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How to Restore a Car

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How to Restore a Car



  • Step #1

This is important. You need to ask yourself: "What do I want?" this also must be followed by "What can I afford?". This is often overlooked by most when restoring their car. Answering these two questions honestly will insure that what you end up with is (1) something you will enjoy, and (2) that it will get done. Be sure to see our FAQ page. Also see my Original or Custom? page for help making up your mind.

  • Step #2

Find a good project car. A good place to start is eBay! If this is your first time restoring a car find a friend who has, or better yet a local car club or the restoration shop that will be doing the work. Have them help you decide if the car if worth the asking price, and if it will fit your ideas and budget. Depending on what you want and your budget you may be better off spending more on the project car. Labor and parts can add up quickly so beware. A project car in rough shape may lend itself better to custom work rather than an all-original restoration. The fastest (and generally the cheapest) way to ride around in a classic is to buy a complete car, BUT buying a project insures that you get a car that you will love!

What ever your decision, Corbett's Auto can help you find it & build it! Please see our Locator Services to help you find that hard to find part.

  • Step #3

The car must be striped of all part and carefully cataloged. Insure you have plenty of room, a disassembled car takes up 3 - 4 times the room it did when it was together. It is very important that everything is labeled and sorted so reassembly will go smoothly. Decide what is salvageable and what must be replaced. Be sure to check out our parts catalog, we now carry restoration parts from one of the top manufacturers in the country.

Another tip when when you get tho this stage...... DO NOT REMOVE MORE THAN IS REQUIRED...... In an old car you will always find something to replace and sometimes it is better to not know what is behind the 'dinga-flatchy'....

  • Step #4

Now the body must be properly prepaired... Depending on condition this can be accomplished by sanding, sandblasting, or chemical dipping. A paint job is no better than the weakest link. If the old original paint flakes off it will take the new paint with it.

This is also the time for rust repair.. YOU CAN NOT REPAIR RUST WITH BODY FILLER (BONDO)... Nor is "tiger/kitty hair" a good alternative. The first goal is to find the leak that caused the problem and be sure it will not cause it to happen again. Then the rust must be cut out and replaced with NEW metal, properly sealed and metalworked to the proper level of quality. For help with this be sure to check out our new site devouted to building custom cars and repairing rust..... Fabbit Customs

  • Step #5

Now a quick talk on an often-overlooked item, mechanical restoration. This is very important especially if the car is to be a daily driver. The main components are engine, transmission, suspension, brakes and last but not least electrical. When in doubt replace or rebuild. Check out reference manuals, never be afraid to look up what you do not know. The time spent reading a book will pay off in the end.


  • Step #6

Now the bodywork. The most expensive paint job money can buy will look no better than a $199 Macco special on top of shoddy bodywork. It is very labor intensive but worth the time to insure that the body is straight and that all panel line up before a drop of paint is sprayed.

  • Step #7

Reassembly time. This takes three times longer than disassembly, but with each part installed you can see the car slowly taking shape. Great care must be taken during the reassembly process to insure that you do not damage or scar any pieces you spent so much time restoring. taking it slow is a challenge that will pay off in the long run.

  • Step #8

Once together all that stands between you and the road is upholstery. There are many companies that carry interior kits. This is a very good choice if you are under budget constraints. For added flare to your restoration project you may consider a custom job. Call around  many times it not as high as you might expect, and well worth it if you are looking for a certain look.

  • Step #9

Now its time to enjoy the car of your dreams. Don't be afraid to drive what you have worked so hard to build. A car is meant to be driven, so get out there and show off all the many long hours you put into your restoration project.

This is just a brief idea of what goes into a restoration. If you need more information give us a call. We will be happy to help you. We can help you with every step from project selection, inspection, to purchase consultation. We can also help you find parts and with our partial restoration services help you with the repairs that you feel are over your head. Also for the do-it-yourselfer we carry a complete line of restoration parts from Dynacorn and our Restoration supplies.


Contact us

If you would rather not be involved with all the specifics, tell us what you want and we can handle the whole restoration from beginning to end. We believe the only person who know what you want is you, so we listen, and do it your way, period.