Thursday, August 5, 2010


It is best to begin this chapter by stating that a full DIY car restoration is incredibly hard work and that very few people really appreciate just how much work is involved until they've either finished one or given up part-way through the job. Obviously, the amount of work needed in a restoration will depend on the original condition of the car and on the desired result; concourse cars can take many times as long as 'usable' cars. It is also dependant on the quality of the restoration; cut corners and you can bring the time requirement down — if you can live with second-class workmanship.
Whenever asked how long it takes to restore a car, the author's friend Em Fryer simply replies 'A year'. The best restorations can take thousands of hours; many run into years of part-time work. Many are never completed at all. Before embarking on a full restoration, therefore, you should consider very carefully whether your motivation (and funds) will be sufficient to last throughout the project. On the finance side, make as comprehensive as possible a list of necessary panels, mechanical components and consumables (paint, MiG wire etc.), and see whether the total is so high that you could obtain a better deal by simply selling your own car and buying one in better condition; the costs of even a DIY restoration often exceed the resultant value of the car!
You can cut costs by plating expensive pressingsrather than replacing them, i.e.. building up a floor edgefrom sheet steel rather than spending a lot of money ona proper repair panel or a full floor. The drawback withplating is that the car normally rusts through along theedges of welded seams and a car which is extensivelyplated can be expected to require more body repair worksooner than one which is largely re-panelled, if for noother reason than because the former has more seams!
You also need to honestly consider whether your own skills are sufficient for the job, because if you subsequently have to pay a professional restorer to put right your mistakes then his bill will probably be greater than that for a straight restoration. Many people appear to prefer to have bodywork and painting carried out by a professional, and then to undertake the mechanical build-up themselves.
One alternative to doing the whole job yourself is in effect to manage the restoration and to bring in a skilled mobile welder and perhaps a competent mechanic as and when required. This means that you undertake the donkey work such as the strip down, cutting out rotten metal, cleaning and so on, but that you can have confidence in the quality of the welding and of the mechanical build-up.
The author finds that decorating the workplace with photographs of the car being restored and of really nice examples of the same model can often provide that little extra inspiration needed to carry on working when
every fibre of his body is screaming to get out of the workshop! Whilst on the subject of photographs, it is worth keeping the fullest photographic record of any restoration; not only does this serve to prove that the car has in fact been restored should you ever wish to sell it, but it also shows the depth of the restoration.
Classic car restoration is often depicted in the many books and magazines on the subject to consist largely of cutting away rotten old panels and grafting in new, like a great surgeon heroically performing a life-saving operation. This is actually an important but neverthele;, relatively small part of the work encountered in car restoration. In fact, the bulk of the work of restoration b concerned with the far more humdrum business of cleaning. For every minute spent welding, there will usually be an hour or more of cleaning, ranging from scraping away old underseal, accumulated mud and rust from the underside of the car to cleaning burnt oil deposits and sundry dirt and gunge from engine and transmission components.
A large percentage of the restorer's time will also be spent in trying to establish and maintain a coherent and workable filing system' for the various components of the car. This is essential if you are not later to waste countless hours during the build-up in trying to find the as soon as (if not before) they are fitted, tools will quickly become rusted and new paintwork will suffer bloom. Good all-round lighting which illuminates the sides and underside of the car is essential, and a solid, level, crumble-proof concrete floor is absolutely vital. You will require plenty of dry storage for components. If you merely pile them up in a corner then rebuilding the car will be a nightmare because you will waste hours finding parts and many more hours cleaning rust from them if the area in which they have been stored is damp.
Some specialised tools and equipment are essential for restoration. Some form of welding equipment, if only a cheap MiG, is recommended— even if you intend to bring in an outside welder to carry out the bulk of the work, in order to allow you to tack panels into position for final welding up by the professional.

Popular Posts