How To Restore A Classic Car

Taking on a restoration project is not something to do on a whim. It is a serious undertaking and will take up much of your time. How much of your time will depend on various factors, including your skills and experience and the extent of the rebuild. No matter the project, there are a few key considerations that are wise to consider.


Pick the Correct Car

What car should you restore? That’s a big question; and one that can be looked at from a variety of positions. If it is your first attempt at fixing up a car, then something not too complicated, preferably not overly valuable, as any mistakes are not too costly. You may have a car in the family that you want to bring back to its former glory or are just looking to find the right project for you.

Assess the Work & Budget it

It would help if you made an initial assessment of how much work is needed with the vehicle and budget accordingly. Keep in mind that this is an estimate, and costs can change from this; the sad reality of life is that these estimates rarely end up lower than the original figure. Accordingly, we should keep a figure in mind for contingencies when we inevitably uncover additional issues.

Original Parts or Not?

Should you use the original manufacturer’s parts or not? There are no right and wrong answers to this question, and how we approach this depends on the project. For some older cars, especially from manufacturers who no longer exist, it may be impossible to source original parts. Even if we can find the original parts, they may be significantly more expensive, but if we are planning to sell the vehicle, those original parts may increase the car’s value.


The engine is the biggest single challenge when bringing a car back to life. It is possible the vehicle has not been started in some time, and this will mean at least changing things such as oil and any fuel that may be sitting in the lines that have gone bad. There are so many mechanical issues it is impossible to list them here. But even choices such as using hi-temp engine paint to prevent rust and give it a polished look are essential.


After mechanical work, bodywork is one of the most apparent tasks to take care of with a car restoration project. There are two main ways we can repair bodywork. First, if we have small (or large) spots of rust, we can fix these; this involves scraping or sanding away the rust and applying a coat of primer and then two coats of paint. The other issue can be dents and damage to the shape of the bodywork. Dents can be beaten out with a set of panel beating hammers, although this is a tricky task for the beginner. We can also replace whole panels on the car; these may be bought new, if available, or might require a search of used parts from scrap yards.


As well as replacing any old fuel in the system we can have other issues with fuel in old cars. Cars built before the 1980s ran on leaded gasoline; this was phased out due to environmental concerns but has left some older cars being unusable. You can have an old leaded gas engine converted to run on modern unleaded fuel. We can also use additives to allow older cars to run on unleaded, but this is only advised if the car has limited use.

Insurance & Running Costs

Insurance can be expensive for some classic cars; this is partly due to the value of some of these vehicles and the cost of repair, with parts, often being expensive or difficult to source. We should be aware of the details of our policy, such as the difference between comprehensive and third-party insurance. Running costs can be more in general, particularly fuel consumption, as, unlike modern vehicles, the average classic car uses a lot more gas.


If you decide to sell the car after it is restored, you should consider a few considerations. Only sell the vehicle if you are confident your repairs have gone well and left the vehicle in a safe condition to be on the road. You can put up an advert on social media or various car sites, but if you have a rare or specifically desirable car, it might make sense to advertise on an enthusiast’s site.

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