ALEXANDRIA, VA – Do you have a lot of time, some discretionary funds, and a tremendous amount of patience? Then car restoration may be for you. But don’t expect to be driving a vintage vehicle on the highway after just a few short weekends of work. Here’s what to consider when restoring a classic car—funds are as important as fun, and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way toward rebuilding a classic automobile you can be proud of.
Pick a Vehicle That’s Worth the Commitment
Don’t buy the cheapest version of the car you want. Find a vehicle that’s worth the time, work, and money you plan to put into it, especially if you’re planning to sell it. Look for minimal rust and body damage and the ability to start, at the very least. Make sure the frame is intact too. Even then, what you think you’ll spend restoring the vehicle will be much less than what you actually end up spending. Problems will pop up, mistakes will be made, and it’s guaranteed you’ll spend more than you figured on finding parts along the way. Unfortunately, many modern parts won’t work well with old cars and could even damage or reduce the value of the vehicle by using them.
You Can Do Some Things, But Not Everything
Maybe you’re handy under the hood. Perhaps you were the star student in shop class, can change your own oil, and even jerry-rig an engine repair. But when it comes to restoring a vehicle that was built before you were born, you might be out of your depth. There may be times when you must bring the car to an expert who possesses the right tools and experience. Find online forums and groups for classic car restorers and look for recommendations on responsive and reputable restorers. You’ll need them for the tasks you can’t complete yourself, and walking away from an incompetent service provider is harder than you think.
Time (and Space) Are Not on Your Side
Unlike most hobbies, car restoration isn’t a part-time pastime, and it takes up much more room than some other activities. If you have the right level of dedication, space, and an understanding family, go for it! Otherwise, expect to invest all your free time—evenings, weekends, and vacations—in bringing that vehicle up to snuff. You’ll likely have to dedicate part of your garage or driveway to a leaky, unsightly car that’s not going anywhere for a while.
Keep Your Passion…and Great Records
Wondering exactly what to consider when restoring a classic car? The answer is everything. Keep meticulous records of everything you do, from tools, parts, and labor to the first gallons of gas you pour into the vehicle before taking off on your first drive. Chart how much time and money you’ve invested into the whole project. As a hobby, it’s easy to get lost in the pursuit of perfection, leaving you prone to budget overruns from buying unnecessary parts and repairs. Have fun but pay close attention to every part of the process, whether under the hood or in the books.