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dculberson PowerDork
7/28/17 8:44 p.m.

So I've mentioned having parted out cars in the past, and that I have a lot of experience selling stuff on eBay and I was asked to make a post about it. I decided to try to make a sort of log of my latest attempt.

Right now, parting out a car is complicated by two kids (one almost 3 and the other 4 months) and a shop that's in dire need of renovation. But the best time to do something is now, right?

I have a 2001 MR2 Spyder with a blown engine, and so have been cruising Craigslist for a suitable donor. I really wanted to do the 2zz swap but with my minimal time availability and plethora of other projects, I knew that wasn't necessarily the best idea. A 2003 MR2 Spyder with major front end damage showed up with the asking price of $1500. I texted the seller on a Thursday night back in May and they had someone coming to look at it. Dang! Well, Friday rolled around and I checked with them and - surprise - the other person didn't show up. I made arrangements to go check it out in the evening.

The car presented well but turned out to have an SMT transmission. I was a bit disappointed as I had hoped that I could just swap subframes and avoid separating the engine and transmission. That's the fastest way to do an engine swap on these, and saving time is always a good thing in my life. Well, it would turn out later that the SMT was not a down side for financial reasons. I could not get the car to start, but it turned over strongly with no odd noises. I tried to get the seller to flex some on price given that it wouldn't start, but they were in a hard spot with having only owned the car for about 48 hours before totaling it. Turns out they bought it for their college age son intending to sell his Ridgeline to pay for it. The spyder had bald rear tires on it so they told him not to drive it until he got new tires on it. You can guess what happened next; they bought it Friday and their son spun it into the concrete median on the freeway that Sunday.

I ended up plunking down $1500 cash and completed a bill of sale with them and told them to expect the tow truck the next day.

So then the next morning, this pulled up:

I'm committed now. I need to get some room in my shop to tear the car apart, free up room to store and list the parts, and somehow find time to do it between working, fixing up an enormous house, raising two kids, and taking care of a 3.5 acre yard. Somewhere in there I need to sleep.

Follow along as I try!

OHSCrifle Dork
7/28/17 8:54 p.m.

this should be interesting.

dculberson PowerDork
7/28/17 9:04 p.m.

Backing up a bit, I had already been doing some setup in preparation for selling stuff from my relatively-new-to-me shop. Like all of us, I have a habit of letting my work bench pile up and being an ugly mess for months on end. I made a decision that (a) I wasn't going to do that any more, and (b) my workbench was going to be a multi-functional flexible work space that allowed me to work quickly and effectively. I find that a clean work area allows me to accomplish far more than a cluttered one. Even if it's physically possible to do what needs done on a messy bench, my mind gets cluttered when surrounded by piles of stuff and it's hard for me to concentrate.

I'm terrible about taking "before" photos, so here's the workbench cleaned:

It's an old butcher block workbench top mounted to two medical cabinets that give me a nice high working surface and some good drawers for organization. On the back left is my monitor on an arm so it doesn't take any workbench area, and centered on the back is a homebrew stretchfilm dispenser that I use to pack things - wrap them in bubble wrap then wrap them in stretch film then box them up. Fast and effective and less messy than peanuts! I've since moved the stretch film dispenser to the back of the bench so it doesn't use bench top room.

I then added some LED shop lights from Costco and had a flash of inspiration: A white vinyl roll-up window shade would make a perfect photo backdrop! Roll it down for photos, take 'em, and then roll it back up to get it out of the way. $10 or so at Lowe's later and I had this:

It worked phenomenally. Here is the product shot it made, for a distinctly non-car-related sale I made months ago:

Now we have photo, packing/shipping, and listing area complete, and it uses space I already had in use for my workbench and helps motivate me to keep my bench clean! Perfect. After months of using it to do all three/four functions, it's worked better than I hoped. I walk into the shop and my clean bench helps me get right to what needs done. The photo backdrop sets up in seconds and packing things is way easier when I'm not working around clutter.

My only complaint is that the cheap-o window shades have a cardboard core that warps readily. In fact the big ones like this come from the store warped most of the time and it only gets worse over time. That means they end up hitting the window frame and being difficult to get open all the way. Oh well - it works for now.

Next up is coming up with storage for packing materials. Hopefully I can dig up some photos for that!

rustybugkiller Reader
7/28/17 9:12 p.m.

Good stuff here!

dculberson PowerDork
7/28/17 9:22 p.m.

I haven't found any photos of the storage solution I came up with for packing materials. If anyone is really interested I'll go out to the shop and take some photos.

Packing material is a pain to store. You need tons of bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and tons of empty boxes. They're light, but huge. They take up a ton of room and are alway in the way. I decided to figure out a way to keep them accessible but not cluttering up my work space. Looking around in my shop, I found that the attic area over my workbench, amazingly enough, already had a solid wood subfloor in it. And it already had an old cutout for an attic ladder hidden behind the ceiling tiles. I saved a search on Craigslist for attic ladders and soon a really good deal on a Fakro fold-up insulated attic ladder turned up. This kind:

That's normally around a $500+ ladder, but this guy wanted $125. I met up with him in the Menard's parking lot and checked it out. The frame had been split and re-glued, but that wasn't a big deal since most of the load is carried by the fasteners near the ladder mechanism. Sold! (Well, I mean, bought!)

I knew the width was right but the length was wrong. Enlarging the opening just took me a couple hours with the reciprocating saw and some 2x6s. The ladder was missing some of the installation hardware - mostly the stuff that helps hold it up while you level it and fasten it in place. I managed to replicate it using unistrut scraps and some scraps of 1/4" allthread and nuts. Worked great and we had a functional ladder.

The ceiling was lower than the tallest that the ladder was rated for, so I had to remove a step. In reading the instructions it turns out the bottom few steps are all identical and you can buy more to make the ladder taller. Well, frugal me decided to see what my removed step was worth on eBay. I got $40 for the step (plus shipping!) and that brought my net for the $500+ ladder down to $85.

I didn't like the way the stairs were designed to be lowered. They have a recessed slot in the face of the door, and you use a metal pole to grab that and pull the stairs down. Well, this is a lower ceiling (about 7'10") and I can reach up and touch the ladder. Coupled with that, I don't need the ladder to look super finished since it's in my shop and not in my house. So, I looked through my handles drawer (doesn't everyone have a drawer of handles?) and found an "oh E36 M3" handle from a 90s Honda Accord. It works beautifully and makes it so I can open the stairs in almost no time, easily. It can go from fully closed and stowed to open and climable in seconds. I then put another LED shop light up there to make it easier to see (there had been a single incandescent but that's not enough light).

All my boxes and packing materials fit up there readily so I have quickly accessible but completely out of the way storage for shipping supplies. It's not climate controlled but it's dry and boxes and bubble wrap are not delicate when it comes to temperature.

So far so good! Next up making room for storing stuff. More tomorrow!

pimpm3 SuperDork
7/28/17 9:36 p.m.

I have parted two cars this year and have found empty water bottles make great packing material. I always have a plethora of them in my recycle bin and they are free.

dculberson PowerDork
7/29/17 11:20 p.m.

I spent some time cleaning and selling stuff and came up with a mostly empty room to store my pulled parts in. That way, I am not tripping over stuff or just piling stuff on the floor. Here's what my admittedly shabby storage looks like right now:

As I've mentioned the building needs some work. But for now it functions as great shop space and I doubt I'll have it all to myself once it's done (guest house ideas from SWMBO) so I'll enjoy it like it is while I can!

Anyway, I also spent time cleaning in the garage part of the shop and managed to pull the car inside:

It's a hard hit, but the airbags didn't go off! I think the passenger side would have fired if anyone was in the passenger seat. The driver's side sensor didn't take a direct hit - the frame didn't fold enough to hit it. You can see the MaxJax lift I bought last year. I love this thing. When time is at a premium something like this really helps you get work done faster. No more futzing with finding jacking points and safe jack stand locations! Just swing the arms in place and lift. It's saved me many hours so far and should make this job way easier.

Now to start choosing stuff to sell, pulling it, and listing it!

To determine what to list and how to price it, I usually do a few searches on eBay looking at completed items. That way you know what people will actually pay for the stuff. Well, doing some searching it looks like I can recover most of what I paid for the car for the SMT transmission parts. In four sales: the transmission itself, the SMT hydraulic pump, the SMT actuator, and the SMT TCU. I think those will be my first listings - both for momentum on dollar value but also because that way I have to pull the engine and it'll be ready to put into my spyder.

Just looking at about 15 items I can recover about $2000 from this car. I'll pull and sell anything I can get ~$50 for - less than that and it's not worth it to me to spend the time it takes to list and ship it. Needless to say though, in the end I'll (hopefully!) get a good engine for cheaper than free with only time involved.

I won't list the stuff on eBay until it's been pulled. The advantage there is that I can take photos of the actual item and I can ship quickly. I need to be careful because if something takes too much time to ship I don't have a lot of flexibility with the rest of my schedule!

Parts pulling tomorrow. Let's talk schedule tonight though. I get up with the earliest kid - maybe 7am if I'm lucky - and spend all day either at work or with them or dealing with house maintenance. Then when I get the older kid to bed - maybe 8:30p-9p if I'm lucky - I get to go a quick clean of some of the house (dishes, toys, etc) and then head out to the shop by 10, again if I'm lucky. I have maybe an hour or two to do this stuff. So it's definitely something anyone can do if they have the energy and motivation. And, obviously, the room!

John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
7/29/17 11:34 p.m.

Diggin' it!

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
7/30/17 7:51 a.m.

Using a window shade for photo backgrounds is brilliant.

Slippery SuperDork
7/30/17 8:55 a.m.


Patrick MegaDork
7/30/17 9:22 a.m.

After probably 50 in the last 20 years, I've decided that parting out cars is not fun. I commend your insanity.

pimpm3 SuperDork
7/30/17 10:52 a.m.

The ebay app makes it so easy. I am already $400 ahead on parting my 1993 mr2.

In fact I am bidding on a copart 300zx Monday to try to duplicate my success.

dculberson PowerDork
7/31/17 10:43 p.m.

I had a bit of time - 45 mins or so - on Saturday so I got it centered in the lift bay and got it up in the air. I had more time so I decided to take the wheels off. [insert record scratch noise] NOPE - there are locking lug nuts on it and I don't have the key.


Well, I decided to try the "hammer a sacrificial socket onto the lock" technique. I found a 3/4" 12-point that fit really tightly and drove it on solidly.

It was 3/8" drive; I don't have any 12-point 1/2" drive. My 3/8" impact isn't stout enough to remove a lug nut so I switched to the 1/2" with a 1/2" -> 3/8" adapter. Well, that didn't work well.

I think you see a key word there that explains why the failure was that fast. Anyway, I now had a socket firmly wedged onto the lug nut and that socket had a broken off drive pin stuck in it and I had no way to grab it. At that point I had to break for the day - my 45 minutes was up. I got back to it tonight after putting the kids to bed. A hole drilled in the middle of the socket drive pin and a sheet metal screw driven in a tiny bit took care of it.

I tried a 3/8" breaker bar and that just worked the socket loose. Next! I tried grinding the chrome off the locking lug nut and welding a sacrificial nut to it.

In the last pic you'll see the nut is glowing nice and brightly. But I just couldn't get enough penetration on the weld to the locking lug nut; my weld kept twisting in half.

I decided to use my grinder to cut a slot in the locking lug nut and hammer on it with a chisel. Success!

The wheel is a tiny bit worse for wear. I had hoped to get some money for the wheels - not much, but maybe $150 for all four or something. I might still be able to. The center cap got a bit of weld spatter damage but overall the wheel itself is still nice. It's after 11 so time to clean up. Remember - no more leaving tools and crap all over the work bench!

dculberson PowerDork
7/31/17 10:45 p.m.
Patrick wrote: After probably 50 in the last 20 years, I've decided that parting out cars is not fun. I commend your insanity.

I've done 3. At 50, I would probably be tired of it too! I'm still a few years from retirement but once that comes I might keep parting a couple a year to fund my racing habit.

JtspellS SuperDork
7/31/17 11:31 p.m.

IDK why but I really like these cars, have just about all the ingredients for a locost build...

jr02518 Reader
8/1/17 12:18 a.m.

PM sent on the rims.


onemanarmy New Reader
8/1/17 9:21 a.m.

Looking forward to more. If I had the space, I'd be parting out cars too, even though it can be a pain.

dculberson PowerDork
8/1/17 9:35 a.m.
jr02518 wrote: PM sent on the rims. David

Got it - thanks! Replied. Hope we can work something out but shipping to California is a killer.

Billy_Bottle_Caps Dork
8/1/17 9:50 a.m.

I commend your use of time

java230 SuperDork
8/1/17 10:00 a.m.

I need a couple small parts if your willing!!!!

And I have a set of three wheels (one rear bent) if someone wants to make a complete set.

java230 SuperDork
8/1/17 10:11 a.m.

Namely this trim piece that bugs me.

dculberson PowerDork
8/1/17 10:29 a.m.

Absolutely, let me get it pulled and see if it's in good shape after it's out. ;-)

Anything else you can use from the car?

java230 SuperDork
8/1/17 11:20 a.m.

In reply to dculberson:

Fender liner, but don't really feel like shipping that. Tail lights perhaps also.

The only other thing is the plastic cover for the gas door lever and lock thing.

dculberson PowerDork
8/2/17 8:57 p.m.

Well, last night I spent 2-3 hours trying to remove another wheel and having no success. The welding / chiseling / etc was so drawn out and damaged the wheel a bit so I thought I'd try a different tack. I bought a McGard lock set - oops those are actually keyed differently! So it didn't fit. I bought a couple of "wheel lock removal" tools and they were both too big. I bought the biggest set of Irwin stripped bolt removers and they were all too small. No dice. I tried welding and chiseling on the other front wheel and got nowhere. Gave up close to midnight. I'll figure it out but hope this is the biggest time suck on the car because that was a couple of frustrating nights.

I got very little sleep last night so I'm going to skip tonight. I'll pick up a smaller wheel lock removal tool and try it. If that fails, the wheels are staying attached to suspension parts when I remove them.

I did text the previous owner who did not have the key. They did only own the car for about 48 hours so not much call to find it missing.

Cotton UberDork
8/2/17 9:07 p.m.

That looks like a pretty sweet Ford truck in the garage.

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