Classic car restoration is not only about restoring a vehicle, it’s about restoring the times of a bygone era. For hobbyists that restore these cars, it’s a labor of love.
Now, you’ve found the perfect classic car, perfect model – it just needs a little work. But, where to begin? The hardest part of any auto restoration project is determining the scope of the project. Without clear cut goals and budgets at the beginning, you can easily find yourself in an endless and ongoing relationship with your automobile. Your money will rapidly transfer itself to your car, your time will disappear, and your automobile will never be quite finished – because you’ll always find some other slight imperfection to work on and “fix”.
There is no one right way to go about restoring a car. But good restorers do have common traits that separate them from the ones that never seem to finish their restoration jobs.
1. The ability to set realistic goals – No matter how long you take or how much money you spend, you will never be able to restore a classic car exactly to it’s state when it was originally brought to the market. Body paints are produced differently now than in the past so while you can easily get a color match, you will never get an exact paint ingredient match. Likewise, the formulations of finishing materials such as varnishes, enamels, and so on are no longer the same. And the same is true for many of the other classic car components. So you, as the restorer, have to set realistic goals as to exactly what parts of the car you are going to restore to their original states and what parts of the car you are willing to restore “as close as possible” to their original states.
2. Patience – It may sound paradoxical, but without patience, your chance of finishing your auto restoration are slim. You need patience because a major restoration job is seldom without problems. You discover the fuel gauge is not working and you have to scrounge around for a replacement. Or, the electrical system is suddenly becoming erratic and you lose two weeks time resolving the problem. Without patience, you may well decide to just give up and abandon the project or leave it until another day that never comes.
3. Love of Research – A good restorer, by necessity, has to be a good researcher as well. A car restorer spends much of his time not actively working on the auto, but finding what replacement parts are needed for his classic car and locating them. There are times when you will find yourself literally doing research for an entire day. If you don’t love research – or at least like it a lot – you can be sure of many miserable days ahead.
4. Good manual skills – This goes without saying but unless you love working with your hands and have some skills to speak of, you might just as well take your checkbook out and pay someone to restore the car for you, because you’ll never get it done yourself.
It seems as though the hobby of restoring classic cars is having a resurgence but before you decide to take the leap yourself and outfit your garage with installation tools, make sure you have the traits that will let you succeed at your new hobby.