Classic truck restoration tips

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1955 Chevy Task Force
Patience and care restored this 1955 Chevrolet Task Force to its original glory
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Approach classic truck restoration with realistic goals and expectations

For better or worse, you’ve fallen in love with a classic truck. Never mind the rust and missing mirrors, she’ll run like a beauty someday. Classic truck restoration is a rewarding experience, the trick is to enjoy the process and manage your goals and expectations.

Many classic truck restorers find that finding their next truck is half the fun. They attend auctions and drive around back roads with an eye out for that ‘For Sale’ sign propped on top of a 1950 Chevy pickup truck. Some restorers prefer to stick with one truck manufacturer while others collect and look for diversity in their projects.

In general, many enthusiasts buy a truck, replace the damaged parts, give the truck a paint job and make upgrades over time as the budgets allows. Common upgrades that go on the back burner include steering, brakes and improving the comfort level. Whether you have a major or minor classic truck restoration ahead of you, these steps will guide you.

Classic Truck Restoration Tips:

Assess the Damages

Before you can determine a realistic timeline for this project, you need to know how much work and money will be required to make the truck functional. Give the truck a complete structural review. If you’re not qualified to do this yourself, have a mechanic do it.

Make a Parts and Projects list

Make a prioritized list of all of the parts you will need and the work that has to be done. Decide if you will use only original classic truck parts or if you’re okay using modern equivalents or replicas. You will be able to find parts for every make and model of classic truck, from Chevy truck parts, to Ford parts. 

Estimate labor costs on the projects you don’t plan to do yourself. Go online, to parts shops and swap meets to find the best deals on the parts you need. Comparison shopping can be time consuming, but the money you save will add up fast.

Set a Realistic Timeline

Will you be happy to just to get the truck into driving condition? Or are aesthetics equally important? If you’re planning a paint job for your first phase of improvements, make sure to factor this into your budget (as well as labor if you don’t do it yourself). Your timeline and your budget should be considered together – make sure you will be able to afford the truck parts you’ll need in order to achieve your goals in time so you won’t be disappointed. 

Define DIY

Many restorers have a specialization, like mechanics, and hire a professional for the other jobs, like painting. If you don’t have all of the equipment or space required, you’ll need a professional to handle some of the restoration. Ask fellow truck enthusiasts for recommendations.

On the other hand, the fun of classic truck restoration is in the skills and truck knowledge you gain. Challenge yourself to do as much of the restoration yourself as possible, and you’ll naturally have more patience with the project. There are a number of restoration reference guides in print and online, as well as online videos and tutorials to demonstrate how to do small projects from fixing a tail light to basic electrical theory.

For many classic truck restoration alumni, the ‘end result’ is actually a work-in-progress that improves in performance and appearance every year. Enjoy working on your classic truck!

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