High Society Kustom Garage

Restoring your Classic car

Car restoration is like a magic show.  Take an old or damaged car and make it look new again.  People who love cars and history will probably enjoy car restoration.  They like the nostalgia of old cars having a second life.  Are you thinking of buying and restoring a classic car?  Perhaps it’s always been a dream and now you’re ready to take the plunge.  Nevertheless, there are numerous ways your project could face challenges.  For every car at your local show, there are probably a dozen sitting in garages and sheds, waiting their turn.

Here are our top tips for car restoration beginners.

Choose the right car

Begin by selecting the right classic car to restore, and aim for the intended purpose. Determine the level of restoration you’re after – whether it’s solely for personal enjoyment or chasing tinware.  The four types include:

  • The Driver: ensuring full functionality with parts replacement and minor cosmetic repairs.  This is more of a partial restoration.
  • Street Show: fixing the car to full working condition and taking the cosmetics to a higher level of quality.  This is now usually a complete restoration.
  • “Top 60” Show car: often requires professional assistance and must meet a much higher level of labour quality standards in all areas of the car. Often not driven until after a show season.
  • Concours: the highest level of car restoration. Usually handled by professionals with an intimate knowledge of the vehicle in question.  Solely for shows or collections, not for regular driving.

Bear in mind that restoring a car needs a significant commitment and is often a labour of love.  For beginners, it’s advisable to start with a car that doesn’t require a large amount of work.  Rust especially can catch you by surprise.  While you might snag a good deal on the car’s price, be cautious.  Hard-to-find parts can be extremely expensive, and labour costs can add up quickly.  Some restorations are more expensive than others.

What to expect

When purchasing your car, bring along a friend or family member for an additional perspective.  Take your time during the purchase process, utilizing websites, classic car events, and social media platforms to find the perfect car for you.  Ask questions.  Not only from the seller but from other car enthusiasts as well.  Even better if it’s someone who’s restored the same classic car that you want.  Many cars have known problems or parts that are unavailable.  If you know what make or model you’re after, joining a club dedicated to that car can be beneficial too.  Knowing what to expect and how to deal with it before you purchase will help keep your project on track.  Be thorough in inspecting the car for potential issues, especially rust, in all nooks and crannies. 

Budget and Time

Consider your budget, factoring in not just the car’s cost but also expenses for parts, tools, and your time.  Investing time in your car is essential to avoid a scenario where it languishes unloved and unappreciated.  Time investment is crucial.  Be sure of the car type you want, starting with something affordable and manageable, preventing the project from becoming overwhelming.  Restoring a classic car can be a huge undertaking, so don’t underestimate the financial and time costs involved.

Tools and Space

Collect the necessary tools for car restoration.  This will include basics such as both ring and open-end spanners, a screwdriver set, and ratchets and sockets in a variety of sizes. Pliers and vice grips are essential.  Depending on the work required, dent pullers, panel-beating hammers and dollies, and tin snips may be required too.

There are also other larger tools you will need to have access to.  It is actually cheaper and easier to rent certain tools than to buy and store them.  This is especially true if you only plan on rebuilding one car.  These will include such things as an engine crane and stand, a transmission jack, a welder, a blowtorch or plasma cutter, etc.

The other thing you’ll need plenty of is space.  It’s easy to underestimate the large amount of space needed to restore a classic car.  Once disassembled, they take up a lot more room than the car’s actual footprint.  You’ll also need room to carry out the work if you don’t plan on outsourcing.

This is part one of a three-part post outlining what to expect when considering the restoration of a classic car.  Next month we’ll get into the steps of the restoration itself.

Classic car restoration.
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