Tips For Classic Car Restorations

Classic car restoration can be a relatively easy short process or it can be a project that could take a year or longer to complete. Patience is a crucial element. Paying attention to what you are doing and not getting in a hurry are key factors to a successful restoration.

1955 chevy bel air specs
1955 Chevy Bel Air

For some classic car collectors a restoration can be a hobby. For some it’s a job whereby a car is restored to original condition to hopefully sell to a collector at a profit. Is a car restoration  frame on or frame off? Is your restoration intended to be complete of a partial restoration? What is your estimated cost for restoring a vehicle and will you do most of the labor yourself or hire it out? If you hire the work out to a professional, what can you expect regarding estimates? Where can you find parts and expert advice? How you can set up a plan and schedule?

There’s obviously quite a lot to consider and we hope to offer some tips and suggestions within this article.

Choosing a Professional Automotive Restoration Company

There are many restoration professionals who can take a vehicle in any condition and restore it to a beautiful original. All it takes is the right restorer and enough money. The initial step to take would be to scrutinize the car to be restored. Your task is to decide on the restoration you desire. Are you looking to make your automobile into a museum quality exhibit or a daily driver or something in between? When you make this determination then you can better choose a restoration shop.

If you can locate a professional auto restoration shop that specializes in your type or brand of car then you may be off to the right start. No one shop can know everything there is to know about every car ever built. Some know more about certain makes. If you can find a shop that is very familiar with your type car then they may be able to save you time and money and perform a better job due to their experience. It’s important to remember that restoration shops are not body shops, and body shops are not restoration shops. Trusting your automobile to non-specialists can result in higher restoration costs.

1949 studebaker pickupTalking to other classic car owners at auto shows is a good way to learn the names of quality auto restorers. You’re looking for recommendations from people who have had their car restored or know of people who have.

Choosing a restoration shop nearby is beneficial so you can easily stop by to check on the progress. If your restoration vehicle is a rare one you may want to locate a shop that specializes in those type vehicles or at least one that specializes in rare cars in general.

In addition to the above, it’s always a good idea to personally visit the prospective restoration shop to observe restoration projects currently being worked on and also to ascertain the experience of the staff.  Ask about how certain elements of the restoration are performed such as rust repairs and removal of paint.

If for whatever reason you do choose a shop that is not convenient to personally visit after they begin your restoration, make certain you are sent photos of the progress on a regular basis. This is really a must and most reputable shops have no problem doing this.

Regarding estimates of costs from a professional restoration shop, keep in mind the following. You will likely be asked for a deposit up front so the shop can begin ordering parts. Payments are usually put on a schedule to coincide with the progress of the work. Every other week might be an example. An estimate may be subject to change after the shop begins work because of an unexpected issue that could not be seen prior to the start of the project. This should be made clear on the original estimate paperwork.

Do IT Yourself Car Restoration

Purchasing a vehicle for restoration is an great way of acquiring a classic car. There are a large number of tasks that you might be able to carry out without having to hire a professional restorer. Some will say that the only way to complete a car restoration on a reasonable budget is to do the work yourself. It’s good to know that there are a large number of parts companies that supply parts to classic and vintage car restorers. The internet and classic car magazines are a good place to find them and a good way to compare prices.

The internet has allowed access to tons of information.  You can find information ranging from varieties of cars, their parts, where to find them and how to fix them online. You Tube is a great source for this. Also, books and magazines  can be of great help to you on this subject.

Chances are you will be working with a budget. The way to complete the restoration on your budget is to carry out the work on your own. You may have to learn a lot but this can be fun and, as mentioned above, there are quite a few resources available today such as tutorials and do-it-yourself techniques to help you out.

Each step of a car restoration process is a learning experience, but no matter how well you know how to do something, there may be better, easier and/or less time-consuming ways to accomplish your goal. You can gain plenty of knowledge by simply talking to people who have successfully restored automobiles. In addition to the above, having a talent for welding and mechanics is a big plus.

If your car restoration involves stripping down a very old car, it may be advantageous to strip it all the way down to the undercarriage. Among other things, this would allow you to apply undercoating spray and reflective insulating wrap to help reduce noise. When you begin stripping down the car take a detailed inventory of all parts that need some kind of work.

1956 dodge firedome sevilleIt’s wise to break out your car restoration project in sections and don’t rush the project.  Planning is essential. It’s said that it can take around 1,000 hours to fully restore a classic car. Some will say plan on one year.

Consider to begin your work at one designated point on the car and work your way to the further end. To avoid getting bogged down with lots of work, make a list of short term tasks and attempt to complete them on the schedule you decide to set.  Begin with what area you know the best.

To help arrive at a budget or at least determine how much it will cost to complete everything you hope to complete, consider auto parts, electrical wiring, interior seats, dashboard, accessories, metal work, paint, tires, wheels, panels and doors, possible professional help needed and what each of them costs. .This will let you know if you can afford a full restoration or a partial one. Another suggestion is to determine which parts on the car can be kept and reused and which will need replacing. This is a good time to work out the budgeting of your entire restoration project. You want to sort out the parts into two categories; those which you’ll repair and those you’ll replace. Decide which parts must be brand name or original, and which parts you can buy at a lower price. Remember that a good source for finding classic or vintage car parts are local automobile clubs that specialize in a certain model car. This source can be a great help and save you time.

To help stay on budget buy only the tools you will need for each section of your restoration. Find the best deal you can for the tools you require whether it be at a local store or on the internet.

If you can budget for a professional paint job do so. Nothing makes a restored classic car look terrific than a quality professional paint job. Know that you can save some money by  doing the priming of the body yourself. Word of mouth is a good source for finding quality auto painters. Check with local car clubs for recommendations.

You may enjoy the Auto Museum Online articles found on the links below…

Some of the Best Cars to Restore

Costs of Owning Collectible Cars


References for this article included…Low Cost Car Restoration Vol. 2 by Steve Brooks, Igor Spajic…..Hemmings…..How to Restore Your Collector Car : 2nd Edition by Jason Scott, Tom Brownell…..Old Cars Auto Restoration Guide : Vol. 2 by Old Cars Weekly Editors.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)