Is restoring an old car worth it, advice from a first time restorer

Is the cost and labor expended restoring an old car like a classic Mustang worth it? Well people have asked me that question and I do have an answer but for every person and car I think the answer is different. I remember struggling with that question as I was searching Ebay for a Mustang I thought I could restore. How much labor, what would it cost, did I have the skills, would I get half way done and wind up with a garage full of Mustang parts and no car….I went through it all. This was my first restoration (so far) so I was the definition of a new person to the hobby, you are not alone. I had never replaced an engine, installed a transmission, cut a car apart, or MIG welded. But that was all part of the challenge. To learn how to do these things.

For me I knew the car needed a lot of work when I got it. I also knew there were things I did not, or could not see wrong with the car so I was not surprised when I found more work that needed to be done. If you decide to start on a project be ready for new discoveries as you take the car apart, some serious, some not. Also in general things will take longer than you planned, by about a factor of three. As for cost of course it will be more than you think. But for me I did all of the labor myself and that is where a major part of the cost is. While I spend some money it was not crazy and was very economical by most standards. Even the engine I got was a bargain. Extra research and leg work got a kick ass 302 re-manufactured long block with a 5 year 100,000 mile warranty for less than $1500…..shipped to my house. The message there is do your research and read read read. Websites like mine, forums, books etc are all great resources. By far I found the most useful place for advice was forums. There are a lot of people out there ready to help that have done exactly what you are doing right now and they are a great resource.

I did not count the hours but it was a ton. Some of my friends (and family) were convinced that I was going to get part way done and give up but I could not let that happen. When you start out make sure you get a car in a good enough condition you at least have a chance to complete. I am particularly hard headed (it’s a flaw and a gift) and even though this was my first restoration I knew I would get it done. Make sure you have the time an energy needed for the level of restoration your car will need. I would not recommend a restoration like mine for any first timer. Get a car that does not need as much work. Of course that is going to cost more for the car but it will also increase your chance of completion. If you think a restoration is replacing some carpet, a little paint an putting on a carb then get a good car from the south that does not have any rust. My car had one foot in the grave with rust but it was a convertible and therefore was worth the effort to restore. If it had been a coupe it would not have been worth the work, unless you had an emotional attachment to the car.

I literally put sweat and blood into this car, was it worth it…hell yes. I drive it now with pride knowing I did all the work. When the top is down and the sun is setting, wind in my hair an engine purring it just does not get any better than that. I get stopped all the time with complements on the car and people find it hard to believe I did it all myself in my garage, but I did. If you have wanted to restore a car be it Mustang or Model T go for it, but be realistic. The rewards are in the work itself and the end product. Take pride in the small victories along the way to stay motivated. When you complete a major part of the resto but are months/years away from completion look at your handy work and take satisfaction in it. One step at a time. So see where you are, how much you want to take on and go for it…go out there and find that classic old car and give it a new life!

Dan

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