For Those who have had their experience/s doing restorations with everything from a minor refurbishment to a rotisserie what are some of the key tips that you would give to those 1st embarking on this journey?
Take many photos as you can before and during tear-down.
Bag and tag using non-erasable pens. Make a spreadsheet of everything and where you put it.
Plan on at least 3 times the area of a car to store the parts.
Don’t throw anything away until the car is complete, and even then, you may want to keep parts not used.
Get the assembly manuals. After 50 years the chances that your car is still original is greatly diminished.
All great advice above. I’d take a step back and think and study clearly what is the end goal that you want to achieve? For me it’s ideal to work on the car during the winter months but be able to cruise and show the car in the summer. I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of a productive working area. It’s helps keep the “fun factor” of the various projects high.
We should define ‘Restoration’.
Cosmetic all the way to concours, and beyond.
Pick a direction and stick with it.
Not sticking to a goal was what got me in trouble with my 1st attempt. That was long ago. Still, I know that lesson all too well.
Hmm… I would first make sure that a restoration / refurbishment is what you really want to do.
I always recommend that someone get their classic running and driving safely first. Then take it out and enjoy it for a while. Take it to some shows, drive it around and get a feel for it. Make sure that you actually enjoy having and driving an old car before you commit to spending a small fortune restoring / refurbishing one.
Take your time. Sometimes you just have to walk away from it for a little while, but always come back to it. NEVER give up. Don’t except to only take a few months, years is more like it.
I second Mikes comment.
Butt in seat time is very important.
Also realize before you spend a dime, you will most likely never recoup your money you put into your car, unless it is a rare car.
Assess your current skills, will you be doing the work ( mechanical, body, interior ) or farming it out, How complete is your car and are you looking to keep it completely stock all the way down to NOS equipment ($$$$), mostly stock ( still $$$ if you are missing parts ) or you can live with stock where you already have the parts and replacing things or fabbing your own is acceptable to you.
Our Cougar sat for 14 years in my driveway ( my wife’s grandmother originally purchased the car new back in 67).The car was a stock 67 standard no major fluid leaks in the engine and transmission and the engine ran but needed help, the steering was quite twitchy and the brakes SUCKED (we stopped driving it because the power drum brakes went to the floor, so disc brake upgrade is a huge PLUS in my book). WHOA is more important than go.
Here is what we did
- Drain Fuel tank and check for any signs of rust. If rust is present, replace fuel tank and fuel lines.
- Clean and rebuild the carb.
- Drain and change the oil
- Change the spark plugs
- Fire up the engine and make sure she runs good.
- Drain transmission and replace filter and fluid
- Flush radiator and fix any leaks
- rebuild front suspension and convert to front disc brakes ( Our car is for our enjoyment, your preference of power vs manual )
- rebuild rear brakes including new lines
- rebuild rear suspension ( Our car had a sagging rear and a nose high front )
- Change the tires
- Enjoy the ride!!!
Then after you had time in the seat and built up your money,
- remove everything from engine compartment and front end; engine, trans, fenders, nose, etc (engine and trans to be rebuilt)
- remove exterior chrome for repair and re-chrome
- strip interior and remove glass, media blast and paint
- media blast and paint engine compartment (rims too)
- bodywork and paint done
- install carpet and headliner (Do the headliner before reinstalling the glass!)
- front and rear glass installed
- get dash and wiring back together
- enjoy the ride!
You can get the seats re-upholstered anytime as they are easy to remove and install from the car.
Now have I done everything on this list in the order specified? NO, but you should learn from my wisdom. I did 1-5 and 8-11, and went back and did 6 and 7. I must admit, I was also lucky that my father in law had the body work and paint done on the car 25 years ago and it looks good from 20 feet. I have also pulled the seats and carpet and installed tunes, reinstalled carpet and seats, then pulled the seats again to install a console.
I spent about 6 months working on the Cat up until I was able to enjoy the ride in step 12. Shakedown to get everything to my liking was another 2 years. I also have a Trans Am in my garage that I did #13 and 15 and it is still sitting in my garage for more than 25 years.
Again learn from my wisdom…
Here’s my site supervisor enjoying “his” car.
I’m pretty much doing the same thing and you do become very familiar with the car with-in steps 1-12.
That’s the idea. Make sure you are OK doing those projects because chances are good that you will do them more than once during your ownership
If you don’t like doing 1 through 12 then you probably aren’t going to like owning an old car.
I have been working on my 1969 Cougar for a couple of years and have the following suggestions. They are in no particular order. I would like to stress how important it is to take pictures. You can not have too many of them when it comes time to reassemble the part of the car you were working on. I always wish that I had taken more. I suggest writing little notes on tape, sticking it to the part, and then take the picture. Either that or mark up the picture on the computer. Label every single wire that you disconnect so that it can be reconnected properly. Label every connector. Use sandwich bags to keep track of the screws, bolts, fasteners, etc. that go with each major part. Write where they go to on the bag. Down load all of the various electrical, mechanical, and vacuum schematics that you can find. WCCC has a good selection. Buy the FORD maintenance manual. It is expensive but becomes invaluable when you are stuck. I found that a set of stubby wrenches and flex head gear wrenches were a lot of help. There are many places that a regular wrench will not fit and a small one will. Spend the money to buy good quality parts. Even though your time is of no value you do not want to do the same things twice because you were too cheap the buy the right thing. Rust is your enemy. Do what ever you can to treat rust. Rustoleum and Eastwood have a lot of products for passivating and removing rust. Take advantage of all of the videos available on YouTube. There are a lot of good ones that cover a lot of the major tasks. The people on this forum are very helpful and there is a lot of good information if you search for it. I think that the most important thing is how you view working on the car. If you enjoy working with your hands/tools you will have a good time since the work on an old car never ends. Otherwise you will be really frustrated and unhappy with how long it takes to get things done to your satisfaction.
I would make sure you have your budget defined and available before you start anything. Many projects get torn down and started and then the owner runs out of money and there it sits for a decade or two. Whatever you think it will cost, double that and add another 50% for good measure.
Take your time when at first doing specific tasks. As experience grows so does efficiency. For the saying goes ‘one needs to be able to walk before they can run’.
Take pictures, then more pictures of everything. Then when you think you’ve taken enough, take more! I bought a whole other car for re assembly reference due the amount of time between tear down and re assembly. It’s easy to sucked into the restoration rabbit hole! It’s easy to get overwhelmed but people on here are great and will point you in the right direction if you get lost! That’s a shout out to Jeff, Royce, Mike, Scott, and countless others…
A huge part of restoration by owner is getting your mind right. Speaking for myself, in spite of the fact that I have learned a lot over the years, those same years have also taken a toll on what I can do. So it is important that I not be constantly disappointed that things take longer than they did when I was younger. Given that here are a few observations that I try to keep in mind:
Try and accomplish something every day. Even if it is just organizing the parts a little better or cleaning up some random part.
Do not create a schedule that puts you under stress. Anxiety over how long something is taking will eat away at your soul and make you feel like a failure. It will turn small set backs like a broken stud into huge catastrophes. Relax. This is about the process.
If at all possible, try to get the car running and driving periodically. A drive around the block can sure make a lot of pain disappear in the rear view mirror.
Celebrate your victories. Think about what you did, not everything you need to do.
Creating schedules is an issue for one can only project so far. The longer that scope of time, being as a factor, the greater the variance and the more difficult it is to make projections. It may be helpful to ask ‘what can I accomplish in one day?’ It is easier to predict a day than a week or a year for that matter. Adaptiveness too is a good trait being that there are times when a roadblock is encountered, until a remedy presents itself opportunities to fix or condition other areas will present themselves. I like to think of Bruce Lee’s philosophy of being like ‘water’ as it adapts to changing conditions.
These are words of wisdom…I too have found these simple things to be the biggest help for something that is long term. I may not get to accomplish something everyday but at least weekly and very rarely biweekly. Anything longer and you risk loosing interest. Even just buying or sourcing the next part you need. That is one more step towards your goal.
Driving mine was a huge thing. One of my first goals was to get it running so I could make some trips around the block, My first drive was without doors!