Classic Car Restoration – A Challenging Hobby

By Christine Harrell

Classic car restoration is a hobby that requires know-how, creativity and patience to turn an old beater into a gorgeous show-stopper. Cars that were made a lifetime ago require special care and upkeep. Rather than letting them sit in the barn and rust, most classic vehicles need repairs, attention and a lot of TLC. Since most daily driver vehicles today are computerized and made from corrosion-resistant metals and/or fiberglass, and even carbon-fiber in some cases, classic vehicle restoration projects often require hard-to-come-by body parts for inside and out. This is especially true for cars whose manufacturers are no longer in business.

Many vintage car owners are forced to scab together parts, modify generic replacement replicas or get lucky and find usable pieces from other enthusiasts. Once the car lover has the parts, it can be tricky to maintain or install, even working on the basics. While many car parts were standardized in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, the dealerships often exchanged optional and even stock features among different cars on their lots in order to make a sale. Air conditioners, for example, often arrived in the back seat in mid-’60s cars. The dealership mechanics would do the installation. If a customer wanted a/c on a car that didn’t have it, the dealer would remove it from another and add the option to the sales price, complete with on-site installation. Fixing an a/c unit today without completely modifying the entire system is impossible due to Freon issues and wiring problems.

While finding car parts is hard enough, fixing them or installing them is even trickier when one is not well-versed in the inner workings of that particular vehicle. From carburetors to wheel bearings, step-by-step instructions are crucial to getting the car started and moving versus leaving it in the barn. Repair manuals and do-it-yourself restoration guides are the most reliable ways to lay the groundwork for any auto project, especially the classics. While they may come with the car from a benevolent seller, they are hard to find in regular bookstores or the public library. In most cases, they are no longer published and can only be found on websites where online car repair manuals are sold or at swap meets for car enthusiasts. Without the bible for the car’s inner workings, completing a restoration is difficult, if not impossible.

Chilton repair manuals can be found online, as well as Bentley or Haynes auto repair manuals. Even the most knowledgeable car buff can be stumped when it comes to classic cars. Internet forums can be helpful as well, especially when the vehicle noises of unknown origin that you can’t seem to pinpoint. It is most helpful to find a website catering to the same make as the project vehicle.

For example, classic Chevy lovers will be more able to help the owner of a Chevrolet vehicle, than a Mopar or Ford owner. The risk with this is that while they mean well, sometimes the advice is sketchy or incorrect. While classic car restoration can be a fun hobby, it is most satisfying for those with a lot of know-how, mechanically inclined friends or a vehicle that has already been restored and needs only minimal upkeep. Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information about online car repair manuals, please visit

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