written on: April 24, 2008 by Shauna Castorena

Shauna CastorenaThe Mecum Auto Auction is my idea of a beauty pageant!

There is no combination of sights, sounds, and smells in this entire world that works this girl up more than when a beautifully restored, powerful rumbling piece of fine classic American engineering pulls up next to me. My heart stops and all senses go right out the window. I become obsessed with the smell of the rich exhaust and the sight of those smooth curves and alluring body lines. The idling engine can only be compared to the content purr of a proud beast. Every detail carefully tended to and polished until what you have is the very best in American automotive engineering. That being said, there are some things you want to watch out for when selecting a vintage machine for restoration.

  • First things first: Know your budget. The majority of your restoration costs will go right into the engine, so you want to be sure you don't suck up your entire budget less important details or get stuck half way through the project because you ran out of money.
  • Do your homework: Know what car you're in the market for, and do your research. Find out how much other sellers are asking for their similar vehicles. Read up on common challenges, modifications and tweaks are for that make and model. Know what it costs to repair the more common signs of age and factor that into your negotiations.
  • Play by numbers: Matching numbers greatly increases the value (and most likely the initial cost) of your vehicle. This includes the engine casing number and engine RPO number. Also, verify that these figures match what is listed on the vehicle's title and registration.
  • Rust is a bust: Rust can nearly eliminate your chances of successful getting a return on your investment with this vehicle so be sure to thoroughly inspect the car before purchase.
  • It's hip to be square: Give the muscle car a good once-over to check for unusual gaps in the body. These can be especially evident around the doors and hood. Don't be afraid to get nosy and measure the wheel height and check the frame for signs of damage.

I'm sure there's a greater bounty of advice out there to be had, and I welcome more suggestions here in the comments, but this should be enough to get you started.

Shauna is an independent writer for Drunken Hillbilly, a site dedicated to underground country music and the hillbilly lifestyle.

For more on muscle car restoration, Universal Technical Institute offers a specialized training program geared towards hot rods and high performance vehicles. UTI has teamed up with the legendary Hot Rod Magazine to bring you the hottest training on the street.

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