Restoring a car is not for the impatient or flighty. Don’t get us wrong, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s also very challenging, and more than a little character building.
See it through to the end, and we’d bet a Bugatti that you’ll be a much more patient and humble human being. If you tend to fly off the handle every time something doesn’t go the way you want it to, car restoration might not be the hobby for you. If you’re looking for an ongoing project that’s hands on, educative and fulfilling, read on.
What kind of car do you want to restore?
First thing’s first – what kind of condition is the car you want to restore in? Depending on how old or used it is, it could be in various states of disrepair. This will largely determine how long the restoration process takes. Many enthusiasts will tell you to ensure it has a decent shell with minimal rusting, and that you check whether it’s easy to get your hands on replacement parts if any are missing. These two things are often the most time consuming to repair or replace.
What’s really important here, however, is that you pick a car that you are passionate about, because you’re going to have a long and intimate relationship with this hunk of steel and parts. There will be arguments, cursing, sweat and maybe even tears. We aren’t going to sugar coat the situation. So, like a well-rounded marriage, you need to be confident that you’ll stick with this car through thick and thin. Choose a car that has personal significance to you, and you’re more likely to see the project through to completion.
How much do you know?
How much you actually know is another big factor when it comes to how much time it’ll take. Simply put, the more you know, the quicker you’ll be able to fix mishaps or already broken parts… And mishaps will happen. If you’re in it for the learning curve, make sure you leave extra time to do your research or gain assistance. Joining a club specific to your car’s brand or model is an invaluable asset during the restoration process. Not only will you have a pool of knowledge at your disposal, but you may also earn a skilled hand or two to help you out with the tricky bits!
What’s your budget like?
If you have thousands upon thousands of dollars to throw at your car restoration project, great! However, most of us will be working on a budget, and sometimes this budget can slow us down. Some weeks you won’t have to pay for a thing; others you’ll be forking out a few grand for a new part. And if you want original or authentic parts it’ll cost you a pretty penny. These are things that you need to consider from the offset, and we would recommend aligning your budget with a timeline to ensure you don’t have to halt work for months at a time because you’re out of cash.
Consider renting tools that you don’t think you’ll need to work with often, or borrow them from a mate instead of buying them outright. There are many ways you can cut corners when it comes to the budget. But remember, if you’re putting a tonne of your time and effort into this project, you don’t want to skimp on it and have yourself a finished car that doesn’t run at optimum efficiency. The trick with a budget is to really nut it out before you purchase a car to start working on.
How far do you want to get into the nitty-gritty?
How long your restoration will take also depends on how detailed you want to get. If you’re happy with an out-of-the-box engine, it’ll obviously take less time to install and will cost less than a customised solution. Likewise, it’s going to be difficult and time consuming to get your hands on an original, discontinued colour of paint for an authentic finish. This is about considering what you want to do with your car when you finish restoring it. Is it purely for personal use or do you want to sell it to a museum or collector? This will determine how much you spend on it and how long it will take to work on it to get it just right.
All things considered, we recommend going into a full car restoration with the outlook that it will take at least two years. Setting goals to work on your car every weekend for a few hours is a great approach, but as we all know, life can often get in the way. And you don’t want to rush a car restoration either. True hobbyists take delight in the small victories and systematically overcoming challenges. Give yourself enough time to really learn and revel in the process. The process of a car restoration isn’t about turning a profit or winning a race; it’s about spending quality time doing what you love, to be able to point at your car with pride when it’s finished and say “I made that with my bare hands.”