April 1, 2013
Often the goal of our projects is to make them both fast and fetching. They often start with less-than-average looks. Would a homely project car be more fun?

When it comes to project cars, they are the source of the constant day dreams of Mustang enthusiasts. Mentally planning one out is the equivalent of deciding how to spend your Powerball winnings. In short, you don't have to limit yourself.

That sort of exercise is fun, and it's kept many of us interested in cars at times when we couldn't really afford to do much. I can remember how excited I was when I bought my first high-peformance air filter for my '89 LX coupe. I was in college and didn't have the cash to do much, but I wanted to do something.

During that time I dreamed of all the things I'd love to do to the car. Eventually, I got into this game and I've been able to build up a few cool Mustangs. With each project they get a little closer to achieving the ideal I had imagined. Yet the closer they are to that, the more cautious I am about driving them.

I get a lot of justifiable grief about my overprotective nature when it comes to my Mustangs. I've had plenty of Mustangs that I didn't mind beating up, but as the cars I've owned grew nicer, I became more cautious. It's not that they can't be fixed, but it's a heck of a lot easier to just keep them nice. Yeah, in my old age, I've grown to dislike hassles. Some are unavoidable, but if they can be avoided I'm much happier.

All that said, I do tend to miss driving them more. It's an internal struggle, but in the end I know I'll be happier if my car is in great shape for a longer period of time. It's satisfying to pull off the cover to a nearly new car every time, but keeping it that way isn't easy.

With that and other headaches in mind, I've been a bit hesitant to embark on another project car adventure. Certainly it's possible to have too many cars. At some point you can only store and take care of so many. Moreover, adding more limited-use cars to the driveway is less than logical. Sure building huge-power cars isn't exactly practical, but having several of them borders on nutty.

While at the PRI show, I was discussing a friend's recent project. You might even see it on these pages soon. He said something about his car that flipped a switch for me. He said, “The best part is I'm not afraid to drive it anywhere.”

It was like time stopped for a second. What a great concept. Would it be possible to build a really cool project car and leave it looking a bit shabby on the outside? Sure, it's not the stuff of daydreaming fantasy, but it might be just the ticket to get back into the game and enjoy one more frequently.

Now, I know this isn't a new concept. Hot rodders have been onto it for a long time with rat rods. It's just not an idea that resonated with me before. The more I thought about it, however, the more it seemed like it could be fun. It would almost be even more challenging to make the car as nice as possible under the hood and in the cockpit, and leave the exterior a bit tattered and worn. Theives, vandals, and stoplight challengers would have no idea of the car's capabilities, and I wouldn't have to fear parking lots and door dings.

I don't know if I'd want one of these cars as my only Mustang, but it certainly makes sense to add something a bit more low-key to the stable. Have you ever considered building such a car? Do you already have one? Can you live with performance alone, or do you need a splash of good looks? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.