7 Classic Car Restoration Tips From UK Mustang Specialists - Muscle Car

7 Classic Car Restoration Tips From UK Mustang Specialists

Car Servicing & Restoration


Written by Elise

27th November 2020

7 Classic Car Restoration Tips From UK Mustang Specialists
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7 Classic Car Restoration Tips From UK Mustang Specialists

By Charlotte Iggulden

Have you ever been transfixed watching a car restoration project on TV, where a seemingly unsalvageable antique vehicle or classic muscle car was transformed into its original condition?

If so, you might want to consider a hands-on restoration project yourself.

Classic car restoration shows are ideal resources for beginners and experts alike to gain practical knowledge from experienced mechanics. With the ongoing popularity of restoring classics, there is a plethora to choose from: Wheeler Dealers and Car SOS have their American counterparts in Fast N’ Loud, Overhaulin’, Chasing Classic Cars, Desert Car Kings and Counting Cars. Comedian and presenter Jay Leno even has a dedicated restoration blog on his YouTube channel: Jay Leno’s Garage

Many classic car owners like my own family can attest to the pleasure of driving and restoring one. According to Adrian Hewetson, a renowned classic car restorer and Muscle Car UK’s Ford Mustang buying expert, all cars are restorable, but more work means higher costs. Some people like the rusty look, while others prefer a perfectly restored, beautiful vehicle.

For muscle cars, the ‘65-70 Ford Mustang, ‘67-69 Camaro, ‘57 Chevy, and ‘64-70 Pontiac GTO are popular vehicles to restore.

It may seem daunting to restore a project car or barn find; you will need to plan, research and budget effectively. If you don’t happen to have your own inhouse Edd China, you may want to contact reputable suppliers who can source the correct parts, and provide the best service. To avoid exorbitant labour costs, you can attend Classic Vehicle Restoration training courses across the UK. Otherwise, financing is usually available. 

If you have the time, patience, skills, and knowledge to take on the project yourself, the money saved is worth it. You also have the satisfaction of knowing you have saved a historic car from the crusher. 

To avoid costly pitfalls, here are some tips on the art of classic and muscle car restoration in 2020. 

The Difference Between Car Restatoration and Car Refurbishment

A Classic Car Restoration is the process of returning a classic vehicle to its original, period-correct condition, as the manufacturer intended. For purists, a ‘concours restoration’ involves sourcing, where possible, the Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) for their ‘survivor cars,’ down to the last nut, bolt, and sticker. Years can be spent searching for elusive parts through contacts, swap meets, salvage yards or on the internet, but the thrill that comes with finding such part adds to the enjoyment of restoration. 

All exterior trim and any filler must be removed, and dents or rust repaired. The paint colour should be factory correct. All mechanical parts should be inspected and replaced if necessary. The interior must be cleaned and repaired; if it is being stripped out, it might be worth considering soundproofing, as this will not be seen.

As opposed to a restomod or modified car, where the original design is altered, restored classic cars preserve their heritage, history, and aesthetic. A quality restoration means doing it right the first time, with great attention to detail and authenticity.

Refurbishment: As opposed to a detailed restoration, only partial work is done; the main goal is to get the car to a workable state and make it look attractive. It might be cheaper to refurbish an existing part, which keeps its originality, than buy a new one.

Classic car upgrades: If the car isn’t numbers matching, you can make it look original but with modern technology to enhance performance, handling, comfort, and safety. Unsafe or under-performing parts can be improved, and lost horses restored, for example, a more powerful battery and upgraded ignition. These can increase monetary value, but be aware that performance and aesthetic modifications, such as additional horsepower or aftermarket paint colour and wheels can affect insurance and decrease it

Maintenance: When a car stands without use for a long time, its moving parts are subject to moisture damage, rust, and corrosion. Cars are machines and were built to be driven. Maintenance includes replacing spark plugs, checking electrical components, wiring, oil coolant levels, and regularly charging the battery. 

Mice have a taste for wires, so cover and store the car in a garage. Keep the vehicle warm in winter. Regular servicing by a professional mechanic, as well as yourself, helps keep it in safe, driveable condition, enhances performance, avoids future costs, and increases value. Read more tips on our winter car storage tips. 

Why Classic Car Restorations Make a Good Project 

In the last days of petrol, saving classic cars is like “rescuing endangered animals.Part of the satisfaction of restoring a piece of history is the maintenance involved, alongside being a fun weekend diversion. Aside from being a useable investment, you will connect to likeminded people, attend classic car shows, events and car runs

Classic car restorations suit all personalities: 

  • Mechanics who enjoy working on older cars that are less complicated than their modern counterparts.
  • Die-hard car enthusiasts who do not mind foregoing modern luxuries.
  • Classic car nerds who love TV shows and films where automobiles are an extension of the character’s personality, and sometimes even outshine the actors; this group are interested in the vehicle’s engineering, history, cultural importance, and aesthetic.
  • Those who want to recapture their youth or fulfil childhood dreams of owning their ideal car. 
  • Guys or girls with a spare bit of cash
  • Hard working people of all ages who need a goal in life and want to restore a classic vehicle to its former glory.

Best Practices For Classic Car Restoration:

  •  Create a plan and realistic timescale.

Before you commit to a classic car project and to avoid excessive expenditure, determine the car’s worth after restoration. Classic cars have varying degrees of condition and restoration needs, depending on whether it is a partial or full restoration. Obtain photos of your vehicle in its prime state for comparison. 

Taking time to prepare ahead can save you money. Do not cut corners. Do you need specialist tools? Have you got significant knowledge to tackle the job yourself? It is possible that during a restoration, more than one person is required, for health and safety reasons.


  • Have a thorough, professional inspection.

Misdiagnosis can be costly: A trained mechanic or reputable restoration shop can assess what is salvageable or needs replacing, saving you time and money. Condition is paramount, especially for the engine and transmission. If the main body is compromised, the vehicle may not be repairable. 

Ask the owner if you can test drive the car to assess its performance; pay attention to the exhaust, electrics, and suspension, amongst other things. Ensure the car has not been stored inadequately or in wet conditions. 

Examine the chassis yourself to ensure it is rust-free, and without major damage. If rust needs removing, assess what original metal is left; penetrating fluid can fix small problems. Underseal to prevent it reoccurring.

  • Research previous models and compare specs.

Examine the history of a model alongside the right parts and dealers. See how often components have been replaced as some tend to fail. Research their availability. Common muscle car parts include air cleaners, exhaust, spark plugs, distributor cap, and carburettors. If your vehicle is rare, find parts for sale from closely related models from the same manufacturer, as well as new-old-stock parts and reproductions.

Be aware of scammers; many sub-standard garages will try to sell you unnecessary kit, cheap alternatives, or charge you exorbitant prices. Always price-match and check with fellow car enthusiasts.

  • Find the right contacts through recommendations.

When considering “who are the best classic car dealers near me,” location is relative: how badly do you want a great job done? They may not be local nor have the biggest website. Read magazines and join clubs for your car, forums, and groups; ask like-minded people to recommend specialist dealers in the UK who can provide servicing and restoration, source parts and offer expert advice. 

If you are looking for a great classic car restoration company and UK classic mustang specialists near London and Brighton.

  • Create a budget to avoid unnecessary costs. 

Restoration can get very, very costly. Although second hand cars are generally less expensive with insurance fees, plan ahead, and budget accordingly. It is recommended to add 30% to your budget, as it is better to be under than over. 

Costs you may need to consider are:

Skilled manual labour: Some things, like spray painting the bodywork, are best done by professionals, unless you have experience in this area. Compare estimates from different suppliers.

Training: Welding and metalwork skills such as sculpting body panels, can save money, but be aware mistakes are expensive to fix. Look for part or fulltime college courses with practical, hands-on experience.

Hiring a workspace.

Winter storage.


A high-quality comprehensive tool kit, electrical tools like air compressors, essential power tools such as a good angle grinder, power drill and welder. It might be worth hiring tools or have access to machinery.

A specialist engine overhaul could cost thousands, but it is cost effective to do it yourself, provided you know what you are doing. 

  • Source parts online or at car swaps to save money.

Beaulieu, forums, and owner’s clubs are indispensable. You might even be able to barter in some circumstances.

  • Use financing to keep your classic car restoration and repair affordable.

Muscle Car UK have financing available and a full article to help you understand your options. 

Classic Car Restoration: A Labour of Love

Bringing a classic vehicle back to life and original condition is rewarding and fun, far better and less terrifying than owning a demonically possessed car that repairs itself ie: ‘Christine.’ You need to research and plan effectively, as well as find the right specialists and contacts to avoid unnecessary costs and, in the words of Edd China, “botched or incomplete restorations.”

Rarity and originality will ensure your vehicle maintains or increases its value. Restorations can vary in time length, so be patient and enjoy the journey.

Author: Charlotte Iggulden

Muscle Car UK and Pilgrim Motorsports are leading UK classic car specialists for sports cars. We build, service and upgrade all classic cars, specialising in Mustangs, V8 engines, Carroll Shelby Cobras and Corvettes.

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All cars on our feeds are available and up for sale. Looking for something specific? We can help.

We also provide service and restoration on any car, classic or otherwise.

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