Classic Car Restoration: What You Need To Know
So, now that you finally have the time and money to invest into the classic car of your dreams, you've decided to take it on as a do-it-yourself project. If this will be your first time restoring a vehicle, the learning curve is going to be pretty substantial. A number of considerations must be made before you dive head first into your new inspired hobby. These include knowing exactly what youíre getting into, as well as assessing how much of a project you can realistically handle on your own.
Know Your Limits
Consider your limitations first and foremost. If you are planning to restore the vehicle yourself, there may be steps in the process that should only be handled by a professional. The desire you have to complete the entire project on your own should not become more important to you than safety. For example, when it comes to the engine and the brakes (depending upon your experience), there should be no guesswork. One incorrect action in the restoration process can lead to engine or brake failure on the road, which could easily cause a car accident.
Instead, err on the side of caution. Think about everything on the car that needs to be restored, and consider what youíre willing to do based on your existing knowledge base. Also contemplate what you can do on the car that wonít create safety issues for yourself and everyone else on the road. Anything else should be done by a professional, and should be added to your budget accordingly. It will obviously cost more, but itís better than the alternative of crashing your newly restored car into someone elseís vehicle in downtown Tulsa, and ending up sitting in the office of a car accident attorney in Oklahoma!
Before You Purchase the Car
Whatever vehicle it is that you have your eye set on, make sure you get a thorough understanding of what will be needed before you sign off on the purchase. You may be in love with that 1952 Packard Patrician 400, but how much rust is on it? Are there any leaks that need to be tended to right away? How attainable are the parts?
Donít let your desire for a certain vehicle cloud the practical question of whether or not youíre biting off more than you can chew with the purchase. Here are a few important questions to ask the owner.
∑ How long have you owned it?
∑ What makes you want to sell it?
∑ Does it run? (take it for a test drive Ė the longer the better)
∑ What, if any, issues does the car have (cosmetic, mechanical)?
Take a Mechanic
Take along a mechanic when you go to look at the car, and especially when you take it for a test drive. Donít rely exclusively on the ownerís word or your own knowledge base. An experienced third party can save you from a bad deal.
Have your mechanic do a thorough engine check. While youíre at it, check the integrity of the tires and wheels, and look for any rust (donít forget the undercarriage) and cosmetic damage. Take a complete classic car inspection checklist with you, and evaluate everything on it. Remember, everything thatís wrong with the car will be your obligation to fix, so before you haggle over price, focus on pinpointing the true cost of restoration.
Itís definitely worth the time to research what parts you will need and where to find them, as well as the process involved in every step of your restoration. There may be tasks you wonít be able to do, or canít because they require professional, specialized tools. If thatís the case, youíll need to consider the cost of hiring a professional to complete those for you.
Even if the mechanic charges you for his time to evaluate the car, itís worth the minimal investment required. If you purchase a classic car without knowing everything thatís wrong with it, youíll end up paying much more than you ever intended.
You can avoid the hassle, the pitfalls, the frustration, and the unexpected costs associated with a poorly planned restoration project by preparing well ahead of time for whatís to come. When done the right way from the beginning, a classic car restoration project can be an exciting and rewarding hobby.