How a $1,000 Car Build Can Cost You $27,000

Screenshots: Speed Academy
Screenshots: Speed Academy

The appeal is strong: instead of starting with an already worn-out old car and fixing someone else’s repairs, why not buy up a rust-free shell from the desert and start from scratch? Doing everything right the first time has to be the easiest way, or? Well, that might be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

The phrase to keep in mind for all of this is one you hear every so often when talking to people who have built a number of cars, started and finished a number of projects.


“Cry once.”

Illustration for article titled How a $1,000 Car Build Can Cost You $27,000

Buy the stuff that’s right the first time through, and though it might seem like a big upfront cost, it will save you headache and money down the road. Doing something half right with cheap parts always seems to find a way to cost you more in the long run.

So keep that in mind when going over this build sheet from Canada’s Speed Academy. They bought up a first-generation 1977 Toyota Celica, the lovely one that looks like a Mustang but better, out of Arizona for $1,000.

Again, this seems like the right move. No rust. No previous-owner hacks to futz with. Just as clean a sheet as you can get with a 1970s Japanese classic.

Things snowball from there.

Illustration for article titled How a $1,000 Car Build Can Cost You $27,000

Shipping the car costs a grand.

The engine costs a grand. It’s a wonderful Toyota BEAMS engine, the late 3S-GE four-cylinder that makes over 200 horsepower, and is about as cost-effective as these things can get.


The wiring harness cost a grand.

The ECU and the seats were both about $1,500, as were the wonderful wheels.

Mounts, brackets, a radiator, all of these things only cost a hundred or a few hundred bucks each. The same went for the individual throttle body setup, with new trumpets and a filter.


Everything under the car didn’t really bust out of three digit figures for anything specific, and these were all high-quality updates of things that needed to be there. Suspension components, brakes, all of that.

Nothing was a bad deal. In fact, a lot of this stuff was acquired at exceptional value for what it was. The wiring harness, for instance, was of basically race car quality, and it didn’t have to be completely custom even though this is a late engine into an old car. Someone else had done the swap before, and had the manufacturing capacity to reproduce all the necessary hardware for this new build.


But even then, it all adds up. Speed Academy tallied everything to $27,688. It’s a colossal figure to stare at, particularly as you imagine the upfront cost.

It’s a surprise in some ways, but also not. “This is what is to be expected,” Speed Academy notes. You don’t do this for less money, nor would you want to. This isn’t passing judgement on the build; this is letting people know how much it really all costs.


And technically, Speed Academy isn’t done. The car isn’t even painted yet. Put in that and the car’s complete trim and they’re expecting to be in the mid-thirties for this build. You can buy a new car for that money.

But, as Speed Academy points out, when this 1977 Celica build is absolutely complete “we’ll have a brand new car at that point. With modern performance but old school style. And what can you buy for 35 grand that compares?”


It’s a good point! Just one that has to exist in the context of lifting the veil on how much this will all cost up front. Watch the full video above. I don’t think they’d anything differently.

But as hey say, don’t worry too much about that first figure. After all, cry once.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


Raphael Orlove

I am sure my $2500 Volkswagen is somewhere around $12k overall, I just don’t want to look at how much to be sure. Or how much I’m underestimating it really is.