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Restored Classics vs Unrestored Classic Cars
Not sure which to choose? read this article firstThis question comes up time and time again, and to be honest there are no hard and fast rules about which is best - buy a fully restored car (££££), or a car needing restoration (£). Perhaps more importantly is the question of whether you are able to restore a car, or are you willing to invest the time and effort in learning the skills to do the job? Finances will have quite an impression on the route you choose to go down also, so lets take both category of vehicle in turn, and weigh up the pro's and con's.
The Restored Car option
If you are short on patience, or time, to see a project through from crumbling ruin to showground darling, then buying a pre-restored car can make a lot of sense. You'll also be able to find out early on if a particular car is really for you, without having shelled out thousands on its restoration, only to hate the thing when you set off down the road.
There are however downsides to buying a car thats had all it's woes attended to already. The biggest potential risk is this - has the car been restored correctly? This single question raises issues of whether correct practices have been used in repairing the coachwork and running gear. Have correct specification parts been used? or have parts from other models, or even other makes of car, been used instead to cut corners? In some cases new parts are simply not available, so compromises have to be made, but only if safety is not negatively impacted.
If you are lucky there will be a history of photographs showing the work done to the car during its restoration, but these can only serve as a guide to the work done - cameras CAN lie. A photograph of a beautifully primered rear wing for instance, can suggest that beneath the glossy paintwork there is millimetre-perfect wholesome steel with no trace of filler in evidence. The truth is beneath the layer of filler there could be untold bodges, rusty metal beaten-in and plated over, several square footage of freshly laid filler, skillfully carved into an approximation of the correct shape. Use any such photos as a guide, but don't use them as an excuse not to check the car over properly anyway.
Taking on an unrestored car.And so to the other half of the argument, buying an unrestored project car, rather than taking the easy option. The big advantage with most project cars is that you can usually see exactly what you are getting, warts n all. Unless it has suffered a season of bodging already, with a bit of luck all the problems will be clear to see. Some tarted up and 'restored' cars are little better than full restoration projects, once the layers of paint and chicken mesh have been hacked away, so there is a lot to be said for finding an original, un-messed with car, rather than one that has received a cursory facelift. Long term, both will probably need similar amounts of work anyway, so why pay over the odds for a shiny, but poor, example, when a good honest project can be found for a fraction of the cost?
By now, things are looking good for the 'buy an unrestored car' argument and, in many cases, this is rightly so. My belief has always been, either buy a ruin with a view to doing it yourself, or else look out for a minter, and buy that. Middle-market cars, if I can call those cars that are shiny but of questionable 'real' condition this, are where the risks are I think.
But, and its a big but - buying a project car needing lots of work does mean some serious commitment will be needed by its lucky (!) new owner. The time required to restore a classic is nearly always under-estimated, as is the cost. You could easily draw up a timescale and budget, double both, and still fall short of the final outlay of funds and time. Plus, as already outlined, the value of the end result will rarely cover the costs involved in getting the car finished. Don't take on a restoration project solely with a view to making a quick buck, unless you know all the skills that will be required to bring it back to life. As already suggested, those with tight schedules and plenty of family commitments, may need a reality-check - do you *really* have the time to see even the simplest of restoration jobs to the end? How about the financial side of things - do you have some spare cash to throw at the rebuild of a car? A look in the classifieds, or on ebay, would suggest that many projects are enthusiastically snapped up by fired-up old-car fans, stashed away in the garage, then left to moulder while distractions such as offspring and reality TV shows take up all the spare time. Getting in above your neck happens to most people who have had a few classics over the years, me included, so bear this in mind.
So, at the end of the day it comes down to what you like doing, and what you want an old car for. If you want to enjoy a classic, taking it to shows etc from day one, rather than getting engrossed in its workings, or are short of time to take on a major project, buying a good restored example may well be the way to go. A low mileage, mint, one-owner car can also be a good choice for this category of buyer. If however you are the kind of person who likes to resurrect something that others think is beyond rescue, are patient, and have a steady supply of cash to pour into a project (some of which probably wouldn't be recouped if you sold the car on, even when finished), then an untouched, but original, project car could be the more rewarding option. But whichever road you choose to go down, do your homework first, then enjoy whatever you end up buying!!!
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