Restoring a classic car to its former glory can be a rewarding experience in more ways than one. After putting in hours of work, restorers end up with a shiny, spotless tribute to the golden age of driving — one they can easily sell for a fine profit or drive and show off for many years to come.
Still, the process requires more time and effort than most novice collectors realize, which is why it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. Moreover, you must know how to restore the interior correctly. After all, a shiny exterior doesn’t mean much if the inside needs repairs.
Luckily, now is the perfect time to invest in a classic car and begin its restoration. With so many available resources and the ability to order parts online, the process has never been easier. Here are a few tips and tricks every antique car enthusiast should know.
1. Choose the Right Car
No one wants to buy a classic car and find out they got stuck with a lemon. It might not be in mint condition when you first lay eyes on it, but it should still have good bones and a solid structure. It should give the buyer a little something to work with. Therefore, you must know how to choose the right vehicle for your restoration project.
Ideally, you’ll stumble upon one that’s been under the care of a fellow enthusiast. In this case, you might be able to get away with minor repairs and replacements. However, if it looks like the car you’re interested in needs a lot of work, you’ll want to get a second opinion from a professional inspector to help you determine if it’s worth the investment.
2. Make Space and Time
Anyone trying to restore an old car must have a lot of time on their hands, especially if they plan on making most of the repairs themself. Depending on the type of car they want, the restoration process can take as long as 3,500 hours, not including the time they’ll inevitably spend purchasing parts and materials. Therefore, you must plan ahead and schedule time for the restoration.
Once you decide you have enough time, you must find the space to do the job. Look for a covered area like a garage, barn or large shed and set up shop inside. Make a list of all necessary tools, and make sure you have enough room for workbenches, tables, and storage solutions. Those who don’t have adequate space might consider renting a garage for a few months.
3. Clean and Color the Carpet
Car lovers can easily refresh the carpet and upholstery with the right tools and cleaning supplies. First, vacuum and shampoo the fabric and let it dry completely. Roll the windows down and allow the car to sit in a shady area until the solvent smells fade and everything is moisture-free. Then, tape off the areas you don’t plan to recolour and choose a refinisher to complement or match the exterior.
Next, apply the colourant to the carpet or velour and use a nylon bristle brush to work the product into the fibers. Brush in all directions and allow everything to dry again. Then, brush and vacuum one last time before removing the tape and masking. If the carpet still doesn’t live up to your expectations, replacing it is always an option.
4. Restore Vinyl and Plastic
Reconditioning the vinyl and plastic interior is a relatively straightforward project, too. If these elements aren’t too damaged, you can restore them to their former glory with cleaners and solvents. Of course, some stains will likely remain — regardless of how long you scrub. However, most cleaners will remove buildup and add a fresh scent to your classic roadster.
Start by applying soap to plastic and vinyl surfaces and scrub with a scuff pad. Allow these areas to dry before spraying with vinyl prep and wiping with a damp rag. You can also use a layer of adhesion promoter if you plan to recolor later.
5. Buy Replacement Parts
Even the most experienced restoration professionals cannot repair, clean, or restore something beyond fixing. In this case, they must completely replace the damaged or dirty parts with new or used ones.
There are many places to buy replacement parts online. This is the best route to take for vintage car restorers who know what they need and want to find it quickly. Many retailers can do a deeper search to get items that may be hard to find, and best yet, everything gets shipped right to your door. This is helpful if you’re on a tight timeline to get your project done.
Another option is to choose eco-friendly reused parts. While it may take a bit more time to find what you need, visiting junkyards really is half the fun, so don’t hesitate to look around.
Sign up for email alerts from the local junkyard so you’re the first to know when a certain vehicle arrives. That way, you can head over and grab whatever you need before other enthusiasts get their hands on it. Bring a tool chest along so you can disassemble the vehicle on-site. Remember to check with the junkyard to determine which tools they allow inside, or you could walk away empty-handed.
The Most Important Part of Restoring the Interior of a Classic Car is Enjoying the Ride
Restoration enthusiasts who plan to sell their project after it’s complete will likely make a pretty penny. After all, hard work doesn’t come cheap, and the vehicle’s price should reflect the time and money you spent on it. Ultimately, your return on this investment will be your biggest reward, so make sure you’re asking enough to turn a substantial profit. Most classic car enthusiasts would never dream of selling their vintage vehicles. After all, there’s a lot of joy in adding to a collection, going on long drives, or entering a show. To them, going for a cruise and soaking in all the jealous stares is the only reward they’ll ever need.