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Stages of a Restoration - What to Expect


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I know there are a few of us about to start or have recently started a restoration. Call us the ignorant lot.


I also know there are many that have completed a restoration at some point. I'll call you the wise lot.


What do you wise lot have to say to us ignorant lot?


What are the stages of a restoration and in which order should they be carried out?


If you had to do it all over again what would you change?


What was the hardest thing about your restoration which took you by surprise?


Would you do it again?


What wise words can you share with us ignorant lot?



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For my Charger I took out the easy route.....


For what i wanted I wasn't skilled to do it and was/still am time poor and no real resources at home to do a restoration.


So coming up to 13 years later, I have had the car sit at various stages of disrepair at home for a few years and it has been sitting in a workshop as a fill in job for the last 4 years or so. Still not sure of the time it will take to finish, but just needs paint and putting together and the motor built when a cam turns up for regrinding.


So far the bill is up around $60k for a full bare shell sandblasted restoration by a high quality shop and about $15k to finish off.


I haven't done any work of note on the car as I have left it to the experts, but I have made all the decisions in terms of spec's for engine, suspension, wheels and so on sourcing most of the parts to be used myself and of course what i wanted the car to look like and the feel of the car. It will be presented in a R/T scheme, but not be a R/T replica, done in black with black bonnet patches and stripes, all the six pack and hemi decals but with a couple of pentastars to replace the R/T badges on the front guards and some inspiration from Leo Gheoghan's factory car for the rear end..


Would I do a car like this again? No. This car is a one off for me as I have always wanted ne show quality restoration done.


Would I restore another car? yes, but not to the same standard. I am basically doing this with the S14 race car as it will be the only way I can afford to get the car onto the track. i am still paying for things to be done for me, but mainly fabrcation work I can't do myself, or getting parts.


The other major expense will be the motor as I will be paying someone to build it and wire up the injection harness and get it running and tuned. Better they do all the work than a whole bunch of people doing it.


The order I am doing the S14 is basically:

1. Got a shell

2. Find bits

3. Get cage built in shell

4. Prep shell - take all sound deadening out and off, strip underside of as much crap as possible for weight reduction. Paint underside and engine bay in rust seal paint.

5. Part assemble shell - fuel tank back in, hard lines for fuel and brakes, think about wiring harness for all but engine and where to locate stuff like battery.

6. Put suspension back in

7. Build motor and check gearbox, source and refurbish diff.

8. Paint Shell

9. Install drive train

10. Install windows

11. Get sign off from scrutineer for pre race check and log book issue

12. Test

13. Sticker up

14. Race it like I stole it......


In any restoration get ready for tears and tantrums, from you and the other half, budget blow outs and work to be redone due to stuff ups, changes in direction and bits being lost or better bits found and used.


Don't set a fixed time to do the work, I have told the workshop doing the Charger I want it ready by Friday, which one I have left up to them....


Be prepared to walk away for a while when you get sick of it and just let it sit for a few weeks or a few months as needed. Don't let it get in the way of more important stuff like family.


That's about all I can contribute.

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What was the hardest thing about your restoration which took you by surprise? Body work and paint are the hardest for most people as they aren't panel beaters, but that is all relative to what sort of end result you will be happy with.

Buy a done one and customise it to your tastes. It will be so much cheaper in the end.



Stages depend on what condition car you are starting with and what your end goals are.



If you buy something, try and get something with the body work done, preferably driveable. That way at least you get to enjoy your car while you are working on it.



Don't pull something apart until you have all the parts and the time to put the new ones in. Otherwise you car will sit on stands forever and again you can't use it.



Nothing is ever a straight forward job. Most things if you do them properly will be a couple of hours to complete, so set your goals accordingly. If you say have one day a week to work on your car, you are going to be lucky to get two decent jobs done on it in that time frame.




Have lots of money, if you think over $20k is too much to pay for a really good car, you need to realise you will spend much much more on a crappy one in the long run and you won't be able to drive it in the mean time.



Research everything and how it is supposed to go. I put my fender mirrors in the wrong place (really common thing to mis-read Alan's diagram) and now im looking at flares and where they can go there are a lot of different positions and shapes of flares that will greatly affect the overall performance and look of the car. Not only that it changes the suspension design too. So definitely research before you even go out to the garage to fit something.



There are lots of things when building these cars (this mainly applies to modified ones) where you can buy the part but for it to look right, it might need extra modification or going outside what's legal. Wide wheels and offsets are a good example of this, but again it all comes back to researching and measuring and measuring again. You can't just go out and the parts and put them on your car any old how and expect it to look like the 'hero' cars you see on the internet. Generally the owners have gone to some length or traded off big time on performance or functionality to get a look.



Another big one for the noobs and i'm not putting you in this category George, is posting up dumb or often asked questions. These cars are 40 years old, almost everything has been done before. The way that most of us got the knowledge was to search the internet, not just this forum! There are tons and tons of posts on most subjects, unless you are using a new product. If you are told something is a dumb idea then it probably is (eg running 8" rims to fill out flares with retarded offsets). I have had a zed for the past 13 years and i still read hybridz and other forums for hours on end getting new information about suspension and all manner of things. Also don't ask questions about doing custom ITB setups, crazy engine swaps or the like before you do your research AND you actually are in a position to do the work. "I'm going to do a V12 engine swap, but i only have $5k but i can do all the work myself, i just have to save up for a couple of years" (and not doing any research on it) makes you look like a twat and just another "Gonna". On forums you see hundreds of "Gonnas" all time. I reckon 5% of them would be lucky to turn into "Done it"s. </rant>

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I'm on the home stretch with mine with only the paint and some interior work needing to be completed.


If i had to give some tips I'd say buy consumables in larger quantities eg. Paint brushes, grinding discs, blades, sandpaper etc etc. For example: If you think 3 cutting discs will do the job, buy 10. 4 litres of primer? buy 8 litres. A small tin of paint stripper? buy 2 large ones..and so forth. I've had to buy things 5 times over as i always underestimate how much i really need and end up wasting time, energy and money by trying to save more money by buying smaller quantities rather than the larger but better value sizes/packs.


*Triple your budget.


*Triple your time frame.


*Try to have fun and change up the type of work you are doing to keep motivation up.


*And also complete the car as you wish and not how others want it done, otherwise you will either end up redoing the car or just give up.


*Try not to cut corners as it will come back to bite you in the ass.


For me the hardest things were the 40 year old wiring issues and sourcing the right parts as there are many variations throughout the years and the rarity and prices of certain parts are exorbitant.


Would i do it again? Yes, but i would start off with a more complete, better condition car.




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I've done a couple of partial resto's and the best thing I did with the first zed was to get it roadworthy and ENJOY driving it for about a year before thinking of any work to do. Fix up any major issues and get it going. It gives you the best motivation to finish it off once you pull it of the road (and keeps it registered while doing so then you don't need to worry about certificates later; just assemble and drive away!) Second zed was bought as a unfinished puzzle with missing pieces (hardest ones to source mind you) but I knew what a zed was like to drive and own so that was enough motivation to get me to finish it asap.



I'm on the home stretch with mine with only the paint and some interior work needing to be completed.


If i had to give some tips I'd say buy consumables eg. Paint brushes, grinding discs, blades, sandpaper etc etc. For example: If you think 3 cutting discs will do the job, buy 10. 4 litres of primer? buy 8 litres. A tin of paint stripper? buy 2..and so forth. I've had to buy things 5 times over as i always underestimate how much i really need and end up wasting time, energy and money by trying to save money.


*Triple your budget.


*Triple your time frame.


*Try to have fun and change up the type of work you are doing to keep motivation up.


*And also complete the car as you wish and not how others want it done, otherwise you will either end up redoing the car or just give up.


*Try not to cut corners as it will come back to bite you in the ass.


For me the hardest things were the 40 year old wiring issues and sourcing the right parts as there are many variations throughout the years and the rarity and prices of certain parts are exorbitant.


Would i do it again? Yes, but i would start off with a more complete, better condition car.



Couldn't agree more...

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One simple word of advice.




If you work for any business, you will know that business planning is paramount, you should treat your restoration in the same manner.


Step one, decide what exactly you want to achieve, concourse restoration, bullet proof every day ride, weekend tourer, acceptable for vintage roadworthy example of the marque, hybrid Z.


2 READ everything you can find once you have decided on what your end goal is.


3 Examine clinically every part of and every part on the car and decide what can be used without any rework, what needs outright replacement, and what can be salvaged and repaired.


4 Spread sheet all of the above and go window shopping for what you need, price it all up.


5 Decide what you can and cannot do and divide it into 2 columns, what you cant achieve you need priced by someone who can


6 Don't lie to youself.


7 Run the adding machine then add a 5% contingency.


Result: reality bites.





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Ahhh restoration, i have had a hand in the odd one. I will assume you have a vehicle mostly complete to write this.


Before we start, 9 out of 10 projects fail!


The Vehicle: Always nice if you can start, drive and video the whole lot. It will inspire you when you are running out of energy. Get snap Happy.


The Workplace: Treat it like you are working for someone else. Make it user friendly.


The Budget: That's your choice but if there's not $100 out of your wallet every week you will be more likely to fail.


Engine/ transmission: Do you have 20 Years? Unless you want a stock setup or are handy with a spanner i would say forget about building your own. Budget and types can range sooo much it's a whole other thread itself. If you buy unfinished project gear do Not do it unless they have proof.


The Tear-down: Don't label every little piece because there are 1000 guys on here who can help you with nuts and bolts. The other big bits are simple and after 40 years a percentage of the bolts will incorrect.


Parts: Haggle, wait, watch and get the best price you can but remember that every hour you're on a forum, gumtree or ebay is time you could be spending on your project.




Rust Repairs Shell

The hard bit now will be when the car is at it's most vulnerable. Guess what? So will you. You'll now have a stripped down and rusty lump of metal that doesn't hardly look like a car. This will sap all your energy. Break down the areas into sections (Panels) if you are serious you can do one a day (8Hrs) on each. Cover the rest of the car like a surgeon does if it starts to get to you. Get that sucker in Etch as soon as metalwork on each panel is done. Bodywork will follow.


Rust Repairs Panels

Same as above but get that repaired shell out of the shed (remember you are Male and you know you can multitask but focus your mind, focus it on one section at a time. You will work better that way.) Now as you repair a panel fit it, get your gaps right. Start at the back and go forward.


Bodywork: Now that the emotional part is over take a breath. You need to change your mental state. Bodywork is more like art than work, try to enjoy it. It's like crafting a clay model much the way they do for any prototype. Get some music cranking, you'll know when you are in the mood. FEEL THE CAR. It's important. You need to reconnect with it. It's becoming part of you now If you lack the skills do as much as you can, remember it's 90% prep 10% paint. Then get help to make her straight.


In the history of our planet there has never been a better time to learn.


Starting the car and driving it at this point will boost your ego. DO IT if you can!


Assembly: If you will use the car like i do there is little point in having a high quality finish underneath. Clean everything but don't go silly.


Interior: Try to find a car with a good one or you'll pay for it here.  Having a mix of new and used parts is hard to pull off.


Once all this has been completed you will have the luxury of dealing with engineers, roadworthys and registration. If you manage to get to this point you may find yourself a changed man. I won't say how because i don't want to ruin it.


Be in that 10 % you won't regret it!








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Be prepared to walk away for a while when you get sick of it and just let it sit for a few weeks or a few months as needed. Don't let it get in the way of more important stuff like family.


I suspect I might have to do this at some stage, but I'm actually motivated to do this now before kids, family, marriage or the big 1 mortgage. Although the way house prices are going in this country I don't know if I'll be buying a house for quite a while.


Having seen what happens to most people when the above takes place the add often reads, selling due to starting family or other priorities etc.. I don't wanna be a statistic so I'm trying to do as much as possible this year and next.


As for my advice? I sold my first 240z before actually giving welding / rust repair a go myself. I have regretted it ever since and promised I'd learn, so hence I bought #150 and I enrolled in the tafe course. Determined not to give up again this time!

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George if your doing the body work yourself then do one panel at a time and don't move on till you finish it off. At least this way you can look at the car and be happy with yourself, the build is moving forward and you've accomplished/finished something. A car covered in half finished repairs looks insumountable.


A Sharpie and zip lock lunch bags are your friends, bag and tag the lot.

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I wish I'd started the way this guy has gone about it,




Rebuild each part as its removed - instead I have a pile of old looking parts. The plan was/is to just put it back together as it is and one day take it all down and get things plated all at once, but its definately hard not to do things 'while I'm at it'.


Also need to be realistic about how long things take, and how many things can come up and get in the way. So don't buy a car that needs work and expect to be able to drive it straight away, it'll just take the enjoyment out of working on it.

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Having worked on my own cars for several years now 1 thing that I'm realising more and more is the benefit of the right tool for the job. Struggling with the wrong tools is not a fun way to go about things really. Having the correct tools on hand makes the job a lot more enjoyable and for me anyway gives me a better level of satisfaction as often using the wrong tool causes you to break / ruin things / damage other parts to some extent.


I'm also taking lots of photos of everything and how it all goes together as I imagine later on it will help tremendously. Modern phones make it so easy and using cloud based services like Google+ to automatically upload all photos for me and then I just assign them to a photo album means I'm keeping lots of photos easily organised.


Also remember there is no need to rush if you have the space to work on things etc.. Hence why I'm so happy to have a garage. Although it is a little annoying having to move the RX-7 in and out of the garage, but at the same time I'd be annoyed leaving it in the rain and sun all day also.

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Some awesome advice already given but for my resto in particular, when buying parts from overseas, try to buy everything you need in one hit! Even if you think you might not need it, it's most probably better to buy it than to have to do another purchase down the track because postage is a killer. I've lost count of how many times I've had to buy from the US..


I didn't do a complete nut and bolt replacement restoration on my car, but one where the car was in a respectable condition and 'fresh' enough for another chance of registration. I put so much time and effort into the car that I neglected my girlfriend. It didn't help that I was working away 10 days at a time either. So I would also recommend giving time to your loved ones before the car. I'm glad the missus was patient enough to have stuck around but I know our relationship got a little uneasy because of it.


Depending how handy you are, I'd also recommend giving everything a go yourself, there's no better way to learn. 95% of the work done on my car was done by myself.


Body work (paint preparation mainly) is the biggest killer and drainer of the project in my opinion, like others have already mentioned, try to keep it interesting. If you get sick of it, maybe work on another area of the car until you get some motivation back. And if you think the area your prepping is 'good enough'.. Keep going for another few hours because once the car's painted, that little imperfection will stare at you for the rest of your life! haha


Once the body work's done, everything suspension and mechanical is fun.. Good luck

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I’m enjoying this topic a lot and thought I would throw my 2 bobs worth in. I am in the category of the ” ignorant lot” for what it is worth.  In my 40’s now and have broad experience with both cars and bikes.


I agree completely with the statement – Start with the best body/shell you can find and in the case of these cars the most complete (easier said than done and depends a lot on budget). Both my car and my best mates car (vorn70 – 920 gold 240Z) are relatively rust free and very complete in comparison to some of the projects on this site and still sometimes I could very easily just sell up my project and buy one already done. Vorn and I did some rough sums on his build which is almost complete and we definitely came to the conclusion that it would be cheaper that way but not maybe as satisfying in the longer term of ownership.


“Complete the car how you wish and not how others want it done” or how you think others want it done. I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted my project to be when I started about 2 years ago. Now I find myself questioning how much to spend on paint? Should I really track a low build number series 1 240Z with matching engine number? and with it fully stripped sitting on the rotisserie the question of corner cutting comes to my mind as I don’t really want to have revisit the rotisserie again in my life time. I constantly have to tell myself to do it my way and forget how I think other people would do it (again not always easy). I do want to drive it before I die.


I don’t have a timeframe to complete (this century please) and I just do something else if I am not in the mood to work on it. Build threads on this site are my main motivation.


As others have said - finish something before moving onto the next thing. When I had 4 Zeds in the shed needing restoring I didn’t know where to begin so I just didn’t begin. Now I have streamlined down to 1 Zed I have some focus back.


I hope this helps someone with their build.


Cheers Jeff


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I'm actually not sure if I should be posting tips on restoration or what the different stages of restoration are like in here?


So I thought I'd add some perspective on my FD RX-7 - since I rebuilt that after it was considered a financial write off in Ireland.


I originally purchased the car for just over 5000 euro, which to me was a steal, considering what they sell for in Australia. The previous owner had paid 12,000 euro just a couple of years earlier, but then the Irish economy burst and toys dropped in price.


I really hadn't had to do much to it, except replace the radiator with an upgraded Koyo Rad, not having all the tools I was used to in Australia it actually took me a few weeks (snapped a bolt) and had to make modifications to make the aftermarket part fit. When the car is off the road it can be quite unmotivating and you start to think about selling it, since it's a financial burden etc.. After I got it fixed and could drive it again I was so glad I didn't get rid of it and continued to enjoy it for the next year or so.


Unfortunately it was stolen and they bent the passenger door and window frame, trashed the ignition, broke both headlight covers (pop up's), damaged the front bumper and passenger wing and stomped on the roof leaving a nice dent in it. The paint was 17 years old at this point anyway and had it's own imperfections which made repair hard because most of the car needed to be painted and you couldn't really get away with a half-assed job or patch repair.


I looked around for ages for a replacement, many cars came onto the market at various stages of modification and I was tempted to buy a single turbo car many times. However I would later read that many of these cars needed an engine rebuild or had some other major defect (the beauty of being a member on forums is you get to follow the life of many of these cars later). I couldn't really buy from the local market either because most of the Irish market cars were Japanese market rejects brought in with previous accident repairs and many were just poorly looked after. The cars I did look at often disappointed or were on the other side of the country...


I had several people offering to buy my car for 2k - 3k euro and I was tempted at the time to just sell it off, the previous owner also expressed interest in buying it back (his brother in law was a rotary mechanic). It was at that point I reflected on what I had, which was a mostly original car which had been well looked after until that point. I started to ignore what other cars were on the market or what you could get for a few thousand more euro and focused my energy on the RX-7.


I found a donor car that Eddie Doyle had (Ireland's Rotary Expert) and basically picked as many usable parts off that for my own FD. Later I would get the ignition sorted, the door replaced, the front wing (both were same factory silver colour), and a temporary black bumper and headlight covers (from Ebay) the roof dent basically popped back out but had a few ripples left which needed work. I chased a lot of small broken bits and pieces on eBay and could have gotten away with a quick spray job on the bumper and being done with it. I would have only spent 3000 euro and had a car close to what it was before the theft.


But of course, I decided I wanted to source the later front bumper (which I couldn't get second hand in Europe) and had to buy brand new from Mazda, then I bought a pair of optional Recaro seats (which often cost 3000 - 4000 AU or $10K brand new from Mazda!, I got them a lot cheaper than that, but with a bit of hassle and some missing bits like fasteners etc..), I installed the rear storage bins and removed the rear seats which are useless.


Then I decided to get the whole car repainted professionally, I had no space or time to do it myself so outsourcing was the way to go. Yes it cost quite a bit to do the paint job but it turned out looking lovely, I wouldn't have been happier with anything less. I got the car engineered which was a pain and reinsured etc..


There were definite low points during the process though, right after it was damaged I let it sit in the yard for a few weeks before doing anything with it. Many times I contemplated giving up or selling off the car in bits (would have made more money), but now that I've got the car with me in Australia I'm glad I did what I did. Money is just money at the end of the day and whilst it would be nice to have it sitting in my bank account the level of gratification and satisfaction I got from restoring something that would have been discarded or parted out was definitely worth it to me. I've given the car a second chance and to be honest with all the nonsense spoken about the rotary engine, that's actually not caused me any problems (touch wood).


The highlight was when I first saw the car after it was painted.


The old paint was quite dull, so seeing it with new quality paint, all of a sudden every angle of the car had a reflection I hadn't seen before, it took on a completely different shape in some ways and really brought out the beauty of the FD.


The response it got when I took it back on the road was funny, many people would stare at it - probably not sure what it was in Ireland (you don't see them on the roads) etc.. I got that same feeling of awe when I saw the car after it was shipped to AU, I forgot how good it looked till I saw it in person again (had been a couple of months since I last saw it).


I blew the budget by a couple of thousand euro, but that was fine. The car was exactly how I had wanted it to look since I first bought it and every other car I'd seen needed something changed to meet my standard. A big plus for me working on this car was the fact that it was a really good form of stress relief from work and gave me something positive to focus on outside of work. Which at the time was really helpful.


It helped me realise what I really enjoy is fixing something that's broken. Taking trash to treasure and 'wowing' people along the way, I recall showing my work colleagues who had heard about this car for many months and their wow reaction was nice affirmation that it was worth all that time effort etc..


Believe it or not after it was finished I actually felt a bit bored, like what do I do next? Hence I bought another project car  8) so I'm a sucker for hard work you could say. They say enjoy the journey not the final destination and I think it's true for the most part, although it's nice to be able to jump in and drive the RX-7 from time to time also. For me though learning new skills makes me feel useful and I think men in particular are tool builders and tinkerers by nature and this is a healthy outlet for our frustrations and perhaps mental stress.


What have I learnt about the whole process?


1. If you don't have the motivation to do something or want to learn that skill outsource it to someone else.

2. Don't worry about the cost, if it's what you really want. You can always earn more money again later. Money in a bank account is nice but you also have to spend it sometimes also.

3. It always takes longer and costs more than expected, but sometimes it's because your goals change.

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