You've just acquired the classic car of your dreams, and you are already fantasizing about getting behind the wheel and tooling around the block, or participating in a classic car rally. Before that can happen, however, there's some major restoration to be done. Perhaps you need a car loan or your car needs some body work, or maybe it's an engine rebuild that has to happen. Whatever the challenge, if you spend some time in planning and organization before you even touch a wrench, your project will be a fulfilling experience, rather than an exercise in frustration.
- Binders are your friends. While we may live in the digital age, sometimes paper and ink are the best tools for a job. Invest in a binder or two and a few boxes of plastic page protectors. Start at the front of your vehicle and begin a list of every part that needs to be replaced or repaired. Keep this information in the binder. After you've got the entire list, consider adding tabs for different sections - dashboard gauges, powertrain, etc. If necessary you can even expand into separate binders. Then, as you start your searches for parts and information, you can keep the business cards, order forms, and invoices in the plastic pages within each section. Not only will you have all your information at your fingertips, but you'll also be creating a valuable resource for the next car you plan to restore.
- Old Manuals are incredibly valuable. If you want to make your job as easy as possible, spend some time on the Internet searching for the original owner's manuals and car loans while you shop manuals for your make and model of car. Older manuals and those for limited edition cars may be expensive, but there are websites devoted to archiving such information, and in some cases the information is has been scanned and rendered as downloadable pdf documents. If your car was manufactured by a company that still exists, don't hesitate to contact the manufacturer. Most companies have libraries or archives just for retaining such information. Even if you don't find the manual for the very car you have, chances are you'll find something similar enough to be helpful.
- Invest in a digital camera. Documenting your project with pictures isn't just a way of preserving the experience for posterity. It can help you stay organized. Take a picture of the car before you start tearing it down. Then take pictures of every stage of tear-down, and of the parts as you remove them. Not only will this help you make sure everything goes back in the right place, eliminating the problem of "extra" parts, but when you're ready to sell or show your car, they will be proof of the work you did to establish current car prices for your market.
- Use the space you have. If your garage floor is big enough, lay each piece out in an exploded view near the car, with each part placed in a general relationship to the others. (If you don't have the space, see the paragraph above about digital cameras.)
- Sort and store. You'll also want to invest in several rubber bins or tubs so you can store groups of parts together, sorting them into categories like body, electric, engine, suspension, and so on. Smaller parts should be put into re-sealable plastic bags labeled with a permanent marker, so that you know where they go, and what they are, and also to ensure that nothing gets lost.
Every project can get confusing or overwhelming at times, and even the best of us can get stuck, or run into a problem we can't work through. When this happens, support forums are an essential part of getting back on track. Whether you use the forums here at OldCarsWeekly.com, or find another source, these are an excellent place to ask for insight or advice, or just to share what you're doing.
Restoring an old car can be a rewarding and satisfying project. Following the tips outlined above will keep the frustration to a minimum, and enable you to have fun with the actual work. One last tip, though? Be patient. Rushing may get the car finished faster, but you won't enjoy the process as much.