08/26/13 12:54PM

Auto Restoration for Rookies

Let’s face it – you love cars, and you love the challenge of bringing an old car back to life. After all, that old beast hidden under that tarp in your garage or sitting forlorn with a “For Sale” sign on display looks like it holds promise.

Auto restoration isn’t just a big deal among enthusiasts. It’s also a big business. Second Chance Garage notes that gear heads spend more than $1.9 billion on parts and supplies for various restoration projects each year. Getting into car restoration as a beginner seems a bit daunting, but it’s not nearly as intimidating as you thought.

How to Get Started

There are a few things to consider when starting your first restoration project. First, think about the type of project you want to embark on. As a novice, a minimal restoration project is the best way to go. The more comfortable you get with restorations, the more detailed you can allow your projects to get.

Second, think about the type of vehicle you want to restore. Of Hemmings’ “32 Best Cars to Restore,” more than half of them happen to be iconic vehicles of the Muscle Car era, including the ever-popular 1964-1968 Ford Mustang. But perhaps you have something entirely different in mind — an equally iconic British roadster, or even an antique like the Ford Model A. As long as it’s in relatively good enough condition to successfully restore without too much work, your choices are nearly endless.

Last but not least, think about your budget. You’ll want to set this before buying your parts, tools and the cost of your yet-to-be finished ride. Adding 20 to 30 percent overhead gives you a solid cushion for those unexpected additional costs.

Ideal Project Tasks

Since this is your first time embarking on an auto restoration project, you’ll want to start out with the small stuff — forget about doing a frame-off restoration for now. Instead, some ideal projects include:

  • Pounding out small and large dents
  • Replacing old window glass
  • Stripping and prepping your project for a fresh coat of paint
  • Tackling simple electrical issues (soldering, wire replacement, etc)
  • Replacing seats, flooring and other interior pieces

The tools you’ll need for the job usually include a good ratchet and socket set, socket wrench extensions, jacks stands, a sturdy floor jack, and, for projects involving the engine, a good-quality engine hoist and engine stand.

No matter what objective you take on, being able to source (or, if necessary, fabricate) parts is important if you want to keep your restoration project rolling. Sure, you might be able to find Acura OEM parts, since they’re so common and available straight from the source, but what about period-correct parts for, say, a Model T or a Studebaker Golden Hawk?

Helping Hands

It’s easy for a sudden roadblock to get in the way of your restoration project. That’s where having a helping hand comes in handy. Car restoration clubs offer a treasure trove of advice and pointers for getting through your restoration project. You’ll also get to network with fellow car buffs, and maybe even snag a few discounts on parts and tools along the way.

67 Mustang

Creative Commons image by Muffet