I’ve been fiddling around with motors the best part of 40 years now and it’s safe to say that there’s more than a few things that I know that I wish I knew when I was starting out. Luckily for me, the risk of messing up a project as a teenager was fairly low and I rarely had enough invested in any one vehicle to be completely ruined by an elementary error. When I first started out restoring vehicles, I used to bargain with the local scrap man for rust buckets, usually offering my own time as a payment for the cars. So when I inevitably broke a gearbox or snapped a fan belt, I knew that I could always head back to the scrap man for another weekend of graft in return for parts.
I’d like to think that local scrap men are still good enough to offer kids cut prices on classic car parts, but something tells me that its a tradition consigned to the history books, especially as today you can find every part that you’d ever need for even the most rare of barn finds on the internet. So, for the time being, you can consider me to be your kindly scrap man, offering some sage wisdom to those starting out in the exciting world of car restoration for the first time:
Car clubs aren’t cults!
I used to eye car clubs with suspicion, seeing members as evangelists of their chosen make or model, but today I recognise them for what they are: experts in their field! These people are often incredibly passionate about their cars and are almost always willing to share their knowledge.
Looks can be deceiving.
Whilst you might think that you’ve found an absolute screamer of a barn find from the pictures on the internet, looks can be deceiving. The world of used cars can be a deceitful one, don’t be too trusting. Take as close as a look as possible before committing any money to a project.
Don’t rush into a purchase.
There are some sellers who may wish to get rid of their car as quickly as possible, but don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making any purchases. Don’t be convinced that what you’re looking at is a one in a million find – remember that these machines are mass-produced!
Always take a friend to new prospects.
Besides being an essential safety precaution when meeting new people that you’ve met online, having a second pair of eyes can be truly invaluable when prospecting a new find. One person can chat with the seller, whilst the other can have the opportunity to nose around unmolested.
Plan your project properly.
I’ve lost count of the number of half-finished projects that I’ve taken off people over the years. So, before you make any investment, it’s crucial that you plan your project. This means budgeting finances, as well as time so that you have a clear timeline ahead of you when you start work.
Understand your limits and don’t overstretch yourself.
I know how tempting it can be to grab a bargain when it’s right in front of your eyes, especially when your imagination is filling in the blanks and transforming the rusted Ford Cortina Mk3 into a gleaming Concours-ready specimen right in front of your eyes. Try and resist biting off more than you can chew on your first few projects so that you’re not banging your head against the wall months (or years!) down the line.e
The internet is a valuable resource.
Finally, if you do find yourself stuck for any reason then remember that the internet is the infinite resource that is already ready to help! Whether you’re looking to YouTube, online clubs, forums or even Wikipedia – you might be surprised how many people have been in the same boat as you and are willing to help you out.