Restoring your Buick on a low budget
So, you have your Buick in hand, possibly a collectible 1973 to 1987 Regal. You’re doing a low budget Buick restoration and you want to do things right. Where to begin? The best advice is to get good advice. Have a Buick mechanic, or someone talented with restoration, go over the car from top to bottom. Pay them to make a list of the most important things that need fixing.
Next, get educated. Get a shop manual, do your internet research, and get a good parts catalog. Develop a plan. On a budget you can get everything done, you just have to prioritize and spend money on parts over a period of months, perhaps years. At this point, learn about the steps you can do yourself to save money. Let’s discuss that now.
Walk around the car. Pull the hood. Does anything stand out? Check the spark plug wires. Are they cracked and brittle? Do you know when the spark plugs were last replaced? Speaking of which, if you are doing a restomod restoration, one not using all original parts, you are free to upgrade the items that need replacing. Instead of bargain basement plugs and wires, why not buy something a little better? You’ll increase value as well as reliability. What else?
Like spark plugs, the consumables all need attention first. The tires, air and oil filters, the battery, rubber hoses, and radiator fluid. They can all be changed or replaced before you start throwing big money down for body work and new paint. Do all of the interior switches work? Does the AC blow cold? Combined with your mechanic’s list, your master list will give you a blueprint to follow in the coming months ahead. Overwhelmed? Start with safety items first like tires. You can economize here. But first a side note.
Unless you are planning to use your classic as a daily driver, you probably won’t be putting the miles on your car that you would ordinarily rack up. As such, check to see if you can register your car as a classic. Many states give a discount to cars registered as such and many limit the miles you can drive under this kind of title. 5,000 miles is often the limit. With this kind of program you may be able to get a much better rate on insurance, especially from rare car insurers that know the true worth of a vehicle that hasn’t yet been restored. (And you’ll get a cool looking license plate.) These steps should save you some money that you can put into your budget. I left off with tires.
There’s a wealth of more economically priced rubber that won’t break your budget. Again, if you are restoring a car for fewer miles, don’t go for higher priced tires. The good news is that today’s economy tires are probably better and last longer than the ones that came with your car 25 years ago.
Take photographs as you look over your ride. Everyone loves before and after photos, as anyone who has gone to a classic car show can tell you. Besides preserving memories, and material for a future signboard, photographs will help you put back together what you take apart. The more tricky the tear down, the more photographs you should take. Also, are any little bits missing? Like badges and emblems that someone might have helped themselves to years ago? Make a list of those and start searching the net. It may take time to find them so you should start that process while you work on the rest of the car.
Besides scouring junkyards, auto parts catalogs, and the internet for replacement parts, you should definitely find and join a user’s group. A collector’s association that specializes in Buicks. They’ll be source of information and possibly parts, as many collectors are hoarders and do not let even the smallest bolt or piece of chrome leave their property.
As you advance on your restoration, you’ll find some tasks that are simply beyond your skill level. Like engine work or perhaps upholstery. Even if you were willing to tackle these projects, you’d need the right tools and be expert in using them. You really have to concentrate on finding the items you can do yourself with a reasonable change of success. If you are truly committed, consider enrolling in a community college course that teaches auto mechanics. You’ll be introduced to a new world of knowledge and perhaps your ride can be a project car.
You’re embarking on a long journey but you should have success along the way. Recent Buick parts are relatively common and the internet offers resources not available in decades past. Good luck with your low budget Buick restoration