How to help a friend restart a stalled project

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

When you see someone struggling with a project car, what’s the usual response? Make them feel even worse about their predicament? Give ’em a little kick when they’re down–you know, just a little good-natured public ribbing? Or how about waiting them out so you can scoop up the unfinished hulk for pennies on the dollar?

I couldn’t do that to Chris, our video editor.

A few years back, he got the hots for a VW Beetle, so he bought one: a 1971 Super Beetle, some assembly required.

He’s made progress on the car, getting it repainted and largely back together. The engine is in, and I’m told it even runs.

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

But then, with the finish line in sight, the Beetle project stalled, unceremoniously pushed to one side of the garage.

All too often, the focus is on the person telling the story: How will this improve my experience?

What about turning that around a bit: How can we improve someone else’s experience?

Could we, meaning part of the Classic Motorsports editorial team, get this project back on track? It would at least be fun to try.

Step 1: Assemble a posse.

We’re in the middle of our summer travel schedule and, let’s be honest, a two-car garage only fits so many bodies. So we kept this work detail a little on the trim side with just four people joining Chris. We had J.G. Pasterjak, production manager; Tom Suddard, director of marketing and events; Colin Wood, associate editor; and me, the editorial director.

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Step 2: Simply pick a date.

It’s easy to keep kicking that can down the road. In fact, we had to reschedule once, but J.G. had a good reason. (Stupid kidney stones.)

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Step 3: Form a plan.

Tom had been helping Chris with the car before work stalled, but the rest of us hadn’t seen it. That first day would be mostly for recon and developing a full plan of attack, but we did write down some clear goals for our first work day: Assemble a shopping list, detail a plan for completion, and attack a few easy tasks so we could celebrate our achievements.

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Step 4: Just show up.

Tom arrived with tools, donuts and a giant fan–it’s been very hot here in Florida, and we’d be working in a garage not blessed with climate control. We didn’t even have a lift.

Colin brought his film camera and a smile. J.G., a former Beetle owner, brought more than three decades of experience–and, like everyone else, a smile.

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

The longest journey starts with the first step–in this case, getting the car in the center of the garage and up on jack stands with the wheels removed. (Chris had already removed the surrounding clutter.)

The actual work started very soon after, and don’t worry, there’s much more to come about this car. As the photos show, we made progress–more than expected, to be honest.

We completed several items on our task list: door seals installed, running boards fitted, wheel bearings adjusted, leaking wheel cylinder replaced, and the dash wiring nearly all sorted.

We still have some more work to do, and we left Chris’s garage with a list of parts we need to procure. Fresh tires are very much on the list.

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

We have some big travel coming right up–Monterey as well as the SCCA Solo Nationals–but we’ll all be back in Chris’s garage soon. We need to send him on that all-important victory lap.

[Get the most out of Monterey Car Week: 2023 insider guide]

Have a friend with a stalled project? Have you thought about how you can help get them back into the garage?

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/10/23 3:51 p.m.

That was a really fun day. I'm excited for the next one.

ChrisTropea Associate Editor
8/11/23 9:41 a.m.

I am really happy to get this project pointed in the right direction again thanks to everyone. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and am excited to finally get the car on the road. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/11/23 12:08 p.m.

Yarp, totally cool seeing everyone to work together. 

Nice story, good project! It seems like so many projects stall out, when a little friendly assistance like this might be just what is needed to regain motivation and momentum. 

I'll bet I am not the only one looking forward to seeing that Beetle soon!

Now I need to go freshen up the to-do list for my wife's Midget...



ChrisTropea Associate Editor
8/14/23 9:55 a.m.

Over the weekend I was able to chip away at a few small things and start organizing to get some biger projects knocked out. I am trying to spend atleast an hour every day working on the car and that seems to be going well so far. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/21/23 10:07 a.m.

In reply to ChrisTropea :

Rock on and eager to see the progress the next time we’re over. 

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