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Cars aren't built to last forever, and throughout the years, a car will wear down until it isn't drivable anymore. If a vehicle has lost its ability to drive, in most cases, you take it to an auto scrapyard. But, some cars are worth saving, as their vintage beauty, speed, and history can't be wasted in a scrapyard. While restoring a classic car can be a tough process, it is worth it in the end when you can drive a rare piece of history.
For a full restoration of a classic car that is not in working condition, you will need to spend between $30,000 to $70,000. This amount will have the vehicle back in working condition with a shiny paint finish. The restoration shop will need to completely strip the car's frame bare and build it from the ground up again.
If you are restoring a car that is in working mechanical condition but just needs a little cosmetic work, you are looking at spending $10,000 to $15,000. A minor restoration includes disassembling the car, performing minor metal repairs, and painting it with high-quality paint.
So, what's the process of a car restoration? Read further to discover how to restore that rusty classic car into something that takes you back 70 years in time.
The Process of a Complete Car Restoration
For a complete restoration, the car has been sitting for a very long time in someone's backyard and has become overrun with rust. At this level of rusting, you will need to do extensive bodywork, mechanical repairs, and electrical system repairs. It will not be an easy process, but it is possible to restore most cars to their original form.
If you are looking for a project car to restore— eBay is a great place to look for your vehicle. To determine the costs of these restorations, we will be using the average labor costs of a restoration shop that is $77 per hour and the average hours it takes to complete the task.
Step 1. Stripping the Car's Frame
Cost: $1,540 to $7,700
The first step of any car's restoration is disassembling the car and stripping it down to its bare frame. With every part removed from the car's chassis, you will be labeling and deciding if it needs replacement. Many people get carried away in this process and choose to replace everything on the car, but many parts stand the test of time and are still functional. After they account for every piece, the restoration shop will give a quote to purchase the parts needed to start the restoration process.
Step 2. Prepping the Car for Paint and Repairing Body Damage
Cost: $1,550 to $5,400
To begin a car's restoration, most shops will start by prepping the car for painting and repairing any body damage. If the vehicle does not have considerable rust damage, the auto shop will sand, sandblast, and chemical dip the body. If the car has large amounts of rust, it will need repairs, or the new paint will flake off. A professional restoration shop will cut out the rusted pieces of the body and replace it will new pieces of metal.
Step 3. Mechanical Restoration
Cost: $10,000 to $35,000
Mechanical restoration is one of the essential parts of car restoration and often overlooked. Depending on the state of your car, you may need to perform costly repairs to the engine, transmission, or suspension to get the car back in running condition. If you plan on making the restored car a daily driver, mechanical restoration is the most critical part of the rebuild.
When removing and analyzing the state of your mechanical systems, if you are in doubt if you should replace it or not—that's a sign that it needs replacement. The costs for this part of the restoration can vary greatly depending on your car's situation, so it is hard to place an estimate on these repair costs.
Step 4. Painting the Car
Cost: $7,500 to $15,000
When the car is back in working condition, it is time to perform the bodywork on the car. A professional paint job requires multiple layers of paint, polishing, and attention to detail. A professional paint job will have the car looking similar to when it was brand new and will make it eyecatching. For a quality job done by a restoration shop, you will need to purchase quality materials that are durable and resistant to harsh weather.
Step 5. Reassembly
Cost: $3,000 to $14,000
Now that everything has been restored, it is time to put the car back together. The reassembly process will take longer than being disassembled, so you will need to pay for more labor hours at the restoration shop. With each part placed back on the frame, you will see the car start to take shape and become good as new. Each piece needs to be placed carefully back on the car's structure, so it is not damaged or scratches the new paint job.
Step 6. Interior Work
Cost: $2,000 to $7,000
The final part of car restoration is repairing the upholstery and restoring it to its original form. Over the years, a car's upholstery will start to wear out. Depending on your budget, you can opt for an interior kit that many companies carry, such as Classic Car Interior. If you have a higher budget, you can have a custom interior job done at a restoration shop on your restored car for a cleaner finish. A custom interior job can be done to meet any of the specifications that you have in mind for your car.
Is it worth Restoring a Car?
To determine if restoring a car is worth it, you will need to think of the reasons why you would like to restore the car. Don't restore a car if you plan on reselling it for profit—the repair costs almost always exceed the worth of the car. You may be able to make a profit if the car is a rare collectible with only a few left. The main reason why someone should want to repair a car is for their enjoyment. A classic car is a rare sight, and if it is one of your dreams to own a classic, you can't place a monetary value on that.
Another fundamental question to ask yourself is what your budget is for the restoration. You will need to be realistic with yourself and determine if you can afford a complete renovation for your dream car or a minor repair for a car that is in better condition. If you have the budget to restore a car, then it will be worth it.
How Long Does It Take to Restore a Car?
To place a time frame on the restoration of your car, you will need to consider a few variables. The current condition of the vehicle, your goals you want to achieve, and the restoration shop's workload are all crucial factors to consider. For the average complete car restoration, you will need approximately 1,000 hours of work done on the car.
Putting all these factors together, you are looking at the average time frame between eight months to four years, depending on the urgency of the restoration. This process can take longer if you decide to do the restoration yourself, due to the learning process needed to restore the car. Professional restoration shops have the knowledge already of restoring the cars, and their time frame will be shorter as they need to finish as quickly as possible to make a profit.
What is the Easiest Car to Restore?
The easiest cars that you can restore are classic Ford Mustangs dating from 1965 to 1970. These cars are easily restorable because their parts are still being manufactured today. The components of these cars can be sourced at an affordable price, making for a cheaper restoration compared to other cars of the same age.
Along with the cheaper parts, there are many resources dedicated to helping you restore your Mustang, with experienced help to answer all of your questions. Many books have also been published that help you restore a classic Ford Mustang and gives you all the information you need for a successful restoration.
Now that you know the full process of restoring a car, you can start to plan the goals you want to achieve with your restoration. For a complete car restoration, you will need to have a budget of $30,000 to $70,000 to finish the process. The prices will vary with each car model, condition of the car, and the quality of parts you choose.