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How to Restore a Classic Car on a Budget

budgetIt has been estimated that only about 30% of all restorations actually make it to completion.  The main reason… lack of funds.  We aren’t trying to deter you from starting a classic car restoration project, we just want to make you aware that there will be issues that arise during the process that might make you bust the budget.

Before you start.  Assess all that will be required for the project other than the classic car or truck.  A proper workspace is number one.  You are certainly going to need adequate space to keep your vehicle and all of its parts organized.  If space is limited, consider a smaller car to restore.  A 1971 Cadillac Eldorado restoration in a one car garage is probably not going to cut it.

Tools are another big one.  Do you have everything you will need for every phase of the restoration?  Take inventory of what you will need and ask friends or local car club members if you can borrow any tools you are short of.

How much can you do?  Even the best mechanics can run into hurdles when restoring older vehicles.  No one person can be a master tradesman for all aspects of a car.  If this is your first project you may want to consider a vehicle from the 40s or 50s.  They tend to be a little less intimidating to work on.  To keep the budget low you are going to need to do as much work as you can by yourself.  Ask others for advice if you run into anything you are unclear on.  The Internet is also your friend.  There is an abundance of car knowledge online and plenty of tutorials available for almost anything these days.

Why do you want to restore a classic car or truck? Don’t expect a high return on a simple investment.  After all is said and done most restorations rarely make an enormous profit once you tally up all the costs and time it took to complete.  If you are building a collector for pure pleasure than you may be able to cut some corners to save money and still have an amazing machine.  For instance, there are parts available that are considered aftermarket rather than original, but serve the same function at a fraction of the price.

Restoring the right car.  Find a good initial deal on the car you want to restore.  Taking the time to research the best bang for the buck is the number one way to keep down the budget of your build.  Some cars are just going to be cheaper than others to restore.  A 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle is going to be much cheaper to restore than a 1971 Hemi Cuda.

There are also unfortunate souls out there who may have to abandon their project for one reason or another.   One man’s loss is another man’s gain and you may be able to score a great deal.  Be sure to get a good appraisal before you shell out your hard earned cash.  Pay for a professional opinion.  Nothing will blow a budget like frame damage or other hard to fix repairs.

Finding Parts.  Online is a great place to start shopping for parts.  There are companies available that are now reproducing new parts for classic cars and trucks.  As said earlier, check to see if the part you need must be original.  If not, you may be able to save buying a generic version.  While online car parts are new and convenient, salvage yards are always going to have the best price on parts.  Check your local junkyards to see if they carry the model you are restoring.  You are likely to save a ton with used parts or parts than can be refurbished.

Restoring your ride.  There is no getting around it… the best way to keep your restoration budget low is to do the work yourself.  Even if you can’t do everything, try to learn first and give it a shot.  Nine times out of ten it will be the cheaper route.  One phase of the project that we recommend you leave to the professionals is the paint job.  It takes a fair amount of skill to do a good job and it can create quite a mess when attempted by an amateur.  No reason you can’t do all the body prep work though.  That alone can save you a lot of money.

Don’t’ expect to wake up tomorrow to a cherry ride in your garage.  Most classic car restorations done at home take more than a year.  Some take much longer than that!  Don’t rush the build.  Take your time and look for the best deals.  You will thank yourself later… so will your wallet.

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