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Advice for a newbie


Guest IBEJohnson
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Guest IBEJohnson

Hi all,

Just signed up -- first post. Hope to become a regular. I've recently decided that it's [almost] time to live out my childhood fantasy of restoring a classic car. This coincides with my recent realization that I need a long term project for my 7-year old son and I to work on. Something where we can escape for some father/son time that's just ours. Problem is, I have NO experience in anything even resembling car maintenance, let alone car restoration. I think I might have changed my own oil once back in the 90's. I'm not intimidated by this fact, however. I'm actually looking forward to the challenge.

With that, I'm probably a year off from actually finding the right car and starting the project. So I had a thought for how to occupy the meantime. This is where I need a little advice and guidance. Why not start learning some of the principles of the engine rebuild process now on a smaller scale? Couldn't I get an old lawnmower (for example), take apart the engine and rebuild it? If we did this a few times, it could better prepare us for what's involved with rebuilding a car engine. Also, it gets my son and I started on our project, requires little up-front investment, and then we could sell them for a few bucks on Craigslist and put the money away in our "car fund". My son would get a kick out of that.

Bad idea? Good idea? Totally misguided? Is there something other than a lawnmower engine that's more similar and practical? I'm looking for anything you got.

Thanks so much!

Eric

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First off, Welcome to the forum. Might I suggest that you also become a member if the AACA.

After doing the above, attend your local car club meetings. They usually have meetings once a month. Present yourself and your situation to the club and several might invite you to watch/help on their winter projects they have.

Start looking at different project vehicles in your approximate area. Get an idea of any rust repairs you see, etc. Then, search the internet for videos on others repairing similar problems.

Be realistic on the depth of restoring a car. Many, like yourself, get into a car and have it all apart, lose interest and send it to the salvage yard.

I would suggest starting with a car mechanically and structurally sound that just needs detail type work. If you accomplish that, then look for something a bit more challenging.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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The lawnmower idea is a good one. You'll get the basic idea of how a 4 cycle automobile works and how the parts relate.

If you do, get an overhead valve engine (OHV) to work on. They are closer in mechanical philosophy to a modern OHV engines than the old style, and more common, flathead Briggs & Stratton engines.

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First off, don't overmatch yourself. Start off with a car that is already in good shape and learn to do routine maintenance and small repairs. Do not jump into a full restoration.

Believe me, any old car you buy will require plenty of work to keep it in top shape, no matter how perfect it looks.

You should start with a simple, popular car like a Model A Ford, or if you like something newer, a 1960s Falcon, Nova, Valiant or similar six cylinder economy car. Something with a minimum of power operated gadgets and accessories.

Buy the factory repair manual (they are not expensive or hard to get). You will also need some tools. Start with routine maintenance like oil changes, tuneups, etc. Just keeping a car clean, polished, and in good repair takes quite a bit of time. The rest of the time you can cruise around the neighborhood, take the kids for ice cream, and even go to weekend car shows and other events.

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You might have a good idea in starting with an old lawn mower. You can probably pick one up for nothing. Take it apart and you will learn something, even if it is only that you hate working on machinery. When you can put it back together and make it run like new, you will really have learned something. I don't think there is a simpler or cheaper way to learn a lesson of that kind.

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Few tips

1. Start buying tools now. You are going to need ALOT of various tools for a rebuild or restoration (welder, metric and SAE sockets, wrenchs, grinders, sawzall, ect). Start checking out craigslist and picking up the good deals when you find them. Better to start now then have to spend 1000's all at once.

2. For a first car look for a running and driving car that is maybe not super desirable. You can find them pretty cheap and it would be good to learn on. Get them running and looking good and you can make a few bucks even. Buying a non running car as a beginner is not a great idea. If you do lots of work on it and it still won't run you will not know if it is something you did wrong or if the car was just beyond repair. Much easier to tune up a rough running car that it is to bring one back from the dead.

3. Join local clubs, go to cruise nights and shake lots of hands. You can likely find someone with a project car they would be willing to sell.

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just my opinion but a 7 year old child may not be a good choice for a partner to restore an old car completely. he can be introduced to the hobby, but power tools, chemicals, hammers and flames are extremely hazardous to even an expert, let alone a newbie. your project should be more simple maintenance cleaning and riding in the car. if he stays interested as he gets older, then go for more.we need young people in the hobby.teaching him to save money and how to shop for parts is also important. not trying to tell you how to be a dad,think you have that down as you want to bond with your son. car hobby can do that.even mom can be involved. there are many nice older cars in four door version that are not as desirable to many car collectors, so they can be had a lot cheaper. good running driving ones are available.fords and chevies in the sixties are easy to get parts for. I have a lawnmower you can have. capt den

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Don't look for a "project" car.

Buy a driver that you can peck away at and learn as you go.

Getting something that needs a ton of work right out of the box is a sure way to kill what could become a life long hobby.

Having a back-up driver will do more than you can imagine to prevent burn-out.

The project tunnel gets WAY more dark before the dawn........ :(

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Eric;

about 16 years ago, I was just where you are. Little restoration experience, a few basic tools, and looking for a project to spend some father son time with my 2 sons on. May I recommend the same thing I ended up with...a Crosley. They are inexpensive, small, easy to work on, have a good club supporting them, ready network of suppliers for parts, simple , basic cars. With an 80 pound engine and a 15 pound transmission the stuff is small enough for the little guys to carry around and work on. The club is very family oriented and eager to have young people involved. And if you abandon the project you don't have much money tied up. As you can see, it is an addicting car. Check our website, we have a "little something for everyone" www.crosleyautoclub.com feel free to contact me for more information.

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When I started out in old cars, I bought a driving car. It wasn't long before I started "improving" it by restoring bits here and there. The rose tint on my specs soon darkened as I realized it could absorb quite a bit of improvement.

It seems to me there are two philosophies in car restoration. One is to start with a tidy, driving car and restore it while driving it. Take off a piece, restore it and put it back. Take off another, restore that and put it back. And so on. Focus on one little thing at a time (although some little things involve at least a dozen other little things, which makes it very easy to just carry on taking things off without doing any restoration!). You learn techniques as you go.

The other philosophy is far more daunting and far too much for me to get my head around: complete disassembly and rebuild as you re-assemble. This is a very good way to get overwhelmed and lost in a whirlpool of details you can't handle. Don't go this way until you have some skills, some space (plus the same amount again as you think you need) and some tools. And time, lots of it.

The next question concerns what you mean by a "classic car". For me, it is pre-WWII and something a little unusual. What smokes your tires?

Oh, and make sure you have a good camera to document everything you take off so you know how to put it back!

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Welcome Eric!

All good advice posted previously. My spin on your question is this, I believe you are on the right track. Your son is the right age to take with you to local cruise nights right now and peak his interest in cars or trucks. Working on a small gas engine of some kind is a good idea for yourself and get him involved as much as he can. Take your time selecting a car.

CAUTION: Everybody will have their opinion when they find out you are looking for something and have that perfect project for you so while most of us are out there to help you, don't jump on the first "sure thing" that comes along.

Something that needs a paint job with little rust (best no rust) but is strong and in dependable road condition yet might need to have seat covers put on to look better (and keep the wife happy) would be my choice to start with at a reasonable price. (There is the catch). This will give your son the sense of being proud of going with dad in something different and when he has a hand in helping Dad it will cement not only the relationship but, when he is all grown up, will more than likely be a future hobbiest and want to do the same with his son.

Ok a bit sentimental here but I was 12 when Dad got a 1920 Overland (along with many more) and every time I dust her off a flood of great memories come back!

Don't forget to ask many questions here. As stated by someone else, "There is no such thing as dumb questions".:)

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You may want to look at running older (pre - smog) 1/2 ton pickups, simple and useful.

When I was 6 years old my father put a lawn mower in front of me and told me to take it apart. Then he said put it back together --- well I needed a lot of help but I did learn that I had to pay attention to all the little details.

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IBEJohnson,

I heartily agree with the idea of the lawn mower engine project and eventually acquiring a "first" car that needs little "restoration". There are many degrees of "restoration", running the gamut from a body-off, bare metal restoration to just a good cleaning and detail job. The advice of preceding posts is right on the money in my opinion. As for tools, I'd start hitting the weekend yard sale and swap meet circuits. If you post your location (City or State region) folks can respond with information on nearby events such as swap meets and car shows.

Just curious here, but why did you not include your location when you signed up for the forum?

When it comes to acquiring information, you're already on the right track by using the internet. It's a great resource.

Cheers,

Grog

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