Whether it’s an amazing find from Craigslist or a family vehicle that you want to preserve, classic cars can be a lot of fun to restore, drive, and show around, especially if it’s a rare model. But unless you’re a trained auto body technician or mechanic, restoring a classic car can be a real challenge. Vintage parts in good condition can be hard to come by, and cost can be a factor.


Or maybe you have experience with mechanics but restoring the aesthetics of a vintage vehicle is something you’ve never done before. If you’re thinking about auto body restoration for your classic car, here are some things to consider.


Do you plan to drive or display your classic car?

In the world of classic car repair, there are different levels of restoration that all depend on what you, the owner and driver, plan to do with your vehicle.

  • Driver Restoration – If you’re just hoping to get the car back on the road and keep it operational with some minor cosmetic fixes, this is known as driver restoration and depending on your experience with car repair, you may feel comfortable DIYing.
  • Street Show Restoration – If you’re hoping to display your classic car at a car show occasionally, this would need street show restoration, which typically includes fixing any aesthetic issues the car might have, like chipped paint, dented bumpers, or upholstery rips and stains, along with the mechanic issues needed to keep it running.
  • Show car restoration is for cars that you don’t plan to drive often and only to show, with the goal of restoring the car’s aesthetics to near-mint condition.
  • Concourse restoration is the highest level of classic car repair and its goal is to restore it for private collection, never to be driven. Concourse-restored vehicles are what you might see in museums — the engine may not run anymore, but they’re beautiful to look at.

Will your classic car need safety upgrades?

Depending on how old the vehicle is, it may not have airbags or seatbelts. Your state may or may not require you to add these items to your vintage car, but nevertheless it is possible to install them and many classic car enthusiasts, like Jay Leno, add seatbelts to all of their classic cars so that they can be driven safely.

Will you be able to source parts for your classic car?

Finding the right parts for your classic car can be a job in itself. This is one way professional help from an auto body or auto glass shop can really make a difference, especially if they specialize in classic car restoration. They’ll have experience in sourcing parts to the level of restoration you’re seeking.


Auto body work can turn one person’s junk into another person’s treasure and be a great way to revive a piece of automotive history. It takes a lot of work, tools, experience and patience that you may not have. A DIY classic car restoration might initially seem simple to do, but you may find out that it is very time consuming and really not worth your time as you get into the project.

If you’ve never worked on a classic car before, there may be a learning curve or you may run into unexpected hiccups while doing the repair. And you may not have the right equipment to restore the auto body, especially if it needs to be repainted or any of the interior needs repaired or replaced. A car restoration that takes an auto body shop three hours to do might take you 15 hours. Especially if it is the first time working on your classic car.