Restoring a classic car allows you to bring a piece of automotive history back to life. Whether you have a deep appreciation for the craftsmanship, design, and engineering of vintage vehicles, a restoration project provides a unique connection to the past. Are you starting your first classic car restoration project? You planned the build, but getting started with the restoration process is always the hardest part. Don’t let procrastination get the better of you. This brief step-by-step guide gives you everything you need to know on where to start when restoring a classic car.

Where to Start When Restoring a Classic Car

Start with the End of Mind

You need to plan everything before you ever pick up a tool. Ask yourself the following questions before you start restoring your car.

  • Why do I want to restore a classic car?
  • Do I want an iconic model like a 1967 Shelby or a more obscure model like a 1979 Cadillac El Dorado?
  • Do you want a car you remember from your youth?
  • Do you want the vehicle to display at shows, or do you want it for practical use on the road?

After you finalize your aspirations, it’s time to get the planning out of the way before you scour the internet looking for a suitable candidate for your restoration project.

Planning Your Classic Car Restoration

Skill level

How much of the project can you do yourself? For instance, can you replace the transmission? Do you have the skills and tools to skim and gas-flow a cylinder head? Are you willing to learn new skills during the project, or do you want to hire contractors for specialist jobs?


What are you prepared to spend on the project? What tools and materials do you need? List all the spares you’ll need to buy for the tasks and estimate unforeseen costs. If you’re working with contractors on tasks, account for these fees. Ensure you have the budget to see the project through to completion.


Understand the time demands of the project and estimate the time it will take to completely restore the car. How much time can you allocate to it each week? Which days can you dedicate to the project, and how much overtime will you put in? Do you need the car available for a specific show date? If you’re working with contractors, you’ll need to factor their schedule into yours and ensure they can accommodate you at times when you need their services.


Where are you going to do the restoration? In your garage or at a private garage?

Starting the Restoration Process – The Strip

The first stage in any car restoration after buying the vehicle – is the strip. This process strips the car down to the rolling chassis. You can identify worn or broken parts that require replacing and finalize the estimates on your restoration costs.

If you’re new to stripping the vehicle, search on YouTube for a video showing you how to do it. There are thousands of restoration videos on YouTube. If you have something esoteric, you can always look on forums for advice and vehicle plans.

  • Body – Remove the grill, bumpers, lights, and trim.
  • Drivetrain – Remove the engine, transmission, and drivetrain components.
  • Interior – Remove the seats and carpets and store them in a dry place.

Use Ziploc bags to store and label small components, like nuts and bolts that might get misplaced.

Restoring a classic car is a labor of love that requires time, effort, and dedication. Once you complete your restoration project you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in your skills and hard work.

Dave & Rays Automotive Repair Shop in Omaha, NE

Our team has learned one thing: automotive problems are as varied and unique as the customers who bring them to us. Fortunately, our decades of experience in auto service and repair also mean that our skilled network of professionals is ready to accommodate an impressive scope of automotive issues. Contact us today.

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