How Do I Actually Restore a Classic Car? Part 2: In-Depth


So, it’s clear a car restoration is in your future, and you’ve a good understanding of what it involves at the start. Now, you’ve got to get into the day by day work and planning, and this also involves ‘need to know’ information.

Your path ahead could have many twists and turns depending on whether you’ve found a well-known car you wish to restore, or a rare one that’s very unique. If you’re going to restore a Mustang or Chevy you’ll never struggle to find someone you can buy a drink and ask some questions when you need a little insight.

By contrast, if you’re working on a little model from a little car manufacturer (one maybe not in business anymore) then you may be doing a lot more research and planning by yourself. This notwithstanding, whatever you’re restoring a number of guidelines can help serve to get you through the restoration process, and see your car get back on the road sooner.

1. Allow Time to Disassemble and Inspect

It may be tempting to see a car and think ‘OK, it just needs a new coat of paint and a couple of parts’. But before you buy, you need know for sure what is working and what isn’t.  This is especially so as not only is this an important part of restoration work generally – as no engineer would build a new structure without first exploring the underlying foundations – but it also ensures no ‘surprises’ when you get into the nitty-gritty of the restoration work.

Classic Car

‘Yeah it’s definitely drivable – but you really need to put on that steering wheel first’.

2. Use the Internet

There was a time in a bygone era where a restoration project was likely to be a lonely affair. Searching for a group in your city (if you indeed lived in a city) was usually your first step, but even then it’d be common to find what local knowledge did exist was very limited. Sure national and car clubs and magazines could help, but progressing your understanding via these avenues could take a long time, and still struggle to give you the answers you need. As a result, then the parts and knowledge a restoration project needs could take ages to acquire.

Now though, there is little a Google search doesn’t sort out. Even if you don’t get an exact answer to your question, there are a ton of specialist auto forums where you can seek out an expert. True this depends on your car a little, but from Portland to Paris, Dallas to Dubrovnik, Milan to Melbourne; if you’ve a classic car you adore there’s likely an online resource available to you.

There’s also the more general forums – where what they lack in specific focus they make up for in a huge membership –  like Reddit Cartalk. If you’re really stuck for an answer you can seek out some advice from a gearhead guru in a place like this.

3. DIY (But Get an Expert When You Can’t)

Mustang Engine

‘So the Mustang starts but there’s stuff that looks like dust…OH, that IS dust? OK then.’

There’s two kinds of people who seek help when it comes to car restorations. The first seeks help whenever they feel they need it, to get their car on the road. The second doesn’t seek any help and then commonly finds out too late they didn’t know it all, and now they really need some help to get their car going again.

Basic repair and restoration work is certainly something you can look to do at home – and obviously if you’re certified mechanic have at it! – but if you’re starting this project with a clear knowledge or skills gap it’s important to recognise it. Be ready to hand off to a specialist when the time comes, especially if you’re repairing a vehicle that’s rare, or has a really complex setup.

Getting into Gear


Before it was restored this car was actually a boat. You’re THAT passionate about cars.


Not everyone who has pursued a car restoration has a story with a good outcome, but all have an interesting story from doing so. So, if you feel you’re at the stage in life where your finances and schedule allow for such a move, go ahead and make some history of your own bringing a vintage vehicle back to life. For anyone that really loves cars, a pursuit like this is sure to deepen your knowledge and appreciation of these wonderful machines.

Furthermore, while you’re unlikely to find car restoration as an avenue to make a ton of money via restoring and reselling, if you’re a bona fide ‘car guy’ or ‘car girl’ you may find the urge is irrepressible to keep pursuing restoration projects once you complete your first. For those that are really passionate about this route and build a strong reputation for quality work, you may just find the opportunity to build your passion into a solid ‘side income’ – or even a full-blown new career – is possible as you progress down the road. Have fun!



Ed Kennedy is a journalist and ghostwriter from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on Skype or LinkedIn.

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