Piston Slap: The sabbatical for automotive restoration?

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Mauricio writes:

Hello Mr. Sajeev,

I just bought a 1960 Porsche 356, and I want to learn how to restore it properly. Where can I learn about the proper restoration process? I have restored a MGA 1950 and a Land Rover Series II. I did it with good quality providers and original parts. The process was mostly based on common sense rather than knowledge. This time I want to do it with more ideas of what I am doing. Thanks for your help.

Sajeev answers:

Well hello, Mauricio!  Probably the best way to learn how to restore cars is to become an apprentice at a restoration shop, or go back to college and get a degree in this particular trade.

But I’ll go ahead and make a rash judgement by assuming you neither have the time nor the inclination to be that literal in your quest for automotive restoration knowledge. Since you’ve successfully restored two vintage machines with help from others, you already know one of the most important aspects of the trade: One person rarely possesses the skills, tools, and time to fully restore every aspect of a car. Especially a car as (potentially) valuable as a Porsche 356.

My advice to you is to keep it simple. Stick with one skill you’d really like to improve when restoring a car this time around.

You can focus on learning how to do paint and body work, including how to cut out rust and install repair panels. Getting that bathtub body perfectly rotund for paint will take you hundreds of hours, especially if its current paint job hides sinful repairs of the past. Or maybe learn how to do interior upholstery, which wouldn’t be too hard on a 356 if you forked over the cash for a professional-grade sewing machine. Or maybe electronics restoration. Or maybe you just want to disassemble stuff on the suspension, media blast them clean, paint them, and install a kit like this to finish off your sabbatical?

If you have all the time and resources in the world at your fingertips, learn them all concurrently. Treat this endeavor like a project manager does a 7+ figure corporate undertaking. Document everything you need on a google spreadsheet, and learn specific trades as the 356’s disassembly merits them.

  • Rust repair? That will happen after you remove all the Bondo.
  • New wiring harness? Didn’t know that was needed until I removed the (insert 356 unique part here).
  • How do I source all these missing/destroyed rubber parts? Take a vacation somewhere with WiFi and source them all at your leisure!

I can see this playing out for you, and it seems pretty awesome in my (delusional?) mind. Go ahead and make it happen Mauricio. I would love to see you make it happen!

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