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Classic Car Restoration Tips: Beginners Guide

Are you thinking of getting and restoring a classic car? Perhaps it has always been a dream and you are now ready to take the plunge!

Restoring a car is a fun and exciting project, however, there are many ways in which your project can go downhill. Today we are going to share with you our top tips of car restoration for beginners.

Choose the right car for the right reason

Classic cars parked alongside one another

What level of restoration are you wanting to achieve? Is it just for you to enjoy or are you planning on showing your car? If you plan on showing it there are certain criteria that need to be met to allow your car to be shown in specific categories.

The four types are;

  1. Driver Restoration – fully functioning condition. This usually includes part replacement as well as minor cosmetic adjustments
  2. Street Show – this level means getting the car to a fully working condition and repairing all major cosmetic problems. It will need to fall in the 80 to 89 point range
  3. Show car – getting a car to this form usually requires professional help. There will be judgments in the restoration and labor quality that must fall within the 90 to 95 point range
  4. Concours – this is the absolute highest level of car restoration possible. Cars made up to this standard are usually only restored by professionals and are intended purely for shows or collections and not to be driven.

Remember, restoring a car is a big commitment and is supposed to be a labor of love. So for a first-timer, it is probably a good idea to get a car that doesn’t require an abundant amount of work. You may get a good deal on the price of the car, but you may soon find yourself struggling financially when it comes to getting all the parts and labor necessary to restore it.

What to expect when buying your car

Classic car up for sale

Even if you plan on restoring a car solo, we recommend taking along a friend or family member when looking to buy your first car. It’s always handy to have a second set of eyes and opinion when making such a big decision.

You should always take your time before diving into a purchase. Obviously you don’t want to waste the sellers time if you’re not really that interested but at the same time, you should never feel pressured into a sale by the seller.

There are many websites that you can go on to see what car’s are available in your area up for private sale. You can also find classic car events all over the country that will be able to help you in your quest to find the perfect car for you.

There are also pages on social media such as Facebook where you will be able to get advice on all things classic car-related.

Budget

Classic car restoration budget

Classic car restoration isn’t a cheap hobby and multiple factors should be taken into account for your budget. You will need to not only consider the cost of the car itself, but also the cost of all the parts, tools and even your time.

The latter, surprisingly, is one of the more important factors. If you do not have the time to put into car restoration, you’re doomed from the start.

Be sure of the type of car you want to fix up. Regardless of the type or age of the car, make sure you take your time to really learn and understand that car’s production.

Cars can start anywhere from a few hundred to multiple thousands of dollars, so for your first car, we recommend you try to aim for something on the cheaper side that doesn’t require too much hard work and expense. The last thing you want is to end up biting off more than you can chew and end up never finishing the project.

Be sure to check all the nooks and crannies for any problems that may be hard to overcome and especially be on the lookout for rust!

Time

Man working on a car's engine

As previously mentioned, not investing time in your car can end up being disastrous. The last thing anyone wants is to invest a lot of money into something that will just sit there, unloved and unappreciated.

Think about how much spare time you really have, not just on working on the car, but everything else that goes along with it. Searching for specialist parts, tools or mechanics can be very time-consuming.

It would be heartbreaking if you bought a car with the best intentions but it ends up not getting the time and attention it deserves and ends up rusting away.

Tools

There is a wide variety of tools you will need for restoring cars. You may even find you’ll be splashing out an awful lot on expanding your tool kit too!

While the list is almost endless, here are a few things we recommend you will definitely need before getting to work on your car.

Hand tools

Man using a dent puller on a car's bodywork

Every tool kit needs to have a wide variety of hand-tools for car restoration. You should have both box and open-end wrenches, a screwdriver set, ratchets and sockets in a variety of sizes, standard and long nose pliers, vice grips and hex keys, a power drill, dent puller to name a few!

A well-stocked restoration garage needs a good selection of tools and you may even need metric wrenches for some vehicles. You could also need a jack and supports, tin cutters, putty, patch pieces for rust holes and sheet metal for big repairs.

Large tools

Car raised off the floor with no wheels

There are also other larger tools you will need to have access to. It will usually be cheaper and easier to rent certain tools than to buy them. These will include such things as an engine crane and stand, angle grinder, a hydraulic lift, drill press, auto jig and more.

Maintenance

Once your car has been restored, you will need to protect it otherwise all your hard work will have been for nothing! There are many things you can do to keep your car in tip-top shape. For the bodywork, we recommend using a product such as Polytrol.

Polytrol is a color restorer that penetrates deep into the surface of car bodywork, trims, and bumpers to revive the color and shine. When used on tarnished metals, it will bring back the shine and offer corrosive protection. This shields the metal from the damaging effects of weathering that leads to rusting and corrosion.

For cleaning and protecting metal or any moving parts, we recommend using a rust-inhibiting oil such as Transyl Oil. It is a product that wears many hats and can be used for a wide variety of things:

  • It highly lubricates, releasing fixings that have become stiff or seized from rust or corrosion.
  • Highly penetrating ‘wetting’ properties that allow the oil to spread quickly and penetrate deeply.
  • It cleans by dissolving grease, grime, and dirt
  • Transyl protects surfaces by leaving a very thin protective film, shielding from the damaging effects of moisture and oxidation

And more!

More advice and information

Here are some handy websites about classic car restoration;

USA Classic Customs

Classic Recreations

American Auto Restoration

Precision Restoration


We hope you found this beginners guide to car restoration helpful.

If you have any handy tips or advice, please feel free to share it below. We love hearing from you!

Owatrol Team
About Owatrol Team

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