Got the itch to build something new? Find yourself trolling Craigslist and eBay at all hours of the night to try to find just the perfect project? We get it — we do the same thing. But what you want versus what you can buy are often two different things, and it can be difficult to figure out what makes the perfect project truck. So let’s take a moment and break it all down so it makes a bit more sense.
First, figure out your skill set.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and the same things come with building trucks. Some people know engines inside and out, while chassis work just seems like a big mystery. Other people know suspensions like it’s their job (maybe it is), but don’t know the difference between a throttle body and a mass air flow sensor.
Whatever your weak point is should probably be the strong point of your next potential project. That way you don’t have to mess with the thing that works.
Here’s an example. Say you want a 1982 Chevrolet Silverado for your next big build. Two sit in front of you for sale. One has a super clean chassis and a blown motor. One has a rusty chassis but under the hood is a perfectly wired and functioning 5.3 LS engine. If you’re an engine guy, the LS option may be tempting because it’s all right there. But if it’s a running and driving engine that’s already modded up, what’s the fun in that? Instead, the engine guy should buy the one with the clean chassis because then they can focus on building a cool motor. And the same in reverse for the chassis guy.
Now this isn’t a hard and fast rule by any means, but we’ve found that it helps a ton. If you don’t have the skills or budget to get your truck painted, then you probably want to buy one with a decent paint job (or a cool patina), for example. If nothing else, it’s something to consider.
Next, get your budget under control.
It sure would be nice to be one of those folks that goes to an auction with a few hundred grand in their checkbook ready to spend on their next “project,” but chances are you’re not that person. Instead, you’ve got to be realistic about what you’re going to actually spend on the build, and how that’s all going to shake out.
Now we’re going to say something controversial here, but hear us out: Start with a spreadsheet. Map out how much you think you’re going to spend and work up a number. Is it within your budget? Do you need $5k to get something done or is it closer to $50k? Whatever the number is, it’ll help you figure out what kind of project you need to find.
Let’s go back to that painted truck example. A decent paint job nowadays can cost upwards of $10k, easy. If you’re not a painter and your project needs paint, then add $10k to the price and go from there. However, if you find a truck that doesn’t need paint, then you can subtract that $10k from your budget.
This example applies to everything. Good engine? Cross it off the list. Sweet interior? Same thing. Now there is a catch. The better your potential project is, the more they’re going to want to part with it.
Finally, be patient.
It’s easy to pull up a website, find a perfect truck and then run down to slap some cash down on the table. Sometimes a good deal pops up and it seems to be too hard to resist. “$1,000 for a 1967 C/10 without a bed? Who wouldn’t buy that?”
But really, those are the worst projects, and we’ve all had them — the truck that sat rusting in your yard because it was a good deal on Craigslist, but it turned out to have more problems than you had time or money to deal with. Trust us, you don’t want one of those. Take your time and find the right truck.
This comes back to the balance thing. There will be a truck out there that fits your requirements perfectly, and is still within your budget. But you (or the seller) may have to make a compromise or two to close the deal. It may take a long time to find just the right one, but when you do, it’ll all come together perfectly.