Maybe your car has been off the road for a long time and needs some work before it can hit the asphalt again or perhaps you just bought a classic vehicle that’s been in an accident. You might even have a classic vehicle that’s in good working order but needs bodywork to make it look spectacular again.
Before making the decision to restore your car, you have to evaluate it and determine the scope of work.
Don’t fret just yet. Restoring your classic car can be rather exciting. Look at it as a work of art. Just like any other nice piece of art, classic car restoration requires time, patience, relevant skill, and the right tools.
It will require a significant amount of your time because you’re going to need a lot of parts that may not be easy to find and could cost considerably high sums of money.
You will also need to have a budget before you start working. Explore cost-effective options; you don’t have to break the bank!
So how do you go about the restoration process?
You Need a Plan
This is perhaps the most important step in restoring your classic car. Planning will give you a clear picture of the entire restoration process, including the restoration cost, how long it will take, and the steps you will follow during the actual restoration.
Create a timeline and determine how long it will take, and how much time you can commit to the automotive restoration project.
Your plan should revolve around whether your car needs a complete restoration or some minor repair works. This will have a direct impact on the timeframe for the work and, of course, your budget.
Come Up with a Budget
You do not want to start the classic automotive restoration process, only to halt halfway through due to a lack of funds. Most of us know the troubles of picking up an old vehicle and having it turn into a money sink!
To avoid that, take an inventory of all the work that needs to be done. Then note all the parts that need repair or replacement; doors, wheels, tires, panels, auto parts and accessories.
Find out the amount of paint required to renovate the body. How much professional help is required, if any? Take note of the cost of each item.
Now, put together the total cost of all the items in your inventory. As a rule of thumb, add about 30% to this total cost to cater for cost overruns. If the cost is not manageable for you, maybe you should suspend the restoration and consider trading in your classic car for cash from a scrap car company.
Prepare the Car for the Works
Once you’re done planning, prepare to soil your hands. Store the car in a safe place where it won’t collect lots of dust. Here are some tips for getting it ready for the project.
Remove the dashboard together with all the instruments mounted on it. It is safer to remove each piece independently as you mark the locations of wires. Remove all the wiring and label them appropriately. It can become quite confusing once they are all detached. Take note of wires and components that need replacing.
Remove the engine gearbox and transmission. To avoid spillage and creating a mess, drain all the fluids before removing them. Label all the wires. Take photos of each step in the process to come back to later for reference.
Remove the external panels, including the wings, bumpers and trims. Be careful not to break the clips. Remove the hood, doors and boot lid as well. You can also either remove or cover your headlamps to protect them.
Remove the glasses on your windows and windscreens. since you are less likely to reuse the rubber that holds them in place, cut them off to easily remove the glasses. Store them in a safe place.
Everything underneath the car should also be removed; the steering rack, brakes, the front and rear suspensions etc.
The Repair Works
Your classic car is now ready for the restoration works. Order the replacement parts either on your own or by contacting automotive shops. Use the list you created during the planning phase to source for parts, preferably from one shop.
I recommend searching online for the parts you need as you can find much better deals compared to automotive shops. Some of these shops charge a markup on average of 25%-50% on the parts they order in, and I’ve even seen some shops charge over 100%. So it’s better to put the time in yourself to find what you need.
If you’re considering DIY painting, you can consider stripping the old layer of paint by sanding the paint off, using a wire brush on an electric grinder or by using a paint stripper. A faster way is acid-dipping, but you may need a professional for this.
Remove rusted parts and correct dents. Replace parts that are too rusted using freshly welded steel.
Replace removable panels such as doors, boot lids and bumpers with new ones. Before you begin painting, apply the undercoat (primer) and sand it. Wipe the body and panels to give the surfaces a smooth and clean finish devoid of bumps and dirt particles.
Get down to the actual painting, involving a professional where necessary.
Decide whether you will do an engine reconstruction or upgrade depending on the condition of your engine and, obviously, your budget.
Parts of the engine that may need replacement include the timing belt, external seals and gaskets, the water pump, the intercooler and fuel pump. Auxiliary parts such as the air conditioning pump, radiator, alternator, fuel manifolds and the power steering pump should also be replaced.
If you’re going to do an engine swap, you’d better contact a professional. They will help you source a new engine that is compatible with your classic car.
Reconnect the Wiring
You labelled all the wires you disconnected, didn’t you? Reconnect them and run them properly in an organized manner. Make sure you do the wiring correctly to avoid future problems. If you’re not sure, contact a professional.
Ready to Go!
If you have done everything correctly, your classic car should be able to rev back to life.
Once your project is complete, all of your hard work will have come together and you can be proud of the finished product. You just need to plan adequately for the work, come up with a budget and get down to work. If at any one point you’re unsure of what to do, contact an automotive expert who will help you figure it