Stripping a Parts Car

Those of us with cars that “need a little TLC” dream about having a “parts car” handy, but that isn’t always practical.  Outside or garage space is limited, local laws prevent storage out in the open, and other issues sometimes keep us from having the “entire car” available when needed.  So, stripping a parts car of its vital organs and storing those things that you may later need is the next best thing.  But where to start and what to preserve?

Stripping a car is not a difficult task and it doesn’t really take that long.  Getting a few friends to come over for the weekend can turn an otherwise difficult set of tasks into a bit of fun.  Like anything, though, preparation is key to success.  So consider these points:

  1. How much practical storage room do you have?  Some larger parts such as body parts, hatches, engines and transaxles take up a lot of room.  Building a storage loft into the ceiling of the garage can provide some space, but the larger, heavier items will have to stay on or near the floor.
  2. What you WANT to keep and what you SHOULD keep are two different things.  Decide what you really need from the parts car, and also decide what you can sell off once you remove it from the car.  Keeping items that are normally available at a low price normally doesn’t make sense, so be realistic.
  3. Our 300 sf storage room for larger things like fenders, engines, hoods and tires.

    Decide what you which parts you are going to keep and make a list – then stick to that list!

  4. Bags, tags and bins are important.  Bag and tag parts with their necessary screws and fasteners.  For example, you may want to keep the headlight covers; if you do, put each in a large plastic bag with the attaching screws.
  5. Organize parts and put them into plastic bins – and label everything!  Make a manifest for each bin, print out two copies and tape one to the side of the bin and put the other in the bin itself.  Keep the manifests in your computer or go “old school” and put them in a binder or folder.  (Pre-formatting a spreadsheet prior to starting will help.)
  6. Have a plan for getting rid of the remains.  Line up a towing service who can drag it to the junkyard, or make some plans to get rid of it.  Make sure you have all the proper paperwork before you start tearing into it.

Now comes the hard part/fun part.  Taking things apart.  If you have help, get one person with legible handwriting and some computer skills to take care of cataloging, making manifests and writing out tags.

Then it’s time to get started.  First things first…

  1. Take photos of everything before you get started including any ID plates or numbers.
  2. Put the car on tall, secure jack stands.  Remove the battery, wheels, hood and hatch.  Be careful.
  3. Drain all fluids, including brake fluid.
  4. Remove the front seats – makes everything else a bit easier.  Even if you are not going to keep the seats, remove them anyway.

From here you need to refer to your list of parts that you are going to keep.  Here are some ideas of what you may need to keep:

  • Engine wiring harness with all ends still attached – don’t cut anything.
  • Brake calipers.  Easily rebuilt and reused, and are difficult to find.
  • Wheels.  Have the local tire shop dismount the tires, unless literally brand new.  Age is important – find the date and if older than 3-4 years, dump them.
  • Front struts.  Remove them as a unit and also keep the spindles.
  • Any sway bars and mountings.
  • Steering rack, including the pump.  Try not to cut any of the lines – expensive to replace.
  • Front lower valance if it is not all bent up.
  • Bumpers.
  • All light lenses, including the tail lights with bulb plate.
  • Battery/alternator/starter cables.
  • Starter.
  • Clutch master and slave for possible rebuild later.
  • All interior trim pieces that are in good shape.
  • Remove the transmission.
  • Remove the rear suspension.  (The decision on whether to keep the rear suspension has to do with space to keep it – takes up a lot of room, and it is rarely re-used.
  • Radiator and fans.
  • Remove the engine and driveshaft tube.  (You can make a roll-around platform with wood and heavy-duty casters for the engine.)
  • Fuel gauge sending unit from the gas tank.
  • Fuel pump.
  • Fuel line to the filter from the pump if not rusted.  (Expensive to replace new)
  • Rear hatch latches in the body.  (Expensive to replace new)
  • Side mirrors.
  • Front fenders and doors if you have the room for them.

Again, the big question here is the amount of space that you have to store all these parts.  Hanging things from the garage ceiling can help – be creative.  And again, making a manifest so that you can find the part you need when you need it is also very important.

Here are some things that you will be tempted to keep, but shouldn’t, either because new replacements are readily available or the existing part on the car will most probably not be in very good condition.

  • AC Compressor – probably died a long time ago.
  • Windshield – difficult to remove without cracking.
  • Rear Quarters – You can cut them off, but…
  • Sunroof cable – difficult to remove without breaking it.
  • Seat belts – never install used seat belts in your car.  Bite the bullet and buy new.

Take your time and do a good, clean job.  You will be rewarded for it in the future.

Author: Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek

Kevin Duffy is a retired Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He now spends his time with Porsche 924S, 944's and 968's in his backyard shop. He is active in the Porsche Club of America, and he concentrates on 924S and the 924S Special Editions, doing rescues and restorations.

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