Guide To Restoring A Classic Car

classic car needs restoration

Do you find happiness in repairing or improving your car? Do you absolutely love building kit cars like us? Building a car from a kit is one way, but what about restoring a classic car?

If you’re up for a challenge, and you’ve got the time and funds, there’s nothing quite like restoring a classic car to it’s former glory. Not only will you end up with a beautiful and unique vehicle, but you’ll also learn a lot about how cars work.

You should know up from that restoring a car can also be expensive, so it’s important to plan ahead and budget properly. In this guide, we’ll talk about the basics of restoring a car, from repairing the body to replacing the engine. We’ll also provide some tips on how to save money while doing so.

Determine Your Goal

The very first step in restoring any classic car is determining what your end goal is. What do you want the classic car to be after restoring it?  A show car?  A drag racer?  A weekend driver?

The decision doesn’t only involve how it looks but also how it runs – it also has everything to do with how much money you’ll be spending.

Before you start ripping off the parts, do your research first. Get some ideas from the internet or talk to mechanics or friends who have the same interest. Just go and get some ideas and from there, you can decide what you want your classic car to be.

Do take note that although you already have a certain idea in mind, it could still change. Sometimes you might prefer one choice over the other during the process of restoring a classic car. It could also be that what you pictured is something that can’t really be done because of a lack of parts, resources, or other problems. You have to be ready to alter some things as you go through the process.

Although there can be changes along the way, deciding and knowing what you want before starting with the restoration can help you save money and time. You can avoid wasting resources on things you won’t really need for the restoration.

A Word About Auto Transportation

Most great projects we’ve ever worked on start as a flea-bitten,  rust-bucket, piece-of-poop located in the corner of some out-of-the-way auto wrecker, or maybe on blocks in a barn somewhere, and in our humble opinion, this is the best place to start if you want to make money off of your restoring efforts!

For the integrity of your restoration efforts, it is important that you transport the vehicle to your shop as gingerly as possible.  Any damage during transport can severely hamper the job, especially if rusty paneling or fenders are bent or damaged.

Although we know the basics of towing a vehicle, we usually leave the transportation job to the experts.  This advice comes from more than a few botched attempts at vehicle recovery efforts that either severely increased the project turnaround time, or completely ruined our investment.  For our shop located in Raleigh, North Carolina, we’ve don’t mind calling out our friends at Agile Towing Company in nearby Cary, NC.  They’ve consistently delivered on even the most gnarly looking vehicles

If you do decide to take the job yourself, remember – as with most things worthwhile, it pays to take your time, and tie straps are your friend.  Before moving anything, shore up any loose parts, fenders, panels or engine blocks with fasteners or straps so they don’t shift or break free during the ride.

Start With The Dismantling

Once you have decided what your goal is, the next step is to start with the dismantling of the car. You can’t just go and start ripping everything apart without a plan. You need to take note of what parts need to be removed and in what order. This is important so that you won’t have a hard time putting everything back together.

It’s also important to have the right tools for the job.  If you’re even considering a classic car restoration, we are assuming that you’re

An organized way to do this is to take pictures and videos so that you can really see all the parts. Most of us already have camera phones so use that. You can buy a tripod to help you or just find a stable place to put your phone and video yourself during the process.

Make sure that you label especially the smallest parts like the nuts and bolts. Place them in a zip lock bag and add some description as well so you’ll know exactly where to put them back.

How much you dismantle the car will depend on its condition. There may be some parts that you don’t really need to replace but just clean and remove the rust. Classic cars that are still in great shape will need less dismantling.

Working on One Project at a Time

Classic car restoration can be overwhelming if you try to do everything all at once. You need to focus on one project at a time. Once you’re done with one, then you can move on to the next.

Tackling multiple projects at a time will make you lose your focus. First, start with the important ones. After you dismantle it, you can better see which needs the most work. You can also figure out if there are additional issues that you need to face as well.

When buying parts, don’t buy all parts all at once. Take it one project at a time. Only buy those you need when you are ready to install them. This way you don’t waste your resources and also lessen the risk of damaging the parts by letting them sit in your garage for far too long.


The process involves repairing or replacing parts of the car’s body that are damaged, rusted, or not functioning properly. This could include anything from the fenders to the doors to the hood.

The first step is to assess the damage and see what needs to be done. You need to take note of the severity of the damage as well. This will help you determine if you can do the repair or replacement yourself or if you need to take it to a professional.

It’s important that you don’t rush the process and take your time doing it. This is especially true for those who are new to bodywork. It could be tempting to just quickly patch up something but in the long run, it won’t look good and would just cause more problems.

Save $$ – Sand Body Panels Yourself

It’s possible to save money by sanding your own car body panels. This process can be a little daunting, but with the right tools and instructions, it can be a relatively easy task. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you did the job yourself!

To sand your own body panels, you’ll need to gather the following tools and materials:

  • SKIL Corded Multi-Function Detail Sander
    SKIL Corded Multi-Function Detail Sander

    A high-quality detail sander – A good detail sander is an essential tool in any body shop because it makes sanding so much easier. Look for a model with multiple sanding pads of varying grits so that you can easily switch between different types of sandpaper.

  • A variety of sandpaper – You’ll need different grits of sandpaper to achieve a smooth finish. Start with coarser grits to remove any major imperfections, then move on to finer grits for a smoother finish.
  • A dust mask – Sanding can create a lot of dust, so it’s important to protect your lungs from inhaling it.
  • Safety goggles – Similarly, sanding can create a lot of flying debris, so it’s important to protect your eyes as well.
  • A drop cloth or tarp – This will help to catch any falling dust and debris while you’re working.

Once you have all of your tools and materials, you’re ready to get started! Here’s a step-by-step guide to sanding your body panels:

  1. Begin by cleaning the area that you’ll be working on. This will help the sandpaper to grip the surface better and prevent any dust or debris from getting caught under the sandpaper.
  2. Attach the coarsest grit sandpaper to your power sander and begin sanding the area. Work in small, circular motions and make sure to cover the entire surface.
  3. Once you’ve gone over the entire surface with the coarse grit sandpaper, switch to a finer grit and repeat the process. Continue to work your way through finer grits until you have achieved the desired level of smoothness.
  4. Once you’re done sanding, use a clean cloth or dust-free vacuum cleaner to remove any dust from the surface. This will help your body panels to dry faster and prevent any imperfections from occurring as a result of dust trapped under the paint.
  5. Finally, apply a primer to the surface before painting. This will help to create a smooth and even base for your new paint job.

Reinstalling Large Components

After working on the body, the next step is to reinstall all the large components that you have removed earlier. These could include anything from the engine to the transmission.

Installing the larger parts is first done because you need lots of room to get them installed. The smaller components around them will be easier to install than the larger parts.

If you need to rebuild the larger parts, then do so first before installing them. This is especially true for the engine and transmission. Once you’ve got those fitted in your car, then it would be easier to install the others.

Again, take your time in doing this. Make sure that everything is properly connected and in working order before moving on to the next step.

Axle, Suspension, and Brakes

The next step is to work on the axle, suspension, and brakes. This is an important part of the restoration process as it ensures the safety of the car.

Start with inspecting the axle and suspension for any damage or wear and tear. If there are any parts that need to be replaced, make sure to do so.

Next is to work on the brakes. Check if they are still in good condition or if they need to be replaced. Again, take your time in doing this as you don’t want to compromise on safety.

Fuel System

After the axle, suspension, and brakes have been taken care of, the next step is to work on the fuel system.

Check for any leaks in the fuel lines. If there are any, make sure to fix them immediately. You don’t want any accidents while you’re driving your classic car.

Next is to check the carburetor.  This step is especially important as a clean intake can make a huge difference on the performance of the vehicle.  Make sure that the carburetor is clean and in good condition. If not, then you might need to rebuild or replace it.

Braking System

The last step in working on the braking system is to bleed the brakes. This is done to get rid of any air that might be in the lines.

To do this, you’ll need a helper. Have them pump the brakes while you open the bleeder valves. Do this until there are no more air bubbles coming out.

Electrical System and Wiring

After the fuel system has been taken care of, the next step is to work on the electrical system and wiring.

Start by checking all the connections and making sure that they are tight. Loose connections can cause all sorts of problems.

Next is to check the condition of the wires. If they are damaged, then you might need to replace them.

Once you’re done with that, the next step is to test everything out. Make sure that all the lights are working and that the car starts up without any issues.


The next step is to work on the interior of the car. This includes anything from the seats to the dashboard.

Start by assessing the condition of the interior. If it’s in good condition, then you can just clean it and make sure that everything is in its proper place.

If there are any parts that need to be replaced, then make sure to do so. You don’t want your classic car to have a shabby interior.

You can replace or upgrade the interior as you wish. On the other hand, you can also make it as authentic as it used to be. It’s all about your preference.

Wheels and Tires

The next things to check are the wheels and tires. This is an important part of the restoration process as it makes sure that your car can move properly. It is also the part that you easily see. However, do wait until you finished restoring the other parts before moving on to these.

Some people make the mistake of spending so much on new rims that their budget needs replenishing, leaving them with nothing to work on for a while.

Start by checking the condition of the wheels. If they are damaged, then you might need to replace them. Leave purchasing of these parts towards the last, when you are really going to need them.


Once you’ve done all of the above, the next step is to troubleshoot any issues that you might have encountered during the restoration process.

This is important as it helps you identify any problems that need to be fixed. It also helps you ensure that everything is in working order before you take your car out for a spin.

Testing It Out

After troubleshooting, the last step is to test your car out. This is done to ensure that everything is working properly.

Take it for a spin around the block and make sure that there are no issues. If there are, then make sure to fix them before driving your car again.


You’ve now successfully restored your classic car! All that’s left to do is to enjoy it.

Take it out for a drive and relish in the fact that you’ve brought an old car back to life.

Classic cars are meant to be enjoyed so make sure to do just that. Drive safely and have fun!

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