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The pack mentality takes over and a real think tank begins. Lots of stellar ideas develop: "We should start a band." "I'd look great with a tat." We've all been there – full of bad ideas.
Speaking of bad ideas: how about restoring a classic car? Now, taking on such a project isn't always a bad idea. The intention is great and honorable. If you have a connection to a car, go for it - restore it to its former glory. But beware.
A restoration is a labor of love. It's a relationship that takes work and just like any relationship, they don't always work out. To have the best chance of success you should plan properly and know when to walk away. These go hand in hand because the best time to walk away is before you begin.
Once you find that tempting car just pump those brakes, the metaphorical ones (and also the real ones, why not?). Take a step back and enact a plan so you can avoid getting trapped because your heart is bigger than your brain.
The below steps will hopefully help you make sure the right decision is made. Even if that decision means walking away.
- Pick your dream car. It's always shocking when I talk to a friend who bought a project car simply to have a project car. That's a one-way ticket to losing interest in that "amazing barn find."
- Set a budget. This is a big, obvious one but the basic philosophy I adhere to is to take a look at what money you have to play with. Don't waste time at this stage figuring out how much it will take to do the job. Look at what you can afford given your bank account. Keep it general. If you have X amount saved up it doesn't mean it should be for a restoration. Maybe you'll be happier spending that on a vacation, modifying a car you already own or, crazy thought, keeping it safely in the bank.
- Let your budget be your guide. If you've taken a look at the numbers and you feel you have the money and the passion for the car, it's time to reconcile. Does the money you have allow you to really get the job done right? Often you'll find that the car you want to work on will actually need more love than you can afford. Step 4 will help you reconcile.
- Get a pre-purchase inspection. Anyone regularly visiting Autoblog is probably well aware of the value of a pre-purchase inspection. Still, purchasing a car that you'll restore is different than buying a used car. People selling barn finds can often pressure you into buying as is. It's their right; the rust bucket clearly needs restoration but it's still beneficial to get an expert's eyes on it to help you determine the work ahead.
- Figure out if and how it can be done. At this point, you think you've found the one. You know your budget and have a solid understanding of what work is required. Now, it's logistics time. What work can you do? What work would need to be done by someone else? Can you find the parts and the knowledgeable people to execute the job?
- Execute. The car is yours. Even in her imperfect state, she looks real good in your garage and you know what you need to do. So do it. Realize that restorations take time and it will test your patience. There will be things that no matter what, you didn't plan for and you'll have to roll with the punches. It'll be worth staying the course.
Six steps. Some of it is personal strategy. Some of it is common sense. But again, common sense isn't always around when you need it. Having the mental tools to sit down and be practical about an emotional purchase will set you up for success.