Der Olmesser: Welcome To Project Car Week

Welcome to Project Car Week on VWvortex.

Each day this week, Monday through Friday, we’ll be presenting a new update of a VWvortex project vehicle. We’ll be the first to admit we’re sometimes less than timely with our project updates and we’re hoping a full week of them will somehow make up for some of the slacking we’ve been guilty of in the past.

The honest truth is that building project cars is a pain in the ass, and covering them here in series form is even worse. So many details need to miraculously align in order to meet even the most undemanding of deadlines and we’ve been conditioned over the years to employ increasingly lowered expectations. But that’s not fair to our readers, and we’re actually attempting to overhaul our project car procedures so that we can deliver more interesting and timely updates in the future.

Many of the project cars you’ve read about on VWvortex have been the personal vehicles of our staff, admins, and moderators. Much of the work has been paid for out of their own pockets and spare time. I mention this because at times, we have been taken to task for the delays in between updates or the fact that some of these projects don’t exactly rewrite the record books when it comes to new ideas or crazy modifications. But isn’t this pretty much how many of our very own readers have to deal with their own projects? Time and money are your constraints as well, I suspect.

Still, we would also like to expand the scope of some of our project car series, and for 2005 this is exactly what we plan to do. You’ve already seen VWvortex team up with companies like fifteen52design (Project X) and NGP Racing (Golf Rallye VRT) in order to provide some up close and personal glimpses into a couple of their outrageous endeavors, and for next year we plan to do even more of the same. We’re also looking to come up with one or two of our very own mega-project series and I’m very much hoping to be personally involved with those if possible.

I am, you see, addicted to building project cars. Some folks have suggested that my former company, fifteen52design, was little more than an elaborately constructed ruse designed to, at the same time, feed and rationalize my ever-growing addiction. Well, it doesn’t take a great deal of soul-searching to admit there is at least a kernel of truth to that notion.

There’s a rather tired cliché that states that each unmodified car is simply a blank canvas for anyone willing to attempt to make it something better than it ever was when it rolled off the assembly line, and as trite as that sounds, I really do believe it. Almost every car was designed to appeal to as many different kinds of people as possible, and as such they’re compromised from the get-go. Over the years I’ve learned to know what I like, and there isn’t a car on the road today that I cannot look at for only a moment and think, “if they’d just shave that, blend this, or remove those, it’d look soooo much better…”

I used to naively believe that building a project car was simply a way of taking a car I already liked and making it even better, at least by my own standards. Well, it took me a while to learn that, for me at least, that’s just a big steaming pile of bull-dookie. I mean, if that were really the case, then why have I never kept a completed project car for more than a minute and a half? Why, even before one project was finished, was I always out looking for the next one to undertake?

The reasons are not so complicated, really. Ever heard of the saying that “getting there is half the fun”? Well, for me it’s been more like 95% of the fun. But that’s because I’m ill, you see. I love every aspect of building a project car and I’m addicted to the process. So much so that the end result can never measure up to the high I feel along the way, and when a project is nearing completion it’s absolutely necessary for me to be out trying to score my next fix.

It’s an expensive habit, this project car compulsion of mine. Even the best of cars are depreciating assets, and adding thousands of dollars in modifications doesn’t make a great deal of sense for anyone ever looking to retire with more than a monthly social security check paying their way. Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, a project car is, by its very nature, a giant pain in the ass. Unless you do all the work yourself, you’re going to have to deal with other people’s various levels of incompetence as well as the unfathomable knowledge that none of them cares about your project nearly as much as you do. And if you are able to do everything yourself, you’re still pretty much guaranteed you’ll have all sorts of incompetence to deal with, but since this time it’ll be your own, you’ll be without the benefit of using others for your excuses portfolio. Deadlines mean nothing, and you ought to feel silly for even suggesting any in the first place. Smart people will start with a budget and find that at least 75% of it will likely go towards the special tools, parts, and shipping fees they had no idea they’d ever need. And to top it all off, those rare few who do make it to the finish line often wind up bitter, disillusioned, and certainly broke.

So why even start a project in the first place? Well, all above silliness aside, a well-executed project is a wonderful learning experience and as long as you don’t go too crazy, it’s a whole lot of fun. I’m pretty much too far-gone to take any of my own advice, but that’s just fine with me. I still enjoy the entire project car process and continue to get that welcome rush whenever I start dreaming about how to top my last project. Though fifteen52design is little more than a memory for me now, I’m hoping I can fool my fellow VWvortex staff members into believing that a really crazy, never before attempted project car is what we really need for 2005.

Each of them is plenty sick in his own way, so I’m thinking this will be a piece of cake. Wish me luck…

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