If you're interested in building a car, but don't know where to start, then you've stumbled at the right post. I've build countless cars at this point, and have a basic idea of what someone goes through when doing a build. Before anything, I'd like to clarify that if you're building something that is meant to appeal to the hellastance crowd, this is not for you. This is a thread for someone who is willing to dedicate themselves to building a quality machine, whether it is for track use, or occasional canyoning, or car shows. All it takes for a stancenation build is a sawsall, a drill and some cheap wheels off eBay to make your Civic DX look "ill" for all the insta follows. Now that we got that out of the way, let's proceed with some basics.
First, the rule of threes applies to builds just as much as anything else. If you want your car to be fast and reliable, it won't be cheap. If you want your car to be reliable and cheap, it won't be fast. Needless to say, reliability isn't something to skimp out on, so don't even bother continuing if you'd rather have a cheap car that goes fast, but breaks every event. The fourth characteristic is something I personally like to keep out of my budget, which is safety. One's life has no price tag, so don't even think about being a cheap-ass when it comes to your life or the life of your passenger. With that being said, it's always cheaper to have one seat in your car rather than four, so if you don't put a passenger seat in there, you don't have to worry about the safety of the passenger. Not only will you save money and time, but you will also save weight, so your car will go faster. On to the tips, and there are quite a few.
1. Figure out your budget and write everything out.
Prior to anything, make a separate savings account for your build in your bank. Drop any amount of money every week or two that doesn't set you back, and then go back and spend it all on your car. Do the research and check to see which modifications you can carry out based on your bank account. If you're building a racing car, and have a tight budget, the first five things on your "to buy" list should be the following- roll cage, hans device, hans compatible helmet, a halo seat and 5/6 pt harness. Matter of fact, make a separate section in your "to buy" list for these items atop of everything else as they take priority. You can skip this if you're building something you can toss around the canyons or for show, although keep in mind that the track is always the safer environment. Your "to buy" list is also best separated into other sections, such as "power", "handling", "aero" and whatever else you can come up with. The key is to write everything out before you start your build, because you can always change things up or add more items to the list.
2. Join a forum or a community of people with similar cars.
Forums can be a great source of tech material and general info. I can almost guarantee that there's a forum for your car somewhere in the interweb (unless you drive a Yugo, then you might just be SOL). Most forums will have all the information you could need, but if not, don't fret. The members would be more than willing to help, but don't just register and barf out a post with the title "best intake for hp gains?". Before asking ANY question, it's best to use Google, you know, the search engine? Yeah, you can type in practically any question and you will get an answer, especially for something specific. If you spend 20 minutes searching and couldn't find a single piece of information that could help you, then you should post your question. But beware, the internet can be a very dark place for some, and nobody is obligated to be nice to you. Nobody sees you or knows you, the only thing they know is that you either need help, attention, or help with attention.
3. Get your work area ready, and don't forget the tools.
Find a place to wrench; it doesn't matter if you are using your garage at home or renting one, you just need a roof over your hood. Back when I was 17-18, I would work in an alley, regardless of whether it rained or shone. I would leave my car on jack stands, pull the motor, swap shocks- you name it. Was it smart? Absolutely not, very dumb actually to just leave your car on stands overnight(s). The reason you need a garage is to keep all parts and tools properly organized, and to prevent theft. Just remember, organization is key, and I will keep saying this. If you're lucky, you could even arrange with a shop to rent out one of their racks and the working area around it. Some will even rent out some tools to go along with it, but expect prices for these kinds of services to be up there. If you can't find cover, then wait awhile before continuing, because cover is pretty much essential for your build, unless you own acres after acres of property. And even if you have cover, you will need something more.
Before you even get started, make sure you have a tool cart with the appropriate tools, at least one parts cart and a rolling chair of some sort. A jack and some stands will do just fine, although a portable lift which us mortals can't afford is preferable. You also want some table tools, which you could scoop up at your local Harbor Freight. These tools include an electric grinder with a wire wheel, a vice, and a piston ring filing tool if you're building engines. While you're there, get some wrenches, sockets, allen keys, socket trays and anything else you deem necessary. Once you're done there, head over to Home Depot for some some electric tools, such as impact guns, angle grinders, drills, etc. Make time to look for a Husky 1/2" torque wrench, which will do the job of torquing wheels just fine. If you're really ambitious and would also like to support American workers, grab some Snap-On tools instead. The quality is unmatched, and neither is their warranty. Ever since I could afford them, I have been buying only Snap-On for my most essential tools.
4. Get your other car ready.
Keep in mind that a "project car" isn't something you should drive daily. While you could do so, having a spare car on the side is always a good idea. A used Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla could cost under $2000, and will cost almost nothing to insure. It's just not a good idea to set your car on stands and expect to get done with it in an X amount of time, because that X can very often turn into 10X. Setbacks happen ALL the time, and whether small or big, they will occur. A setback is anything from a lost socket that is essential for assembly that can be replaced in a matter of 20 minutes, to damaged threads in the sparkplug holes which would need to be repaired using a heli-coil. Having a spare car can relieve the pressure of getting the car done for the next day, which could prevent mistakes since you can still go to work without losing any sleep. My own build has been going on ever since November of the past year, and will be on stands for another 6 months or so, and that's ok. The original plan was to get the car running by the middle of next month, but certain circumstances have made this impossible, and will actually prevent me from spending any money on the car for quite some time. Although in my case, the spare car is what resulted in this. Then again, my spare car didn't have to be a 996 Carrera, but that's besides the point.
5. Safety first, always.
Make sure you have all the proper safety equipment. This usually involves eye-wear, or even full face masks, air filtration devices to wear over your nose and mouth, fire extinguishers, welding helmets, welding jackets, welding gloves, working gloves, more fire extinguishers, jack stands, and ventilation. You don't want to go blind, and when working with grinding/cutting tools, going blind is a good possibility without the proper eye-wear. You can pick up decent eye protection or face-masks from Home Depot or Harbor Freight for cheap. Welding can damage your eyes as well, so a quality helmet is also a must. You don't want your retinas damaged from the UV radiation, which could result in quite a bit of pain and irritation. The mask is also designed to protect the skin on your face, while the jacket and gloves protect the rest of your body. Needless to say, it is probably not a good idea to wear shorts while welding or cutting. I was once cutting the excess metal from my car, when the cutting wheel decided to shatter, and a piece flew right into my danger zone. Had I not been wearing my tough jeans, I probably would've ... well, not been doing so good.
6. Document the build.
Documenting the build isn't just writing out the essentials, but it also involves taking photos- lots of photos. Remember those forums I mentioned? Most of them will have a "builds" sub-forum of some sort, where the members share the build threads. A build thread is a pretty simple thing; you write out your outline, you take photos and upload them with commentary, and even some videos at times. The reason you want to do this is simple- keep things further organized. It's also a pretty useful way to get opinions on your build, and criticism alike. Without either, you may do ok, but you will always do better when others throw in some thoughts of their own. You don't have to do what anybody says, but I personally use other people's opinions and criticism as source of inspiration.
7. Support your local businesses.
This is a big one for me, because I like to help those who help me. If I need to get anything powder coated, why should I mail it out or buy something that's already been done in China, when I can take it to the local powder-coating shop? Not only will you help the economy of your country, but you will build a relationship with said business, which will then get you more connections and references for future needs. Need to do machine work? Find your local Undercar+, or something similar, to get those bushings pressed out or your flywheel cut. There are tons of shops around you that would be able to help you with anything you need. And don't go to the local business asking them for discounts, because I'm pretty damn sure you'd be more than glad to pay a full price for something made outside the country of your residence and sold by a large corporation that makes more per hour than you do a year. Furthermore, support said business by advertising for them in one way or another. Remember, don't wait for someone to help you, but rather start by helping them. Once the owners and workers of the business realize you're not there to exploit them, they will be more than glad to help you out with small stuff, which as a result will allow your build to progress further, and faster.
That's all I can come up with for now, and if you think I missed something, feel free to let me know in the comments. At the end of the day, while the build is something you're doing for yourself, don't make anything tasteless. I believe that a proper build should have a lot of time, sweat and money put into it, all of which will be acknowledged by those who know better. But as I've said previously, you don't have to do anything anyone tells you, so treat this as nothing more than just advice. After all, that's all this is meant to be.