About this time, Jim left his job as a welder in order to open his own full-service hot rod shop, Tin Man Fabrication in Oak Grove, Minnesota. Working on other people's projects brought the progress on his own rod to a crawl, but he continued to collect the parts and pieces that would eventually find their way onto the modified. Most of these parts were discarded components from other cars, or used parts that customers wanted upgraded. When he got a little extra cash, he ordered aftermarket parts, such as the Speedway front suspension, the MAS aluminum fuel tank, and other goodies.
Jim says that when it was time to paint the car, his wife Amy insisted on green. "I'm not a green kind of guy, but I tried by keep my mind open," he tells us. He picked the final color based on a photo he found of an old olive green Willys pickup with orange wheels. It was unique and not too bold. "But when I put it on the car, it was shockingly bright. My original idea was to paint the whole car green with some orange accents, but the color was too loud, so I decided to break it up by adding the orange scallops."
The ability to fabricate and paint, the knack for inheriting free or low-cost parts, and building a relatively simple car all contributed to the low cost of Jim's hot rod, but as a professional builder, he's learned a few other tricks about saving money during a buildup-any buildup. The most important, he tells us, is to go in with a plan and not to deviate from it. At the beginning of this project, he made some sketches to create an idea of what the final product should look like, and spent time thinking about how all the pieces were going to work together. Throw some talent and luck into the equation, and you definitely can build a hot rod on a working man's budget.
What kind of hot rod are we talking about? How about the kind that can draw a big crowd and create a big buzz when it pulls in alongside the big-budget boys at the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville. How about the kind that can make seen-it-all magazine photographers choose it out of a crowd of 10,000 cars for a spread in Rod & Custom. All for $5,000. How about that?