Most of us put a lot of thought into the cars we choose to buy not only because they have to get us from point A to point B in a safe, reliable, and affordable manner, but also because they are a part of our image and they make a statement that influences how others see us. As a result, cars represent more than just the utility of transportation. They have also become an integral part of how we see ourselves, and as such, we tend to imbue them with a sentimental value that has nothing to do with monetary worth. But it doesn’t begin and end with the cars we drive every day; many automotive enthusiasts hold a special spot in their hearts for classic cars. And if you’re the type that dreams of restoring a tired, old rust-bucket long forgotten in a field or garage, rescuing it from wasting away and returning it to its former glory, then there are a few things you should know about the process of antique automobile restoration. Here are just a few fundamentals to steer you in the right direction.
The first thing you need to consider is what you want and what you can reasonably afford. Unless you happen to be fabulously wealthy, you might want to avoid particularly rare or high-end vehicles. You might be keen to restore an old Ferrari, but once you start tallying up the cost of replacement parts, not to mention the difficulty of finding them, you could decide that something a bit more common could make for a less frustrating and expensive project. Of course, sometimes you don’t have a choice – it’s a labor of love and you can’t help the cars you fall in love with. But you still need to find a solid car that has some hope of restoration.
Whether you’re looking for American muscle cars or you’re fixated on finding that diamond in the rough, like a rare and collectible Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, for example, you need to exercise due diligence when checking out any car you intend to buy. This means getting under the hood with a flashlight and knowing what you’re looking for in terms of damage and missing parts. Some issues can be dealt with easily enough – dents and dings are nothing to worry about in most cases, and rodent problems can be addressed (although you’ll probably have to replace wiring and textiles). But if there is major frame damage or the entire body is riddled with rust, you need to think twice about what you can hope to accomplish with the restoration process.
From there it’s a good idea to settle on the type of restoration you want to complete. If you’re just looking for something you can wheel around town in and turn a few heads with, you might be comfortable with a restoration that is “close enough”, which is to say, you can give yourself some latitude when it comes to finding replacement parts from similar models or having new ones fabricated by a company like Classic 2 Current. If you opt to go for a mint condition restoration, on the other hand, you’ll have no choice but to seek out original parts, and this could spell years of combing through junkyards, tracking down parts cars, negotiating with other collectors, and dropping a ton of dough. But if your goal is to exhibit your classic at shows in a bid for prizes, or you’re looking to sell to high-end collectors, mint is definitely the way to go. You just have to decide what suits your sensibilities when it comes to restoring antique automobiles.