When Doesn’t it Make Sense to Restore a Car?

Once in a while I get a call from a friend that says to me “I have XXX wrong with my car, should I fix it or cut my losses and just get something else?”  This can be a really easy question or a really tough question depending on the car and the problem that is ailing it.  When doing all of your own work, it is much easier to justify fixing a car because you don’t have to pay the labor.  The downfall to this is that it also means you can justify fixing cars that normally should be junked.  Well folks, now I have found myself in this position, and I’m asking the Nutts & Bolts Auto Blog readers for opinions.

I got a 1960 Pontiac Ventura in trade for some work on a 1964 GTO a couple years ago.  It was a complete car when I got it, and I even got it running again, but it is in rough shape.  It hasn’t been registered since the mid 1980’s, and it has been outside the entire time since, so finding solid portions of the body is not easy.  That being said, I am more ambitious than most, so I pulled the body from the frame, rebuilt the frame and suspension, and set the body back on it temporarily.

Recently, I had a friend (homesteadblast.com) soda blast the entire body of the car for me.  Ugh.  What we found was disheartening.  At the bare minimum, it needs all new floors and floor supports from front to rear, quarter panels, inner and outer rocker panels, a tailpan, lower fenders & doors.  Yeap, basically a new body minus the roof.  All of the glass is broken as well, which is a real financial drag.  To restore this back to original, the replacement sheetmetal alone would be in the multiple thousands of dollars.  Never mind the wiring, plumbing, trim, interior, and little odds and ends.  By the time the car is nice, I bet I would have well over $7500 in materials and several hundred (thousand?) hours of my own labor.  It’s value when done? Probably slightly less than what I have invested.

The 2nd option is throw originality to the wind, and basically “hot rod” the heck out of the car to suite my own bizarre tastes.  This option would be cheaper and faster because I could make my own floor braces out of boxed steel, do some simple bead-rolled floor pans, a basic DIY-style wiring kit, and use junkyard parts for the rest…

The 3rd and final option is to find a more suitable home for the car and just buy something fully drivable instead.

Ugh. I don’t know what to do. Help!

Jeremy Nutt

Hi, I'm Jeremy.

8 thoughts to “When Doesn’t it Make Sense to Restore a Car?”

  1. Ray, I like the way you think. If I did go the hotrod route, I would do a wacky engine and transmission as well. Probably fuel injected with some type of forced induction, manual transmission, 4 wheel disc brakes, Ipod hookups, and other modern comforts would likely be involved.

  2. Funny, my wife and I had a similar debate to much less of a degree. She wants a Jeep and wants one in perfect shape. I want a resto project to make it perfect for much less money. No, not the same as Ventura but the logic is the same.

    With your looking at a restore, that’s the real question. How much do you want to do? There are matching sn Venturas out there for much less money and solid frames, bodies for 5k. Some that would require 1k in parts tops to make it original and flawless. If you’re treasure hunting, sure that’s fine. If you wan to save a piece of American history I get that too.

    I would start out by looking online for the same year. if nothing else, a good parts car from very deep south would be a good option. Us northerners get so much road salt and cold out cars cancer out quickly. Which I’m sure you know, but I’d consider looking deep south for a car, or at least a good body that doesn’t require all the money for sheet work. In fact, with the shape that car is in, I’d be tempted to use it as the parts car.

    Keep us posted brother.

  3. Give your head a shake. Its as much work to fix up something you REALLY want, so why waste your time on that thing if its not your dream ? Scrap it or sell it now, before you spend a bunch of money and effort on it and quit halfway through, and then ending up scrapping it or selling it at more of a loss anyway. Not very positive, i know, but its the truth. Run. Run very quickly if you aren’t sure. It is kind of a cool car though. Probably worth the full pull if you really like it and want to keep it.

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