I Really Want to Restore a Classic Car but How do I Actually Do It? Part 1: Overview

You know the moment. It is when the sensible and logical gives way to the wild and risky. There you are, at a dealership, at a car yard – maybe even at a private sale – and just when you are about to shake hands and agree to a deal on that car you were till then content with, you see it.

It’s may not be in your direct line of sight – it’s perhaps even under a cover – but on a subconscious level you know it’s something special. Just like how a crowd at an art gallery or concert moves towards the main attraction, you get closer and realise this is really where you need to be.

Vintage car

‘Look, he’s just sitting there all alone – it’d be RUDE to not go and say hello!’

The problem is its rusty. It has 3 wheels. It is in need of some big repairs – and when you ask the current owner if they could turn the key in the ignition to start the engine up – they just laugh. You look back over at the car you were just about to buy and realise that really would’ve been prudent course of action; but few people ever lit up the pages of history being prudent. So, this vintage ride must be yours – and there surely no going back now – but what does car restoration actually involve?


Classic cars require a big cash injection. Also likely to be a cash loss. Unless you’ve found an exceptionally rare vehicle – and restore it with a view to selling it – you’re unlikely to make money on a old classic, even one restored. Further, even if you did find an old classic in a barn that has been lost to the world – and theoretically would have a big resale value if brought up to standard – finding a buyer for it is no easy thing.

This is in no small part because the network of classic sellers and dealers is strong and someone who is prepared to spend big money on a old chevy or mustang made new is likely happy to pay a few thousand dollars more to buy from a classics dealer, with a full warranty and extras to boot.  So, while you’re not locked out from reselling your vehicle by any means it is important to put yourself in a buyer’s shoes: on balance wouldn’t you buy from a known commercial deal with extensive experience over a private seller? So, be ready: if you’re doing this, you’re likely doing this for you.

Also, your new ride may be pretty but insurance for a vintage vehicle is unlikely to be looked upon the same. A retro ride can command an insurance bill comparable to a government GDP.  Though insurance premiums are typically made up of many factors the older construction, expensive repairs – and even potential for a greater risk of theft can all account for a higher premium.


If you are restoring a classic car and wish to have it ready to roll before you are 100 years old it is best to not view it as a hobby but a second job. Further, this is all well and good if you’re a young and single guy or girl and the only competition for your weekends is a Netflix catch-up.

By contrast, if you are a young mom or dad with a family you could fairly say you’ve not the time to devote to getting a big project like this done – and while you may find a few ‘car guru’s’ about the web who try to say it’s all or nothing with a love of cars – surely family comes first.

So, be direct and upfront with yourself: just because you don’t have the time now doesn’t mean you never will – AND in ten years time your kids will be college-aged (read: keen to help mom or dad because they can use it to go get Pizza) or other commitments you have life like a postgrad degree or other obligations shall be removed – so don’t be afraid to look upon restoring a classic vehicle and say ‘not right now’ instead of ‘never’.


Whether fixing a Ford, Ferrari or Fiat; keeping an eye on the finish line is essential..

If part of your appeal for getting a classic car is an admiring glance or two you’ll get when the job is done and you go park your car somewhere glamorous – a California beachside cliff, a gorgeous European plaza, or the local 7-11 when you’re just hankering for a pepsi- you’ll need hang onto that as you go through the hard yards.

Simply put, when you are ambling about an internet forum at 2am looking for a part name before a big day at work – or skipping that Friday night out with friends as you await a courier’s delivery of that obscure part – you’ll have more than a moment where you wonder if it was a big mistake.

…but here’s why you should buy anyway

chrysler steering wheel

A restoration is a lot of work but comes with unique rewards.

Buying and restoring a classic car is a lot like cycling. From a financial and time perspective there is really little to be said for taking your bike out for a morning ride – for unless you’re a YouTube star or riding in the Peloton of the Tour De France you’re unlikely to be paid for it – but when you’re racing your bike downhill in the right gear there are few feelings like it.

Further, just like any other hobby car restoration can open up for you a whole new community for you. This is especially so when a car-find akin to Atlantis comes out of nowhere, and brings with it new cars to market once more. So, if you love cars a restoration means you’ve now extra incentive to think cars, talk cars – and yes: drive cars! – all the more.

Ready for the next step? Part 2 explores restoration in-depth.

Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co on LinkedIn or Twitter@EdKennedy01

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