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How to restore a classic like a pro

Running Gear Published: 5th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

How to restore a classic like a pro
How to restore a classic like a pro
How to restore a classic like a pro
How to restore a classic like a pro
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If done properly, a restored classic should feel pretty much like it did when it left the factory, even if it was decades ago but, in our experience, this is not the case with many restorations where the emphasis is on how it looks rather than performs where only parts that need replacing are dealt with.

You can rebuild the majority of major components and feel you’ve sorted it all out – but it’s finer details, such as worn wheel bearings, shot suspension bushes, sloppy steering and dilapidated dampers that determine how a classic finally drives. If you don’t believe us, try to get behind the wheel of an identical model and note the differences.

It’s also a safety issue and for that reason alone nothing less than a complete overhaul of the braking system is acceptable. Don’t simply slot in new pads and linings and bleed the brakes, but also replace every seal and cylinder and ditch any remotely suspect brake line, metal or flexible. Flush out the system and replenish with new brake fluid of the correct DOT performance rating. Slightly worn and rusty discs or drums can be made serviceable again by skilled skimming by a machine shop but you can only go so far here and, to be honest, most replacements are pretty cheap enough to obtain at autojumbles or even at high street motorists’ shops if you have a popular car. Don’t forget the servo and at least replace its filter.

Penny to a pound that the chassis void bushes (including damper eye bushes) will be well past it, along with many other parts, by now and if you want to savour that ‘as new’ taut drive again, they should be replaced either with standard rubber items or modern ‘polybushes’ which are firmer, giving tauter feel and go some way of compensating for the inevitable ‘relaxing’ of the bodyshell, plus they last longer but such gains are often to detriment of refinement and comfort if you go too hard.

It’s an ideal opportunity to uprate certain components, like dampers and springs as upgrades will usually cost the same. Many enthusiasts find that an oldie will feel too ‘soft’ to drive after years behind the wheel of a modern.

If you don’t go mad, you’ll have a better handling classic without affecting the ride quality unduly. Steering boxes and racks can be re-shimmed or fully overhauled, if need be, and this will make a world of difference to the way an oldie steers. Cheap replaceables, such as track control ends and suspension strut top mountings, gaiters, and so on, all make a sizable difference, too.

Finally, don’t negate all your good work by still using the tyres that the car came with! They do go off with age and a new set of uniform rubber, carefully balanced, is one of the best improvements you can carry out to any classic along with having the geometry fully checked, not just wheel alignment but also the caster and camber angles and set up by a marque specialist who may have his own little tweaks to add.

Best mods

Shox & springs

Always renew in axle sets and preferably the whole car with the same makes as aftermarket types can differ in quality and performance

Power steering

Electric power steering systems are excellent and can transform the drive, on some the level of self help can be adjusted

Period tyres

New tyres make a huge difference and some classics perform best on period tyres although they are generally extremely costly to obtain

Top five tips


If possible, opt for OE replacements or known aftermarket names as you know they are going to fit and last

Test drive

See if you can drive an identical model to ascertain how your car is supposed to perform and handle

Used parts

Be careful if you are fitting secondhand parts, not simply because of their condition but also whether they are the right spec for that year and model as car makers tend to make many changes


We’re not automatically talking about performance tuning but a moderate uprate will make your classic better equipped for today’s roads


Why not have it look factory fresh, too? The cheapest method, after a thorough de-rusting, is simple painting, either by enamel or Hammerite. However, the best and most professional looking finish is achieved by powder coating although you have to send the parts away and it can be a costly exercise; you may think it worthwhile. Painted brake callipers are a matter of taste as they can easily look, frankly, tarty if done in the wrong shade or finish. Your choice!

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