Classic cars continue to gain in popularity, especially in a financial environment that has investors looking for ways to diversify their funds into areas where potential profits seem significantly higher than conventional investment vehicles. For those interested in classic cars for investment purposes, the number one rule is “originality is optimal.” A classic car’s resale value will often be determined by how close the restoration process comes to bringing that car back to its original, showroom condition.

That being said, there is another category of classic car owner who’s not in it for the investment as such. He or she may just want an older, classic car to love and admire, but also to drive. Their level of restoration may be on a less grand scale than those desiring a vehicle of car show quality, rarely used as transportation and kept in pristine condition to retain maximum value. Obviously, if one plans to turn a classic into a driver, it will need to be made mechanically safe and sound first. Whether this includes installing only original parts or suitable aftermarket facsimiles is a choice each owner must make after determining how the vehicle will be used.

There are basically four levels of classic car restoration to consider, with each being determined by planned future use. Once a restoration has been done there’s no going back to undo it. Likewise, once restoration has started it’s sometimes difficult to know when to stop. Having a preplanned budget will help. A new trend in classic cars has begun in which “preservation” rather than total “restoration” has become popular. This includes making a car mechanically roadworthy so that it’s drivable, but basically leaving it as is cosmetically. Here’s a breakdown of the four levels:

1· For driving, this process includes mechanical restoration for safety and functionality and may incorporate some minor cosmetic work.
2· For rallies, street showings or cruise-ins, further attention will be given to cosmetic appearance, both inside and out.
3· For entering into show competitions, this level of restoration will be complete to bring the vehicle as close as possible to showroom quality. In most cases, professionals in the field will be required to complete a project like this.
4· Concours competition, in which every component is required to be original and the vehicle should appear as it did coming off the assembly line, or even better. Winners of these competitions generally surpass what is considered “mint condition.” Bringing a vehicle to this condition will almost certainly require the work of an experienced professional.

For successful classic car restoration, the level of upgrade must first be determined and a realistic budget fixed. The first step is to obtain a vehicle worthy of the expenditure of time, effort and funds required. Those planning a DIY project should keep in mind that, at some point, professionals will have to be brought in to complete some aspects of the job, such as upholstery and painting. For truly experienced, professional assistance, contact