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April 30, 2019

An Expensive Free Car

About a month ago, I was visiting with a credit union board member, who is also into sports cars, and mentioned that to save money on parts I was looking to buy a parts car to finish an MG project.  He indicated that he had two 1975 MGB parts cars and that his wife would “hug me” if I would take one away.  He offered the car for free, and since I’m all about free, I immediately took him up on the offer!

The next morning I pulled my car trailer up to his farm and with the help of his tractor we pulled the parts car out of the barn and loaded it onto my trailer.  We were talking the whole time so I didn’t even bother to take a good look at the car.  However, on the way back I stopped for gas and while checking the straps I started to examine the car.  I was surprised that the car was actually in good shape.  Most of the external parts were stripped off, but the body was solid and the engine and transmission were still there.  In reality his “parts car” was in better condition than most of the projects I drag home.

So much like a kid with a new toy, I started to think about what my plans were for this free car.  The tires were flat, the interior was gone, the lights and chrome were stripped off, etc. etc.  But I started to go through my collection of parts and, other than a windshield, I was pretty sure that I had every part needed to rebuild this car.  However, that would assume that there were no major systems that needed to be rebuilt.

So I talked to my wife and she immediately thought I was crazy and reminded me that the other guy’s wife offered to hug me to take the car away.  She argued that I already had four other projects and that the purpose of this car was to save money not to spend more money.  We cut a deal where I would take it one step at a time to see what the issues were with the car and if I ran into anything expensive I would stop. 

So I washed 20 years of dirt off my new toy, pushed it into my shop and started to bring it back to life on the cheap.  I spent $25 on new gas and fuel filter, $45 to fix the broken ignition switch, replaced the battery cables, dropped in an old battery and hit the key.  Unfortunately all I heard was “click,” so I spent $5 to replace the ignition relay and tried again.  Now the car would turn over but wouldn’t start.  So I spent $25 for points and condenser and this time it fired right up and ran like a top!

So $100 into my free car I know that it runs but I can’t drive it until I get the clutch and brake hydraulics to work.  The lower clutch hydraulics are just another $45, so I’ve ordered those to see if the clutch and transmission will work.  If I can get the car to move,  it’s on to the next step of seeing what’s wrong with the brakes. 

Since brake parts can be expensive, this may be where the wife steps in and declares that’s it’s time for a car-parts-spending intervention.  I’m afraid she may question why a free “parts car” needs new brakes!