What Does a Beginner Need to Know About Restoring a Muscle Car?

What Does a Beginner Need to Know About Restoring a Muscle Car?


Muscle cars have been an American mainstay for generations. In fact, plenty of people dream of restoring a muscle car to its original splendor. Even a muscle car that’s not exactly in the greatest shape can be brought back to glory. However, restoring a muscle car takes some planning and consideration.

If you’ve been interested in buying a muscle car to transform into your favorite set of wheels, take some time to review this quick guide meant for first-time car restoration enthusiasts. Consider it a basic roadmap to help you get from Point A to Point Z. And make sure you enjoy the journey!

You May Have to Travel

Unless you know of someone who owns a muscle car and wants to sell it, you’ll have to find your muscle car through a private dealer. You might even have to go to an auto auction specializing in antique, vintage, or muscle cars. While that’s exciting, you’re not necessarily going to be able to drive the muscle car you purchase away from the site. More often than not, you’ll have to figure out some other way to get it home or to your restoration garage.

Why wouldn’t you be able to drive your muscle car right off the lot? The truth is that countless muscle cars for sale just aren’t operational. Plus, the muscle car you buy may have sat for years without any kind of use or maintenance. Trying to take it for a spin could wind up in disaster. On the other hand, even if your muscle car can travel, you might not want to add extra mileage to the odometer. This is definitely a consideration if it’s very old or you plan to resell it after your restoration project.

The easiest way to bring your muscle car back to your house is by renting a travel trailer. Travel trailers are constructed to safely move vehicles from one location to another. All you need is the right type of truck and hitch, and you can seamlessly move your muscle car from California to South Carolina!

As a side note, you should also budget for your own travel costs while seeking out travel trailers to rent. For example, if you’re going to drive a couple of days to pick up a muscle car you bought through an online auto auction, you’re going to need a place to stay. Additionally, you can expect to order food, not to mention cover the cost of gas. These should all be factors that you keep in mind.

Plan for Storage

After you’ve gotten your muscle car back home, you might want to dive right into the restoration process. Nevertheless, you’re probably not going to be able to do anything immediately. You might even have to wait weeks or months to start restoring a muscle car depending on your schedule and financial situation. Even if you’re able to start restoring it right away, your restoration project could take a long time.

Where will you keep your muscle car in the interim or in-between visits to the shop? It could be at your own home, which would be convenient. Or maybe you have a friend with indoor storage who offers to let you use the storage for a low or reduced rate. Just remember that you might need to pay for your pre-owned auto to sit somewhere, like an indoor storage facility designed for cars that won’t be driven any time soon.

No matter what type of indoor storage option you choose, be sure it’s climate-controlled. Otherwise, you could end up with a muscle car in worse shape or with more problems. You should also ensure that your indoor storage locale is free from the risk of flooding. Water damaged vehicles are notoriously difficult to restore. Instead of worrying about excess moisture, keep your new “baby” where it’ll be high and dry. In other words, don’t store it in a damp barn on your uncle’s property by the ocean.

Consult With A Pro

For beginners restoring a muscle car, getting advice from an auto body repair expert is a must. Your technician will help you understand what you need to do to get your car up and running safely. It’s worth paying for someone you can trust, particularly if you’re not overly familiar with how different muscle car makes and models work.

One word to the wise: If you can find an auto body technician who has restored a muscle car before, go to the head of the class. Though this isn’t always possible, it’s preferable. Someone who has a deep understanding of restoring muscle cars will bring a wealth of knowledge, information, and tips to the table.

Along these lines, you may even want to bring your pro with you before you finalize your purchase. Plenty of automobile collectors wouldn’t dream of buying a set of wheels before getting feedback from an auto body repair person. Consequently, if the muscle car you want is local, ask a technician to go along with you to look it over. You’ll be much happier with the transaction, and your technician will already have a heads up about the project.

Don’t worry, though. You can still get your hands dirty and dive into the restoration experience. Technicians will understand that you may want to do some of the work yourself. Just be upfront with your auto body repair professional so he or she understands what you expect to outsource versus what you want to handle solo.

Invest in Insurance

It’s probably no surprise to hear that Americans lose more than $230 billion each year because of car crash incidents. Unless you’re going to gamble on your newly purchased muscle car, get the right kind of insurance for the vehicle.

What type of insurance should you buy? Honestly, it’s a good idea to go with the most you can afford. Restoring a muscle car can be expensive, despite being fun. The last thing you want to happen is to lose your shirt if your muscle car is involved in an accident. Again, don’t take anything for granted. Protection is critical and makes sense — even if it costs you a bit more than your average car insurance plan.

In other words, forget about trying to get the cheapest auto insurance coverage you can find. Talk to a well-respected broker, and maybe even find someone who specializes in insurance for specialty vehicles. If your muscle car falls under the category of being an antique, you’ll need extra kinds of coverage, such as classic or collector car insurance. That’ll mean finding a place that offers primarily that type of insurance.

Change the Locks

You may have to replace the doors of your muscle car. You may not. Regardless, get a car locksmith out to at least inspect the locks. A car locksmith can give you advice on whether or not you should change the locks, or whether you should keep them as-is.

For example, let’s say that you buy an older, but not vintage, muscle car. Even though you don’t have to change the locks, your preferred locksmith may recommend upgrading the locks to something more modern. As long as you don’t feel that adding techno-savvy keyless entry locks would reduce the overall value of your muscle car, why not consider it?

Another reason to contemplate changing the locks is for your own ease of use. Do you really want to struggle with old, potentially rusting keys and locks? If you bought your muscle car to enjoy when the weather cooperates, why make life challenging? Change the locks and never look back.

Of course, you may just want to change the locks for the same reason that new homeowners often do, which is to limit the probability of theft. Though you may be convinced that your muscle car seller doesn’t have a spare set of keys, can you be sure? It’s definitely something to keep in the back of your mind.

Change the Brakes

You bought your muscle car from an owner who claims the brakes were recently changed. They seem to work well and haven’t squeaked once. You’re not worried. But should you be?

Most car restoration specialists would tell you to at least look into getting the brakes changed or replacing semi-worn brake parts. This is especially important if you plan to immediately drive your muscle car around, even while it’s undergoing various stages in the restoration process. Again, this is where having an auto technician you trust in your corner will absolutely help. Your well-respected technician can give you the lowdown on whether or not your muscle car’s brakes are an asset or a liability.

What happens if you need brakes and want them to be authentic to the age and era of your auto? You may need to hunt around for authentic brake parts, or at least brake parts that simulate the original brakes. Expect this to take a little investigation. Oh, and be patient. Fortunately, it’s much easier to find brake replacements online than it used to be before the Internet took off.

You May Need Custom Glass

Like brakes, your muscle car might come with genuine original parts that require replacement. A top problem is glass that’s seen better days. For instance, your muscle car may have a cracked car windshield that simply wouldn’t pass inspection. On the other hand, you might need a complete car window replacement after you fix or replace a rusted or missing door.

The bottom line is that they literally don’t make cars like they used to. And they don’t make glass for cars like they used to, either. As you’re restoring a muscle car, you will no doubt want to find out about custom glass possibilities.

Is it hard to get custom glass for your muscle car? Yes and no. The answer depends on how popular your muscle car was. If plenty of your make and model were manufactured, you can probably find custom glass to fit. If your muscle car was unusual, it could take you months or years to locate the perfect car windshield or car window replacement.

At the end of the day, you should accept that you could be in a situation where you just can’t find honest-to-goodness glass from another muscle car. That’s okay. Many makers of custom glass can replicate the overall look, feel, and function of older auto model glass. That way, you can get a wonderful outcome from restoring a muscle car, even if you can’t locate authentic parts.

It Might Get Messy

Here’s the hard truth: Restoring a muscle car isn’t the cleanest thing you can do. In fact, it’s downright dirty. But that’s why you’re involved: For the thrill of getting messy and coming out with a clean car boasting a showroom shine!

While you can’t make a muscle car restoration project much cleaner, you can try to mitigate any spills and built-up grime. First, make sure your garage flooring is meant to handle the stress of a mess. Many flooring types are created for simple clean-up. It’s a wise investment to redo your garage flooring, particularly if you plan on restoring other cars in the future.

Secondly, set up an organized space for your tools and equipment. This will help mitigate clutter, which will also mitigate dirt. It’s much easier to sanitize a space that’s tidy. Additionally, you’ll be more motivated to keep your areas spotless if you have a place for everything.

Finally, take time after every restoration session to do a little scrubbing. Spending just five minutes picking up after yourself will make a world of difference. Besides, it will be nice to come into a bright garage that isn’t a disaster area the next time. Oh, and be sure to set aside specific clothing just for restoring a muscle car, such as grubby shirts and jeans, or a pair of work overalls and boots. Your clothing budget will thank you!

Embarking on the thrill of restoring a muscle car isn’t for everyone. Yet if it’s in your blood, you’ll find it an amazing adventure. Just be prepared for what happens when it’s over. More likely than not, you’ll want to do it again and again!

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