Planning and Beginning your Camaro Restoration

see also: Before You Begin - Project Car Selection

You always hear about "project cars" for sale.
"Project Car, 85% complete. Needs minor work (engine, trans, interior, paint). Owner lost interest, need food."
"Got kicked outta the house - hurry must sell!!! $25,000 invested, will sell for only $5000! "

So, you bought or currently own a basket case. Let's prepare to fix the thing.

You need a plan, or outline of how you will go about restoring or fixing up your car - otherwise you might be placing an ad like above.

The extent of the plan will depend on the current condition and scope of your project and available funds.

If your car is currently registered and runs around town, but is a little rough around the edges your plan can be approached as a "Rolling Restoration". This can be done in stages as time and funding permits without disabling the car for any length of time (i.e. if you gotta drive the thing to work on Monday, you don't want to be removing the subframe). YOU SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL that you can complete the task(s) scheduled within the alotted time.

If the car is falling apart, unregistered since 1978, been sitting out in abarn for the past 25 years, it's probably a candidate for a complete and total restoration.

Do a little legwork.
Obtain parts catalogs from Classic Industries, Year One, or thelike. These will come in handy in planning the restoration, some catalogs also contain good resto-advice. If nothing else, they'll make for some good bathroom reading material....

Go take a pretty close & detailed look at your car and see what your plan should include. Write the stuff down in a notebook. One thing to be aware of is stuff can fall apart when you remove it, things can break. If/when you remove the rug, big sections of the floor can be gone.Your seat frame rails can be busted. You need to be prepared for these sorts of surprises.

After you make your initial plan, you can scan it for everything that needs to be replaced, or bought. Get your parts catalogs out and look up the parts.Some parts can be bought, some parts need to be FOUND. This can help giveyou an idea of how much cash your going to have to spend and where some ofyour parts are going to come from.

Now take a look at the plan and figure out which tasks need to be farmed out. Make arrangements to schedule this stuff when the time comes. Get a rough price from the person who will do the work.

Arrange the plan in order you'd like to accomplish the work.You can break the plan down further into manageable sections which you canperform while still using the car.

Take care to not accidentally enlarge the scope of the project. For example, your task may be to remove the gas tank. You may break the fuel lines or break a tank strap while doing this. This is how projects can expand in scope and cost. Fortunantely, you'll break this part in the garage, and not out inthe middle of nowhere at 11PM.

Basic stuff, necessary stuff, nice stuff.

Every now and then, you'll want to revisit the plan, or scan it to see how you're doing.

Funds.
Restorations costs money. Be prepared to spend a bunch. Again, the plan can help here. If you go over your plan, and put an estimated cost, just on parts alone, you can see how much scratch you're going to need - roughly. You may want to double the cost of parts estimates, just to be safe. If you don't have the cash, don't plan on making enough cash during the alotted time frame, or plan on winning the lottery soon... you're going to run out of dosh.... Then YOU may be either running your own "For Sale" ad, or sitting around waiting for the money tree to replenish itself. The good thing about this is restoration is very labor intensive, and while YOU do a lot of the busy work, cleaning, painting and whatever - you'll also be working your 40 hours to replenish the restoration fund. This assumes you are doing the labor. Labor typically runs $40/hour (amd up) if you don't want to do the work yourself.

Supplies & Suppliers
This nickle and dime stuff adds up quickly. Supplies include: Storage bins, paint, sandpaper, misc tools, rags, solvents.... You can go low buck and use cardboard boxes and zip lock bags, or you can get heavy duty storage bins and plastic trays. You'll probably buy one of every type of cleaner, solvent and goop from the auto parts store, or even a department store. Sandpaper is sandpaper, whether you buy it from a paint supply house, or a department store. Except you can usually buy this stuff cheaper in the dept. store. Shop around and shop smart.I've been doing this so long that I've learned where to shop. Jegs High Performance Mail-order. Classic Industries. Obtaining tools is down below.Harbor Freight.Sears.Napa/Autozone.Eastwood.

Workspace
Garages are nice things. If the car will be disassembledcompletely, you'll obviously want to have the car parked in agarage. You'll want to be able to keep the car mobil or movableas much as possible. Even if this means putting it up on vehicle dollys which allow you to roll the car around. Make sure you have adequate access to all areas of the car. It's tough to remove anaxle when the car is parked 18 inches away from a wall.Especially when the car isn't movable.

Think things out. How am I going to do this? Think this out before you have to actuallyattempt the operation.

Things to consider if working outside arethe weather. Not just if it's going to rain or not, but in humidconditions, painting small items can be difficult.

Storage
For long term, complete projects you'll want a lot of space tostore parts. Label parts. Box various parts up and label the box. Clean and fix parts before boxing them. This is laborious stuff that takes forever, but you can accomplish these simple things astime permits. This makes re-assembly go quicker. Being able tospread stuff out and not lose it, trip over it, or have your kidsrun off, play with and break it is nice.

Tools
You probably have a basic set of tools. If you don't, you willsoon. I like to be able to put my tools away. I can quickly seeif I'm missing a socket, wrench or whatnot. You may be able toget away with a hand carried toolbox. Other folks may need, oralready have Rollaway tool chests. As you aquire tools, thesewill come in handy. We're going to learn how to buy tools in thissection. You don't want to buy tools 1 piece at a time, nor doyou need the Snap-On 15,000 piece master mechanic toolset for$34,000 either. Some tools, special tools usually, will be boughtafter carefull consideration and they will be boughtindividually. I like Craftsman tools. This means I usually shopfor tools at Sears. You can get tools at an auto parts store. Mailorder. Yard sales. Justification of tools...

Special Tools or farming out work.
Some work will need to be done by other people. This will have tobe scheduled according to their needs and your ability to pay forthe stuff.

Farming out work is often called "Bench work". Normally, you are requiredto pay by the hour (or case) for these services.

Be affiliated with, or friendly with a TRUSTED mechanic or shop who can performthese tasks.

Some common shop work that is farmed out includes:
Machine shop work. (engine machining operations).
Having bushings pressed in/out of suspension pieces.
Welding or brazing stuff that's dangerous (gas tank repair).
Plating and re-chroming services
Upholstery services
Glass work (mainly replacement of the windshield if necessary)

Some special tools can be rented from places around town. Either rented outright from a tool rental store, or borrowed, with a refundable deposit when returned, such as from some auto parts stores.

If you make restoring cars a habit, you could possibly justify purchasingsome special tools rather than constantly renting them, an engine hoist for example.

RTFM, or Read The Instructions - A word about manuals:
It is an excellent idea to have manuals pertinent to the car.If you're a weekend mecha nic, you probably already have the Haynes or Chilton manuals which help you maintain and fix your car.These manuals are basically a summarization of the Shop Servicemanual across a particular model run. Also, they don't focus on the interior or body of the car very much.

There is a Service Manual (shop manual), and a Fisher Body Manual for every year Camaro. These manuals can be purchased from Helm,or various restoration houses. These manuals will be for a specific year, and will usually contain information pertinent across all Chevrolet models (CamaroAND chevelle, nova, impala - No corvette or truck stuff though).While the Haynes manual will tell you to remove the starter and have it rebuilt... The Shop manual will tell you not only how to remove the starter, but how to rebuild the starter. The Fisherbody manual will tell you how to remove the dashboard, installwiring harnesses, remove trim pieces, etc...

The other very useful manual is the Factory Assembly manual. This is composed of all the design schematics which show how the car is assembled, so the people on the assembly line could put the car together the waythe engineers designed it (usually).

This information is invaluable in performing a smooth restoration.

Summary/Recap
While restoring a car can be expensive and time consuming, it will give youa sense of pride and accomplishment in a job well done. Your car is truelyyours. You may even be able to defer the cost of having to buy another carif you keep this car as daily transportation.

If you take your time planning and shopping carefully, you can save a lot of money and eliminate a lot of grief.

Think things out before you tear into a task. Write stuff down. It's easier to change your plan on paper, than to change your project in midstream.

Created:10/1/1998


Last updated: 10/20/2011
Author: MadMike Maciolek

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