While it may be easier to take your vehicle to a mechanic or body shop when it needs repairs or restoration, being able to do the work on your own is truly rewarding- and all of the money saved in labor costs doesn’t hurt either. Classic car owners recognize the importance of fine craftsmanship, a good work ethic, and flawless results. Plus, working on your own classic car forms a bond between man and machine- and that is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Detailed below, you will find all of the necessary steps to get you started on fixing up your pride and joy, one of your largest investments (no, not your wife, although she’s a close second): your classic car.
1. Read up: Find a large variety of literature on your classic car and dive right in; the more information, the better. Years ago, it may have been close to impossible to find some, if any, text on a first-generation Charger but now, the Internet is at your fingertips. Search for online repair manuals, original car owner’s manuals, etc.
2. Inspect: Search your car for heavily rusted areas, worn-out belts, leaks, faulty connections, worn-down seats, etc. From here, make a list of everything that needs replacement. Once the list is made, you can figure out where to buy the parts.
3. Shop: Go to your local junkshops/junkyards for non-mechanical pieces like rear-view mirrors and seats. For everything else- carburetor, brakes, piston, engine, etc- you’re going to need new parts. This is where the Internet becomes your best friend; you can literally find anything and everything online. If you know of a local shop that supplies what you need, that’s obviously fine too.
4. Repairs/Replacements: First up is the engine. Even if you’re not replacing it, it’s necessary to take it out anyway to clean it and to perform the appropriate maintenance work. Take out the seats if they need to be reupholstered, the headliner if it’s sagging, and all of the other components that are in bad shape. Unless you’re a whiz with reupholster jobs, you may want to consider taking them to someone who knows what they’re doing. Without the seats and engine, the car will be lighter so you can jack it up and work underneath without the fear of having an accident. Take the tires and wheels off if you really want a lighter-than-air feel. Consult those online repair manuals for extra guidance.
5. Test Drive: After you’ve made your repairs and replacements, put everything back in its place and take your baby out for a test drive. This way, you can make adjustments, if necessary, before you paint it. You don’t want to scratch your freshly painted car by putting the engine in and taking it back out again.
6. Paint: Create your car’s color scheme. If you’re going to the full-on authentic look, you just need to find the name of the original paint color; the exact brand isn’t crucial. Search local shops for the color you’re looking for. Use newspaper to cover whatever you don’t want painted- mirrors, glass, chrome pieces, and tires. Make sure you PRIME before you paint; DO NOT just cover over the old paint. Be sure to spray in one direction, which will result in an even finish.
7. Enjoy: Your classic car is fully restored! This is the time when you step back, admire your work, and have a beer…or three.