Many of the car- and motorcycle-building reality shows on cable television have crazy one-week, two-week, or month-long deadlines before the vehicles have to be finished and delivered to the customer. Accordingly, these projects are built in pro shops, whose staff of fabricators, engine maestros, electricians, body and paint pros, and interior artisans might number well into the double digits. If the shops have a stiff deadline in front of them, they can throw more people on the build tasks that aren’t going as smoothly. The show’s producers can add money into the seemingly bottomless pot of gold, so the shop can, for example, buy a bigblock mill instead of rebuilding the existing powerplant to save time.
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On the other hand, we don’t have endless money or some media conglomerate paying to build an ultimate Cobra. What we do have is an endless amount of enthusiasm for the work with a pretty decent background of having owned and operated several enthusiast automobiles over the years. But our collective savings accounts, like many people in these challenging economic times, are stretched to the limit.
I suspect that you are faced with the same constraints and, therefore, a limited budget necessitates careful planning and attention to the details of the project. W get the job done one way or another because, in addition to being gearheads practically from birth, the three of us are pretty darn stubborn.
The problem is that at least two of us—the two doing the most work—also tend to procrastinate about being organized, fastidious, and proactive. Combine that with the fact that the Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster that we’re building has a hard and fast deadline, and we may have a recipe for disaster.
It’s not that we’re lazy bums when it comes to working on cars. I actually do not put off writing most of the time. But planning and actually paying out the cash aren’t too exciting for me. Perhaps if I had an immense bank account, I might have a different perspective. But I don’t, so I forced myself to write this chapter in sequence, rather than putting it off until after I had completed writing the more fun chapters.
The fun and easy part to this build project for us is working in the garage. But the building can only occur when you have all the components needed, coupled with the right tools for doing the job at hand. So proper planning means that we actually get to the fun and easy stuff—you know, turning wrenches and riveting aluminum panels in our three-car garage turned Cobra factory.
We had 14 months to finish our Factory Five Racing Mk4 Cobra roadster replica. Most of the kit arrived in April and we planned on being done with the project by the following June. Your overall time frame may be longer or shorter, and you may find some of the procedures more challenging than others. But hang in there; the prize is worth the work!
Develop a Plan
You’ve decided to build a Cobra kit car, and what an exciting prospect it is. Like most of us, you have visions of jamming through the gears with the top down, carving through a challenging set of turns, and listening to the sweet song of the V-8s exhaust notes exiting the side pipes. But between now and that moment, a considerable amount of work needs to be done.
While you will be assembling an entire car from the ground up, don’t get overwhelmed because with proper planning, realistic goal setting, and good decision making, you simply build the car one task at a time. Therefore, you can reach your goal of a professional-grade assembly and do it on time and on budget.
Most of us know of avid enthusiasts who had grandiose dreams of restoring and building their own car. These people had the best intentions only to run out of time, money, and patience. In the end, the car sat in the garage for years, was never completed, and sold off to become someone else’s project. This is something we want you to avoid. We want to see you complete your project and get your Cobra on the road because that’s where it belongs.
You need to develop a cohesive assembly plan, set priorities, create project budgets, and project completion dates. While these aspects can adjust within reasonable parameters, establishing your priorities and assembly plan will see you through to completion of your kit.
The best and most effective way to plan, organize, and manage your project is with data and spreadsheet software. I am not suggesting that this takes learning a bunch of new programs, but rather that you make use of common programs on the market, such as Microsoft Excel.
It may seem that spending the time to organize all the information in these programs is taking away from the actual assembly time. But don’t lose sight of the fact that you’ve embarked on a complex project, and while achievable, it demands thorough planning, competent task completion, and attention to detail. The reality is that time invested in planning and organization is going to save you time, money, and frustration down the road. Another reality is that you’re going to develop or possess the mechanical, assembly, and problem-solving skills to get from one stage to another.
The assembly manual for any kit is a good guide to the entire assembly process, and therefore is an excellent resource for planning project task completion, setting critical procedures, projecting time deadlines, setting budgets, and other aspects of the project. Our Factory Five Cobra Mk4 manual proved to be invaluable throughout the project.
Although it’s difficult to impossible to be super precise with every projection and goal, with the help of this book, other Cobra owners, Cobra club members, and support from the manufacturer of your kit, you can develop a realistic plan. You can also consult directly with the manufacturer of your Cobra kit, for specific procedural, time budget, and money budget suggestions, so you can put together a strong assembly plan.
Evaluate Your Skills
A crucial part of the planning and budgeting process is determining your skill level, ambition, and limitations. Many enthusiasts have worked on engines, and some have rebuilt engines, transmissions, and other mechanical components. And these individuals are skilled at assembling the mechanical components of the car. Some enthusiasts have completed body work on a car, so they know how to trim and adjust body panels. They know how to hang a fender or install a quarter panel, and that includes welding in sheet metal, adding body filler, priming, and painting. Others have experience with installing interiors and reconditioning electrical components and installing a wiring harness.
If you’re skilled in all the above areas and you can complete installation of every single component group, then you should be commended. If, on the other hand, you’re like the majority of enthusiast builders, you have experience is one or several areas, but you’re not skilled in all areas. Therefore, you’re going to subcontract some of the work to qualified professionals in a particular area.
For example, I had a good understanding of electrical theory and practice, but we installed a complete fuel injection system on our Ford Windsor-based engine, and the amount of wiring required for the system on the engine, the fuel pump, and the controls on the car seemed too much for us. While I possibly could have wired the system myself, the risk of making a mistake and damaging the system was too great. So I hired an automotive electrician.
Create a Spending Budget
Choose a spreadsheet program, such as Excel, and open a new file.
Set up three columns:
At the bottom of the columns, designate a cell for the total of each column. To arrive at the total use the AutoSum option in the pull down menu.
Input the name of each component you need to purchase.
Input the ballpark price you expect to pay for each.
As you buy a component, insert its actual cost.
This spreadsheet system tracks the spending on the project, letting you know how much you’ve already spent and how much is still in the budget. This is very helpful when it comes time to pay a credit card bill for parts.
Create a Time Budget
I’m no computer whiz, but I did learn a thing or two that should make it easier for you to create your own budgets. Follow these steps and you’ll have a simple but usable document to track your time during the project.
Choose a spreadsheet program, such as Excel, and open a new file.
Set up four columns:
Component Group (this mirrors the order of tasks in your particular Cobra kit car assembly literature: Engine, Transmission, Drivetrain, Electrical, Interior, Chassis, Body, Suspension, Bodywork, Primer, and Paint)
Input the name of each particular Task, such as “install front suspension.”
Within each Task, input the name of each Sub-Task, such as “install the control arms,” “install the shocks,” “install the torsion bars,” etc.
At the bottom each Sub-Task column, designate a cell for the subtotals. At the bottom of each Component Group, designate a cell for the total. To arrive at the totals, use the AutoSum option in the pull down menu.
6.Insert the Projected Hours for each Sub-Task.
After you finish each SubTask, insert the Actual Hours it took to complete.
If your actual hour figures are significantly off the projected numbers, then your projections were probably not that accurate. If you’re within 10 to 20 percent of the project numbers, your project is most likely proceeding in a reasonable time frame and reasonable progress is being made.
However, if your actual figures are 30 to 50 percent off (or more).
it is an indication that the original projections were not accurate. Therefore, before you proceed to the next component group, you should revisit your Projected Hours and make the necessary adjustments.
Using a spreadsheet in this way allows you to make sure you’re not forgetting any crucial steps along the way. For example, once you’ve completed the engine and transmission installation, you need to line up the bodywork and painting. This helps you organize and plan future stages of the project, so when one Component Group is completed, the work on the project does not grind to a halt.
Written by D. Brian Smith and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks