Choosing a Car Restoration Project

 You are listening to “Twisting the Night Away” originally by Sam Cooke

So you are interested in rodding or restoring a vehicle, maybe it’s your first car restoration project or maybe it’s not. Whatever the case there is a lot of factors to be considered before you commence with it. Such as, purchase price, availability of parts and supplies, cost, labour, machining costs. Whether to buy a basket case, a partly finished or running vehicle, or a completed vehicle. Not to mention the primary use the vehicle shall be needed for eg. Drag Shows, Rod Runs or Everyday use.

The first thing to be considered is will it be your only means of transport, or secondary? If you are a family man, a sedan, tourer or club coupe maybe more practical. If you are single or you have another form of transport, a coupe, roadster, pickup or a T Bucket may be your choice.

Whatever your choice, your next decision is where do you find the car of your dreams? Even though these days old cars can have ridiculous price tags on them there is still the odd bargain around. Locating them can be done in a number of ways, eg. word of mouth (at a club meeting or in a pub), someone might say “I know where there’s a Model A in a shed.” But when you check it out it is an old Hupmobile or the like, but it pays to check just the same. Maybe you prefer a different type of vehicle or if you are not interested you can pass the information on. Newspaper adverts are another channel. Don’t just look in the cars for sale but also the parts, tenders, auctions of deceased estates and the swap columns as you would be surprised what you can ferret out of these. Another way is to go Vintage Tin Hunting on the weekends.This is the practise of driving through the countryside, or even around city streets, looking down driveways, and into garages, or sheds and barns that you can see from the roadside (binoculars come in handy here)  and if you see anything that interests you and you want to have a closer look at what lurks in their buildings or on their properties, go ask at the owners house for their permission first. Never go on someones property without getting their approval first.This is the most pleasant way to find cars as you also get to see more of the countryside and surrounding districts than you normally would.
Just a helpful note: In the 60’s, a mate and I used to do this quite often and we found a lot of old tin, especially Model A’s and early Side-valve V8 Fords this way but what we also did was carry a pen and notebook around with us to jot down the locations as we couldnt buy everything all at once, but we often past the leads on to other friends that might be interested in a particular vehicle.

Another effective way these days is through the Internet which provides various ways for searching for vehicles such as through Trader Sites, Club Sites, Automotive forums and Message Boards to name just a few ways, or you could post your own Wanted Notice on the various Trader sites for the type of vehicle you are after. There’s also Club sites, message boards etc.

Remember when choosing that, the three main brands, Ford, GM and Chrysler will be more readily available which means so will the parts supplies, but don’t turn your back on an old Plymouth, Oldsmobile or Durrant perhaps because although generally you will have more hassles building it up, think what a head turner it will be when it hits the streets and how it will stand out from the croud.

Generally speaking a runner or completed car will suit you if you don’t have much time or mechanical knowledge to build it yourself. Look at it this way, you want to get involved with the sport and although you have the interest but not the expertise, this could be the only way you could do it, so good on you.
Partly finished vehicles are also good for people that like to save all the hard work but finish them off themselves with their own personal touches. It must be remembered alot of die hard rodders purchase finished or partly built cars only to tear them down again and rebuild them to their own personal preference and ideas. But then you might find the odd vehicle advertised with only needing minor work and TLC to get it going again, only to find that TLC means “Tons of Loot and Cash!”

Basket case projects are a totally different kettle of fish. You need lots of time, patience, money and either an understanding wife, girlfriend, parents, or neighbours as you will most likely burn the midnight oil to all hours, banging and crashing around in the garage or carport. The main reason that there are so many basket cases available is that it is easy to take a car apart and lots of people don’t label parts and take photos before starting the project then forget how the thing goes back together again. Then they are reasonably cheap to buy because most people just want to quit them off and recoup some of their loses, but they can be really expensive to do up.

How is it we can always see the finished project cruising down the road but can never see the Blood, Sweat and Tears and the large amount of cash to get them there? Usually they are advertised for such low prices it makes them seem more attractive and sometimes come with loads of spares which may not necessarilly be the same model but the owner wants to get rid of them. Grab these anyway as they make good swap meet material and you may be able to sell or swap them for that part you need for your project.

The last way is to scratch build your dream car by either using original iron, or fibreglass replicas and build everything the way you want it. You can be proud driving ‘your car’ whether you built it yourself or bought it completed as you all have the same common interest and had the determination to get involved with your personal motor vehicles be they Hot Rods, Vintage, Street Machine or Classic …..

Happy Cruisin