Imagine you’re nervous because you’re on a stage about to give a presentation in front of the guy who created the recycling symbol, Bill Nye, and a turtle with a plastic six-pack ring around its neck. To help you feel less nervous, imagine them in their underwear. If that doesn’t help, imagine that the world’s not on fire around them.

Around here, we’re lovers of life but are disappointments still in the eyes of Captain Planet. Buddhists in the sheets and Dominic Toretto in the streets. Which is to say we recycle as an ethical imperative. But like the Fast and Furious antagonist, as a fact of life, have to survive in a world we were simply born into, gravelly voiced and balding. This goes for throwing our water bottles out in the green bin, buying used parts before considering buying new, or repurposing entire engines. But making cars go fast, whether in a circle or in a zig-zag makes waste. Just because you’re experiencing project creep, doesn’t mean you can ask for a waiver from Greta Thunberg to pollute. We’ll give you a few examples of how projected creep on our build turned into opportunities to be smart with our purchasing and appropriation of parts and materials.

Right in the (Tool) Sack

Hold on to your fasteners. Corralling all of our nuts and bolts from part-outs and broken dreams, especially because we mostly deal with metrically challenged cars, has been incredibly useful. We are intimately familiar with M6x1.0 screws, nuts, and threaded holes in particular. Don’t ask us how. The came in handy when we needed to replace the majority of the cap screws necessary to reaffix our M42 timing chain case when the profile gasket let coolant out into the crankcase like a bribed nightclub bouncer. Five autocross events and zero-screws-purchased later, the timing case appears to be holding on.

Exceptions should be made for torque-to-yield items like head bolts and flywheel bolts. New fasteners aren’t always necessary. Reusing old ones, especially on 30-year old race cars is totally acceptable in most cases. Leave those new ones in their bins so they don’t eventually take up space in the bottom of a trash can! Potential spending: $0, Time and Money Saved: Not having to drive to the local hardware store just to pay to bag and label your own fasteners.

A Tap to Die For: A Threaded Insert Story

Courtesy of Duncan Millar

If your ugga-dugga-dugga shoulda only beena ugga-dugga, but wasn’t so ugga-dugga-dugga-dugga that your thread is unsalvageable, then there might be salvation. Sometimes you might need to only chase a thread to salvage it. You don’t always need an entire length of thread to achive the full strength of the fastener combination, so if upon inspection you only see small areas of damaged thread, give a thread tap a go. Get a thread pitch gauge a tap set from a hardware store, preferably with a tap wrench and equivalent dies, and try your hand at the basics of machining.

If you’ve demolished the thread like a corn cob in the mouth of a Gen-Z’er who learned only the day before how to use a cordless drill, then there is still hope in re-threading the hole with the appropriate drill and tap or threaded insert. Both processes have their nuances so get some practice in and reference some helpful Youtube channels like This Old Tony or AvE before you go re-patterning your wheel hubs.

Consider buying a few other tools as well to help finesse parts that might just need small touch-ups to operate properly like thread files, hand files, and sanding stones. Buying new parts means a new part gets manufactured to fill that gap in a parts store’s inventory. Fix that old part and let that new one collect dust! Potential Spending: $30-100 for a good metric thread tap set with common sizes, $25-$40 for a single thread size and pitch threaded insert kit (Helicoil or Fix-a-Thred). Time and Money Saved: Not having to replace entire parts over minor thread repairs.

Craigslist> For Sale> Freedom is Slavery

Courtesy of Duncan Millar

Remember the time someone bartered his way through craigslist.org until his paperclip turned into a house? Our “For Sale>Free>1/3hp Craftsman bench grinder” isn’t as impressive as that, but the site served us and our prime directive quite well nonetheless. While we didn’t get anything for free this time, it was still well-served for us recently when we wanted to facilitate one of our finest and clearest examples of project creep.

It’s as if the craigslist seller was Christopher Nolan and planted the seed deep in our potato-y brains. First we wanted to build a head that could be ported and polished in preparation for an inevitable swap. Next, we had to find the head on craigslist. The mission is accomplished when we find an entire engine on CL. But, it was mission: accomplished in a big “mission: accomplished” banner across the bridge of a naval vessel that was less warranted than a wet floor sign at the bottom of a pool type of way. We had no way of getting the engine out of the bed of our truck, much less onto our none-existent engine stand. Back to craigslist we went, where we found a used engine stand and a used hoist. The hoist was massive and not easily disassembled as only the arm and hydraulic piston could be removed. The wheels needed to be greased as well because moving it around was otherwise futile. But $50 couldn’t be argued with.

The engine stand was nearly new and at $40 was another easy purchase. We said goodbye to the hoist in a move to a new home but the stand is still doing the lord’s work. Watch sites like craigslist, Letgo, and Facebook before you download that Harbor Freight coupon and keep these tools from ending up in a landfill or metal scrapyard. Potential Spending: $100-$250 depending on the quality of the engine hoist and stand. Time Saved: None. It would have been way easier to go to any parts or hardware store and pick these up brand new, but we paid a quarter of the price of just the hoist for both.

Periscope Drown (Keep your eyes open if your not afraid to dumpster dive)

There’s a thin line between budget fabricator and hoarder. If you can’t let that oblong piece of 18 gauge stainless steel that’s been rotting away slowly from surface rust that you salvaged from an old shop shelf go, then maybe reconsider your hobby. Otherwise, while your’re out and about in the world, watch out near dumpsters for healthy pieces of metal for projects, benches or tools that can be rehabbed for use in your shop, or midnight babies that can be raised in the care of a nurturing home so that it may one day go on to seek its revenge on the villainous human that left it there to die.

For the borderline hoarder, paper, glass, and plastic recycling has unfortunately turned into a cointoss in recent years. Alas, you can be relatively guilt free about your metals, by leaving them in a pile at your curb for the local scrap collector or drop it off yourself in exchange for a (very) few shiny dollar coins. Potential Spending: $0-College tuition. Time Saved: None. And you’re covered in warm spicy ketchup and raccoon fur. But it was free!

What you do to help the stave off the inevitable climate crisis may be minuscule. We certainly wish that the oil industry would stop trying to kill electric cars* so we wouldn’t have to replace entire engines when interference designs chunk hundreds of pounds of cast iron and aluminum in an instant. Until then, reuse and recycle as much as you can, if not for the environment, at least for your race budget.

*Gavin Bade, “The oil industry vs. the electric car“, Politico, September 16, 2019, accessed November 1, 2019

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