What Is A Classic Car Restoration and Why Does It Cost So Much

First of all the basic definition of a classic car restoration is to return a classic car to new or better than new condition. This means a lot of different things to different people. I will try to demystify what is it to the best of my knowledge.

Let’s remember when these cars were new. They really didn’t stop very well, and they were good in a straight line but through corners, they didn’t perform that well. They had a lot of power and poor gas mileage, so you need to decide what it is you are looking for in the classic car restoration.

During my time in the industry, I have seen a lot of people very disappointed after they restore their cars because they think it will be better than it was when it rolled off of the factory assembly line, and this just is not the case unless you let the shop know that you want the car modified.

What a classic car restoration is


  1. The car is restored to factory or better specs.
  2. The products of today are better and the ideas and tools are better than the old days so you can expect much better quality than the old days.
  3. Paint products have no question gotten better, we aren’t forced to use the old lacquer paint because we have better options.
  4. A shop interested in quality will not shove a rusted, or rotted area full of Bondo and call it good, this used to happen a lot in the old days.
  5. The processes, in general, have gotten better so the job is more through.

Why does it cost so much

  1. The average restoration is about 900 hours of work, this is a car that is in pretty decent shape, without a lot of rust and most of the systems are in good condition.
  2. More rust work makes the cost go up exponentially, this is according to the extra hours of labor and extra parts cost. If your car has a lot of rust repair expect to spend money to fix it.
  3. You have decided that you want some custom parts or custom paint work. This also makes the cost change based on the parts you want and the install time, custom paint means extra prep work and masking and this is more hours added to the end game.
  4. Parts and labor are where the expense happens.
  5. The best way to save money is to start with a good car, to begin with. A car that has very little rust and good mechanical systems to start with before you buy the car plan to have a professorial classic car inspector look at it.

Save yourself as much agony at the first, and this will translate into a classic car restoration that is fun and enjoyable. Although you should not plan not to have a surprise or two, it will always happen. You will have a much better experience if you spend money at the first and get a good car to start with.

A Classic Car Can Be A Fun Family Project

Over the years I have written a lot of articles about classic cars and the virtues of them. Nothing has changed a restoration project can bring the family together and help them learn about and respect classic cars and the restoration of them.

I’m not going to lie and say that they are cheap to build, they are not cheap. They take a lot of time and effort to restore the right way. You need to build a game plan to restore your first classic car, and every one after, over time you’ll get better at the money and budget part of the process.

The first thing that you need to do is decide what car you want to restore. If it is to be a family project I suggest having a family meeting and get everybody’s input. After you have decided on what car you want to restore you can begin the hunt for the perfect candidate for your project.

You should plan on spending at least $10,000 if you want a good classic car to start with. You should sit down with the family again and determine what your skills are in the restoration of a classic car. Is your strong area body repair and paint, interior repair, or mechanical repair, you will need to have knowledge in all of these areas or know someone who does.

The less work that you have to farm out to a shop the less money you will spend. If you are tight with money plan to do most of the work yourself. Talk to your friends and get the low down on what they know about the restoration of classic cars.

For your first classic car, I would suggest trying for a car that the manufacturer built a lot of like a Camaro, Mustang, or Chevelle or something along those lines. If you’re a Mopar guy and you’d like to build a Mopar for your first project I would suggest that you rethink that idea.

They made fewer Mopas than any other muscle cars. This tells you that parts are harder to find, and because of that, they cost more money to build. Chances are you won’t be able to buy a good starter car for that $10,000 I suggested either.

These are that things that you should look for in a starter restoration project.

  1. A car with little or no rust, rust is the hardest thing to fix body wise.
  2. A car with the electrical system in good condition.
  3. Most of the interior plastic parts in good condition
  4. Check the door and fender gaps, they should look uniform and be 1/16″ to 1/8″ wide
  5. Non-uniform gaps always mean that the part has been removed and re-installed.
  6. Check hood to fender gaps and deck lid to quarter panel gaps.

I may have missed one or two things here, but this is a good place to start. I would also suggest that you have a professional classic car inspector look at the car just to be sure. Classic cars are a lot of fun, but they can turn in to a huge can of worms very quickly.

If you leave as little to chance as you can the project will be a lot more enjoyable. You will have a lot fewer issues with it. Remember classic cars are supposed to be fun. They are not supposed to cause problems with you or anybody involved.

Are You Selling Your Classic Car

Are you selling your classic car? The idea is to make sure that you get what the car is worth, you don’t want to lose on the deal. If you plan to sell the car by yourself it requires studying. You need to know what the fair market value of your car is.

This can be found by studying the car, and learning all of the ins and outs of your particular car. If your planning to sell the car to a collector to pull the most money out of the sale beware that most collectors are shrewd and they know every nut and bolt on the car, they are only buying as an investment.
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