Rattle Can Resto

If you have even been to a big car auction, then perhaps you have seen some of the finest restorations around. Or have you?

I see cars for sale all the time that are represented as "fully restored" and "like new". I have had the opportunity to check out many of these cars in detail. Most of these cars are sold on smooth shiny paint, fresh chrome, clean upholstery, and maybe some speed parts. Many people are awed by this kind of automotive presentation, and the drool begins to flow. Maybe the cash begins to flow as well. 

All cars will have some noticeable defects in the paint or interior, chips and scratches, etc. Wear and tear, or minor assembly marks are pretty much standard equipment. Most people aren't building Riddler Award cars, they are building real cars, and they are mostly far from perfection. That's life.

To have a restored car, one must have actually restored everything. I see far too many cars that someone pulled out of a field and did just the cosmetic stuff to make it look nice. A quick spray bomb chassis black on everything underneath does not constitute a restoration. If a person is claiming a car as restored, it means a whole lot more than just spray can black. Not every car needs gloss black paint and cad plated bolts on the chassis, but there are appropriate categories for every car, from daily driver, show car, rat rod to just plain dangerous. Many owners or sellers haven't categorized their car correctly.

I frequently find myself going back over "restored" cars and correcting things that should have been done in the first place. For instance: worn out king pins, damaged axle bearings, leaking wheel cylinders, corroded brake lines, worn distributor bushings, sloppy tie rod ends, leaking gaskets, and paint over rust and grease are all things that I have corrected on very nice looking "restored" cars. These problems were present when the car was fixed up but they weren't addressed, leading to reliability problems down the road. 

To perform a proper complete restoration of a classic auto is a very time intensive, very expensive process. Few cars are actually valuable enough to justify a total concours restoration. Very few cars are worth more than the cost of a total restoration. It's pretty hard to come out money ahead on a vintage car, and that's why people cut corners. Keep that in mind next time you are at an auction. It's easy to tell the flippers from the restorers: flippers are happy to make a deal, restorers have so much time and money in the car that it pains them to sell it!

I see people asking #1 condition prices all the time, yet very few true #1 cars exist. If you see a car with nice outer cosmetics but a crusty spray paint chassis, walk away unless you are prepared to get in there and do the work that will need to be done, even if you are just going to drive it, there's work to be done underneath to ensure that it's safe to drive. Educate yourself by reading competent, useful literature such as The Philosopher's Wrench!

On the flip side, these things aren't always problems to the properly prepared restorer. These are opportunities. Opportunities to make things better by knowing that it can be done the right way! It doesn't matter if your car is a rat rod, beater or show car, there is a proper way to do every job. 


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