Restoration vs. Complete Car Purchase
You’ve decided you can no longer contain your new found passion for vintage cars. It seems hardly a day goes by you don’t see something classic and beautiful cruising down the street. Perhaps it’s the memory of a friends muscle car from high school or the fact you’ve always liked the styling of a certain car or truck that influences your choice of vehicle. It may be what you can afford plays a major role in what you can get for yourself and there’s no shame there, at any rate you’re going to get a classic car.
Now comes the big decision, to buy something that someone has already restored or something you can restore yourself. I met with Ron Burgess and asked him to tell me about his current project, a 1970 Olds 442. Years ago he helped a friends son rebuild the engine and drive train for the 442 he bought and planned to restore. Initially the son was enthusiastic and loved working on the 442. But like so many before him, he soon lost interest in the pain staking work that went in to this caliber of project and went on to other pursuits and the car sat. It takes a special person with a tremendous amount of patience and dedication to do a complete restoration. If you are the type of person that thinks it’s a couple month project, you should consider something already restored.
Years ago when they started the Tehachapi Car Club, Burgess had a 1970 Chevelle and years later wanted to get another. Not able to find one, he took on the friends 442 as “A Tribute to the Chevelle”. The secret he says in restoring is to buy a complete car in the top of the line model. To buy a basic model with the intention of upgrading it to your desired model can get very expensive and finding parts can be “challenging”. His 442 wasn’t complete when he got it and he now faces challenges of finding parts, a grill for his 442 could run $500.00. Finding parts is an art form, it requires patience and very creative research to find the part you need at a price you can afford. Engines are another hot topic of discussion in the restoration process. With the emergence of “crate motors”, high performance factory built after market motors we see a lot of engine swapping. Burgess is happy with the 455 motor in his Olds, it was an offered option for that make and year keeping a bit more of the authentic flavor and making it more appealing. In his opinion, popping the hood of a vintage Ford to find a Chevy crate motor inside is a little “unnatural” and takes away from it’s “Car-ma” but as always there are those that find it perfectly acceptable.
The restoration process usually starts with complete dismantlement of the vehicle. Needless to say, lots of room is needed to lay everything out. The frame is usually the starting point, checking for straightness, cracks, and reinforcing if needed. The next step is the drive train, engine, transmission, axles, and suspension. Older cars used drum brakes which most restorers are replacing with two or four wheel disk brakes for safety reasons. Having reached this point, Burgess did the unconventional, he had the body painted. Usually left for close to last, he had it painted to keep himself motivated. Looking at that beautiful paint job keeps his motivation up and keeps him going.
The interior presents many options to a restoration, to keep it as close to original as possible or take advantage of the new digital technology for gauges. The past few years have opened up a whole new arena for interior components and how far you go is strictly up to you. Burgess is going for what is called a “Resto-Mod” which means an upgraded drive train and interior but the body can be converted back to stock easily.
So from here, what you choose to do and how you choose to do it is stirctly up to you. I hope this has given you a little insight into your options in your new endeavor and I for one can’t wait to see your new ride!