Getting a car back on the road after it’s been sitting involves replacing a lot of small things. I’ve spent the past two weeks doing just that on my brother’s 1966 Ford Mustang, and for the most part, things have been painless and cheap. Or so I thought. I just added up all these “small things,” and holy crap: Turns out, I’ve been spending a lot of money on this old steed!
That’s the last horse reference I’ll make, I promise. Those are played out.
Let’s talk about what I’ve done to my brother’s 1966 Ford Mustang, which I’ve been letting rot in garages in Virginia and Michigan since 2012, and which has not been legally registered since 1998.
Last night, my brother forced me to make a spreadsheet of expenses: What I’ve spent over the past two weeks in my accelerated effort to get the pon — I mean car — back on the road.
“Oh, I’ve barely spent any money on this thing. The parts are dirt cheap, and I’m just doing the basics!” I assured him. “I don’t care. Fill out a spreadsheet,” he insisted. So I did.
He asked me to guess how much I’d spent on the ol’ thoroughbr — I mean car — over the past few weeks trying to get the machine back on the road. I was sure it was under $300. After all, all I’d done is the basic Big Four: The cooling system, the fuel system, the ignition system, and the brakes.
These are the four main systems that anyone who’s getting a vehicle that has been sitting a while back into shape has to address. What’s great is that all of the parts for these systems are hilariously cheap. A new water pump is only $35. All four wheel cylinders cost just $40. Ignition points are $10 for a nice set. “What’s the point of even filling out this spreadsheet?” I pondered as I began searching through my eBay, Amazon, and O’Reilly receipts.
In no time I had a column of parts I’d replaced. Then I added all the prices, and nearly soiled my trousers:
What the hell? I’d somehow spent over 500 buc — I mean dollars — just to get the Mustang ready for the road. (If I’m honest, it’s still not cruising the streets of southeast Michigan. I have to tinker with the brakes a bit and service the transmission.) What’s alarming is that I did all of this in the span of two weeks, and I did it completely obliviously. It was just mindless car-parts buying.
“Oh, this is cheap. No problem. I’ll buy it. Oh these accessory belts? Only $7 each? No problem. Oh these brake hoses? $13 a pop? Sure, why not.” Next thing you know, I’ve spent an entire Postal Jeep worth of money on...what? Just some basic maintenance items?
I had mindlessly, almost as if in a zombie-like state, spend $500 in two weeks (and my brother bought a new set of brake lines for over $100), and it has me realizing that, when it comes to cars, I spend without restriction, because in my head, I think “Well, I’m saving money by doing the work myself.” It’s a dangerous way to think, and will almost certainly put me in the poorhouse.
Until then, I’ll be cruising this trusty equin — I mean car — with a smile on my face.