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Car Restoration 101: 4 Tips to Make the Job Easier

Old car in a field in Florida

Whether it’s a classic like the 1963 Corvette Fuel-Injected Coupe or a high-dollar speed machine like the Tesla Roadster, most people have a particular model in mind when they envision their ideal car.

Restoring a classic car—refinishing, replacing, and repainting every part of it from bumper to bumper—is a lifelong fantasy for many weekend mechanics. The good news is there’s no shortage of replacement parts and old junk cars in Florida, with salvage yards full of the components needed for a quality restoration.

Before diving into a full-on car overhaul, there are some options to consider, and we’ve created a list of four basic tips to make the process easier.

Choose the Car

Pick out a car that appeals to you but isn’t too rare. The rarer a car is, the more expensive the parts will be and the harder those parts will be to find. Popular choices for restorations are classic American cars from the 1950s through the 1970s due to the availability of parts and components for them, versus those available for a rare car, like a Pierce-Arrow. It’s also smart to purchase a car that starts. If it doesn’t run, it may require extensive mechanical repairs.

Surface vs. Structural Rust

All old cars will likely have rust somewhere, and a number of them ended up in the salvage yard for that reason. Most surface rust poses no threat to the structure of the car. Repairing it can be as simple as sanding through the paint or corrosion, applying a primer, and painting the area. In most cases, that resolves the issue.

Structural rust is much more difficult to address, and may require welding new replacement sections, stripping the chassis, or replacing those components that are beyond repair. Get under the car and do a thorough inspection before purchasing a rust-ridden auto.

Don’t Expect a Profit

Making a profit should never be the goal for a hobby restoration. It’s an expensive, time-consuming process. However, earning a small profit above the cost of the car’s restoration is possible. Muscle cars like Dodge Chargers and Plymouth Dusters are in high demand, and parts are readily available. Rarer cars will cost more up front and will be harder to find parts for, but will be more likely to yield a profit if the restoration was done well.

Parts and Tools

A higher availability of parts makes the overall restoration easier and less costly. Remember, restoring a car also includes the interior components, such as the seats, gauges, the dashboard, steering wheel, and trunk lining. Pull-it-yourself salvage yards allow a buyer to look around and explore the inventory. Know what parts of the project car are interchangeable with other models. For example, some parts from a 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback may be interchanged with parts from a Ford Fairlane or Falcon.

Using the correct tools for removing the parts from salvaged vehicles will prevent damage to the needed part when pulling it from a rusty old junk car in Florida. Additionally, tools like torque wrenches, clamps, and various-sized screwdrivers are just a few of the tools that will be required in the restoration process. Keep in mind that sanding, welding, polishing, and painting tools will also be required to complete the restoration.

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