Imagine your dream automobile. Possibly the Mercedes-Benz convertible you have always desired. You may desire an SUV with heated leather seats and an advanced navigation system. Alternatively, you may fantasize of something swift and exotic, such as a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche.
But, for some individuals, fantasy cars are not from the present or future, but the past. Your ideal automobile may be your brother’s 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air, your father’s Sunbeam Tiger, or that Pontiac GTO you’ve always wanted but could never afford. Perhaps it’s the vintage Mustang you sold when you had children and have yearned for ever since.
Those of us whose dream automobiles are from the past cannot just enter a car store.
Car Restoration Basics
Vehicle restoration is no longer merely a hobby. It is a vibrant industry supported by automobile organizations, auctioneers, and vehicle lovers who want to experience the excitement of driving a classic car as if it were brand new.
The first step is selecting a vehicle to restore. Consider your particular fantasy vehicle once more; if you possessed a time machine, which vehicle would you bring back to the future? When we hear the word “restoration,” we generally think of vintage American automobiles from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s — these are the automobiles that many car fans grew up coveting. Nonetheless, any style of automobile can be restored, from ancient BMWs to 1980s DeLorean sports vehicles (speaking of time machines). But, keep in mind that the more obscure and unusual the automobile, the more difficult and costly it will be to locate replacement parts [source: Second Chance Garage].
When purchasing a vehicle for restoration, you should consider the following factors:
- Does it operate safely by itself?
- What is effective and what is not?
- Exists corrosion or leakage?
- In what condition are the tires?
- How long have you been the owner?
- Why do you plan to sell it?
Obviously, restoration entails more than simply beautifying a vehicle’s outside. A complete factory restoration entails replacing practically every item on the vehicle with a newer, more reliable one, from the dashboard gauges to the trunk lining. In many instances, restorers try to be as historically accurate as possible — that is, to make the automobile appear exactly as it did the day it left the factory.
Additionally, ensure you have the proper equipment for the work. You’ll need equipment such as clamps, hammers, screwdrivers, and torque wrenches, among many, many others. Nevertheless, you may also require items for sanding, welding, buffing, polishing, and painting [source: AJ General]. Again, you may determine the necessary instruments for a work by consulting guidebooks and other websites.
In the following section, we’ll examine the interior of the vehicle and determine what it takes to restore a high-quality interior.
Restoring the Car’s Interior
Before we continue discussing the practicalities of restoration, let’s choose a vehicle to utilize as an example. We’ll use a 1965 Ford Mustang to illustrate certain aspects of the task at hand because it’s a popular vehicle with easily available replacement parts.
Even if the exterior of a vehicle is flawless, if the inside upholstery is ripped and the gauges are falling out of the dashboard, the restoration is far from complete.
The required maintenance depends on the state of the vehicle. For example, a Mustang that has been meticulously maintained in a garage since the 1960s will require significantly less maintenance than one found in a junkyard. This implies that you must assess your requirements. Do all of the car’s seats need to be replaced, or can the existing ones be reupholstered? Can the dashboard’s switches and gauges be repaired or must they be replaced? What about the audio system? Do you want a brand-new radio with modern capabilities, such as a CD player, or will you reinstall the original factory radio?
Typically, a complete interior restoration entails thoroughly vacuuming out the car, removing the floor panels and inner door panels, cleaning the interior with a solvent or other cleaning solution, removing the old seats, and reinstalling the new parts piece by piece. You must also meticulously clean and restore tiny components such as the glove box and sun visors [source: Mustang Monthly].
Thankfully, restoration doesn’t have to break the bank — that is, if you’re smart about it. If the vinyl is undamaged, door panels may be salvageable and refurbished. Chrome spray paint can be used to touch up the chrome interior trim. Additionally, every part doesn’t absolutely need to be ordered brand new. In reality, numerous parts may be found in a junkyard [source: Mustangs and Fords].
Now that we’ve covered the interior, let’s examine the exterior. In the following section, we will address restoring the outside of your vehicle.
Restoring the Car’s Exterior
They say that first impressions are permanent. In every automobile, the exterior appearance is the first thing that is noticed. If you’re restoring an automobile with the intention of selling it at an auction or other event, its appearance must be impeccable or it won’t be recognized.
A renovation of the exterior involves more than just a fresh coat of paint. Depending on the condition of the automobile, a complete restoration entails stripping the vehicle to its bare metal frame. Typically, restorers will remove every body panel from the car’s frame and use chemical treatments or sandblasting to remove any remnants of previous paint. The panels are then coated with a gray epoxy primer before being repainted and reattached to the vehicle [source: Central Florida Customs].
Rust is one of the most costly problems you may encounter when fixing a vehicle. As a result of the vehicle’s age, you might anticipate some rust, which is often concealed behind the paint. While some rust can be removed using sandblasting, there are occasions when you must determine whether to repair or replace an outside element (such as a fender). In areas where rust affects only a portion of the panel, it may be necessary to remove the corroded section and weld in fresh sheet metal [source: Cain].
After the vehicle has been prepared and all rust has been removed, it is time to paint it. This is amazing because you or your restoration shop can do whatever you want. Would you like to add racing stripes or fiery graphics? Go all out! If authenticity is your goal, you may find original factory paint at numerous auto parts outlets. You may obtain a range of original colors for popular muscle vehicles like the 1965 Mustang [source: Muscle Car Club].
The outside work does not conclude with rust removal and a fresh coat of paint. Consider all of the outside car components: door handles, mirrors, the windshield, the gas cap, headlights, taillights, bumpers, hood latches, etc. All of these items must be inspected and, if necessary, repaired or replaced.
In the following section, we will examine one of the most challenging and intriguing aspects of auto restoration: engine repair.
Restoring the Powertrain
People enjoyed classic muscle cars such as our 1965 Mustang because they were speedy. Many of them were attractive, but if they were slow, it is likely that fewer people would remember them. Hence, rebuilding or replacing the car’s engine is one of the most essential restoration chores.
Begin by totally disassembling the engine. The fuel pumps, carburetors, cylinder heads, and compressors must all be removed. Like you did with the car’s exterior, check each component to determine which need repair and which need replacement.
The simplicity with which you may locate engine parts for your automobile varies by model. For instance, you can buy components for your Mustang just about anyplace. However, if you decide to restore an older European or Japanese automobile, you may have to do a bit more hunting for the necessary parts.
If authenticity is desired, the car’s original engine can be rebuilt. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with adding a brand-new motor if the vehicle is more of a personal project than something you’d sell at auction. Why preserve your Mustang’s 289-cubic-inch V-8 when you could replace it with a 428-cubic-inch Cobra engine? With a so-called crate engine, which is also available online and in many component catalogs, it is simple to construct your ideal car.
Repairing a vehicle is a challenging endeavor. In reality, this post barely touches the surface of how complex and complicated the entire procedure is. You should not begin unless you have ample time, money, and knowledge. But, if done correctly, it is possible to bring an automobile back from the dead and up to its original manufacturing specifications, or to design your own unique vehicle. Why give up the opportunity to finally drive your dream car?