Welcome to the zen of auto restoration
I created this site to share the full experiences in detail of restoring a classic car from the ground up. There’s a lot of guys out there who are contemplating acquiring and restoring a car; maybe it’s one of their dreams, part of their youth, a machine they find completely cool, or even just one for pure investment. The satisfaction of bringing back an old car really cannot completely be properly described in words, and to be clear, I mean restoring it with one’s own two hands, not dropping it off at a restoration shop and picking it up in six months all brand spanking new - ready for the car show.
I especially encourage young people to dive into a classic car restoration. Many of us are old enough (and/or lucky enough) to have experienced daily drivers that required significant and regular hands-on care and maintenance. The cars we drove required the owner to understand how their personal transportation mode functioned because if they didn’t, you couldn’t get to work, or school, or anywhere. I’m not faulting this younger generation for not having the intimate relationship with their cars we did, they’re now built with such high quality and reliability, there’s almost no reason to open the hood.
Due to the complexity, most wouldn’t have the expertise to know how to repair anything in the engine bay of a new car anyway, and that’s sad. I can’t tell you how many times we have stood around at car shows or swap meets discussing how the younger generation is completely missing out on the joys of working on cars, and not just cars, anything mechanical; something they can fix, understand and appreciate the workings of. In this world of virtual this and digital everything, I think so many people are missing out on the gratifying experience in learning how machines constructed, and how they function. Restoring a classic car is the perfect project to become connected to the physical and mechanical world; At the same time create something tangible, something to be profoundly proud of and hopefully share with others who will appreciate.
Why the zen part you ask? I didn’t realize it when I began the resto, but the hundreds of hours spent: planning, calculating, engineering, cleaning, grinding, sanding, wrenching, etc. provides plenty of alone time for deep thinking, meditation, meaningful contemplation and just daydreaming. I wanted to share this experience because I know many of you are contemplating or planning a restoration project as I write.
So take get your hands dirty and knuckles scraped with me as we explore the finer and rougher points of restoring a car with complete mindfulness.
Before I took one part off the car, I had planned a site dedicated to the project. The concept was just the requisite pictures and descriptions; pretty simple really. As I began paying attention to all the activity going on in my head, I realized this site needed to encompass much more. This isn’t all about zen, I hope you’ll appreciate this site for the technical process too, whatever level your classic car proficiency.
I began driving and wrenching in the 1980s, American cars we now refer to as “classic cars” were EVERYWHERE. Young men such as I could buy cool 1950s, 60s and early 70s cars that RAN for as little as couple of hundred dollars. Now, this may make you as sick as it still makes me, but during my teens and early twenties I bought, drove and got rid of potentially a couple of hundred thousand dollars-worth of cars including:
A ‘69 Charger, ‘72 Camaro, ‘69 Skylark, ‘66 Chevy C10 short bed fleet side, `70 Montego MX, `66 Thunderbird, `71. Buick GS 455, `68 Satellite, `70 Torino GT (two of them), `71 Torino GT, `69 Cyclone, `71 Torino GT convertible, `71 Cobra Petty blue special.
There were many other cars I drove, but not worth mentioning. As I said, I get a bit queasy thinking about all those beautiful machines that fellow gearheads covet. I’m sorry guys, WE JUST DIDN’T KNOW back then!
Who knew the ’69 Charger I bought for $250 would one day be worth $40K? Value aside, it’s really about the deep-down appreciation of these cars; the way we did then, and do now. These cars were my daily drivers, and they ran really well too.
My last resto was in 1989, when I built a 1971 Torino GT convertible. It was a rare bird with very low production numbers. It had a worked but street-able 351c 4bbl with a shift-kitted C4, 4:10 Traction-Lok in a 9” housing spinning a pair of 31 spline axles. The exhaust played a unique note via the Supertrapp muffflers, which I installed those to help tune low end power via backpressure.4 barrel Clevelands ate typically low-end dogs untill they have enough cylinder velocity.
The drop top rolled on Centerline auto drags with big L-60 15’s in the rear and skinny Moroso drag tires up front. The interior was new including racing buckets. The car was about 80 percent complete. I only took this car to college a few times and that was about it. She certainly wasn't a highway cruiser, and with those gears she'd chirp second and third.
It was late October, and as those of you from the Northeast know, when the cold weather hits it’s a ritual to roll your hobby car in the garage, put her on blocks, and wait patiently for spring to arrive to enjoy your baby again. I was on my way back from the gas station filling the tank for my ride’s hibernation when I was side-swiped by some moronic driver. The car was totaled.
Due to the collectability, I made good money plus kept the car, which I parted out (sadly). I was officially DONE with the car hobby for the next 22 years.