I come from the world of motorcycles and I’ve learned a few things over the last few decades:
1 - BEFORE I buy the project bike I assess the availability of parts. You can (almost) build an entirely new 1975 BMW R90S/6 from the parts catalog at the local BMW shop. You’ll be lucky if you find a single N.O.S. part for many French and English bikes even 10 years older.
2 - once you have the bike, I give it a full cleaning and inspection. This means everything and you have to be meticulous. Granted this may be easier on a bike than a car, but the goal is to eliminate big surprises once you start.
3 - if the goal is to have a safe running bike/car, and you are not performing a full restoration, then I make a list based on the inspection.
- replace/repair anything that is unsafe (brakes, tires, cables, etc.).
- replace/repair anything that will continue to deteriorate and become an issue later (don’t ignore an engine noise, loose wheel bearings, non-cometic rust, etc.)
- replace/repair cosmetic issues that are not part of the bike’s patina and that clearly cannot be lived with (a small dent in the tank can be ignored, but if the previous owner rattle-canned flames on the tank and fenders, that’s gotta go).
4 - next I look at the list and put an estimate of time I think it will realistically take - then I double it… this allows me to understand how much time I need to set aside to get it done by my goal date. Btw, if the time I have available doesn’t line up with the date I want it done, something has to change, so, for me, I mentally adjust when it will he done, because it always seems easier to change that than increase the time I have available.
5 - And if I actually get this far, I decide on an order for the work and then try to stay focused on one repair at a time, unless of course (as mentioned above in the article) some things make sense to combine.