association with the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. It's people like Meyer who have devoted considerable resources to creating a world-class museum that celebrates and memorializes the automobile and the enthusiasm that surrounds it. It's especially important in light of the fundamental shift in transportation that's underway.

Although few of us have more than a small fraction of the cash Meyer has to feed our passion, many of us have a similar spirit, a desire to pass on the love we have for that special car or the cars we have in our garages to a family member or someone else who will cherish them, drive them, and carry that forward to the next generation.

One way or another, I'm determined to revive my little piece of automotive history and pass it on when the time comes. And yes, the doors still work, sort of.

Do you have a car you desperately want to restore but haven't been able to? Or were you finally able to complete your dream project? Send a note to letters@automobilemag.com to let us know.

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