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How to start a hobby restoring classic cars

hobby Statista figures show that, between 2019 and 2023, the UK classic car market is set to increase by £510 million, to £1.18 billion. That’s a whopping sum, showing classic cars are as popular as ever in the UK, and our love for them is only set to continue. If you love nothing more than admiring the graceful lines and retro features of classic cars, have you ever thought of learning to restore them for pleasure or profit? Believe it or not, starting out is easier than you’d think…

Step one: find a car

Everyone’s classic car tastes are different, so while we can’t help you decide upon the retro motor restoration project of your dreams, we can help you whittle down your shortlist. When starting out restoring cars, you want to choose a low-cost vehicle that had a large production run. That means if you mess things up, there are plenty of parts out there on the market, and if you end up not clicking with your new pastime, you won’t have invested a huge amount of cash in a single motor.

Try and find a vehicle that has a large community of restorers already working on it, so you can benefit from forums, guides, and other sources of helpful info.

If you want to dip your toe, find a car with fewer problems than the pack so you don’t have a herculean task on your hands and you can learn skills slowly, from the ground up. Ask the seller what is wrong with the vehicle or get your local mechanic to take a look and give you a rundown of the task on your hands.

Step two: source parts and tools

Every car that needs restoring is a little different. Yours might require new upholstery and not much else. Others might need a full engine rebuild. Whichever areas of your car need restoring, use the seller’s information, but be sure to give the car a full rundown anyway, making notes of what needs replacing. If you are unsure, get hold of a repair manual (such as Haynes) for the vehicle – this will almost certainly become your restoration bible!

Once you have a list of parts, group them together per job (engine, boot, wheels, etc) and source them accordingly. Online forums and online auction sites are good places to find deals – a must if you want to keep your restoration costs from spiralling.

The tools you need will be informed by the jobs you need to complete too. If you’re repairing areas of rusty bodywork, for instance, you will need welding rods and a welder, while a quick paint job might be something you get professionally completed. The choice is up to you and your budget.

Step three: plan the project

Your first restoration project will take time as you hone your automotive repair skills. That means you should plan out what you need to do, and when. Create a week-by-week schedule of tasks and try your hardest to stick with it – momentum is a must so you don’t end up with a half-finished classic lumped on your driveway.

That’s if you want to perform the job on your drive. Look for garage spaces to rent near you if you fancy creating a specialised workshop space for your project.

Step four: get started

Once you know the task ahead, it’s time to begin. Just make sure to document every step you take when disassembling your car to help you rebuilt it easily and make use of labels so you don’t get confused by all the parts. Good luck!


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