With today’s technology, it’s all too easy to buy something off the Internet on a whim with a little more than a wing and a prayer. I’ve done it, I have friends who’ve done it, and we’ll all probably do it again. Sometimes you end up making out pretty good and other times it leaves you wondering, “Why in the hell do I do that?” It always reminds me of what my parents used to tell me when I was a kid about having money burning a hole in your pocket. Must be why I never carry cash anymore! Give me a hundred bucks and send me off to a swap meet and I’m bound to come home with at least eighty bucks worth of something and a stomach ache from the twenty dollars worth of corndog, burrito, and soda that I bought for lunch.

But this frivolous spending habit could be avoided if I just relegated myself to act like an adult and kept my mind focused on the bigger picture, which is buying what I actually need for my project and not letting my mind wander, “Ohhh, something shiny…”

With my latest purchase, the ’68 C10 that’s been popping up in these very pages over the last few months, it’s got me thinking about the kind of information a guy could prepare himself with when it comes time to appraising a potential purchase. For seasoned builders, it’s pretty simple as you know what you’re looking for, where the problem spots are, and what will be required to get said vehicle to the level of completion that you have envisioned. But for the more inexperienced or perhaps first-time buyer, there are a number of things that may get overlooked that could potentially bite you in the backside later on down the road.

Recently, our Tech Center head floor sweeper and all around go-to guy, Jason Scudellari, picked up a truck project to give us here at CCT something else to do with our time. It was just as I explained it; a few fuzzy photos, a wing, and a prayer and before you could say, “patch panels,” Jason had the thing in the shop and offloaded from the trailer. It seemed the price was right and he just couldn’t refuse bringing home the old girl.

We came up with a short list of things to keep in mind the next time you get to surfin’ the web and before you engage in a bidding war on some random pickup 2,500 miles away with two blurry photos of it in a field. Hopefully, it’ll save someone a lot of headache in the meantime. But remember, we still haven’t learned our lesson, so do as we say, not as we’ve done!

Specify Your Selection

One of the most important decisions to make is what it is that you’re looking for. I’ve heard people say a number of times that they were looking for an “old truck” and to keep an eye out for them. Ok, sure I will. Pick up a couple magazines and flip through them and figure out what year, make, and model tickle your fancy before you even start looking. It should start becoming clear; there’s quite a difference in appearance between a ’48 Ford and a ’76 Chevy. Find the era that best represents what you like best and from there, decided what year and/or model makes the most sense.

For example, if you like the mid-’50s F-100s, the ’56 is the most desirable in terms of resale and popularity due to a number of styling cues. They’re also going to be the most expensive for all the same reasons. That could be reason enough to look at the earlier trucks, say ’53-’55.

Investigate the Aftermarket

I can guarantee you that there isn’t a vintage truck out there that isn’t going to need something replaced and that something will most likely come from the aftermarket industry. Unless you’ve got that truck that was stored in an airtight chamber for thirty years, chances are the rubber’s long dried out and the paint and chrome are starting to get that much-sought-after-these-days patina. With that said, it’s a good idea to investigate the aftermarket to find out what’s available for said truck. Sure, there are guys on eBay who sell NOS parts and the like, but the stuff is becoming more and more rare. So if you’re looking at buying a ’46 International, you might want to look into what’s available for those trucks, unless you want to be modifying every part. There’s a reason why the majority of truck’s we run are Chevys and Fords; they sold more, they lasted longer, and people liked them enough to keep them around. That’s not an opinion; it’s a simple fact. So then it makes sense that nearly every part on a ’67-’72 Chevy is being reproduced as opposed to the same era Dodges. Even though I think building a ’68 Dodge would be neat and totally different than the fleet of C10s I see at every truck show, it probably wouldn’t make much sense for the uninitiated to venture into building one as their first project. Not unless it was nearly 100 percent complete.

By having the support of an active aftermarket, all those missing parts on that project can be ordered up and replaced with ease instead of searching the swap meets and classified ads for months on end. Case in point, it took me nearly a year to find a replacement five-star door panel for my ’52 F-1. They’re out there, but they’re expensive, rare, and no one reproduces them. If every part were like that, I’d be an old man before the truck was finished. I still may be, but that’s a different story.

Set a Budget

Unless you’re sitting on a vast, untapped reserve of crude oil, you’ve probably only got so much to spend on that new project truck. Do yourself a favor and sit down with your banker (wife) and figure out just how much money and time you’re willing to invest in it. Be honest and calculate all the big items as realistically as possible. If you can’t paint, don’t calculate that part of the build at $2,000 unless you’ve got a really good friend with a paint booth or plan on doing it with a brush. Almost everything costs more than your initial figure, so it wouldn’t hurt to inflate your final estimate by 10 percent or so. Things like hoses, clamps, belts, fluids, and hardware add up fast so leave yourself some wiggle room. And don’t forget to budget your time in as well. If you’ve got six kids who all play in different soccer leagues during the week and travel for tournaments on the weekend, budget your project to reflect the time that you have to invest so that you don’t burn yourself out too quickly. In fact, if you’ve got that kind of lifestyle, just budget out yourself enough dough to buy a finished truck and save yourself the heartache.

Oh, and one more thing, make sure your investment is well worth it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across that $2,500 Chevette with a blown big-block for sale for $25,000. Just because you’ve got that much money invested in it, doesn’t mean it’s worth that.

Define Your Goal

Do you want to build a Ridler Winning, a quarter-million-dollar show truck or something fun to drive that looks like it just rolled off the farm? Figure out what it is you want out of the project before getting in too deep. Remember that oftentimes these things snowball out of control and that daily driver project soon turns into a frame-off resto. Once again, be honest with yourself. Taking a bare cab and building a daily driver is a lot more work than buying a running/driving truck for the same intentions, and vice versa. If you’re going to be tearing it down to bare metal and doing a frame-off, that pile of sheetmetal that has already been torn down and sandblasted might look more appealing than that running/driving ’73 Ford.

Know Your Limits

Figure out the kinds of things that are above your abilities for it will be these things that will end up costing the most. Can you wire the truck? What about engine work? Can you do body and paint work? Who’s going to weld up the patch panels or that Mustang II IFS kit for you? All of these things either require your skills or the skills of others, which usually costs money. One of the best things about being involved in a car club is the community that they create. Talk to your buddies and the guys at your local cruise nights. Who knows how to weld? Who knows electrical? What about a good paint guy? The guys with the finished trucks know the answers to all these questions as they’ve already done the legwork for you; use it to your advantage.

Once again, be honest with yourself. If that potential project has a crumpled front fender and grille due to a frontend collision and your body working skills end at wiping dust off a fender, better walk away from that one or take into account what it will take to replace the offending steel in question.

If you’re goal is to build a decent daily driver and that potential project is a complete truck with some carb issues and you’re a decent tuner, go for it. There are a number of projects out there sitting because of someone else’s inabilities so use it to your advantage whenever possible. Good luck and let us know what you guys find! CCT

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