Whether it’s a ’71 Hemi ‘Cuda or a Gullwing Mercedes that you’re drooling over at a car show, it’s only natural to lust after a similar caliber of restoration for your own project car. Unfortunately, a concourse-quality restoration is simply out of the budget for most car enthusiasts. Even so, not every vehicle has to be restored to like-new condition. A partial restoration may be just thing for someone interested in having a functional and drivable vehicle, but without all of the bells and whistles of a complete restoration. This can have you on the road in your favorite classic for just a fraction of the cost.
Partial restorations can encompass many things. A fancy new paint job with all new trim is ill-advised if your car cannot be driven because of a faulty braking system. If you want to drive your classic, restoring the core mechanical systems may be the best place to start. Making sure the vehicle is safe and road worthy should always be the top priority. This includes the brakes, suspension, and wiring. Likewise, in order for a vehicle to operate properly on the road, the fuel system needs to be free of leaks and debris. A fuel system that is dirty and leaking will result in poor performance and can be a potential fire hazard. Classic car engines can be fairly resilient, so a basic tune up along with fuel and oil treatments can bring an engine back to life.
If the mechanical items on your car are already in good condition, a new paint job can constitute a partial restoration as well. If the body damage is on your vehicle is only minor, basic body and paint restoration might not require completely dismantling you vehicle. In most cases, the paint will need to be stripped, but if the door jambs and other painted areas are in good shape it may not be necessary to strip or even repaint those areas. Always remember that when stripping a vehicle, be aware of the underlying problems that may be hidden underneath the paint. This is why we want to strip the cars before we paint. Painting over old paint and body work will only cause future problems.
For cars with solid mechanicals and sheetmetal, an interior restoration is a great way to enhance the comfort of your project. Your car will still roll down the road with old carpet, seat covers and a falling headliner, but will not be as pleasant to ride around in. Replacing only what is necessary is always a possibility. If you have just a small tear in a single panel on the seats, this panel can be replaced without replacing the entire cover. Headliners, door panels, and the carpet can also be replaced in sections as well.
Although partially restoring you vehicle can be a great way to get your classic back on the road, only repairing what is needed will be an ongoing process. Just like a new car, a classic needs maintenance and attention. Another thing to consider is the additional cost of going back to fix a problem that could have been prevented by completely overhauling any give part or system on your car. Remember a vehicle can be restored to fit your needs, and our intimate goal is give our customers what they are looking for.
A chrome widget is a chrome widget, right? Wrong! Many of our customers refer to all of the shiny parts on their vehicle as chrome. In truth, real chrome represents only a fraction of the shiny parts. Knowing what parts are actually chrome, and what parts are shiny widgets that just look like chrome, will help you get a better handle on the true costs of chrome restoration.
Although chrome is a term that’s thrown around a lot when referring to trim and bumpers, on most vehicles the trim is usually made from stainless steel or anodized aluminum. Items that are usually chrome include the bumpers, door handles, emblems, taillight and head light bezels, and mirrors. Chrome can add an enormous amount to your final costs, so be prepared. Door handles can cost $85-$125 to re-chrome, and bumpers run anywhere from $300 - $1,000. Pricing always depends on prior condition before re-chroming work can begin. Pot metal or rusted pieces can take many hours of labor to make into chrome-worthy piece, and afterwards, they still might not be 100-percent flawless. Plastic can also be chromed by specialized shops, and pricing is about the same as chroming metal.
Stainless steel can be one of the biggest difference makers in cost during a classic car restoration project. Most of the window trim, wheel opening moldings, belt line moldings, and drip rail moldings are usually stainless. Stainless is very forgiving when it comes to polishing and straightening. A skilled polisher can save just about anything as long as it’s not ripped or punctured. Many polishers charge by the foot and the price goes up according to width.
Anodized aluminum is simply polished aluminum with an anodized coating. It’s luster means that it’s yet another material that’s commonly mistaken for stainless steel. Old anodized aluminum can usually be identified by chalkiness or by whitish-colored scratches. Anodized aluminum is commonly used in grilles, headlight surrounds, body side moldings, aftermarket wheel openings, aftermarket rocker moldings, and in some dash trim. Anodized aluminum can be straightened and polished, but comes at a cost. In order to polish anodized aluminum, the anodized coating needs to be stripped off. Not all polishers will strip the coating properly. The removal of the anodized coating makes the aluminum more susceptible to tarnishing a fading. Stripped anodized aluminum needs constant waxing to keep its show quality shine, and will eventually need to be re-polished. The re-anodizing of the stripped moldings can be accomplished, but will come at a high cost and it can be hard to find a qualified person to do the work.
Other types of material that can be chromed are brass and copper. These materials are more common on vehicles built before 1960. Black chrome is another option that is available for custom options. Many other types of material can be polished or chromed and a quality chrome shop will recommend the best options for your parts.
Without a doubt, the economic downturn has taken its toll on musclecar values. If you think that means that it's a bad time to buy a musclecar, then think again. The truth is that what the upper echelon of super-rare musclecars may have taken a big hit, and original '71 Hemi 'Cudas are no longer selling for $2 million, many musclecars are still pulling in well over six-figures. In fact, many of these models have yet to peak.
Apparently, we're on the only ones who think so. Check out this interesting article we came across that lists 10 musclecars that are still brining home the bacon. Among them are the '70 Olds 442 W-30, the '70 Buick GSX Stage 1, and the '69 Boss 429 Mustang
Pro Touring muscle cars are a dime a dozen, but how about a Pro Touring classic Ford truck? As much fun as it is to restore muscle cars, it's nice to mix things up a bit from time to time. Precision Restorations recently took on a cool 1963 Ford F100 project truck. As the Pro Touring guys found out a long time ago, yesterday's chassis, suspension, and brake technology is no match for today's modern cars and trucks. The beauty of a body-on-frame truck is that with a little (or a lot) of creativity and patience, you can swap a modern chassis beneath an old worn-out classic truck, which is exactly what we're doing to this '63 F100.
The project is still in its very early stages. We started by pulling the old F100 cab and bed off its factory frame, then mocked them up on the 2007 F150 frame. It looks like we're going to be shortening the new frame by quite a bit. Stay tuned for regular updates. We definitely have our work cut out for us with this project, but with the tremendous benefits in ride, handling, and braking the new frame promises to offer, it will be well work the effort.
Over the last several months, the Precision Restorations crew has been hard at work restoring Chevy High Performance magazine's second-gen Camaro project car. Since it's arrival last fall, Project F73 has been completely disassembled and stripped down to bare metal. Bye bye poo brown paint, and hello Prowler Orange! Last week, we laid down the first coat of primer, and began straightening out the body lines. F73 is just about ready to hit the paint booth, but in the mean time, check out this cool rendering (above) that designer Eric Black (www.eblackdesign.com) whipped up.
To recap, Project F73 is being transformed from a worn-out stock musclecar into the ultimate Pro Touring machine. Currently under the hood is a hot 500hp small-block, which will eventually get replaced with a 769hp supercharged LS3. For confortable freeway crusing, the stock slushbox has been replaced with a Tremec TKO600 five-speed manual trans, which sends power back to a Moser 9-inch rearend.
Hanging with late-model Covettes and Vipers on the road course calls for some serious suspension hardware. To accomplish this, F73 has been fitted with a Detroit Speed and Engineering four-link rear suspension along with a DSE front subframe assembly that includes new tubular control arms, C6 Corvette spindles, and adjustable coilovers. Sticking it all to the pavement are 18-inch Rushforth Livewire wheels wrappe din massive 335/35-18 BFGoodrich KDW tires.
One of the coolest musclecar projects currently under construction at Precision Restorations is this '65 Mustang fastback. This sweet ride is a cross between Pro Touring a Pro Street. It packs wicked 347 small-block complete with Pro Comp heads, a forged rotating assembly, a 6-71 supercharger, dual Holley 600-cfm carbs, a Tremec TKO five-speed manual trans, and some big fat meats. Here's a short video of the Precision Restorations crew firing it up for the first time!
As you can see, this Fastback has come a long way over the past several months.
In recent months, companies like Holley, Edelbrock, Fast, and MSD have each released self-tuning EFI systems. These slick systems bolt in place of a standard 4150-style carburetor, and literally tune themselves. All you have to do is install a high-pressure fuel pump, hook up a few wires, enters a few basic engine parameters into a hand-held tuner, then turn the key. In the past, the biggest drawbacks of an EFI system were cost and complexity, but the sub-$2,000 price and self-tuning ability of these new systems make upgrading to EFI more appealing than ever before.
Among the major benefits of a fuel injection system is its superior drivability, fuel mileage, idle quality, and cold-starting ability compared to a carburetor. EFI systems constantly monitor engine load and ambient air conditions, and consequently, adapt to variations in weather conditions and altitude. This means less tuning. Even though a carburetor can be adjusted to run sufficiently, air pressure and weather changes can affect the performance of you engine. Likewise, starting your fuel injected engine is made much easier, as a carburetor uses a manual, vacuum, or electrically controlled choke to mechanically restrict air flow. On the other hand, a fuel injection system automatically adjusts for the proper air/fuel mixture depending on environmental conditions.
Traditionally, one downfall of a fuel injection system has been complicated installation procedures, but manufacturers have taken great strides to take this hurdle out of the equation. Let’s take, for instance, GM Performance Part’s Ram Jet 350 EFI crate motor. This system is can be bought as a complete setup that includes the wiring harness and computer. To simplify the installation process, all wires are pre-terminated and labeled for their specific location. All that’s left to wire up is the ignition wire, 12v power supply, and the ground. While that’s simple enough, what can be challenging at times is converting the gauges in an older vehicle to work with an EFI system. Finding the proper ports for sending units can usually be done, but when running certain accessories the ports that are available may be limited.
The new crop of self-learning EFI systems eliminate these challenges by vastly simplifying how the computer interfaces with the engine. The fuel injectors, fuel rails, manifold pressure sensor, and idle air control valve are all integrated into the throttle-body assembly, so all you have to do is bolt it to the manifold and you’re good to go. All these sensors plug directly into the EFI computer, and don’t interface at all with the existing gauges, drastically simplifying the installation process. One caveat is that self-learning EFI systems to require installing a wide-band oxygen sensor into the exhaust system, but this is a simple task that only takes 20 minutes or so to pull off, and the result is ultra precise control over the air/fuel mixture.
Each of these systems includes a hand-held controller that connects to the computer. Once installed, all you have to do is enter some basic engine information such as the displacement, target idle rpm and rev limit, and camshaft size. Using that information, the computer generates a baseline engine tune, and once the car is on the road, it uses feedback from the oxygen sensor and MAP sensor to tune the engine automatically on-the-fly. The starting price of these systems is roughly $2,000, which is still more than twice the price of a carburetor, but for many hot rodders the benefits are well worth the price of admission.
Sandblasting is one of the most effective to remove rust from a classic car restoration project. Despite its effective, however, there are several potential drawbacks to keep in mind. The sandblasting process can be extremely aggressive, so before you start blasting away, make sure you are prepared for the consequences. As such, it’s imperative to make sure to disassemble each and every part that unbolt, otherwise you risk destroying any moldings or trim pieces that you never intended on stripping in the first place.
Furthermore, remember that sand will find its way into every nook and cranny of the car, so be sure to remove all the glass and window tracks inside the doors and quarter-panels. Sand can also makes its way into the grease in the window tracks and regulators and cause them to grind. Suspension and drivetrain parts—such as the balljoints, tie rods, brakes, rearends, and transmissions—can be adversely affected as well.
To minimize the potential drawbacks of sandblasting, taking a few simple precautions goes a long way. If you have extremely thick paint, it’s a good idea to machine strip before you try to blast all of the paint off from the beginning. Blasting will heat the panel up, which will cause a large flat area to warp. Warpage from sandblasting can ruin a panel beyond use. Blasting hoods, roofs, deck lids, and large flat areas have the most potential for warping. Consequently, machine stripping, baking soda blasting or acid dipping are often better options for these types of panels.
Although sandblasting is effective, you must be prepared for hidden problems it may reveal. Just when you think you have a solid project car, put it up on a rotisserie and blast the entire thing, sandblasting can reveal that you have created a lot more work for yourself. Sandblasting can remove dirt, rust and paint so what you thought was just a surface rust might actually be riddled with pinholes. The sand will blast right though the weaker points of the metal and create multiple small holes. This can happen from one end of the car to the other, so be prepared to find a lot more work after a car has been blasted completely.
To sum it all up, there are many aspects of sandblasting an entire car, and these are only just a few of them. Sandblasting will remove the rust you can see, but it can also cause a lot more work. This is a double edged sword as it may cost you more money and time, but can add to the durability of your restoration since sandblasting will help you discover problems and fix them. It will also allow you to start from scratch using higher quality materials than what was used originally.
It seems inconceivable that big-block powered Camaros, ‘Cudas, and Mustangs once left the factory with drum brakes. Since every other car on the road also had drum brakes, however, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. That’s not the case anymore since a modern minivans or SUVs are equipped with much more powerful brakes that yesteryear’s performance cars. That means anytime there’s any late-model vehicle in front of your classic, you’re at risk of getting out-stopped in an ugly, metal-crunching kind of way. As such, disc brake conversions have become very popular in recent years. When swapping out the drum brakes on your classic car for a set of discs, it pays to do your homework.
Disc brake conversion kits are available for just about any type of car imaginable. The aftermarket is loaded with options for most musclecars, and kits are even available for cars like classic Porches and Jaguars through specialty vendors. It all sounds very promising, but the overall health of your brake system must be taken into account before turning a wrench. While disc brakes provide more even stopping power, is your master cylinder isn’t up to the task of supplying them with adequate pressure, they will not be as effective as possible.
Likewise, when replacing you drum brakes, make sure you have carefully inspected the condition of your current steel brake lines. Look for crushed, pinched, rusty or corroded metal lines. These types of lines can be a liability, as they are more prone to failure. Also check the rubber hoses going from the frame to wheels, and fomr the frame to the rearend housing. Most brake kits come with new rubber lines since discs often require a different-length line.
Many older brake systems have a single master cylinder, but it’s often worthwhile to upgrade to a dual-master system when upgrading to discs. This will take some extra plumbing in the system, but will be well worth the improvements in safety and efficiency. To make the process even easier, the aftermarket offers brake pedal and master cylinder adapters that will make it possible to use a Mustang- or Corvette-style master cylinder.
Don’t forget that disc brakes may also require larger-diameter wheels for caliper clearance. Many cars equipped with drum brakes came with 14-inch wheels from the factory, which in most cases will not clear the calipers in a disc brake system. Furthermore, disc brakes may also require disassembling some of the front suspension components. Consequently, this is a good time to replace worn out balljoints, control arm bushings, or tie rods. There is no sense in taking the time to disassemble old, worn-out parts but not replacing them.
In the end, when contemplating a disc brake conversion, consider all of the other things that may need to be addressed in order to complete a quality job. These extra things can drive up the cost, and can transform a small brake swap into a complete suspension and brake system rebuild.
Installing a quarter-panel skin on a musclecar or classic is a great way to repair rusted and damaged quarter-panels, but welding one in place and getting everything to line up just right can be tricky. Nevertheless, it’s well worth the effort because removing the skin allows for easy access to wheelhouses and trunk drops, so that these areas can be easily repaired at the same time. Here are a few tips on installing quarter-panel skins that will save you time and money.
The first step is to make sure that you have the correct parts and the coverage area is what you need. Skins can come in many different sizes, and you may have to reconsider if a skin is the right choice for your repair. For those that are unsure whether you should patch, skin, or replace a quarter-panel, check out our handy guide.
The next step is to assess where to remove the old quarter-panel. Most new skins will have overlap sections in the door jambs and along the rear edge. Do not use these overlaps since they will cause fitment issues with other parts. Try to get close to an upper bodyline, as this will reduce the amount of fill and also reduce the risk of major warping when welding. Make a rough cut with a cutoff wheel or a pair of sharp shears. Only trim out enough to lay your new skin on top of the existing panel by keeping it about three inches down. Stay about an inch or so back from the door jamb and rear edge. Do not use an air hammer to make your rough cut, as it will distort the quarter-panel and create more work.
Once you have made a rough cut on the quarter-panel, trim out the spot welds on the wheel lip and remove the remaining portion of the quarter. In some situations, depending on the amount of rust and the coverage area of the new skin, you will remove the spot welds and old quarter-panel along the rocker and trunk drop.
Next, trim the new quarter-panel. To start, trim the front edge of the panel ¼- to ½-inch behind the curved edge of the door jamb. The same applies to the rear edge. Trim it a ¼- to ½-inch from the edge of the existing panel. Finally, trim the top edge about one- to two inches down from the body line you are using.
Now you need to lay the trimmed quarter-panel into place. Use claps and screws to get the fit right. You should have an overlap of about 1- to 1.5 inches around the top and sides of the panel. Use self-tapping screws and locking pliers and clamps to hold the new quarter-panel in place. The lower section should go in the factory quarter-panel mounting locations. Trace a line from the trimmed, new quarter-panel to the existing old one, and then remove the skin for final trim work.
You will now trim the top edge of the old quarter roughly ½-inch down from the traced line. At the front and rear edges, trim along the line to allow for a tight butt match. Now you will need to use a flanging tool to flange the top edge of the quarter-panel. This tool costs around $45 at Harbor Freight Tools. Flange the top edge of the new quarter-panel so the old one will lie in flush. Also, punch the holes in the wheelwell and along the trunk drop and rocker, making sure the holes will line up with the flat, spot weld areas.
Now slip the quarter-panel in place underneath the top section. The overlapped section should be less than ½ inch. Make sure to use a weld-through type of primer on all mating surfaces. Screw and clamp the panel back into position. Use plenty of clamps and screws to hold the quarter-panel tight and flush in all areas. At this point the quarter-panel should be in place, flush on the front and rear edges, and the overlap at the top should be flush on the exterior surface.
With the quarter-panel in position, it’s time to weld. Start by tack welding small spots along the top and side edges. Weld the quarter-panel along the top edge in short ¼- to ½-inch stitches while skipping a weld every 10 to 12 inches. The goal is to keep the panel as cool as possible. This is a very crucial step since the hotter the panel gets, the more it will warp. Take your time and go slowly. Rushing through this procedure will only cause problems and additional work. Make sure all the seams are welded solid and verify that the spot weld are nice.
To finish up before final bodywork can begin, grind all the welds as flat as possible, going slow to keep the panel cool. Once you have grinded the welds, you can now start to body work the seams. Use a first coat of fiberglass body filler as a base, and finish with a high-quality body filler.
Before you call it done, make sure to seam seal the top edge on the inside of the trunk and quarter window area, and also along the rocker panel. For added future protection, use a can of rust proofing and a straw to reach the areas in the trunk drop and above the wheelhouse.
To recap, take your time, make sure you keep the welds small, and grind them down as much as possible before you start final bodywork. And remember to patch in or replace any other items like a trunk drop or wheelhouse before you final fit and weld.