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How To Restore a Vehicle

Reference Library Index

Antique, vintage and classic car restoration can be very specialized, above and beyond the services offered in a typical body shop. The problem is that the parts may have to be made from scratch and the disassembly and assembly methods may call for special skills. For example antique vehicles might have wood frames and vintage, classic vehicles might have steel frames held together with rivets and muscle cars might require special engineering for their suspension systems. However there are hundreds of body shops that specialize in antique, vintage and classic car restoration and a wide variety of books, movies and other teaching aids so the issue becomes how to find what you need.

1948 Cadillac Series 62

1948 Cadillac Series 62 *

The first question is how far do you intend to go with the restoration. A "cosmetic" restoration might entail new paint and upholstery while a "full body" or "body off" restoration would include removing the body from the chassis (if possible) and rebuilding everything. A cosmetic restoration is a very reasonable thing to do to a vehicle that is in otherwise good shape or is intended to be a daily driver. A full body restoration is generally done for show purposes or to a vehicle that has a lot of potential value. You should research the value of the vehicle carefully before committing to a full body restoration because it is easy to get in over your head in both labor and money. The classified ads for used cars and trucks are full of vehicles selling at a fraction of what the full body restoration cost!

Regardless of how far you intend to go, if you are going to do it yourself you will need some basic skills and tools to get started. If you know your way around a car or truck and have a basic set of hand tools you are probably capable of taking most of the vehicle apart. However most vehicle require special tools for some of the repairs so do some homework and add the cost of the new tools to your budget. Also, since most special tools are only available through the new car dealer you may have to make your own or find someone to borrow them from. We have a library of Body Shop Tips that might help and the one on How to Disassemble and Organize Vehicle Parts will save you a lot of grief when it comes time to put the vehicle back together. You can be assured that somebody else has restored the same type of vehicle before and it is very likely that there are books and maybe even videos available to help you through the process. If your project is a 1929 Ford try searching the Internet for key words such as "1929 ford restoration tips" or "how to restore a 1929 ford" or "1929 ford restoration video" and you are sure to find some help. It would also be a good idea to join a local car club for first hand advice.

If you are going to hire somebody else to do the restoration be very careful to assure you find someone who understands the scope of the work and is able to give you a good idea of the cost. Every restoration company will tell you that there are too many variables to guarantee a price, which is true unless you intend to simply replace everything, but the more experienced they are the closer they will be able to come to the final cost. For example if you are restoring a 1929 Ford and you find a company who has done dozens or even hundreds of them before they are more likely to know what it will cost than a company who has only done a few. You are going to spend a lot of money for a quality full body restoration so take your time and research the issue beforehand. The big question is will it be worth the expense? If the answer for you is "Yes" and do a thorough investigation of potential shops. The best recommendations come from past customers so ask local car club members for suggestions and when you find a candidate ask for references. And it is quite likely that you will have to look outside of your area so when you decide on a shop ask them to arrange for the transportation to assure the vehicle is handled properly.

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Antique, vintage and classic car restoration has become a significant industry, particularly if you consider them to be anything more than 20 years old, as many people do. You will find an assortment of Restoration Companies in our Business Directory.



* Pictures are from ads on AntiqueCar.com and may not be used without the vehicle owner's permission.