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Get your head in gear, follow these five rules, and you’re well on the way to building a bona fide Homebuilt Hero.

homebuilt hero

#1 Build it how you want it
We’ve had stuff done by other people before and, unless you’re there every step of the way, there’s a danger of being misunderstood. That’s why it is so important to drum into people what you want — or get smart and do it yourself like a true Homebuilt Hero.

No-one knows what they want like you do, plus you can experiment and all it’s costing is your time. You might even find out why other people build things the way they do, or even find a better way.
Here’s an example: wheel tubs — most people weld them to the body, which results in distortion no matter how hard they try. And, even if a pro does it, he’s working to a time limit too — he has to make money. So, chances are he’ll rush it.

But if you think about it, cut your wheel tubs to shape carefully, then glue them to the body with Sikaflex — or similar product — you end up with no distortion and a job just as sound. That may well be thinking outside the box, but how many pros will do that and not charge you for experimentation time?

It’s your car so do it your way.

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#2 Learn direct
Trying is the best way of learning — you’ll quickly find out what your limitations are, which means you need to find out how to do things. That’s half the battle: thinking, planning and working stuff out before you even walk in the garage. Then if you still can’t suss it how it’s done, there’s always a course you can go on.

There’s no doubt that a bit of learning can go a long way. We’ve known people who were terrible at welding, others who were the most useless fabricators in the history of bashing tin. But all of a sudden they’ve turned out superb work that you’d swear a pro did. On the quiet they’ve sneaked off and got some lessons — there’s a million-and-one one-day courses and evening classes you can attend that’ll teach you stuff faster than you can work it out yourself. DIY doesn’t just mean fighting in a corner getting frustrated, but knowing yourself, and particularly what you can already do and what you need to be taught.

Constantly watching, being inquisitive, nicking ideas, reading mags and getting inspired, then trying them out for yourself is probably the most satisfying thing in the world — especially if it comes off. A can-do attitude — that’s what you want.

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#3 Control the quality
Have you ever walked round a show or race track and thought, unless it’s pro-built, the quality is really awful? There are loads of cars out there just thrown together. Get the quality right and it’ll look good and last forever. And you can control the quality by doing it yourself like a proper Homebuilt Hero.

Where it really shows is in the details — a car might look great on the outside but under the bonnet, it can be a mess of plated-over rot hidden by thick gobs of seam sealer. There really is no substitute for quality welding and fabrication. And the same goes for paint — unless you really know your bodyshop, chances are it’ll come back like the North Sea. Straight paint means hours and hours of blocking, which you won’t get unless you pay a fortune… At the very least, do the hard work and get a good bodyshop to apply the shiny coat.
Take heed of the learning section and think quality!

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#4 Share the workload
When we actually have time to work on our cars, we have a laugh but at the end of the day, the job gets done. If you sort the environment out, you’ll get on with building the car because it’s a great place to be, and the chances are your mates will come and help too.

A nice toasty workshop, plenty of tools that you can share — axle stands, jacks and so on — plus the bills too, so it is nice and comfy and doesn’t drain your car building funds. There’s always help and inspiration on hand, and someone to bounce ideas off — get it right and you won’t go home!

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#5 Save money
There’s nothing wrong with farming stuff out if you can’t do it, especially if you haven’t got the time or somewhere to work from. But doing things for yourself and on a budget is where most people get satisfaction.
Budget doesn’t mean shonky work because if you take your time to learn stuff and find out how it’s done properly you can carry out work that looks like it was done by a pro. But you’ll know it cost a fraction in hard cash plus you’ve got the budget to carry on and get it finished. Because, if you can crack the hard things, the rest is just a case of working through it.

Don’t be afraid to know when you’re beaten, though — sometimes things take one, two, even three or more attempts to get it right.

Finally, buy the right bits — it’s pointless making something when there’s a panel or part available that’ll save you hours of work. The trick is knowing what’s a bargain and what your limitations are.

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This feature first appeared in the Homebuilt Hero special/February 2018 issue

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