Once the decision has been made to take on a classic car restoration project, the obvious first step is to find a car to restore. Most restorers will have a particular make of model in their sights and may well have been on the lookout for years.
Many restorers have bought or even been gifted a vehicle years before they begin the project.
For most people, a classic car restoration is a once in a lifetime experience. However, they may well have planning their project for years, thanks to extensive reading and binge-watching the long list of tv car restoration shows.
Some even have some of the facilities as well as the vehicle in place and ready to go for months if not years till the right conditions present themselves to get started.
When the time comes to rise out of the armchair or any other comfort zone, the beginner restorer soon discovers that finding a classic car to restore means a lot of effort and determination. Travelling to car auctions and classic car shows is almost a necessary evil and an invaluable learning experience.
Choosing a first classic car for restoration needs a great deal of care and thought, although it does help to firmly preconceived ideas of the make and model that they dream of returning to its golden years.
Beginner restorers who have no particular loyalty to a specific model or manufacturers leave themselves with a lot more options, although to save time and effort, it is most logical to narrow down the list of target vehicles, balancing between budget and personal preferences.
Even before the search begins, a basic plan needs to be worked for the project; Finances need to be analysed carefully, allowing for an accurate budget to be drawn up covering all aspects of the project.
Any restoration budget has to consider buying the car, renting a workshop, investing in tools and equipment -making sure to leave as large a margin for error as possible.
Early cost projections can only be estimated as the final budget can only be prepared when the car is home, and the full extent of its condition is assessed. Even then, there inevitably be surprises once the actual restoration gets underway.
To reduce the risk element, finding a classic in reasonable condition that needs at most just partial renovation is the easiest but usually the most expensive alternative. Finding a fifty or sixty-year-old car that is still a runner is highly unusual but not impossible.
Having the time and opportunity to check out the car’s mechanical condition and bodywork should be taken with both hands. Meeting the owner will also make for a major plus.
That’s the reason why most first-time restorers prefer to buy privately rather than at an auction.
With a few exceptions, bidding action at classic car auctions is very rapid, and mistakes can be made if impulsive decisions are made. The more reputable classic car auction companies offer an open day before the auction starts, with a few even allowing rudimentary checks to be carried out on the vehicle under supervision.
Auctions are in general only for the brave-hearted and the experienced, which is why most beginner restorers are well-advised to buy either from a dealer or privately.
In both cases, they will have ample time to check out the vehicle before what will probably be a significant investment,
Restorers must never allow thmselves to forget that each classic car has been on the road probably for decades and is in a unique condition.
Once the decision has been made on the model of the car to work on, the first significant step the restorer will have to make is the extent of the restoration project they want to take on.
What must be remembered is that classic car restoration can get very expensive, especially if the restorer miscalculates the costs involved in terms of budget.
Before making any commitment, the restorer needs to get as clear an idea as possible on how much time and money they have at their disposal and choose a vehicle to restore that fits their budget and time scale.
Despite all the pre-purchase inspections, the car's actual condition will only become apparent once it has arrived at the workshop with a major examination of the car’s overall state of health.
Examinations should be focused on the chassis, frame and bodywork, with the mechanical aspects, while significant, surprisingly further down the list.
Once all the information is gathered, the head ot the restoration team will compile their overall budget that will cover all aspects of the restoration project.
During the assessment stage, the restorer must recognise that if they have only specific skills at their disposal and are aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
With this awareness, it is possible to accurately plan their restoration and how much will be needed to be farmed out to particular specialists.
From this point, the preparation stage will be over, and the actual restoration can get underway.