What an excellent question! Classic auto restoration experts are artists that want to recreate an era and emotional memories associated with that time period. Many Restorers give their automobile names because they’ve spent so much time with their autos as a labor of love and know them so intimately. I’ve known several Restoration Experts, and this is what I learned.
There are 2 main responsibilities:
1. Restore the automobile components back to their original state, as much as possible. This requires deep historical research, microscopic examination of photographs, trips to junk yards, swap meets and old barns, searching the internet and understanding the materials and processes used at that time period.
True classic auto lovers may also search for items like blueprints, jacks, road maps, Operator Manuals, bumper stickers, license plates, accessories like fuzzy dice and gear shift knobs, gas cans and oil spouts, advertising literature and calendars, and clothing representative of the era.
2. Recreate components as close to original as possible. That may mean hand-stitching leather seats. It may also mean recreating an original broken or missing part by machining a new one to original dimensions, processes and materials. Replaced tires, hoses and gaskets should be as close to original as possible. Wiring can be updated for safety reasons.
Paint color and application, pin striping, upholstery colors, and ornate hood ornaments may be the only personal things that are “allowed” to be different than the original.
Some Restorers take liberties with the process by changing things like frames or engines from one type of auto with another to create what might be called a “Hot Rod”.
In any case, meticulous attention-to-detail, precise machining ability and mechanical ingenuity is required. Often metal must be stripped back to the bare surface and the components rebuilt, including the dashboard instruments. Photographs, detailed notes and measurements need to be taken as a component is dis-assembled, so it can be reassembled. Welds may have to be redone. Sheet metal may need to be straightened and hammered back into original shape. Bumpers may need to be stripped and re-chromed.
If you can't machine, find an expert to guide and mentor you. You will need to know how to use instruments like calipers and micrometers.
There are Restoration Clubs and magazines that can help guide you further through the process.
Because of the scarcity of parts, skills needed, and the intense time involved, restoration is an expensive process. However, the more precise and pristine the restoration is, the greater the potential sale price – if you have the heart to sell your “beauty” when you're done.
Good luck heading for the open road.
Daniel recommends the following next steps:
- Buy some Classic Car or Hot Rod Magazines.
- Seek out Restoration Clubs in your area.
- Visit an auto museum or Restoration Club meet and closely examine the minute attention-to-detail.
- Take some machining and welding classes. Learn how to use calipers and micrometers.
- Find a machinist expert to mentor you.