You have kicked around the idea of restoring a classic car for a while now. While it's a great hobby, car restoration can also be a stepping-stone on the road to frustration, hair loss and nights on the couch. Avoid the pitfalls! Know what you are getting into before starting your classic car restoration project.
My Place or Yours?
Where will the restoration process take place? You need at least a one-car garage, although a two-car garage would be better. Have ample parts storage available, room for an engine hoist and a couple of workbenches for drilling and cleaning. If your family relies on the garage space for overflow storage, move things around and out before you bring home the car. Should this cause some friction, it may be best to rent a workspace where you can also store the car. This is a long-term rental, so budget accordingly.
Investment vs. Money Pit
A car restoration project is not a suitable investment. If you have ever watched the Barrett-Jackson auto auction, you have seen plenty of proud sellers weep silent tears at the low prices their beautifully restored vehicles fetched. By the time you are done putting in labor and parts, you are unlikely to recoup your investment at a future sale.
If you can commit to spending a five-figure sum on the project, consider a 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix, a 1964 Ford Falcon or a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle. These cars will not be showstoppers at any of the classic car shows, but they get you in and let you play with the big boys.
Getting a Good Deal without Getting Hosed
You have the budget and you have narrowed down the make and model. Now what? Find a suitable vehicle that is in need of restoration. Check the car ads online. Frequently, you can buy a half-finished project from another car guy who ran out of money or spousal patience to finish the restoration. From one car guy to another, he is going to be happy to have you take the whole lot off his hands and pay him what is fair.
When this is not an option, look for a body that is in good repair. It will be difficult to work with frame damage, so avoid cars that have been in serious crashes. Since you also need to be able to insure the car later on, do not get a salvage piece.
Finding the Pieces
Your classic car is at home. You cleaned it, took inventory of what is missing and have a list of parts you need. Where do you go? This is where it gets interesting. Check with classic automotive reproduction parts companies and salvage yards. Go to swap meets and start networking with other classic car enthusiasts. Join clubs, go to meetings and find out where others get their parts and how much they pay.
Content by Sylvia Cochran.