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How to Plan Your Classic Car Restoration



Good planning is the cornerstone of a successful restoration. One of the most difficult matters you will run into during a restoration is the procurement of quality restoration services and parts. In the parts category, learning and searching out the parts you will need is as equally important, as installing them correctly.

The challenge of finding the parts that you need for your project can vary widely for a jobavailability and quality of aftermarket parts for your restoration can vary widely. For example, finding parts for a classic vehicle like a 1969 Ford F-100 is fairly easy. Every part has a Ford factory part number assigned to it that you can cross-reference to find the replacement parts that you need for your project. .However, aftermarket parts are often a different story, as they are not all created equal. That being the case, I sat down with a couple of aftermarket parts catalogs and the factory shop manual to look up the part numbers I needed and place my orders.

Totally wrong? Know your parts. Easy, right? Well, what showed up on my doorstep was, for the most part, correct. However, some of the parts, which had the same part numbers, were totally wrong for my application. The reason: not every vendor provides an exact reproduction of the factory part. This can be troublesome, confusing and costly if several months pass between the time of purchase and the time you discover that you don’t have the right parts.

Another example: I placed an order for a windshield seal for my F-100. Ford offered four different types of seals for my application, based on trim and cab options. I spend a great deal of time researching the correct seal and talking to the supplier in order to get the right one. When it arrived, it appeared to be the correct seal. Nine months later, when it was time to install the seal, it was discovered not to be the right one. Now what? Lucky for me, I made sure I could return the part for replacement. Not a refund, but a replacement.

This type of situation really calls for good advance planning. Further investigation would have told me that my favorite auto glass installer could have supplied the part to me locally at a lower cost. This brings up another point: Research which parts must be ordered and which can be supplied locally. If you’re planning on “farming-out” some of your work to specialty shops, you should call and ask which parts they need you to supply. Also, check their prices against those supplied by specialty aftermarket suppliers. In many cases, the specialty shops’ prices will be lower due to their volume.

It’s all in the timing. Time is a consideration, too. Your project will move along at a much faster pace if you organize your parts requirements and time their purchase. Avoid buying everything you think you might need at once. The restoration process is a constantly changing process and requirements change as the work progresses. In order not to end up with a lot of new parts with no home, good planning is the cornerstone to a successful restoration. Staying on budget will also allow you to do more without tying up your cash in parts you can’t use or return.

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