1.) Choose a Make and Model
Chances are, there is a particular model or era of car that you’re most passionate about. Perhaps you’ve always been big Mustang fan or you’ve dreamed of owning a Porsche 911 since you were a little kid. Alternately, maybe you’re just really into 1960s and ’70s American muscle cars or you’re obsessed with 1980s JDM imports.
The model of car you choose to restore is primarily a personal, emotional decision. There are a few practical points to keep in mind, though:
- Don’t select a car that is too rare or too expensive. Since this is your first restoration, you’re going to slip up and make mistakes.
- Do choose a type of car that has readily available replacement parts and a robust hobbyist community that you can turn to for support.
2.) Be Realistic About Money
Classic cars are famous for burning through money. Even under the best of circumstances, this isn’t a cheap hobby. The initial cash you use to purchase your car is just the first step. In many instances, car restorers end up more than doubling what they spent on the car before the project is complete. Parts, labor, and countless unexpected expenses quickly add up.
Before you get started, sketch out a rough budget for the entire project. While it will surely change as the restoration progresses, you’ll have a general feel for what you’re getting yourself into.
3.) Find YOUR car
Condition is everything when it comes to older vehicles. Try to find the best-preserved model you possibly can. It will pay off in spades as the project gets underway. Here are a few things to look for when checking out potential project cars:
- Does the car still run on its own?
- What is the rust situation?
- What parts and features no longer work?
- Are the window seals intact?
- How long has the current owner had the car?
- How much is known about the car’s history?
4.) The Right Tools for the Job
First, you need a garage or other similar space for working on the vehicle. Second, you need a decent selection of tools to get started with. The following are definite essentials:
- Torque Wrenches
- Engine hoist
- Electrical tester (multimeter)
5.) Knowledge is Power
While you don’t need to be a master mechanic to begin restoring a car, you do need to be ready and willing to learn. The following resources provide a wealth of relevant info:
- Haynes shop manuals
- YouTube video tutorials
- Online enthusiast forums. Just search for “your car + forum” on Google.
6.) Where to Start?
So, you’ve got your car, cleaned out a space in the garage, and have a decent complement of new tools. What’s next? While there’s no single answer to this question, here are a few common first steps:
- Get the car to start reliably
- Replace the brakes
- Strip and prime the body
- Repair rips and tears in the upholstery
- Replace cracked or broken windows
7.) Getting Help
Rarely is a full restoration done by just one person. If you don’t already have some gearhead buddies, consider joining a local car club. This can be a great way to get tips and share experiences. Also, paying a reputable shop to do some of the work is often a smart idea. After all, even most skilled mechanics aren’t experts in every aspect of auto repair and restoration. One of the best restorers in the industry is Mar Car Czar owner of Marquis Auto Restorations.