Know When To Fold ‘Em: Signs a Classic Car May Be Beyond Restoration

Know When To Fold ‘Em: Signs a Classic Car May Be Beyond Restoration

January 27, 2016 / 0 Comments / 136 / Blog
restoration project, classic car, barn find, classic car buyer, unique car buyer, vintage car buyer
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As every parent knows, it’s hard to see your babies grow up, a grim truth that classic car collectors especially understand when debating if their vintage automobile is beyond restoration.

See The Forest Beyond The Trees

restoration project, classic car, barn find, classic car buyer, unique car buyer, vintage car buyer

When solving mysteries, sometimes detectives can be too close to the case to discover the clue. Similarly, when determining the value of your classic car, don’t stand so close that all you can see the are the obvious dints and scrapes — you want to step back several to fully appraise its condition. Publications like the “2018 NADA Classic, Collectible, Exotic and Muscle Car Appraisal Guide & Directory”  can guide your eye as you determine its worth. From checking for sagging doors to the condition of the upholstery, there are a milieu of factors that contribute to estimating the value of your classic car.

The first step in determining if it’s worth restoring your collector car is going through and fully appraising your old glory. From there, you learn all that is needed to fix, replace or refurbish in order to bring that dream to life. If the full cost of that project far exceeds the value of the full restoration, as well as the joy that you’ll glean from owning a restored piece of history, then that’s the first red light in your noble pursuit.

Is The Whole Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

As every vintage collector knows, a classic car is more than just the shiny chrome product in the driveway — it’s the sum of many different, original, and almost irreplaceable parts. In each vehicle, there are about 30,000 parts, according to Toyota, including everything down to the smallest screws. Though some parts may be replaced with newer or modern pieces of engineering, a truly authentic restoration project requires original parts to be salvaged, discovered or bought — a time-consuming and expensive endeavor.  

As you decide whether or not your collector car is worth a full restoration, consider the parts that will be required to bring your dream vehicle to fruition. If you don’t want to spend the time or money chasing parts that may or may not exist, then perhaps it’s best to live another day and dream another dream.

Sweat Ain’t Always Equity

For most classic car collectors, the journey is as much part of the dream as the end result. Understanding the early mechanics of a several decades-old engine, rethreading nuts that had long been stripped by rust, reclining on the concrete to replace by hand brake pads along rotors older than your eldest child — every bit of sweat that spills out is a bit of love poured into the project.

Nonetheless, that’s a lot of sweat. According to several classic car restoration shops, some projects may require over 2000 hours of labor, a commitment most would struggle to make on their own. However, even the most skilled mechanics may need to tap out for some assistance, which doesn’t come cheaply — especially with vintage restorations. If your classic car seems to require more labor than you can afford, it may be a sign to retire your baby before that first bit of sweat falls.

Too Much Restoration, Too Little History

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Those in the business of classic car restoration know by heart the fable of George Washington’s axe — though recovered, it’s been through three new handles and two replacement blades, which begs the question, is the resulting weapon still a piece of history or simply a piece-meal tool that’s got a supposed story to it?

With car restorations, the same question comes to mind: if too much of your collector car has been replaced, is the resulting vehicle truly a restored piece of history or no more than an expensive homage to a long-lost time? From the undercarriage to the frame, there are many pieces of metal to that hunk of beauty you call your baby. If too much must be replaced to bring it to full restoration, then you might be better off keeping the memory of what was than creating a shadow of what might have been.

Taken Too Many Spins

Art can hang on walls, but still the paint will fade. Models may win pageants, but their youth will never last. Collector cars are no different — with each mile it drives, another dollar of its worth ticks off.

As automotive journalist Jacob Clifton writes, “a car is not equity: it’s an ongoing expense.” Beyond the cost of bringing a collector car to full restoration, there’s also the cost to maintain that value you labored tooth and nail to restore. If the costs of parts and labor are already a burdensome expense, consider as well how often you’ll be driving that beautiful hunk of restored glory. If you can’t afford the costs to maintain, on top of the costs to restore it, then perhaps you might as well rest easy knowing you could have brought that dream come true.

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