Classic Car Restoration: Advice for Beginners


Sep 08th, 2020

Classic Car Restoration: Advice for Beginners

Restoring a classic car requires time, patience, a garage or space, the right tools and, of course, a bit of skill. It is a labour of love. The process becomes a rewarding experience when you stand back and admire your handiwork, show it at an exhibit, or even sell it for a profit. Before that, however, is sheer hard work. 

Sourcing classic car parts is a challenging and stressful part of the restoration journey. You would most likely end up needing parts that are difficult to find and, even if found, might cost a chunk of money. 

How Do I Choose a Classic Car to Restore?

Finding the perfect car is the ultimate groundwork of the classic car restoration journey. Choosing a car that you can restore to a top-rated standard while keeping cost on the low is a juggling act. So, shop around. While you’re at it, get advice from fellow classic car lovers in forums like Old Classic Car.

There are numerous sites dedicated to selling various brands of classic cars in need of renovation. Wherever you choose to buy from, be sure to vet the vehicle you are buying before agreeing to purchase it.

Ask this question as a guide: How easy (or difficult) will it be to restore? While it is possible to replace all parts and fix all problems, the cost could be massive. This is a restoration project. So, you're not supposed to be looking for a perfect car. But, the more in shape a vehicle is, the better for your bank account.

How Long and How Much Would It Cost?

The amount of work to be carried out on the car will determine the cost of the project both in time and monetary terms. Be ready to give as much time as needed. Make sure you can fully concentrate on the project.

As per cost, an average classic car restoration project could cost anywhere between $25,000 and $70,000, including the car purchase and the price of tools and parts needed. Again, this is just a benchmark. The project could cost more or less depending on which car you buy and how much work is required to complete the restoration. Ultimately, you'll have to set a budget and find a car that suits your budget. 

Piece of advice: Choose a car that you feel enthusiastic about. You’re going to be investing a whole lot of energy into it, and your enthusiasm will provide the needed driving force to sustain you through the long process.

Where Do You Find Parts for A Classic Car Restoration Project?

Due to possible rarity, finding classic car parts can be an uphill task. Fortunately, there are several ways to go about it, even at a get-away price: 

1. Online forums

Since you're not the first person to take up the task of restoring a classic car, you can learn from those who have been down this long and curvy road before you. Search the internet – punch in your car make and model ending with the word “forum” on any search engine, then thank me later. 

2. Classic car magazines

This is also a great place to go, even for how-to advice directly from professionals. Most magazines have searchable databases of part vendors.

3. Wrecking services, salvage yards and auto body shops

Wrecking services, and sometimes mechanics, keep a stash of crucial parts they come across in their day-to-day jobs, and this includes classic car parts. Get on the phone, look up wrecking services, salvage yards and auto body shops. Remember, people know people.

4. Classic car owners clubs and organisations

This is the on-ground version of online forums. These are groups of classic car owners and people with the same interests as you. It's a perfect place to talk about the parts you have and ask about the ones you need.

5. Online dealers and auctions

With a quick search engine query, you can instantly connect with hundreds of dealers with searchable databases of classic car parts. Punch in your make, model, year and a short description of the part you are looking for, and you can have it delivered in the space of a few days.

6. Carpart auto part finder

Carpart is one online hub that helps you connect with hundreds of car part sellers from all over Australia. You only need to fill out one form instead of searching multiple sellers’ websites one by one. Those who have the classic car part you need will then contact you with their most competitive quotation; thus, you get to choose the seller with the best offer. If you have a particular part in mind, you may try sending a request to Carpart now.

What Tools and Equipment Would I Need?

Knowing which tools to buy and hire beforehand can help you get a grip of your budget. Here is a list of tools you're likely to need throughout the project:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Sheet metal scissors
  • A drill and bits
  • Sockets and a wrench
  • Electrical tools (air compressor, meters)
  • Floor Jack
  • Wire brushes
  • Engine crane and stand
  • Jack stand
  • Grinder
  • Blowtorch
  • Welding machine


Finally, you have to realise that classic car restoration is a highly technical undertaking. I recommend that the whole restoration project be done under the supervision of an expert car restorer. Although some of the tasks involved can easily be completed by a beginner, having someone to turn to when you run into any hiccups makes the process easier. The supervision I speak of may not necessarily be the on-site type. It could come from other car enthusiasts from online restoration forums and online project car clubs.

By Damilare Olasinde