We’ve done how-to articles about detailing your classic car, registering it, and how one common component—the carburetor—works. Today we’d like to talk about the real meat of classic cars: restoration.
Many people elect to purchase classic cars already fully restored—to paraphrase Drake, “engine done, inside done, everything did.” More common is to find a classic car that you really like in a partial state of restoration: perhaps the engine will have been replaced, but the upholstery is shot. Or maybe the exterior has been beautifully refinished but the sound system inside is woefully inadequate for your beach trips. In some cases, buying a classic car that needs some work can be less expensive than choosing one fully restored; at the same time, some people don’t want a project and would gladly skip the restoration process.
1. Materials: It’s a lot easier to transplant a new seat than coax life into a well-worn one, so it might be a good idea to investigate repositories of old cars nearby. Ask the seller, ask online forums, call vintage car shops, and ask for referrals. You might find something that isn’t a stock item but fits well and looks fantastic. Gathering supplies from a CD player to new gauges is best done at the beginning. Plus, asking questions builds your network of friends in case you need help one day.
2. Gutting: Removing carpet, doors, worn vinyl, broken components—this is the Extreme Makeover portion. Have a vacuum cleaner nearby and maybe a deep cleaner for rugs or carpeting; they’re a lot easier to clean when out of the car lying flat than in the car.
3. Exterior: This is obviously what people notice first, so a quality paint job is in order. Equally important, however, might be your shop’s expertise with rust removal, depending on your car’s condition. If there’s little to no rust, you could save money by stripping and repainting the body yourself, and leaving the difficult but important details—door handles, mirrors, windshield, gas cap, headlights, taillights, bumpers, hood latches, etc.—to the shop.
If you choose a shop, resist the temptation to ask for flames, dragons, or your name written in flames spewed by a dragon. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
4. Engine: By this point, you know our formula—determine whether to repair or replace, call contacts, do whatever work you’re comfortable with at home, use professionals for the rest. Your car’s chassis might be able to handle a more powerful engine, or it could be more weight/power than prudent. Perhaps new gaskets or engine seals are all that’s necessary for many more happy years, or a good scrubbing with chemical solvents. This one’s up to you, but as in all things, moderation is recommended.
That’s it! We hope you’ve found these tips helpful as you browse through our listings and consider what the right car is for you. If you have more questions, ask them in the comments and we’ll be glad to look up the answers. Best of luck.