In this thread masonite asks:
Rather than answer in the VW thread, I thought I’d start a thread specifically for car restoration.
I’m not really a “car guy”. I like driving 'em, not fixing 'em. When I was looking for a CJ2A I found a few for sale in the L.A. area for $2,000 - $2,500 (they’re more expensive here than in other parts of the country). All of them were in need of a lot of work to get them really roadworthy. I estimated it would cost at least $3,000 to do the work. I ended up buying my 1946 Willys CJ2A in excellent original condition for $5,500. So I spent the “restoration” money up front and didn’t have to wait for the work to be done.
Last November I bought a 1966 MGB roadster. As you can see, it’s in poor condition. Nevertheless, the body looked straight and the engine was said to run – and it was dirt-cheap. I knew that it would need new floor panels, but they are inexpensive. I turned it over to a couple of MG enthusiasts in Orange County, figuring that I could do a “rolling restoration” – that is, get it running, and then slowly fix it up. Let the games begin.
The engine did indeed run. Good sign. But the rest of it is a mess. The chassis went to A-Z Auto Works in Huntington Beach, a very respected body shop. There they stripped the car completely. Uh-oh. British cars are famous for rusting from the inside out. Not only did I need floor panels, but the rocker panels were shot. This is a problem, as MGBs are monocoque (“unibody”) construction, and the rather complex rocker assemblies are critical to the car’s strength. The bottom half of one rear fender was rotten as well, in addition to the main crossmember and front longitudinal members. Both doors had been damaged and there were holes in them where they were pulled out. (When I saw them, the thick Bondo had been removed.)
“In for a penny, in for a pound”, though I. I’ve gone this far, so I’d better get the job done right. The body tub will be sandblasted and parts that will never be visible will get a protective coating to prevent rusting. I’d originally planned to just have the engine bay “spruced up”, but at this stage it made more sense to sandblast it at the same time as the rest.
In short, my $4,500 body-and-paint work is now costing $9,000.
The engine ran, as I said, but the head was cracked. More money. The transmission was full of water. That’s not good. I’ve bought an overdrive transmission and am trying to have it shipped out from Pennsylvania. Pre-'68 overdrive transmissions are extremely scarce, but they are necessary for the modern (read: fast) driving environment. More money.
I’d planned not to really go into the restoration until it was finished (and besides, I’m only providing the cash and not the work), and post a link to a page. So I’ll just go on to some general advice that someone only periferally envolved can give.
[ul][li]Look for rust. Older cars are likely to have rust somewhere. Check the body panels, the battery tray, the frame (if it’s a frame-on design), under the carpet, under the spare tire, in the trunk… everywhere.[/li][li]Make sure of the mechanical condition. If you’re like me and don’t have access to a garage or tools, or if you are “not good at fixing cars”, make sure everything works.[/li][li]Have a realistic budget. Body work can add up quickly and become enormously expensive. I planned on around $6,000 to “restore” the MGB. Right now it looks like it will cost closer to $15,000 (which is in the middle of the $10,000 - $20,000 value placed on MGBs by Classic Motorsports magazine, and a little less than the going price for restored 1960s MGBs at auction).[/li][li]Buy the best car for your project that you possibly can. You’ll pay more up-front (as I did with the Willys), but it can save you money later. It will probably be better to buy an already-restored car than to restore one yourself (or have someone do it). [/ul][/li]Okay, that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’ll leave the floor open to other posters who can give their first-hand experiences with restorations.