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Restoration Special

Restoration Special Published: 11th Dec 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Restoration Special Crashed classics can be worth a look at but inspect well
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Restoration Special this
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Restoration Special
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Dreaming is one thing but turning it into reality requires a good degree of clear thinking and level-headedness! Oh, and a plan of action...

It was the owner of a shabby but sound classic that spelt out the dangers of restoration to Classic Motoring. When we asked the chap why doesn’t he restore it back to its former glory he instantly replied “No bloody way – I’ve seen too many cars lost that way!”. He is absolutely right – far too many classics have been stripped down to be rebuilt with all the best intentions but never see the light of day again. There’s no magic wand to restoring a classic nor in best Blue Peter tradition “and here’s one I made earlier”. No, the classic car road to restoration heaven and hell is paved with good intentions

Don’t get us wrong: restoring an old car is as much fun, possibly more, as actually driving one, but it can also be a soul destroying slog that puts pressure on you and your family life. In short – restoring a classic is not something you should take on lightly. Most of the lovely concours cars you fi nd at classic shows have taken years of sweat and toil (divorce?) where the word dedication is an understatement. Never look at classic car renovation as a short-term thing, and before you take the plunge, sit down and think carefully about the project and what you can or can’t do – and form some sort of plan to see it through.


Essentially there are three types of restoration project: light, involved and basket case. Remember that one man’s light restoration project is another’s total rebuild. It all depends on your levels of skill, experience and above all else – enthusiasm and dedication for the task ahead. Light restoration work generally means a bit of TLC all round along with some routine repairs. Nothing too serious or costly, it can even be used while restoration and refurbishment is taking place. However, while many enthusiasts have successfully carried out a ‘running restoration’ it’s often far easier to lay the car up and get stuck in. The problem with repairing a road legal classic is you never know quite how far you can go without making it unusable, and a half-hearted job is going to be a waste of time and money in the long run.

Involved means that there’s some serious work to be done. Adverts saying ‘would suit an enthusiast’ is the classic car equivalent to estate agent jargon and you shouldn’t underestimate what needs to be done, even if it’s still a legal runner

Basket case means that the vehicle is just that – a wreck that probably any sane person should consign to the crusher – except all classics are worth saving and you can’t let that happen! A basket case is a classic that needs not simply TLC but nothing less than a total rebuild. How ‘far’ do you want to go – just a reliable workmanlike and presentable rebuild or better than new standards?


Deciding what level of restoration to tackle depends on how much time, energy and dosh you can devote to it. One professional put it to us that the fi rst three months of action are usually critical – if you don’t make decent headway it probably won’t get done. Take our editor (please!). He bought a basket case MG Midget some years back and all it’s done is cost him lock-up rent because work schedules have meant that he has had too little time to do anything to it. Just because you’ve bought a project don’t expect an eight day week to magically appear! Most importantly, never lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby, intended to ease the tension of modern life – not create more…


STAND BACK AND THINK IT THROUGH.  Have you the time and space to complete the job properly, for example? Will you receive help from others?

BE REALISTIC. Are you any good at DIY or are willing to learn? Consider enrolling at night school or a college to develop skills that will help the restoration

DON’T THINK THAT YOU’LL INSTANTLY SAVE MONEY BY DOING IT ALL YOURSELF. If cost is paramount, think about a good value, partly restored car instead

DON’T BUY A BASKET CASE WITHOUT THE PROPER PAPERWORK. Is there a V5 registration document? Check with the DVLA that the vendor is legally entitled to sell the car

CHOOSE A CLASSIC THAT’S RELATIVELY SIMPLE AND COSTEFFECTIVE TO RESTORE. Rare models will be a real pain to source parts for and often expensive to complete

DO YOUR SUMS AND WORK OUT CAREFULLY HOW MUCH A CAR WILL COST TO RESTORE. Obtain some quotes for work and spares beforehand - then double them and you’ll be about right!

DON’T RUSH AND BUY THE FIRST CLASSIC YOU SEE. There are plenty on sale and it’s easy to make more work for yourself and buy a veritable money pit

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE TASK IN FRONT OF YOU. As a rule of thumb, it will take double the time you envisaged. Professional help could save you time and money in the long run

DON’T RUSH! With a car in bits, there’s no better time to overhaul and refurbish these parts than now. It saves you a lot of time and money later on

ENJOY IT! Car restoration is not meant to be a slog. Set a realistic date for completion, such as a show, and concentrate on small areas rather than the entire job

BORN AGAIN You know what’s better than owning the classic car of your dreams? Owning one that you’ve returned back to its former glory!

We’ve all wandered around car shows and admired the superb classics on display and met many rightly proud owners who have made a top condition classic out of a wreck. It’s a very special feeling that you can’t really place a value on, either in fi nancial or purely emotional terms. And now you want to do the same. Welcome to our special restoration special. Now we’re not claiming that this is a fully comprehensive guide to classic car restoration, but instead a useful, get-you-started reference booklet, packed with advice, tips and encouragement to help complete your prized project.

We’ve covered all the important areas: from buying and assembling the right tools to the fi nishing touches that turn a good job into a great one. So, with winter fast approaching and nothing to do on those long nights other than watch repeats on the TV, how about burning the midnight oil restoring your treasured classic to better than brand new standards?

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