Your Guide to Classic Car Restoration
Owning a classic car is not really about getting from point A to point B. People buy beautiful, old, classic cars because of the way they handle the road, the way they look cruising down the street, and the way they make the driver feel.
Cars transformed how quickly people could get around. Suddenly, an hour-long walk took only a few minutes to drive. Years after cars became common, their engineering and design element really hit their stride. The most impressive car today might be filled with digital technology and modern engineering, but in terms of speed and swag, there’s nothing quite like a classic car.
The flipside of owning such an impressive and unique car is that they need to be tuned up to specification. Not only doesn’t it make sense to drive a high-end car that needs work because it won’t perform properly, but it can also damage the vehicle.
Restoring a classic car is nothing like servicing a 2022 Honda. If you’re a very handy person that likes to get greasy under the hood of a car, there are aspects of the restoration you can do yourself. But you need to be committed, patient, knowledgeable, and very careful.
We handle all types of autobody repair in Toronto and the GTA, including restoring classic cars. Please read on for a few tips to keep in mind before undertaking a job on your own rather than relying on professionals!
Restoring a classic car takes, and you’ll need to make a few decisions at the beginning. Where are you going to store the car during this process? What parts of the vehicle need to be restored, and what’s your budget?
Determine how much you want to spend, then break it down for each section of the car. As for location, you’ll need to leave it somewhere temperature-controlled or at least safe from the elements and where it’s easy to access. Plus, you’ll need to keep your tools around and have somewhere to store those, too.
If you need certain tools, determine how much they cost or if you know somebody who can lend them. AutoOne Service has a garage full of high-tech machinery managed by experts with old-fashioned know-how.
Get the tools ready, document the work you’ve done to date, and contact professionals if you have any questions. If you start planning in this phase but come up against a shortage of parts and machinery or other issues, let us handle it!
Stripping the Vehicle
Once the preliminaries are out of the way, you’ll begin taking the car apart so you can get access to the guts, which need restoring. You’ll strip the interior, remove all wiring, and take out the engine gearbox and transmission. As you remove each of these parts, put it somewhere clean and safe, so it won’t get dusty or damaged. Even if a part is broken, keep it, so you can compare it to the new one you’ll need.
Next, remove the external panels, like bumpers, wings, trims, and clips. Be very careful in these steps not to break anything when removing the parts. Finally, remove the window glass and protect the headlights before refitting them by seeing if they need to be restored.
Once everything is stripped, put the vehicle on a rotisserie or, if you don’t have one, remove the rear axle and put it on a couple of jacks. You’ll have to remove everything underneath, like the front and rear suspensions and the brakes and steering rack. If something needs replacing, take note!
The last thing you’ll do before the next phase is to apply powder coatings to easily removable metal parts, like the wheels, axles, and bumpers. This will provide a finer finish and increased durability than paint delivers.
Now that everything has been stripped and you’ve inspected each component of the vehicle, you should know what needs to be replaced and re-ordered. Consult the lists you’ve made so far, and try to get all the parts from one location to save cost.
Of course, depending on the model, getting a transmission replacement for a classic car isn’t always easy for the average hobbyist or even possible. Contact AutoOne Service if you encounter any difficulty sourcing parts.
Sanding, Priming, and Painting
Now, the beauty waiting to burst forth out of the rust is ready to emerge, but it takes a lot of work. Removing paint may need a professional setup, as they can blast it or dip the entire shell in acid, but there are a few options you can try at home.
Replacing the rusted parts with welded steel is the simplest solution, but it’s expensive. If you can find the spoilers, bonnets, boot lids, and doors, you can replace these, too, though classic car parts can be hard to find. You can strip back the rust and give it a treatment, but this is only a stopgap measure that only puts off fate momentarily. The rust will come back eventually!
Undersealing looks great, but it’ll also provide long-lasting protection from UV rays, scratches, rust, corrosion, extreme temperatures, and chips. It’s an important pre-painting step.
First, there’s welding, which involves filling in any gaps and applying some etch primer to seal the metal. The panels need to be wiped smooth for that professional finish free of dust and dirt particles. Next, spray the shell with primer. Sand it with 500-grit sandpaper, but don’t sand too much, or you’ll need to repeat the process.
Now that the external work is done, it’s time to deal with the heart of what makes a car drive — the engine! You need to decide whether you’ll recondition your engine or go with an engine replacement.
Fully or partially stripping down the parts and cleaning them as best you can, is a big job. But why even restore a classic car if you’re going to shy away from work?
Anyway, at this stage, your budget will determine which parts you’ll need to replace or spruce up. You should probably replace all the external seals and gaskets to prevent any leakage.
It may not be a bad idea to replace the timing belt and water pump while the engine is out and you have easy access. The turbo, fuel pump, and intercooler may also warrant replacement. If replacing your engine, ensure the new one has very low mileage.
Any work involving the engine should probably be left to a professional, as mistakes can be expensive to fix. If you have any doubts, AutoOne Service can check the tolerances and look at the bearings for wear, worn valves, and valve seats.
Next, the auxiliary parts need to be removed and replaced, including the power steering pump, alternator, air conditioning pump, brackets, radiator, coolant pipes, manifolds, and turbo. You’ll need to detail these afterwards with either wrinkle paint, chroming, or powder coating.
If you’re getting a new engine, you’ll need to fabricate or buy new engine mounts. For the wiring, you’ll need all the labels and documentation from before! You have options here. If it’s a show car, you may want to hide your wiring harness. It may be quicker to splice, but you could run into diagnostic problems later if you don’t do this stage properly.
Once the engine is mounted and wired, testing begins. This is a fun phase! But make notes of what works properly and what needs replacing. Once everything is painted and up to specification, you should begin to feel really good, like your achievement is just around the corner.
Now that your classic car is painted and the engine is humming smoothly, you need to put all the pieces you disassembled back together. Begin with the mechanical parts, then work from the bottom up. The sequences will look like this:
- Reassemble your brakes
- Refit the fuel system
- Refit the rear and front suspension
- Install the wiring, and test the dash instruments using a voltage meter as much as you can
- Install the engine and gearbox
- Install the cooling system
- Re-fit the rubber and front and rear windscreens and windows
- Refit the exhaust system, head and tail lights, door glass and handles, and any other exterior trims
- Reattach the doors and boot lid
- Fit out interior trim like carpet, headliner, seats, and any accent pieces.
When all this is done, you’ll be looking at a very different vehicle than the one you had at the start of the project! The outside should look buffered and fresh, and the parts in the heart of the vehicle will be living their best life.
Finally, it’s time to get behind the wheel, enjoy that new car smell that de redolent of all your hard work, and take it for a spin! Consider this a joyride with a purpose.
You should be testing and listening to ensure everything is smooth. Small issues may become apparent, and you want to iron them out before they grow. Be diligent and keep a sharp eye and ear open.
But of all the phases of restoring a classic car, driving it is the most fun. As you remain on the lookout for issues, you’ll feel proud of the ones you don’t find. The reward after all this hard work is the wind rushing through your hair, and you’ll love passing this test drive.
Stay Behind the Wheel
Not everybody who loves classic cars loves doing their own repair or restoration work. Indeed, most people’s favourite thing to do with a car is to drive! AutoOne Service can do all of the above work for any classic car you’re fortunate enough to own, no matter how old or exotic.
Even people who have an interest in restoring classic cars don’t have the equipment or space in their garage to handle all the jobs properly. You need to be careful with these vehicles; the last thing you want to do is try to make a repair yourself only to accidentally damage a part that makes the job cost more time and money to complete.
AutoOne Service is happy to be your partner in caring for your baby’s special needs. Whatever kind of vintage car you have, we know it inside and out, and we understand how you feel about it. We feel the same way!
If you want to feel assured that your baby on four wheels is in tip-top shape so you can drive it confidently, knowing you’re a responsible owner and car parent, connect with AutoOne Service.
Expert Service for All Vehicles
We’re proud to be a full-service shop for classic cars that handle modern needs, too. AutoOne Service is just as adept at taking apart modern vehicles with hybrid engines and new electronic systems.
From regular maintenance to oil changes and larger transmission customization projects, there’s nothing we can’t do. For drivers looking for a modern vehicle with exciting pep that will also save them money at the pump, AutoOne Service is a one-stop shop for all your vehicular needs.
While classic cars need to run smoothly so they deliver the high-end performance that made you buy them in the first place, your everyday car and hybrid vehicle needs to be in a good state of repair, so it lasts a long time and drives safely.
Book an appointment with an auto electrician easily by scheduling one digitally through our website.
Restoring a classic car can be a wonderful way to feel a deeper bond with your beloved vehicle. Any time you put work into something, you’ll feel closer to it. In a very real sense, taking all the pieces apart and putting them back together will help you appreciate the mechanical miracle that cars represent.
Keep all of the above tips in mind if you plan on doing this work yourself. Otherwise, drive down to AutoOne Service and entrust your vintage car with the pros. You won’t have to wonder if something was repaired properly or fear it isn’t quite up to specification. Instead, your heart will feel light and excited when you hear the engine noises behind the wheel.