You don’t need to have a massive budget or be a professional shop to build a nice hot rod. That said, you likely have a certain budget, and this means you need to know how to make the car perform and look great, without breaking the bank. This article is intended to give some tips to help beginner car builders create a great first hot rod that looks like it was rolled out from a professional shop, but that was built on a dime.

Buy an Aluminum Car Radiator for Your Hot Rod

Aluminum car radiators are more affordable than copper ones, and they are better for custom builds. Aluminum car radiators cool much faster, they are lighter meaning cars can go faster, and they can be easily customized to fit into any space–something that’s critical for a hot rod that will perform and look amazing. Copper is heavy and takes longer to cool down. Also, you can’t customize the radiator for specific builds. This is why the top builders buy aluminum car radiators from top auto parts manufacturers over the copper version.

Choose an Affordable Car

You will want to be realistic and choose an affordable car. You may want to build a ‘57 Bel Air or a classic GT Spider, but unless you already one one, you should think of one that’s more affordable but also iconic. There are a lot of affordable project cars out there that can be purchased for a few thousand dollars. Start with one, and work your way up from there.

Do the Auto Work On Your Own

Don’t pay specialists to do the work. Instead, do it yourself while taking advantage of free online learning. You can easily spend thousands on people who specialize in body work, painting, upholstery, transmission, and other components. But there are free highly detailed videos online that walk you through every step of the process from how to straighten a body to how to airbrush pinstripes, and from how to install an aluminum car radiator to how to stitch custom leather car seats.

Always Repair or Rebuild Over Replacing

In some cases you will be forced to replace certain elements of your car, but if you can repair or rebuild, you will want to go that route. Replacing a part costs a lot of money, while repairing it is significantly less expensive. Furthermore, aftermarket parts can reduce the value of your car, as most people looking to buy a classic car want it to be completely original.

Swap Work and Trade

Repairing an engine is almost always cheaper than buying a new one, but the cost will depend on how much time it will take to get the job done. Rather than pay an engine guy or a transmission guy to perform the work, offer to trade skills instead of paying money. If you are an expert at custom paint jobs, or an upholstery wiz, then you can swap your services for his and save a good chunk of change on your hot rod build.

Follow these tips, and you can build an amazing car and still have enough money to fill it up with gas a few times before you move it over to a buyer.