I’ve been a long time classic car market enthusiast. So, I came into this with my eyes wide open.
I’m in the thick of my first actual restoration right now, and I can tell you that the pain can be tolerable (and fun), sometimes…
June 2017, for $12k I purchased a Saturne Gold, 1966 Mustang FB, 289-4v, Auto, Delux interior, VERY well documented +/- 44,500 original miles with a copy of the original title, owner’s manual, dealership sales receipt, various invoices and handwritten maintenance records. Online purchase, sight unseen (some pretty good photos, though). $1500 delivery charge. It is a Northern car (near Canada), sooo I expected (and received) massive undercarriage rust.
After a thorough inventory, the only things missing are the Delux seat belts, the radio and some trunk items; BUT, THIS IS A MOSTLY COMPLETE CAR! Glass is good. Brightwork is mostly good. Pony Parchment interior smells fresh, no holes. Engine needed a new battery and starter, fluids changed, a little persuasion to get it going but now runs strong (with very respectable cylinder pressures). Auto Trans works. Muffler is rusted off! Engine needs a full cosmetic refresh: replace some rusted parts, appropriate paints, fresh hardware and decals.
At issue is the undercarriage rust! Every time I bump into it, the lower body looses another 1/4 pound of rusty metal around frame rails, wheel wells and rockers. Suspension is shot! Front and rear are being replaced. Only good thing worth mentioning about the rubber is that the car came with an original dual-white-wall Goodyear Poly-Glass that is in such good condition that I guess it must have been the spare (Whoa!).
The topside is rust-free. No rust around the fastback glass or windshield. The cowl is solid as are the trunk-lid and hood. Lower part of the doors is somewhat holey and rusty.
Motivated by the love for this hobby (career is in a different industry), I’ve been a student at the local community college’s comprehensive autobody program for a few years (geared toward insurance claim work, basic bodywork, structural welding, and application of specialty finishes and special painting techniques; a great program!) This coming May 29th I’m starting the second part of an Automotive Structure repair course where my car (now fully stripped of most trim, glass and drive train) will be one of the class subjects. For about $3k, I’ve purchased frame rails, rockers, wheel wells, trunk panels, full floor, firewall toe boards, adding torque boxes (no cosmetic parts, yet). Hopefully the class will start me on my way so that I can finish the rest on my own. Next few semesters I’ll prep and paint, step by step with the courses. It’s not inexpensive, but, if I plan things well, I won’t loose any.
Since my father and I (another bonus is doing this with him), along with some help from friends are doing most of the work, I figure that if I can break even at around a respectable “at auction reserve” of about $25k. So, I should be invested below the car’s market price (or there abouts).
Point is, if you select the right car, you can (at least) get your money back, once finished. Maybe even $5-10k+ for all your labor if/when you sell (I’d rather occasionally drive my Hagerty insured “piggy-bank” than have it sit in some bank’s computer, somewhere). But really, you have to love the the car and the skills and experiences gained because very few people actually make any money from this hobby.
- Price for bringing a collector car back to life? .…dunno… (still counting…Within reason, I kinda don’t care.)
- Experience a restoration and memories with my father: Priceless.