Classic car restoration is a standout amongst the most exciting activities a car aficionado can perform. Changing an old, tired, beat up car back into a classic vehicle just off the production line at the height of its greatness is nothing short of art.
Here are some tips before you decide on a classic car restoration:
Review your car carefully, through and through, all around; use a lamp to assess the trunk, engine bay, floors (pull up carpet if you can), under body, and rocker panels. This will enable you to see the sort of structural repairs that could be needed during your classic car restaration. If possible take it to a car restoration shop where it could be lifted to investigate the condition from underneath. In general, if the rockers/ longitudinals, A-post, B-post, and other major structural panels are rotten then the metal work portion of your restoration will be labor intensive. Here you will decide whether the classic car restoration procedure is justified regardless of the time and cash.
Next take a look at the body panels: doors, trunk lid, hood, fenders, etc. How many of them need major work? It may be very hard to evaluate with paint or primer on these panels, or you may be able to easily see that they are not great.
Review the mechanical components and engine/ transmission. If both the engine and transmission need complete overhauls that can be another big ticket item. Likewise for the mechanical components: does the complete brake, steering, and/ or electrical systems need to be rebuilt? If so, your classic car restoration will be a ‘nut and bolt’ restoration, where every component is disassembled, evaluated, cleaned, replacement parts located, painted and rebuilt.
How easily are parts acquired for your classic car or truck? Can you find the sheet metal you need? What about mechanical components or trim? The more rare cars with hard to locate parts will be more expensive to restore because all the sheet metal panels will need to be made by hand. Do you want to use original parts or off the shelf reproductions?
Subsequent to reviewing the vehicle, it is additionally essential to decide what your goals are for this classic car restoration. Are you looking for a daily driver, show, or concours quality restoration? Are you imagining some custom work done, upgrading the engine or brakes, or a roof chop, fender flares, or something really unique and creative? In general, the more custom work, and the higher level of quality, the more expensive the restoration.
Choose whether you can work with a friend who knows how to repair cars or an expert. It is often recommended not to involve friends and family on such projects as the time and money invested on this process may cause some trouble if the right procedures are not followed. Cars restored by people other than professionals tend to run for years and in some cases start to have issues such as paint bubbling. Only reach out to the best car restoration shops for this. Click here for the top shop in classic car restorations.
More notes on choosing the level of classic car restoration:
Daily Driver restoration: often performed to get a car back to a fully functional and operational condition, they often include part replacement and minor cosmetic adjustments. This can also include a refinish with much less sanding/ steps than a show finish.
Show Car Restoration: Classic car restoration or restoring a classic car back to this form often requires professional work. Body will be completely stripped of trim, media blasted, and refinished. Sometimes this can mean leaving frame components if they are in good condition.
Concours: this is the highest level of classic car restoration possible. All the work should be done by professionals, from part replacement to body work. These will be a ‘nut and bolt’ restoration, meaning every nut, bolt, bracket, hose, and component, is removed, cleaned, painted if appropriate, and reassembled. These type of cars are intended for auto shows or private collections and not to be driven much (or at all). Obviously, the original car to be repaired must be in optimal condition to achieve this stage, otherwise a major investment is necessary.