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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

5 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Classic Car for Restoration

For classic car owners, there are few things more rewarding than enjoying a restored classic car or truck.  The amount of hard work, time and of course money it requires to get there can be a daunting task, but the joy one will experience from the end results makes it all worth it.

If you are thinking about restoring a classic car or truck, there are certainly some things to consider before you get started.  First of all, realize it is going to take a lot of time, hard work and hard-earned money to get the job done.  Expect to have setbacks and on average, pad your budget by 20%.

You should also realize that in most instances, you will never regain the money you put into it if you ever decide to sell.  We recently wrote an article about flipping classic cars for money and let us assure you that it take a lot of talent, know-how and luck to make money off fully restored vehicles.

With that in mind, we have five suggestions, or warnings depending on your point of view, that you should consider before buying a classic car for a restoration project.

1. Be in love with the car you choose

Find a car that you know you will be happy with no matter what.  Often it is a vehicle that strikes feelings of nostalgia from your childhood.  Maybe it is a more recent love affair.  Either way, make sure it is a vehicle that you can see yourself with for a long time.  Don’t buy a vehicle just because it seems like too good of a deal to pass up.  They never are.

2. Corrosion is an enemy

We highly advise you turn and walk away from any vehicle that has rust issues.  Not simple surface rust, oxidation and patina, but rather any corrosion that has begun to eat through the metal.  Be sure to thoroughly inspect the car inside and out for signs of rust damage.  Trying to repair corrosion can be extremely difficult and expensive.  And far too often there is much more damage than first meets the eye.

3. Locate parts before you buy

It will do you no good to buy a classic to restore if replacement parts are not available.  You definitely want to research the availability of parts and pricing before you buy a classic car or truck for restoration.   Believe us, you are not getting ahead of yourself on this one.  If you buy a car that parts are not readily available, it can bring your restoration project to a standstill.  Some parts might even be impossible to get your hands on.  Things are slowly changing in this arena with the use of 3D printing to make classic car parts. However, until this technology becomes more mainstream, even 3D printing might not be cost effective for replacing parts.

4. Only consider cars that start

Unless you are a master mechanic with a big budget and are fine with replacing the entire engine and drivetrain, only buy a classic if it will turn over and start.  A car that is a “barn find” may have been sitting for years in the elements.  Who knows if the seals are shot or even worse the entire engine has seized up?  If you find a car that starts on the other hand, at least you will have a better idea of what you are up against mechanically during your restoration.

5. Get the vehicle inspected by a pro

Even if you are an expert yourself, it is always a good idea to have a second set of expert eyes look over any vehicle you want to purchase.  We have yet another article that goes into detail about getting a professional classic car inspection.  There are a lot of fake classics out there unfortunately and it can be extremely easy to be fooled into believing it is the real thing.  It can often take a true professional to spot the differences between the real-deal and a counterfeit.  Even if everything is legitimate with the vehicle you are looking at, it is always a good idea to get a second opinion.

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