Lower the Bar ~ Perfectionism is Ruining the Automotive Hobby

Project car on jack stands in garage

By Dalton Summitt, Pole Barn Garage

We’ve all seen it, and most of us have been there — You pick up your new project car, full of hope and dreams of prowling the streets in it. Immediately your mind starts working, making mental lists of all the parts, gadgets, the paint color, and the custom interior that you KNOW will be perfect!

You get your project home and blow it completely apart when suddenly you reach an “uh-oh” moment — your prize project has some issues. Whether they be rusty floors, homegrown wiring repairs, or enough fiberglass body filler to craft a jet boat. You’ve opened the can of worms, and boy, they will be tough to cram back in the can.

So, you figure the only thing to do is continue digging deeper and deeper. More problems arise. It’s a 30-40-50-60-70-year-old machine, after all, it’s been through a lot! Soon you have an empty shell and LOTS of boxes crammed with parts. It’s ok though; you’ve read the magazines, and watched the tv shows. If something is worth doing, it better be done right after all.

You work for the first few months, then slowly lose motivation as the realities hit home. Parts are expensive, farming out work to shops is astronomical, and fixing most classic car ailments correctly requires significant time and skill. After a few years, you might even give up, selling your prized car in pieces, never fulfilling your dream.

Dormant Project Car

Now, many out there can pull off nut and bolt, correctly done builds, in a timely fashion. They have the skill, time, and funds to make it happen. Kudos to them! But for the rest of us…

Have Fun with your Project Vehicle

Let’s rewind to when you first brought your new project home. Let’s assume you’ve found a mostly complete car that doesn’t run and needs attention in just about all areas, but at least at first glance, it seems to be a reasonably solid project. Here’s where you can choose to reject perfectionism and have FUN with your project. That’s what our hobby is centered on after all — FUN, right?

Let’s say you get the engine in the car fired up. It runs; it’s not a world-beating superpowered 1000hp race car. But guess what? That is perfectly fine! Because while others are bench racing the engines they can’t afford or have the skills to build, you will be out DRIVING your car!

You’ll be turning heads, getting thumbs up, and driving your classic hunk of iron in a world of silver and white jellybean machines. Maybe a kid will see your less-than-perfect but cool-as-hell machine, and perhaps you will change that kid’s life. They would never have seen it in a million pieces, or buried in your garage.

Project Truck Buried In Garage

Here’s another. You dig into the bodywork. UH-OH, there is the evil, dastardly, sinful BONDO! It’s an older repair from a time when it was the norm to just make a car look good and send it down the road. Wait. You think to yourself, “This filler has lasted in here since the 1980s; that sure is a long time…”

If you put it back, chances are it will also last just as long. Out of sight, out of mind is an excellent attitude to adopt for the average person. Maybe it will bubble out in 5-10 years. So what? You got years and years of enjoyment from your car and got to look good doing it. You can always fix it correctly later, what are you going to do? Butcher what is already butchered?

Perfectionism has its time and place. But for the average hot rodder or car enthusiast, it simply isn’t necessary to have maximum enjoyment. Think back to the cars you drove when you were young, were they concourse and perfect? I doubt it, but I’ll bet they were fun as hell.

Anything you do now to your project can be fixed and improved upon later. In the meantime, get your junk on the road where it belongs! Doing it right the first time often results in doing it never. Don’t fall into the TV show, car magazine perfectionist trap. Do things the way they used to be done, and I will guarantee you will have fun.

About the Author

Dalton Summitt is building a name for himself with his YouTube channel Pole Barn Garage — Home of the 1970 Pontiac GTO known as the Holey Goat and a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, dubbed RolledRunner. Dalton’s channel is all about wrenching and low-budget automotive “restoration” for the average person. There’s no big shot TV show drama, no million dollar builds that you can only dream about — just regular car guy stuff for regular car guys. Dalton’s goal is to make sure you know that you don’t need to be perfect, or even good — you just have to get out there and do it.