KISS your old car!




We all have love affairs with our favorite old cars. Nothing makes these love affairs stronger than when we are restoring them to the glory of their prime years. The best way to enjoy this love affair during the restoration is to KISS as much as possible. That is: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”


            Restorations are not done all at once. They are done one item at a time, one piece at a time, one belt at a time. The best way to make your restoration as hard as possible as well as the least enjoyable (and most expensive) is to completely dismantle the car and then restore it as you put it together. You will have a few days of fun taking it apart, but, when you look at the piles of parts and wonder where to start, it looks so overwhelming. Discour-agement sets in quick and you don’t have a Simple restoration anymore.


            The first thing you know, you run an ad that says “For Sale, beautiful 19— Cadillac, dismantled for restoration–make offer.” What the ad should read is “Basket case 19— Cadillac, I think all parts are there, but I got in over my head and I forgot how it goes back together. I forgot how to KISS.” So much for the hard way, now let’s have a lesson on how to KISS.


            The first supplies you need will be a tablet, pencils, a bucket of sense and some time. Leave your tool box locked for now. You should spend several hours just studying the car and writing down obvious parts you will need and an estimated cost of the parts, i.e. chrome, tires, wiring loom, radiator rebuild, exhaust system, water pump rebuild, new generator, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

            After you complete the list, you should figure about double because of things you will find later. At this point in time, you should invest in a good shop service manual and parts book. Study them, at least read through them. Also, get some parts catalogs from some major suppliers like Steele Rubber, Kanter Auto Parts, Egge Machine, etc. Go through these catalogs looking at every item available for your car. As you do this, identify each piece by looking at your car—write them down.


            You should also check Hemmings, Old Cars Weekly, our Club magazines, newsletters, etc. and mark them for people who might have parts you will need later. After you’ve done this and before you unlock your toolbox, it’s time to make decisions and envision the finished project.


            Decide at this time how much of a purist you are going to be. You must decide if you want a “show car,” a “go car” or a reasonable compromise. If you are making a show car that will be transported to shows, your prime interest will be cosmetic and originality. Safety and efficiency will be secondary.


            If you want strictly a tour or “go” car, you will be willing to sacrifice looks and originality. Most people want a reasonable compromise with a car that will turn heads, make a good showing (90-plus points) and they can drive anywhere with safety and dependability.


            Then comes the big decision: to continue or abandon. If you become discouraged and decide to abandon and sell out, you still have a saleable item that you haven’t made into a basket case. Being the car lover you are, you will probably decide to go ahead. Here we go!!


            Get out the checkbook and credit card and start ordering parts you know you will need and get them on the way. Get yourself a supply of  “Ziploc” freezer bags and a marking pen. Now you can unlock your toolbox and put up the sign to remind you to KISS.


            The best place to start is probably the bumpers…it will give you more room. As you take off each nut and bolt for each piece, it’s time for your first KISS. Determine if you are going to use the old bolts or get new ones. If you are going to get new ones, put the old ones in a bag and mark them well. Start making a list of the bolt sizes and the quantities you will need. If you are going to use the old ones, clean them up before you bag them. It wouldn’t hurt to make a simple diagram and put it in the bag with the hardware.


            If it’s real complicated, you may want to take a photo for later use. As you remove the braces and other parts, restore each piece before you put it away. If you are not going to re-chrome, then clean, polish and back paint, and get it all ready to put it back on. If it is going to be re-chromed, set it in the “chrome pile.”


            Now is the time to review how it goes back together. This is the plan you will follow throughout the entire restoration. Get in the habit from the start. As you take off each piece or component, completely restore it and get it ready to go back on before you take off the next part. If you have to order or locate parts to finish that part you can put it aside, however, as soon as you get these parts back, get it all done and ready to go back on the car.


            If you follow this practice throughout your restoration, you can always see progress and take pride in your work. This procedure should follow through to each individual component. For example, when you restore the brake system, do one wheel at a time, one part at a time. This way, you not only have your manual for reference but also the opposite brake. Reassemble one before you take the other one apart.


            On difficult parts, such as the carburetor, do each section before you disassemble the next. Clean and restore each piece one at a time unless you are a carburetor expert. Make sure you know the location and its function as you take it off. This makes it easy to KISS.


            As you follow this simple procedure throughout your restoration, you will always see progress, not just dismantling. When you have your car ALL apart, you will have several boxes of labeled parts completed and ready to install, and diagrams of how things came apart. Really the most difficult part of assembly is fairly simple because you remembered to KISS all the way throughout your restoration.


            You also learned all about each piece as it came off instead of wondering what it is or how it went on as you put the car back together. Also, during the course of restoration, you continually saw encouragement and progress instead of discouragement and disappointment.


            The more KISSing that is done during the love affair with your car, the more satisfying the long-term romance. So, when in doubt, KISS. Thank you, Phyllis.