The backup donor and long term plan

I'm one of those people who shuffles things around in my head until I have a comfortable position on all the unknowns that face me. 


Here are a few things that have been bugging me this week.


  • I want to get moving with the donor car.  With my GTi being bought back by VW I have an empty garage right now, and it's the perfect time to get the donor and strip it before winter hits.
  • I'm having a hard time finding a donor that I'm happy with now that I'm actually looking.  It was one thing seeing candidates on FB and CL, but now that I'm actually looking at cars, they suck.
  • Copart is not turning out to be what I had hoped and there isn't another car listed as a future sale right now that excites me.  On top of that, going all the way down there to see a car and not seeing it has turned me off - as is the crap shoot of how much it would cost to get a car towed home.
  • Big: I'm reading concerning things about oil burners on TheSamba.  One gentleman who seems to know what he's talking about,  owns a Subaru shop, and does Vanagon conversions has a very believable arguments that there is a 95% chance of oil ring issues on a conversion unless it gets a ring job, because the driving conditions that broke the rings in are very different (load and cruising revs) from the conditions that the engine will face in a Vanagon. 

My first instinct is thinking about doing the rings on whatever donor I get, but I've never done that before and although it looks fairly straight forward it's going a whole new level into the engine with the chance of screwing something up.


My second instinct is more practical.

  • I might not find a low mileage car for under $2500, and I don't want to blow the budget.
  • I'm very unlikely to find a higher mileage car with a perfect history so it's all a crap shoot anyway, at any mileage
  • Even if there's a perfect history, it's still a crap shoot at any mileage! 

Bottom line, it's all a crap shoot at any price and at any mileage, although of course lower is lower risk.  So my plan B is:

  • buy the next car that comes along that has stomach-able mileage and no obvious issues that also has a good interior.
  • strip the hell out of it and do what I'm good at - making money on eBay with well cleaned and well photographed parts
  • get into the engine.  If there is nothing horrible looking, do the timing belt,  water pump and head gaskets.  Put some work into the heads if they need it.. they are keepers.
  • throw it in the van
  • worst case scenario,  be willing to buy a new or reconditioned short block (or maybe a JDM to take the short block) down the road if needed.

A brand NEW short block is under $2k.  Reconditioned at around $1k, and a JDM complete even less than that (although I'm not sure if any of the issues that people complain about with JDMs are short block related).


This may seem strange to some, especially the "well if you're going to do it, do it right first time" thinkers, but it takes the stress off this for me, because I'm a, "how can I do this so that there's a goodchance of success but I'm ok with the worst case scenaro"  thinker.


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