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Buying a classic car that needs restoring can be a great way to get your hands on the car you’ve always dreamed of owning. The satisfaction of knowing you’ve restored your vehicle to its former glory with your own hands can be an added bonus, and it can be easy to romanticize this allure. However, many first time restorers end up frustrated and broke with a shell of a car in their garage. There are some simple steps you can take before and during your restoration to help ensure your overall experience of restoring your dream car is a fruitful and enjoyable one.

The pros and cons of rust

Okay, so there aren’t many pros. In fact, the only one we can think of is it can help you to haggle the price down a little bit more. The cons are slightly easier to come up with. It will be hard to find a classic car that needs restoring without some rust, but excessive rust can cause you massive headaches. It can mean you need to replace lots of steel panels that might not be readily available, chop entire sections off that are beyond repair and sandblast other parts.

If panels aren’t available, then you’ll either need to fabricate them from sheet metal or get an expert to recreate them for you. Either way, it’s going to be very hard and time-consuming or costly. Experienced restorers or people with practical experience might not be daunted at his prospect, but many would be. Choose a vehicle that’s appropriate for your level of practical experience/budget.

Do some research before committing

There’s a good chance you’re not the first person to start restoring your chosen vehicle. There are forums full of threads of restoration that could provide invaluable insight. You can discover some potential pitfalls and see where other people struggled. It will also help you to discover which parts are harder to source. The more you have to get custom made the more expensive your restoration becomes.

If you join a forum and become active you can also make some invaluable contacts, both individuals and companies, that can help make your restoration go much smoother. Checking out the parts suppliers will also help you to start to build a more accurate picture of the cost of restoring your chosen vehicle. When you’re searching for parts, simply searching ‘cheapest tyres online’ might not be sufficient if you need an unusual size. It’s so much easier to find what you need now thanks to the internet.

Be aware of the market

While your restoration might be a work of passion and you can’t even consider selling the vehicle, just knowing you’ve been financially astute can increase your satisfaction. It also ensures the money you pour into the restoration will be secure in the value of the vehicle. You may even enjoy the process so much you decide to take on a second project. Having a valuable classic to sell will make the second project so much easier. There’s no need to become an economist, but just having a general awareness of the market around your chosen vehicle could be invaluable.

Lessen your load

While it can be appealing to build a car from the ground up, the less work that needs doing the quicker and cheaper your restoration will be. A restoration can be a steep learning curve, making it as gradual as possible can lessen the pain. If the car you choose to restore actually starts and runs, then you’ll reduce the chance of expensive repairs. A non-starter could have several problems. While it could simply require a new starter motor, fuel pump, or battery, it’s just as likely the engine seized a decade ago and needs a complete rebuild.

Don’t be afraid to get help

Maybe you’re a mechanic with twenty years experience, but it’s more likely you’re an enthusiast with a little bit of experience and lots of enthusiasm. Whether you’re going to view a vehicle, or trying to diagnose a problem with your current project, a professional opinion can greatly reduce the likelihood that you’ll make a costly mistake.

Be prepared to commit

Most restorations require hundreds of hours of work and a fair bit of expense. If you think you can complete your project in a couple of months for a few hundred, you need to reassess your plans. To successfully complete a project will require spending an untold number of weekends in your garage and many hidden expenses that you can’t predict or budget for. These can take a toll on family life and your bank account, so make sure you set realistic expectations.

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