How to Ready Yourself for a Restoration Project

Taking on a vehicle restoration is a hugely daunting task. It can be a time-consuming and expensive venture, and may seem overwhelming to someone just starting out. So where do you begin?

Assess your readiness. Consider whether you have the determination to see your project through to completion. A restoration requires commitment, patience and a high threshold for frustration. The time waiting for a part to be shipped, once you locate it, can seem endless; once your project is underway, progress can seem slow; and unexpected problems can creep up and take a project off track.

Choose your car wisely. It’s a good idea to have some emotional investment in the car you’re about to restore. Is it the car you had in high school? Are you looking to be Steve McQueen cool? Or do you recognize the historical value of the car? If you love the car you’re restoring, you’re much more likely to see the project through. You should also consider the complexity of the car—both in terms of the difficulty of the work and the cost of the restoration. And a good deal on a “project car” is only a good deal if you’re willing to put the work into it.

Be realistic in matters of money. Whether you do it yourself, have someone else do it or use a combination, at some point you will feel as though you’re throwing good money after bad. Replacement parts and professional services don’t come cheap. Be mindful of hourly rates and realistic about how long a project may take. Ultimately, the cost of a restoration can easily exceed the value of the car. Taking a good, hard look at your budget can save you aggravation in the long run.

You’ll need to decide what type of restoration you want.

  • partial restoration means that only part of the car will be disassembled and restored to “like new” condition, such as repainting and re-chroming.
  • A mechanical restoration is a partial restoration in which the engine, transmission, rear axel and brakes are removed and restored
  • Freshening is a type of partial restoration in which a car that is in excellent condition or has been previously restored needs more work to bring it to top condition. It may just need paint repairs or some light mechanical work
  • A full restoration is typically a “from the ground up,” body-off restoration, requiring full disassembly and refinishing of every component, down to the last nut & bolt. The results of a full restoration depend entirely on the skill of the restorer.
  • Preservation restoration refers to the cleaning and servicing of all original components without changing any factory finishes. The goal is to repair and maintain all the original paint, interior and mechanical components to result in a top quality, original car.
  • Over restoration occurs when a car is restored to “better than new” condition by utilizing technology that was not available when the vehicle was first manufactured. This is fairly common, but still controversial, in the car-collecting world.

The type of restoration you choose will largely be decided by how you want to use your car. Do you want a car to drive around on the weekends? Will you be entering local shows? Would you like a national-level trophy on your mantle? Or are you shooting for the moon — entry into a councours-level competition? You may even be more interested in the hands-on work to get the car running than you are in driving it. Make sure you know your ultimate goal so you can set a reasonable objective.

These tips were taken from The Restoration Survival Guide by Jed Rapoport. For more information on restoring your classic, look for The Restoration Survival Guide available soon. This guide will give you tips on every step of your restoration, from getting started and determining a budget, to choosing a restoration shop and monitoring progress.

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Read next Up next: The Right Way to Preserve a Collector Car

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