I acquired my HS graduation present after my father passed a few years ago. In the 90's after a series of events and a fender bender in the rain the car was taken away from me. 28 years later I would like to restore this car and looking for advice.
My husband is a mechanic and has built several off road vehicles, but knows very little about classic cars or body work. We do not have a garage large enough to take a car apart and put it back together, if we did we would tackle this project on our own. We will need help restoring and we are not sure what order to take for this project.
The bird sat outside for several years in Illinois and then garage kept, it is currently in Denver Colorado. There is a lot of rust, but it runs, steers, stops and almost all the electrical is working. The bird was restored in the 80's, I still have all receipts and what was done will include a pic below. It was half tubed and a new trunk floor plan put in nicely. Current rust problems include rocker panels both sides, passenger floor and wheel well, rear wheel wells, and lots of surface rust.
I would like to restore this car as a daily driver, it has sentimental value and I would like to keep it around. We will not do anything to the engine or interior at this time, but want to have suspension, disc breaks, body work, paint and all the other things that I know nothing about that goes along with this massive undertaking.
My questions are.....
Where do we start?
Do we tackle the rust and do the suspension and disc breaks prior to taking it to a body shop? I am thinking in the end this will save me money when they have to take the car apart.
I have called and visited several restoration shops in Denver Colorado and so far have not found a place that I would like to take this car. If anyone knows of a good shop I would love some ideas.
Many who have done more major restorations than I have may have a better idea, but I might do the rust work first. Rust repair may be the most expensive and extensive part of your project, and you won’t know the extent until you get in there. Why expose those new suspension and brake parts to all the cutting, welding, grinding and time it will take to make the metal repairs? Good to see another bird getting back on the road!
Identify your expectations before you start. How much $$$'s do you want to spend?
IMO, these cars run anywhere from $5k-100k for restoration. If you have a little bit of rust (that you can see now) then expect to spend $25k-$50k minimum. Engine will be another $4k-$15k depending what you do.
I have a 68 coupe that I bought back in '79. Dragged it to every I went the last 40 yrs. Started restoration about 7 years ago. By the time I got all the rust off there was little car left. Still restorable but I won't get my money out of it even if I do the work.
If you don't' have a numbers matching rare car then expect to spend money than it will be worth when your done.
If you max $ investment is <$30k then consider buying a car that is done. Or try getting another body shell that does not need work and replace the shell on your existing driver car.
Engine Test Stand Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwoxyUwptUcdqEb-o2ArqyiUaHW0G_C88 restoring my 1968 Firebird 400 HO convertible (Firedawg) 1965 Pontiac Catalina Safari Wagon 389 TriPower (Catwagon) 1999 JD LX Lawn tractor 17hp (my daily driver) 2006 Tundra (another driver) 1988 Pace Arrow 32' 454 (For Sale) 2017 Murano (wife's car) _______________________________________________________
I would have to agree with Gus based on the photos. I see significant rust in the rocker panels, which is the structural backbone of you car. My thinking is that needs to be addressed ASAP. But, as Gus suggests, it may be so significant that you are either looking at a differetnt body shell or a very large investment. An investment that might pale compared to the net worth of your car after it is completed.
I would hate to see a bunch of $$$ piled into mechanical fixes only to find the structural (rust) fixes are too expensive for your budget, OR your car collapses from the rust while you are enjoying it.
1967 FB 400, original CA car (smog), now 455, soon to be out of Paint Jail 2006 Mustang V6 Pony, factory ordered, retirement cruiser and future classic(?) Old projects, gone but not forgotten: 1980 Turbo Trans Am 1970 Mustang fastback, 351C 4Bbl, auto 1988 Mustang GT, 5 speed 1983 F-150 4x4, built 302 1994 Chevy K2500 HD 4x4, 454 TBI
Before I moved to AZ a friend of mine wanted to give me a non running 1967 400 4 speed bird that rotted rockers, floors, trunk, lower quarters and windows channels. I turned him down. I could have done all the work myself but all the time and effort to get the car back to driving conditions was just not worth it. Fast forward to 2006. I found my 68 factory 350 4 speed here in AZ running and driving for $4000. The only rust was a quarter size hole on the lower front fenders where they all rust.
Since the car has some sentimental value, how close to the big city do you live? Maybe your husband (or you - or both of you) could find some auto collision repair courses to take at a vo-tech school. I took these classes at night and was able to take my bird in for some of the work - and painted it myself in the paint booth after body work was complete. I enjoyed the course - learned a heck of a lot to boot. Cal
Sage advice from the group. Please research and think it through before beginning. You will be lucky to get 1/3 of your investment back and that's if you do most of the work yourself. The commitment required is profound. It took me 6+ years for my latest build and still not totally done. Every car forum contains similar stories. So why do we do it? My hotrod buddies all say it's a sickness. I tend to agree. I'm already thinking about what I want to build next. Is it all worth it, hell yeah! Blasting down the highway in something you created and knowing every nut, bolt and washer on it, nothing better! But, it's not for everyone.
You want a daily driver. What does that mean? Believe me, you won't be happy putting nasty, pitted trim next to that fresh beautiful paint and things slowly snowball. Begin by figuring out what you want the car to be when completed; completely correct restoration, trailer queen show car, nice fun cruiser, hotrod, pro-touring, pro-street - and stick to the plan. Mid-term changes get expensive quick. Be honest about what you can afford. It's pretty easy to be into these cars $40k-$60k and way up depending on what you want. (Realize you don't have to pay for it all at once - build can take years, but paint & body will be a big chunk in a relatively (hopefully) short period of time.) Then do a lot of research. If you can't do the body & paint, start there. Visit reputable shops. (Go to car shows and ask where cars you like were done. Most of us have a story and are happy to talk about it...) Then discuss your project with the good shops identified. Be clear on your expectation of quality and time. Some will give you a range of cost and overall timeline. Some won't. Do not go into body & paint open-ended. Realize once car is apart there will be discoveries that cost money and take time. Oh yeah, and surprise! That perfect color for your vision in steel will be $1200 a gallon. Ouch, lol
If your husband is a mechanic, the mechanical work on these cars won't be a problem - these cars are simple in comparison to today's technology. A myriad of parts from stock replacement to enhanced to wild are readily available. Again, plan what you want then do it once! A wealth of information is contained in the members of forums like this one. Ask questions.
Be smart. Do your homework. Talk to as many car people as you can. Take time to outline a plan with some level of detail. If you feel good about it, commit. (some trepidation is normal...) If not, have the courage to walk away. It's far better to walk away before spending a bunch of money than really losing your butt on a half finished project car. Remember, there are always other cars out there.
Good advice. You can very well put together a decent car that is safe and fun to drive rather cheaply( depending on what you start with) but with paint jobs in the $15-$20K range these days the sky's the limit on what you can spend for sure.