Car Reviews

2 Questions, are car restorations worth it? Can anyone do it?

w123 before and after

Car restorations have for a while been a thing of common, mostly undertaken by people who would like to return an ounce of dignity to their old cars or those with sentimental value that they feel they cannot let go. Speaking of sentimental value I for one decided to undertake one about 8 months ago, and through this journey, I have gathered a few things that I would like to share with you.

First, are these restorations even worth it, monetarily and mentally? Second, can anyone do it? I would also like to explore the possibility of deciding whether restoring an old car instead of getting a running/new car is a good idea, so stick with me as I share some of the pointers to look at if you want to walk down this road.

happy men restoring an old car

The question of whether restoring an old car is worth it is predominantly dependent on who you are as a person or who you want to become. To be honest, car restoration is not for the faint of heart, as much as it comes with detrimental levels of dopamine, it also comes with a tonnes of stuff going wrong too fast and sometimes, most of the time. Now dealing with that is not easy but let it not be said that it cannot be done because it can.

If you are the kind of person who likes fixing things and building stuff, this is an alley you should explore because satisfaction will be delivered to you in gallons, of course at the expense of your pockets (haha). You might ask, what could go wrong? Well, the thing with old cars, by old I mean 20 years plus, they mostly have outlived their assumed lifespan so almost everything needs repair or replacement. For instance, you will think of changing the brake rotors and end up having to re-do the whole hub and suspension components.

Having read up to this point I am sure you are saying to yourself, “That is not too bad, I think I can handle it.” Well, not too fast Superman/woman, let us take a plunge into a few things to consider before thinking of doing a restoration.

Image courtesy of STXNCED

What to look out for in car restoration:

  • The state of the canvas of your project – This mind sounds trivial for some of you but anyone who has attempted this will tell you to get a canvas in as best of shape as you can find, especially the body, again especially the body and structure. Too much rust might end up being too costly in the end, as for engines, that should not worry you too much but if you are working on a budget and do not want to get another, it would be wise to consider making sure the engine is not too far gone.
  •  Timelines – Allow me to use myself as an example here, when I started working on my tiny project on a 1993 Toytota Coralla christened Saly the 100, I wanted to be done in 6 months, was I though? I was not and from the look of things it might take me another 6 months in addition to the 8 that have already elapsed for me to be done. It is quite challenging especially if you are not working on the car full time but would like to experience the process yourself. of course, we have the option of you just paying someone and having them do the whole thing for you as you await the finished product.
  •  Cost – Depending on the choice of car you are working on, you should be completely aware that with old cars you will run into so many unplanned expenditures so it is advisable if you can work with an open budget but of course within reason since you can also run yourself into a rabbit hole pretty quickly.
  •  Expectation – This has to do with what you expect the car to look, sound and perform like. many times we set our expectations too high and forget that it has a ripple effect on all other factors working around the project you are undertaking. It is good to limit expectations and if possible set short-term goals that point towards a larger goal so you do not have too much pressure on yourself. For instance, if you wanted to boost your old school project car you would set some short-term goals like, bigger brakes, better wheels, better exhaust, engine work, and lastly boosting. In this case, you tackle each of these one at a time.

Can anyone do it?

Now that we are done with what to look out for, the question is, can anyone do it? I honestly think not. As I said earlier, most people would opt to just get a garage that will do an assessment and give a quote based on what you expect the car to look like, pay up and wait for the finished product. For those who would like to walk the process step by step a few things will be required of you:

  1. Patience
  2.  Good project and people management skills
  3.  Good negotiation skills
  4.  At least average know-how on how cars work

Since 1 and 3 are quite obvious, let me expound a little on 2 and 4. Project and People Management skills. Let me school you a little; So when running any project you have a Project Management Triangle, on the three edges we have Scope, Time, and Cost. Now this is an important aspect because all of them affect each other directly. The moment you cut down on cost, time and scope will narrow down and consequently affect the quality of your outcome.

When you cut down on time, the scope might or might not change depending on how you meddle with cost, so as I said the three are directly affecting each other. That said, since now you are a project manager, your job is to balance the three to make sure the quality of the outcome is not affected. Moving on to know-how on cars, I think this is an important aspect because then you will not be dealing with angels, some people might be good and honest but some will not and as soon as they realise you do not know what is going on they will take advantage of that.

While I have already said not everyone can do it, with the right amount of passion and drive, anyone should be able to do it. Just do a lot of research on the car you are working on, seek advice from people who have undertaken similar projects and you should be good to go. As we are all aware the hardest part is usually starting.

Is restoration a valid option to buy new?

I will be honest with you, speaking for the average citizen, new is always better. I know some of you will say I am gatekeeping but I promise you I am not. A new car means, lower chances of breaking down, modern tech, improved car dynamics, improved passenger and pedestrian safety mechanisms, longer service intervals and most of all, general peace of mind. To add onto these, financially speaking you will spend almost the same amount restoring an old car to buying a new equivalent so why the hassle unless, of course, the old car means something to you?

What I would advise though for anyone into cars is having a little project running on the side, it keeps you occupied and in the spirit plus will give you some skills. like knowing how a water pump works.

Image courtesy of Now I met Your Mother featuring Barney Stinson


To sum it all up, restoration is a worthy endeavour, a fulfilling one that if done correctly and for the right reasons. However, you need to prepare mentally, psychologically and financially since sometimes it can get too demanding. Be very keen on the selection of the canvas for your project as that is what will determine how much time and money will go into it, but always remember better to buy a car with a good body and damaged engine than the inverse – bodywork is costly and time-consuming.

It is prudent for you to sharpen up your project management skills, keeping your scope, time and cost in check to ensure you get a quality outcome and also ensure you are well-versed with the car you would like to restore to stay safe from some cunning mechanics and sellers.

Lastly, restoration is an option to buying new, depending on what you like but always keep in mind that new is better unless you can have both. That said, do not be afraid to start that project get a tiny one and get it on its feet, I promise it will be a worthy undertaking (if done correctly).


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Automotive content writer and self-teaching auto-mechanic.
I will mainly discuss and banter about cars.

the authorww_nab
Automotive content writer and self-teaching auto-mechanic. I will mainly discuss and banter about cars.

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