Former Major League Baseball play and manager, Yogi Berra once said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there”. Meaning, while you goal may be to restore the collector car sitting in your driveway, you’ll need a plan of action if you intend on making that dream a reality. Taking some time to plan your restoration project will help you stay on track and prevent a project that should only take 1-2 years at most from turning into a decade long nightmare.
What Do You Need
By this time you should have decided exactly what kind of restoration project you want to do. Like we mentioned before, your end goal will greatly affect the choices you make regarding whether or not you take the car completely apart, what you decide to replace and what you decide to rebuild as well as the types of parts and materials you use. With that end goal in mind, you are going to do another inspection of the car. In a notebook, set aside a page for each major section of the car – exterior, interior and mechanical components. Then go to each section and make note of all the worn parts that need attention. Make a notation next to each item as to whether it definitely needs to be replaced or if repairing it would be suffice. For example, worn carpeting with holes in it should definitely be replaced whereas dents and dings in the car doors can be worked out. You should also note which parts you can reasonably do yourself and which parts you may need to hand over to a professional.
It is important that you look everywhere and that includes jacking up the car and looking underneath. Many restorers have been caught in the unfortunate position of bringing a piece to completion only to find that the bottom of the car is completely rusted out. It might also be helpful to take pictures of components that need to be replaced. Not only will you have a set of starter pictures you can show everyone after you’ve finished the project, you can use the pictures to elicit feedback on how best to tackle a particular part of the restoration project. Once you have finished your second inspection, on another piece of paper make two columns -one column for items that will be replaced and the second for items that will be rebuilt. Then start putting parts in one of the columns. Don’t feel you have to be precise. Chances are good you will be changing your mind about some things as you get deeper into the project. Right now, you just want to get a general idea of your needs.
Get an Idea of Costs Because finding parts for your collector car can be notoriously difficult to find, we will be devoting an entire article to ways to find the parts you need. Right now, you want to get
an estimate on how much this project is going to cost you so you can plan your cash flow accordingly. The internet is a good place to start for sourcing the cost of parts. Talking to other classic car restorers is another and calling junkyard and salvage yards is yet another.
You should come away with a general idea of how much each part is going to cost you which, in turn, should give you a general idea of how much each section will cost. This is good information to have especially if you are not blessed with an unlimited flow of cash. You can start with projects within your current budget and save up for others.
Forming a Plan of Attack
This is a general order of priority that can be adjusted to fit your restoration project:
1. Transmission: If you are planning on having a driving car, then you definitely want to get the transmission in order. Make sure the clutch and gears are in order and if you end up pulling the transmission out of the car, then you’ll need to replace the gaskets. 2. Engine: Once you’ve got the transmission back in place, then start working on the engine. By the time you are finished getting the engine in working order, you should be able to test drive it.
3. Wiring: You’ll want to work on bringing any electrical issues under control only after you’ve got the transmission and engine situated. This way, if there continues to be issues with the electricity then you’ll know it’s the wiring and not a mechanical component that’s causing the problem.
4. Suspension: Any mechanical work that could potentially nick or ding the car’s body should be done before any bodywork is done to avoid spoiling weeks of hard metalworking.
5. Interior: You can work on the interior at any time. However, to avoid dirtying up new fabric, save the interior work for after you finished all the grease producing repairs. 6. Exterior: Priming and painting should be the last thing done on the exterior to avoid messing up a fresh paint job by accidentally nicking it while working on other necessary components. 7. Wheels and other Accessories: These can serve as the finishing touch to a long and challenging project.
Don’t be tempted to skip the planning part. Most new car restoration enthusiasts who abandon their projects do so because they got off track and became overwhelmed. A plan, even a general one, will help you maintain your focus and therefore increasing your chances of seeing your project through to the end. Even if you have to enlist the help of other seasoned car restorers, make sure you complete this step before going on to the next one which is to find a place to work and outfit that space with the tools needed to complete that project.