Restoring classic cars isn’t the type of work every automotive service technician gets to do. It is a very specialized technique graduates of mechanic colleges often consider less of a skill and more of an art form. Though the selling of the finished art may well be something the auto sales college graduate has a hand in, those fortunate enough to work on some truly magnificent pieces of automotive engineering and design must possess a special blend of artistic intuition and mechanical know-how. Seeing an old car come back to life can truly bring joy to people, as it did for this man whose son surprised him with a spectacular overhaul:
But how do you restore a car? The three major steps a well-trained mechanic will take to recreate a classic demonstrate the flair and intuition necessary for the job.
The Outside of the Car
The outside is the first thing people notice about a restored vehicle, so it’s important to get it right. Before you can even begin, however, choosing which automobile is prime for restoration is a job in itself. Restoration is, first and foremost, an investment. Too often, time and money is thrown at an unsalvageable vehicle before it’s abandoned.
Once the car has been selected, the mechanic should thoroughly appraise its state before making plans for the restoration. A sharp-eyed mechanic will spot which parts are salvageable and which need replacement. At this stage, whenever possible, cars are restored with original parts.
Next, strip the car down to its bare metal, removing any traces of old paint. Sandblasting or chemical treatment are typically necessary. Get rid of any rust, possibly by cutting out part of the panel and replacing it with sheet metal.
Coat panels with grey epoxy primer, repair and replace, then put back into the car. Now that the car’s exterior is reduced to bare silver metal, it’s time to repaint. Some shops will sell original factory colours, allowing you to produce a more accurate restoration.
While the exterior may be the first thing people see, it could be the interior they remember. After going through a standard appraisal process, set to work on a thorough cleaning job.
Vacuum the car interior. The inner floor and door panels are often the first thing to be removed, followed by the seats.
Clean out the interior with solvent. Reinstall everything, using replacement parts where applicable.
At this point, you should have decided just how authentic you want to be with the restoration. Do you want to use the original radio or put in something more modern, for example? These questions will only grow more pertinent during the third step.
Under the Hood
Restoring a car to its original look is one thing. Using exactly the same engine is a whole other story. For some restoration jobs, the latter isn’t an option. Some engines are irreparable; some parts are no longer manufactured.
After dismantling the engine, you’ll know what kind of job you’re in for. Depending on the make and model of the car, the parts may just no longer exist.
However, replacing the whole engine with a newer, perhaps faster model may be the better option anyway. The car will still be restored to its original shape – it’ll just move quicker and more efficiently. If it was once a muscle car, a newer engine can still perfectly echo the loud, guttural roar it once made as it sped down so many roads.
Are you planning on restoring a classic car? Which stage do you think will be most challenging?