This is a question we get asked quite often and our reply will always be “very carefully”. Choosing an old car to restore takes a lot time and research. You should never buy it sight unseen and the term "let the buyer beware" should ring loudly in your head. In fact we just purchased a new restoration project and it took us a year to find this car.
The long search was not because we were looking for some rare or hard to find vintage vehicle. We just wanted to do a full restoration on a classic sedan style car that would eventually be a daily driver with modern mechanics. We chose a 1961 Mark II Jaguar we found in Austin, Texas.
Why so long to find a Jag you ask? Because after a full inspection of many sedans, and a complete accounting of what it would cost to restore them to our specifications, we calculated that this Mark II’s resale value may be equal to the outlay of money for its restoration. Any home restorer will tell you that kind of car is hard to find.
The Mark II Jaguar from Austin hasn’t been registered since 1988 but it’s a solid and straight car with only surface rust and decent bright work. The engine, transmission and interior wood, leather and carpets all need replacing, and with only a few dings, the body will need to be taken down to bare metal for painting.
Before we made an offer on this or any car, we source the cost on full replacement or rebuild of parts with a “worst cast” scenario assumption. If the price of the restoration is well over what the car would eventually be worth, then we walk away.
Only 30% of restoration projects are completed because enthusiasm and emotions get in the way of this type of thinking. Marriages are strained, bank accounts are drained and the dream of cruising in a classic is shattered because of a lack of research and not being realistic about how much of the restoration you can or can’t do.
If you are thinking of doing a restoration project, we have more about this subject in our How to Choose a Car to Restore article.