Friday Financial Foul Ups: Unsuccessfully Restoring a Car; Successfully Spending Money

This week’s Friday Financial Foul Up will feature a submission by Paul from Fiscal Geek.  On his blog, Paul makes no apologies about his inner geekdom, and thats why his audience appreciates him so much.  He spreads his knowledge about finance and technology to help his readers improve their fiscal fitness.  If you aren’t following Paul on twitter (@fiscalgeek)…well, there is just something wrong with you. I hope you enjoy his foul up of arbitrarily trying to restore a 1972 Chevelle.

If you would like to add your own financial foul up to this series, please contact me here.

Frankly I had a hard time narrowing down the field here as I feel quite confident I could occupy Brian’s Friday series for the rest of the year without much trouble.  That being said I’ll start with a story told so many times before centering on good old American Metal.  Let me set the scene.  I’m 25 years old and backpacking in the Cascades with my good friend.  On the way down the mountain I somewhat arbitrarily decide that I’m going to restore a muscle car.  That’s right a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle with a 350 Cubic Inch V8 Short Block.

The Situation

Once I had made the decision to purchase a Chevelle to restore I spent most every waking minute researching and looking for a rig to revive.  I quickly found one in the local Auto Trader and made an appointment to take it for a test drive.  It was in semi decent shape.  I believe the asking price was $4000 and the negotiations went like this.  Me: “Would you take $3500 for it?”  Them: “Hmmm No we want full price.”  Me: “Okay will you take a check?”

So I drove home in my 1972 cherry bomb exhausted beast terribly excited for what was ahead for my blue steel beauty and curious as to what strange odor was wafting from the back of the car.  Over the course of the next year I began to strip down the car and began replacing everything with performance aftermarket parts.  I literally had a new Chevelle shipped to my office one piece at a time.  The receptionist would play a game with me trying to guess what was in the Summit Racing box that day.

As my restoration went on it began to dawn on me that my beloved Chevelle had cancer.  It had rust in locations that were not readily replaceable without a rebuild of the entire body.  I was literally building one of the fastest rust buckets in the Seattle area.  I continued to throw good money after bad at that Chevelle until I could take it no longer.  The issue was not just monetary at this point.  I embarked on my new hobby thinking it would be a great way to relax after my stressful job and what I found was that I often would leave the garage angrier and more stressed than when I went in.  You see I’m not a mechanic, and a lot of reading doesn’t replace experience and skill and I found I just wasn’t enjoying the process.

Where I Fouled Up

That would be that moment I was walking down the trail in the Cascades.  This is a project that I should have never undertaken.  You see I didn’t have so much as $1000 in the bank but I had a variety of credit offered to me to which I availed myself.  I literally ended up financing the entire project on credit cards and lines of credit.  I honestly couldn’t tell you how much I put into that car because at the time I couldn’t be bothered to budget or track my finances.  Near as I can recollect I purchased the original car for $4000 + $3500 in additional parts + $1800 for a Turbo 350 transmission and $4200 for a 383 Stroker Crate Engine.  I guess we’ll call it roughly $13,5000 and I hadn’t even touched the interior or exterior of the car this was all drive train.  I ended up selling it to a coworker for $7500 just to be done with it.

In some form or another I probably paid for that car for another 5 years after I sold it, but again it’s difficult to know based on how I’d laundered it over several different forms of credit.

What I Learned

In no particular order some valuable life lessons I learned from that Chevelle.

  1. Think. Honestly had I even really thought this one through at all I probably could have avoided the whole mess.  If something doesn’t feel right, odds are it isn’t.  There were plenty of alarm bells going off I just chose to actively ignore them.
  2. Learn to Negotiate. I literally purchased the first Chevelle I saw without so much as a dollar dropped from their asking price.  Employ some of the many rules of negotiation.  Sleep on it.  Give and take away.  Maintain walk away power.
  3. Develop a Financial Plan. I had no plan.  I never even considered how I was going to pay for the car or what an impact it would make on my future.  I didn’t even have a clue as to what it would cost to fully restore a vehicle.
  4. Know your Strengths. I’m a handy and resourceful person but I’m no mechanic.  I was able to figure out enough to get the car running but it was a painful process in the end stealing my joy.  I should have started with a much smaller project before diving into a full vehicle restoration.
  5. Debt is for Suckers. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can put off the inevitable.  I thought I was making great money and I would make even more money in the future so this wasn’t a big deal.  It was a big deal and leaves me in the situation I’m in today roughly 12 years later with not much in retirement and still debt still lingering.


Do you like this series? Check Out The Previous Foul Ups:

Foul Up #14 – Mrs. Micah (Mrs. Micah – Finance For a Freelance Life) – How Getting Married Wrecked My Finances
Foul Up #13 – Evan (My Journey To Millions) – Speeding Up Payments on Loan Interest, Not Principal
Foul Up #12 – Elle (Couple Money) – Stretching Yourself to have a Comparable Car to Your Friends
Foul Up #11 – Revanche (A Gai Shan Life) – Sibling Bailouts Cost More than Just Money
Foul Up #10 – Brad (Enemy Of Debt) – There’s Nothing Interesting About Interest-Only Loans
Foul Up #9 – Jason (Redeeming Riches) – Buying a Car with a Balloon Payment at the End
Foul Up #8 – David (Money Under 30) – Being Too Eager to “Move Out” and “Move Up”
Foul Up #7 – Matt (Debt Free Adventure) – Upside Down and Paying The Price
Foul Up #6 – Brian (MyNextBuck) – Overdue Books Prevent Me From Renting an Apt
Foul Up #5 – Kelly Whalen (The Centsible Life) – Poorly Planned Vehicle Purchase Costs $24,000
Foul Up #4 – Stephanie (Poorer Than You) – Signed My Life Away at Age 17
Foul Up #3 – Deliver Away Debt – How I Wasted Over $10K and 11 Months
Foul Up #2 – Brian (MyNextBuck) – Quick Fixes to Weight Loss
Foul Up #1 – Brian (MyNextBuck) – How I Didn’t Earn $3000 in Free Money

8 Responses to Friday Financial Foul Ups: Unsuccessfully Restoring a Car; Successfully Spending Money
  1. Paul@ FiscalGeek
    January 15, 2010 | 8:36 am

    Thanks for including me in your series Brian! Nice pic by the way, that’s what mine should have looked like.

  2. Brian
    January 16, 2010 | 10:54 am

    Paul, this is a great story. I have been guilty myself of much smaller endeavors that just didn’t make sense. I was a collector of things for quite a while, sports cards, action figures, statues, all sorts of things. For me, the point of having a collection was to obtain EVERYTHING. Once i became bored, or maybe realized i couldn’t afford to get everything (i am a completionist), i ended up selling the rest of my collection for a fraction of what i paid. That was certainly the old Brian though.

    Glad to have you participate man. Congrats again about killing that mountain of debt.

  3. Bankruptcy Ben
    June 9, 2010 | 5:32 pm

    I did a fairly similar thing. I’m goign to build a chopper! Researched the cheapest way to do, not thinking that this would be the one that required he most skill!!! So I bought a 1971 Honda CB750 1971 from some dodgy bikers, pulled it appart by the grace of god I got it back together put it on ebay and sold it didn’t “loose” anything but my time and some of my pride.

    There are times though when I catch myself thinking maybe you should get another that didn’t turn out so badly.

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    September 21, 2014 | 9:47 pm

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