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How to articles; classic car restoration

How to know when a classic car is restorable.

Page 11

Mechanical

Imagine going to look at a restorable classic car. You've gone through so much effort to find someone selling the classic car of your dreams and you finally have an appointment to look at it. You meet the seller, he tells you he'll be out to the garage in a minute to let you look at it. Your heart is pounding and the anticipation is killing you! It's taken you so-o-o long to get to this point.

Finally he comes outside to open the garage doors. He really only took about a minute but it seemed like 10. The seller is busy talking about how he found your favorite classic car as the garage door raises. You can see the front bumper under the rising door. The seller is still talking but you don't hear a word because of your excitement. Finally the door is up all the way and you can see the front end of the car now even though the garage is a bit dark. You go inside with your eyes fixed on the car.

In your mind, as your eyes adjust to the dark, you can envision the 2 tone paint, the white wall tires and the gleaming chrome trim all over the car. You walk around the side and open the door using the dusty door handle. The door sags and you have to lift the door to close it. You wipe your hand off on the side of your jeans. You try a few more things and find the trunk won't close properly, the hood won't stay closed, the car sits low around one of the wheels because the springs are broken, half the tires are flat, and the brake pedal goes all the way to the floor. Hey...Who said this car was restorable?

Have you been there before? I have. Should you feel discouraged about this prospective classic car restoration?

How you feel about tackling a restoration project like this depends on the type of restorer you are. This may not be a restorable car to everyone. If you are a level 5 person, you might not give these mechanical problems a second glance since you've seen it time and time again. A level 1 person may run from such a car.

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Is it as bad as it appears?

This is where you need to know the parts market for the make and model of classic car you intend to restore. If you are going to take on a restoration, no matter what your level of participation, you will need to know the availability of replacement mechanical parts. Without this knowledge, you may not have a clear snapshot of how much labor, time and money this classic car needs for you to restore it. You should know this before you go shopping for a restorable classic car.

Let's use my 64 Impala as an example again, for a basis of comparison. The availability of parts for the 64 Impala is better than it has ever been. Even GM did not sell the wide selection of parts during the 60's and 70's that are available today. Unless you are shopping for a 64 Impala however, you cannot count on this to save you from buying a restorable classic car that is beyond your capabilities, or your budget.

The list of mechanical items on a classic car restoration can be extensive. In order to know if you are looking at a classic car that is worth the asking price, you should have a checklist to run through, a reasonable idea of what the average asking prices are for the classic car in question, and the general condition of the classic cars you can get for those prices.

Hey...Let's face it. Cars, especially classic cars, wear out!

A mechanical parts checklist

Here is a summarized checklist. These are the mechanical items you will need to check when looking at a prospective restorable classic car. The majority of these commonly wear out.

  • Hinges: doors, trunk deck lid, hood, glove box door.
  • Wipers: usually noisy if worn out.
  • Window regulators: Often windows bind because of worn parts.
  • Latches: trunk, hood, doors.
  • Suspension: dry rotted bushings, ball joints, tie rods, sagging springs. In fact, just write these off as no good. Even on an unrestored low mileage classic car in excellent condition, these will be bad simply because of time. Don't forget the rear suspension!
  • Brakes: leaky wheel and master cylinders, rusted drums are almost impossible to remove.
  • Interior components: Heater controls, speedometer, air vents, seat adjusters, column or floor shifter, turn signal lever, light and wiper switches (yes, these are mechanical).

Use this list, or a list of your own the next time you look at a restorable classic car. Recalling the condition of a classic car is far easier to do when you have a list to reference. A comparison between two or more classic cars will then be a lot easier..  Next page (Interior)

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