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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

7 Steps To Take Before Starting a Classic Car Restoration Project

Classic Car Restoration GuideTaking on a restoration project for a classic car or truck is a big undertaking.  Careful planning is suggested so that you don’t find yourself, out of money, out of time or out of patience.  Here are the major steps you should have answered before you ever begin a restoration.

Evaluate the vehicle.    Will your vehicle require you to complete a full frame off restoration?  Could you get away and be happy with a partial restoration?  The answer to these questions will be the first to answer and will determine the amount of necessary work and the scope of time and money you will need.  When evaluating your vehicle, be sure to evaluate the frame, engine and drive train, the bodywork, the paint job and all trim and moldings you will need to get the job done.

Original or aftermarket?  Make a list of every part you will need in order to complete the restoration.  During this step you will get a good idea of the initial cost of the project.  At this point you will now know if you will want to invest the money to have all original or aftermarket parts.  Make a list of all the parts that absolutely must be original or aftermarket then decide whether or not you can compromise on certain parts that are available at a lower price.

Know your limits.  It is a good idea to make a list of all the work that you can and cannot do during the restoration.  Be honest with yourself when diagnosing your skills.  It is admirable to want to take on a job yourself and it can save you a lot of money.  However, hiring a professional to fix mistakes you have made can cost you more than if you just hired them in the first place.  When creating your budget, be sure to include all the professional services you will need to acquire.  Most places will be happy to give you a free estimate for their services.

Create a budget.  Once you have determined all the parts you are going to need and the professional services you will need to hire out, calculate a total cost for the entire project.  This will be a rough budget, but add at least 25% extra to that number.  We have never seen a project that didn’t include a few extra surprises.  By padding your budget you won’t have any financial issues when these issues inevitably show up.  We have written another post on how to restore a classic car on a budget.  There are some great tips that will help you keep down the bottom line.

Create a time table.  Make yourself a schedule of time slots that you will be able to work on the project.  Do your best to stick to that schedule.  Even if you need to deviate from the schedule at least you will have a good idea of the time frame it will take to restore your ride.  Nothing is set in stone and this schedule may very well be revised during the restoration, but it is a good way to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Create short term goals as you go along to help break up the long restoration task.

Plan your workflow.  Is this a frame off restoration?  Will you need to dismantle the car before the restoration can begin?  Be sure you have a good system in place to catalogue the parts and the hardware as the pieces come off.  An organized system will not only save you time in the long run, but can also help you to not have a box of “extra” parts when the restoration is complete.

Research helpful resources.  This final step can really save you some time and frustration.  There are always going to be hurdles you will have to overcome.  Knowing who to turn to or where to find the answers can be priceless!  That’s why we write this blog. It’s packed with “how to” tips to assist with classic vehicle restoration projects. There are plenty of online Internet forums that offer advice and tutorials for any phase of a restoration.  Another great resource can be your friends, neighbors, local mechanics and other car enthusiasts.  Compile a list of helpful resources before you begin.  You will be glad that you did!

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