Learning how to restore a muscle car isn’t really much of a challenge these days, at least in terms of available data. You have Google and YouTube videos, muscle car forums, and a vast network of friends, acquaintances, and professionals who can help you out.
But it can be a bit tricky. If you’re not careful, you may spend too much time, effort and money without having much to show in the end. So here are some tips you may want to know about:
Setting a Budget
Before anything else, you will need to set a budget. Figure to spend a lot if you want a truly top-rate restoration for your private collection or for auto shows. This will require that only professionals will work on your car. You also need to get an original car that’s still in excellent condition.
You can save money by doing some of the work. But you will have to be very honest about what you can and can’t do by yourself. And you will have to buy the parts yourself, plus the right tools for the job. You will in all likelihood also exceed your budget by 30%.
The Right Tools
Having the right tools for your muscle car restoration will make the job much easier. Here’s a handy checklist:
- Auto body kits. Restoring a muscle car often require a good auto body kit. That’s because you will have to lots of body work. The auto body kit can provide what you need so you can work on the body more easily.
- Engine hoist. This lets you get the engine out of the car, as it’s simpler to work on the engine this way. It’s actually quite affordable.
- Paint booth. This is only recommended if you’re already experienced in car painting. But if you do, this will save you a lot of money when you’re ready to begin painting the car.
- Electrical testers. Electrical systems can be among the most challenging in muscle car restoration. That’s especially true with older cars. But these tools will enable you to diagnose problems easily.
- Safety glasses. Safety comes first. So get one for yourself, and for everyone else who will work on your car.
- Jack stands. You’ll need one for each corner, so you’ll need 4 of these. They’re much better than a jack in supporting your car.
- Floor jack. You have to have at least 1, but 2 is better. This is the jack that experts use.
- Socket sets. You need to have a full set for both shallow and deep sockets. So that’s 2 socket sets all in all.
- Socket wrench extensions. These extensions will let you reach farther than your regular socket wrenches. Get 2 of each for the 3″, 5″, 8″, and 10″ extension sizes. Get a universal swivel too.
- Ratchets. Get at least three. Two ratchets should come with long, straight handles. The other one should have a flexible or stubby handle.
- Screwdrivers. You need 2 straight screwdrivers and 2 number two Phillips.
- Cherry picker. It’s also called an engine puller, as it’s used to remove and install engines.
- Engine stand. This supports the block when you work on it.
- Wrenches. Get 2 full sets of combination and/or double box end wrenches. You’ll need them to turn nuts and bolts, when you have to apply more torque than a ratchet can take.
- Transmission output shaft cover. This prevents transmission fluids from making a mess in your garage. It fits in the end of the transmission.
- Ball joint splitters. They’re also called pickle forks, and you need one when you work on the suspension.
- Spring compressor. This is a must-have if you plan to replace ball joints and coils springs. They’re also necessary for bushings and control arms.
- Transmission jack. If you plan to remove and replace the transmission, this is the jack you need.
- Code scanners. This is important for newer cars. Before you can tune the car properly, these scanners will first have to communicate with the computer.
Picking the Car
You have to check out the car you want to buy very carefully. So get a strong flashlight and an expert and check out a possible car from inside and out, top to bottom. Better yet, see if you can bring it first to a shop so it can be lifted. This will give you a more accurate appraisal of its condition.
It’s best that you get a car with a solid floor and car structure. While a little rust can be dealt with, it may not be worth it if the entire frame has been compromised by rust.
Dealing with Rust
The older your muscle car is, the more rust you may have to deal with. You will have to strip the frame so you can use the sandblaster to get rid of the rust. But you may also use some sort of chemical treatment. You can then put on a rust stabilizer to remove the rust.
Painting the Car
You can’t hurry this part of the restoration. You’ll need to be patient and do some planning first. So you will need to prepare the car first by dealing with dings and scratches. That means painting the car with black primer, so you can find these imperfections more easily. Once you’ve corrected the problems, you can sand the primer off.
Afterwards, use high quality car paint. Then you’ll need long-lasting clear-coat paint protector.
Using Spare Parts
Most of the time, a restored muscle car is more valuable if it uses a lot of stock or original parts. So get new and original OEM parts if you can. You may also find used parts in excellent condition.
On the other hand, aftermarket engine parts can add more horsepower to the car. So it’s up to you which you value more—HP or authenticity.
If you’re really passionate about learning how to restore a muscle car, you may want to join a club for the particular model you want to restore. These members can help you with every step of the process.