Almost everyone at some point has had a dream car. Whether it’s a 60s Camaro or a powerful Ford Mustang, as they say, a classic never goes out of style. But these beauties can be difficult to find. Once you do however, they’re typically priced well above anyone’s average budget.
That’s why plenty of folks turn to restoration. But isn’t that even more expensive? Depending on your reasons for wanting to own a classic car in the first place, restorations can help you turn a profit on a forgotten model, or give you a chance to finally drive the car of your dreams.
If you’re thinking about classic car restorations lately, here are the most important points to consider.
Things To Consider Before Tackling Classic Car Restoration
Vehicle restorations, whether you do it yourself or in a restoration shop, can take up a lot of time, money, and effort. Knowing this before jumping right in can help you figure out if this is indeed a project you’re willing to devote your savings, time, and energy into.
One of the first things you need to consider is the end product. Do you want it to look like it once did, or are you willing to make modifications? For instance, folks who want to eventually drive their cars along the freeway, modifications may be necessary. If you’re looking to turn a profit on it however, what the buyer wants will need to take center stage.
After that, there’s the question of restoring it yourself or sending it to a restoration shop. Choosing to do it yourself may seem like a fun side project. But if you account for experience, space, and equipment necessary, you may find that it’s in fact, quite daunting. Restoring classic cars isn’t easy, even for experts, as there are plenty of factors to consider. Not to mention you will need some skills (e.g. welding, painting, etc.) for the most part.
And of course, the most crucial aspect is budget. Have a down-payment ready, especially if you’re sending your car to a restoration shop. These will cover initial parts and labor costs. After that, expect other charges, such as for electrical parts, paint job, engine installation, safety improvements, and so on.
Depending on the damage on the model as well as your own specifications, it can get very, very expensive. If you’re aiming to eventually sell the piece, understand that it’s not surprising to pay more than the market price for a car restoration.
Common Classic Car Restoration Questions Answered
When it comes to restoring a classic, knowledge is power. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can and read up on related topics. To get you started, here are the most common queries regarding classic car restoration.
Can the car really be restored to its former glory?
For the most part, yes. But remember that there’s a difference between a restored vehicle and one in an original condition. So if you were banking on making a profit out of a restored classic car, you may want to think again. But expect that it will not only look amazing, but can also be driven after all the required work is done.
What are common issues with old cars?
Not ALL cars are perfect for restoration. Some are so damaged that restoring it just won’t make sense anymore. Typically, it’s best if you find a solid car with little or no rust.
But even so, under-the-hood problems such as old engines, damaged electronics, or mouldy upholstery need to be tackled by an expert. Understanding what you’re up against can help you set realistic expectations for yourself and your vehicle.
How much will it cost, exactly?
Unfortunately, even restoration shops will not be able to give you exact quotes. As mentioned, no one can tell precisely what the issues would be unless the dismantling has begun.
Even then, there could still be issues along the way, like trying to find original parts or following your desired modifications. If the car is a vintage, some parts may not be sold anymore so the shop may need to create it for you. This can all add up to the total cost of reproduction.
How long does the restoration process usually take?
It’s not astonishing for restorations to take more than 1,000 hours to complete. Depending on the model of the car, the quality of restoration you want, as well as other factors, it can take months – or in more detailed jobs, sometimes, years.
Your chosen restoration shop will keep you informed to help you manage expectations, so you don’t need to worry. Also, feel free to visit your car any time to inspect the project.
When it comes to classic car restorations, the key as they say, is patience. Rushing a job never did produce wonders. So keep this in mind should you decide to go forward with this idea.
Auto body repair shop vs. restoration shop: which is better?
While there are auto body repair shops that also handle car restorations, they typically do newer models and are more concerned with repairing damages rather than restoring a classic to its former glory. While it doesn’t apply to all, auto body repair shops in general, are more on quantity than quality. So tread with caution if this is the route you want to take.
Going to a dedicated restoration shop on the other hand, will give you the advantage of an experienced team who understands your love of classic cars. As they don’t need to worry about other jobs (like car repairs), they can totally focus on your project.
Plus, these shops generally have specialized suppliers or make their own parts, so you can be sure that end products coming out of their garage are top-notch.
Will there be a return on investment?
It’s NOT advisable for beginners to take on car restoration for profit. There are folks who have done this and have lost money because the job itself took more money than what buyers were willing to pay for in the market.
Also, unless the particular make and model of that car is in demand, it can some time before you can find someone willing to take it off your hands. If you’re stubborn about your price, be prepared for your car to sit in the garage for months, or years, without a sure buyer.
Keep in mind that the people who usually have their classic vehicles restored do it for sentimental value. Maybe it’s a dream car that they can finally get to drive on the open road. Or perhaps it’s a car once owned by a loved one that they just can’t bear to let go. These are often referred to as ‘heirloom cars’ and there are several restoration shops that cater to this.
Unless you’re an experienced investor or purchaser, it’s never a wise investment to spend on a classic car restoration. Do it for the love of classic cars, though.
How to choose the right restoration shop?
There are plenty of considerations when choosing a shop for your restoration project. But all in all, keep the following in mind:
- Be wary about expensive up-front costs. A down payment should be reasonable enough to cover upfront labor and parts costs. But it seems too large of a sum, it might be scam.
- Visit three or four shops to compare prices and services. Don’t forget to ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Also, check out the Web for reviews and details about restoration shops in your area.
- Ask about their techniques and processes: how’s it going to be done, their policies, and if you’re free to visit the shop any time you want. Don’t forget to inquire about full documentation of future work.
- Tour the shop. They should be glad to show you around so you can see how they do current projects. Inspect if they have the right equipment, like bead-blast cabinet, lathe, half-ton press, metal brake, and both gas and MIG and TIG welding equipment. Take your time and take it all in before making a decision.
- Shops will have their own specializations. For example: there are shops that are good with collectible models such as Packards or Ferraris. Whereas others are great with trucks. Consider this before signing any agreement with them.
To protect your vehicle, you can always ask your insurance for a policy that will protect it during the restoration process. But most certified restoration shops will have a full shop-keeper’s policy in place as well. Feel free to ask about this, along with warranties on labor or parts during your discussion with them.
As they say, beauty takes time and patience. But after all that dust has settled, you could be staring at a shiny XJS or an iconic Type 57 – ready to be paraded with pride across the interstate. Imagine the wind in your hair, your hands on a leather steering wheel, and a fun 50s tune on the car radio. After all that waiting, your classic car is finally in your hands, looking as it did like in the old days.
But all that depends on how successful the car restoration would be. So choose wisely.