"Don't buy someone's project in pieces; Buy a runner that is broken." - Good advise? - JeepForum.com
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Unread 11-06-2007, 10:29 AM   #1
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"Don't buy someone's project in pieces; Buy a runner that is broken." - Good advise?

I remember reading an article in JP Magazine where they suggested that you SHOULD NOT buy someone's project vehicle where they ran out of time/money/energy that is still in pieces. They claimed it would be too hard to know what was or wasn't included and you could end up missing critical and pricey parts, making that "deal" not such a good deal. The article stated that the best policy for buying a cheap Jeep is to look for someone's runner that is broken that they won't fix.

Is this good universal advise for the real world? I want a Jeep and really want a Scrambler. Recently I passed on a project-in-pieces for $2500 that looked to be in decent shape. It was locally advertised in MI (I'm originally from MI but currently in CT), I didn't try very hard to see if I could get it too me, and I didn't try very hard to find a place to store it back in MI. I'm dreading that I may have passed on something good, but I was following the "don't buy a project in pieces" philosophy.

I recently saw a similar project for sale on Ebay that went for over $5000 and another Scrambler in very good shape with a bad engine for $7500.

I'm decently confident in my repair/rebuild skills, but am I being too cautious? I'm just curious to know who here has purchased such a project (something in pieces) and what their experience was?


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Unread 11-06-2007, 10:47 AM   #2
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Well I prefer to fix up something from the ground up on my own that way I will know what has been done and what needs to be done. But buying someone's project might be cheaper. JMO
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Unread 11-06-2007, 12:47 PM   #3
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If you've never built a CJ fom the ground up, then no I wouldn't buy one in pieces. If you have, and you can asess what all is there, then yeah, go for it. I would feel plenty confident buying one in pieces, but I rebuilt mine from the ground up.
1977 Cj5, 258, T-18, 2.46:1 Dana 20, 2.5" BDS lift, OBA, 38.5's. Chevy 60 frt, 14b Rear, Full hydro, 102"wb, full DOM cage.
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Unread 11-06-2007, 12:53 PM   #4
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You are going to get good and bad experiences with both options I believe. I haven't bought a (dis-assembled) project and tried to re-assemble it into a finished jeep but I have helped on a couple of these.

My experience is that many smaller items are often overlooked, and many of the larger items may not fit the intended end result so they are not used. Both situations are lost money.

Scramblers are getting more expensive, thanks to things like the internet. Good side is that they are also easier to find. They also share a ton of pieces with the other CJs.

If you find a project that fits how you envision the end product to be (trail rig, street rig, combo) then go with your gut feeling on whether you are comfortable on the price, and the seller. You only have to answer to yourself for what you spend.

If the project doesn't fit (like stock axles for a crawler build), then I would say you may want to think seriously if the investment is worth it.
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Unread 11-06-2007, 01:23 PM   #5
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building a jeep is never a one-size-fits-all proposition, there are just waaay too many variables.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy an unfinished project, if the parts are what you want, you have the skill, a clear plan, and patience.

that said, some of my favorite projects have come as unfinished pieces, but also, they can be the most frustrating.

if you live in an area with good hands-on access to parts, your expirience would be way different than someone who has to have everything shipped of the 'net.

complete rigs often sell for less than the sum of the parts, and there can be really good deals that only need a bit of sweat to get up and going.

a final word- I am always amazed at people who buy finished projects, and pay a premium, only to tear them apart and change the little things they don't care for (paint, engine, wheels, etc).

It's hard to say no to yoo-hoo, the name literally beckons...

Don't mind me, I'm just another FNG around here...
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Unread 11-06-2007, 02:30 PM   #6
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My problem with buying one all together but broken is that when I go to fix one thing on the jeep, I seem to find a hundred more "while I'm in here"s. If you have the experience around a jeep you could save yourself the time of tearing it down and buy one in pieces. Having an extra "parts" jeep could also help with the little hard-to-find pieces that you will most likely run across.
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Unread 11-07-2007, 08:47 AM   #7
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I am a living testimony to "buying someone else's unfinished project" and would never do it again. The idea was to SAVE money and in all actuality it ran WAY MORE.

My experience began:

Came across a 72 CJ5. Rebuilt Marshall 401, rebuilt TH400/D20, full cage welded to frame, blasted/painted frame, glass tub, soft top, 4:11's, no rust anywhere. It had a few issues like wiring being cobbled a bit, windshield frame rotted, plastic front seats, but overall was not a bad place to start. He wanted $5,500 and I got him down to $5000. Then had second thoughts.

Continued shopping and found CJ's pricey and hard to come by in my area. Dug out an old phone bill from 2 months prior and got the guy's number and called back to see if he still had it. He DID but somebody was coming to look at it for the 4th time and said he was going to take it. He was down to $4600. The other guy did buy it.

Found an ad in a local paper for a complete CJ7 with glass tub for $3500. Sounded like a deal. Only problem was eveything in pieces. Frame and axles all blasted and epoxy painted, but no 2 parts bolted together. What a great father son project I began thinking.

Hauled it home with 3 pickup trucks and 2 trailers. Knowing nothing about Jeeps i picked up an OEM service manual and began to read. Found out the hard way that many of the parts were not usable such as the rotted wire harness, broken heater box, rotted radiator, broken front hubs and rotted fuel tank. Supposedly this motor/engine only had 45k miles on it. WRONG. After installed and running found out tranny noisy and motor burns oil/low compression. Yanked tranny/tcase and took down for bench rebuild. Replaced 6 cyl with V8 that I originally wanted anyway. Bought all new stuff that was missing in the beginning, but didn't realize because of the mountain of parts I just bought: New seats, wire harness, gas tank, front hubs, bearings, seals, radiator, heater box, seat risers, hinges, soft top, windshield glass, brake lines, fuel lines, paint, rims and tires, and the list goes on and on.

I have a folder in the file with every receipt for every dollar I have spent on my project. I am too afraid to ever add it up as it is probably 2 or 3 times the amount of original vehicle I could have had. It took 3 years to complete and my sons lost interest fast so I spent many late nights in the garage woking on the project which had become a burden on my family and the punchline of jokes at family get-togethers.

It is done now, and we are enjoying it. Was it worth the effort? I am still debating. If I could go back I would snap up that original CJ in a heartbeat. It was usable right from the start and the major stuff was done. I did learn a lot, but the time and cost were excessive. I still have less than half what my 2 brother in law's have in their Harley's which makes it more acceptable. Everybody's situation is different so if you have the space and time and money and drive to do it, then by all means go for it. As for me there are many other things in life to enjoy and I would not be willing to devote that much of my time and money to a hobby.

But then what do I know.
MINE: 1995 YJ/2.5L/115K/Completely Stock
MY DAD's: 1978 CJ7/ AMC 360 .030" over/ Motorcraft 2100/ Edelbrock Performer/ Proform HEI Ignition/ Hedman Headers with dual Flowmaster 40's/ Taurus Fan/ FK-35 Control/ Painless Harness/ Rebuilt T150 & Dana 20/ 4" Lift/ 31" Procomp Mud Terrains/ All Fiberglass. (SOLD)
MY BROTHER's: 1996 ZJ Limited/5.2L/117K & Completely Stock.(SOLD)
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Unread 11-07-2007, 09:57 AM   #8
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I also bought a project off E-bay in March. I knew it would be a project, but I spent at the very least 30 to 35 hours of time just FIXING stuff the previous owner completely screwed up. I'd either buy one running, or one that hasn't been screwed with. A lot less headache in the end, and cost is actually usually cheaper. I'm in my CJ 15K, of course I'm doing a lot of mods along with my frame-off as well.
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The little stuff will kill me.
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Unread 11-07-2007, 11:45 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by supraman1990
I also bought a project off E-bay in March. I knew it would be a project, but I spent at the very least 30 to 35 hours of time just FIXING stuff the previous owner completely screwed up. I'd either buy one running, or one that hasn't been screwed with. A lot less headache in the end, and cost is actually usually cheaper. I'm in my CJ 15K, of course I'm doing a lot of mods along with my frame-off as well.

good words,

previous owners can be a huge PITA!!!

do it right the first time, "right" being ok for you not necessarily the correct way
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Unread 11-07-2007, 10:06 PM   #10
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I would never buy somebody's unfinished project. I've got one in my yard and it's missing tons of little pieces that will make you want to kill yourself.

Just keep an eye out for one that isn't in service anymore. I spotted one today. I got threw showing a client a piece of property and decided to take a different road home than usual. Long story short i got lost in the middle of nowhere, but did find a very nice cj-7 sitting out in a field by some guys house. Hadn't been moved in a while, was all totally original renegade, black paint was faded but original. If i had the garage space i would have tried to make a deal on it. I was in a low income very rural area, so i imagine it could be had at a deal.
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Unread 11-08-2007, 12:20 AM   #11
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Depends on what 'Pieces' the 'Project' has with it...
I've purchased some pretty good 'Projects' that had lots of very nice parts for cheap just because the guy was tired of the stuff lying around, or it was just beyond his abilities...

A runner that is broken already has some of the work done,
Now, if it was done correctly is another matter!

The big question is, what are YOUR abilities?
The more your abilities, the more 'Pieces' or 'Broken' things can be...
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Unread 11-08-2007, 07:57 AM   #12
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I'm gonna have to agree with JeepHammer- it all depends on you and your skills. Buy just any project? No. Shop around and get a deal? Heck Yes. You have to be willing to wait for the right one, or be able to jump on one when it suddenly appears. You also have to negotiate well, to the point of doing them a favor by taking it off their hands.

I recently started another offroad project toy, although it's a Toyota- Rust free 1985, custom galvanized tube bed, ARB bumper, hydraulic winch, dual tcases, locked front and rear with 4.88s, New Alcan spring lift, high steer, Ford C4 transmission installed (just rebuilt w/reciept) and a Ford 302 shortblock on an engine stand (rebuilt, still in plastic from the machine shop). The PO of this vehicle had it since 1988- and there's just over 100K on it.
All of the parts and pieces are there. Sure, I have to put the engine in, but I picked this thing up for $1500! I ran down the parts list and it would cost me over $9500 to build this myself.

Point is that people lose interest in their projects. Sometimes you make out.
1985? Jeep CJ-7: 360, 999, D300, LOMAX 4:1, Dana 44s, 4.10's, Aussies front & Detroit rear. S0A, York OBA, YJ tub, 36" IROKs-
1989 YJ Sahara: 258, puko tranny, np231. 2-3" spring and 2" body lift. 33" TSLs- latest project.
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Unread 11-08-2007, 08:28 AM   #13
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I'm going with the depends on you and the project crowd

I bought a '72 Dodge Challenger project that was literally in buckets, completely taken apart, body off the frame. Took me two years and a bundle of money. While in the long run it was a lot more money and time than I would've spent it was fun and it turned out

Same with a Jeep project. You can find some deals if you take your time and look around, or you can find some nightmares.

I looked at a YJ a couple of months ago that was someone's project. The actual Jeep was pretty trashed, but the parts... Wow, it was a gold mine, he had no idea what he had. Boxes and boxes of brand new parts, a complete new frame set up for coilover, a new engine, axles, an unbelievable parts stash. He had way more money than sense and ability, and he had a rather upset wife who wanted the garage back.

He ended up selling the whole set-up for $5,500 cash. He had three times that just in new parts.

I've also seen some nightmare strip-downs with every nut and bolt tossed into coffee cans and half the parts missing. And I've seen some lifts and mods that scare me to think that someone actually drives that death-trap on the road. Like the rusted out, east-coast TJ that came into the lot I work at with a 4" body lift. Yup, somebody took two 2" body lifts, stacked the blocks, bolted it down and stuck 37" truxs on stock D35/30 axles. Scary.

So you just have to know what you need, what you're capable of and what you want to spend in money and time.
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Unread 11-08-2007, 10:39 PM   #14
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Done it both ways.

I have a done it several ways, then purchased a bone stock 83 with a "bad" engine. Best CJ experience I ever had, $256 later it is still running, still stock and the most fun I have ever had in a vehicle (while using it as transportation). I also now have a 19mo old son and he loves to ride in the "PA". If I had to start over I would do it one of two ways. Buy a broken stock ride and build to suit or start with nothing but an idea and $$ and build with new parts from scratch (alum tub, madrel bent frame, crate engine, new trans, atlas case, new axles, new lift etc) If you put a pencil to it (and be honest), the start from scratch idea works pretty good.
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Unread 11-09-2007, 07:25 AM   #15
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I may be missing the point, but what difference would it make whole or in pieces if your going to build it like you want anyway. I think if your going to buy new parts (or good used) either way you buy it would not matter except a torn down jeep may be cheaper to get. Remember this is just me thinking out loud, and thats dangerous.
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