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The Lake Erie Region of the
Antique Automobile Club of America

Restorations 101
by Ken Kaczka

The big day arrives when the car you wanted has been found. Whether it is a barn find or one that needs a little TLC it had been on your radar for a long time. Now you have a chance to buy it and you’re ready. The problem is you forgot to take off your rose-colored glasses when you looked at it. Emotions took over and you closed the deal, overlooking a few minor imperfections. Things that looked minor may turn out to be major, but now it is yours.  

It was a great buy and now it’s sitting in your garage and you can’t wait to get it rolling down the highway. Route 66 here I come! Eventually reality starts to set in and you start to notice a few minor problems or repairs that were done previously that don’t meet your standards. But no problem you can fix them or maybe this car is a jewel that needs to come out of its shell! Will this be awarded a Senior AACA or be invited to attend Pebble Beach?  

Now decision time is near, what should I embark on, total restoration or get it to a point so it doesn’t break down a block from your house. A question I’m always asked is “What would you do with it?” I try to answer with a question “What is your final goal with the car, AACA Judging, Concourse D’ Elegance Judging, Local car shows or plain driver quality? Once you make that decision you can develop your plan of action. If you can handle the restoration and do most of the work yourself you can save on the costs of having the restoration done by a shop.  

If it is a restoration you must decide how far you want to go. Take the body off the frame and rebuild everything, frame, suspension, drive train, body, paint and interior. Or leave the body on and proceed from there. Once you decide that, now it's time to figure out a plan of action. Every great restoration needs a working plan and a budget (which always will be too low.)

If you plan on using a restoration shop, visit the shop and get references, call people who had their cars restored there to see if they are satisfied with the work performed. You need to do your due diligence at this point. Make sure you receive a written quote on your costs and what is included in those costs. Understand what your payment plan is.

You must be aware that once the restoration begins problems will surface that are not in your original restoration quote, remember defects will appear once you start peeling back the years of aging. You can usually expect additional charges. The more component restoration you can do yourself will save you money. Most shops will send the components out for rebuild anyway so if you can do that, it will save some funds.

It is an exciting process to see your car in the phases it goes thru as it completes its restoration. Remember to visit the shop as many times as possible. Get to know the people; look over your project and ask questions. You must realize you have to inspect what you expect! Don't leave any phase of the restoration to chance.

Lastly, once it's one, go out and enjoy it; the barn find has turned into a princess!