How to Restore Your Collector Car

August 1, 2009 | By Ted Kade

WHEN YOU WERE in high school, no doubt your teacher regularly assigned a “classic” for the next book report…and at least half the class greeted that news with a loud and sustained groan. After all, why would any student want to spend time with a musty “classic” when there were scores of newer, more exciting books on the store shelves.

Well, even if you were among the groaners when that high school English assignment was announced, here’s one “classic” book—updated, no less—that you’re sure to find worthwhile.

Tom Brownell’s “How to Restore Your Collector Car,” introduced some 25 years ago, is now available in a 2nd Edition which includes information from the original and also has current insights on topics such as modifications that will make your vintage vehicle safer and more enjoyable to drive.

Name a restoration-related topic and you’re bound to find some information and photos here. Brownell, a veteran restorer and professor of technical writing at Ferris State University in Michigan, now teamed with automotive writer Jason Scott, start with an entry titled “Why Restore a Collector Car?” and even discuss why “collector car” is a better descriptive than the term “old car.”

“There are bona fide collector vehicles less than 10 years old,” they state. “What’s important is to select the collector vehicle that fits your interest, resources and purpose.”

From there, and this is just a sampling of the topics covered, they discuss selecting a collector car, setting up shop and working safely, disassembly, restoring bright trim, cleaning and stripping, applying primer and finish coats, overhauling brakes, replacing wiring, interior restoration and, after the restoration is finished, caring for and preserving the object of all your hard work.

Along with tackling the mechanical aspects of automotive restoration, the book also gets into the human side of the hobby, offering tips for winning competitions, in addition to advice covering other aspects of restoration, such as maintaining interest in a project, even when the vehicle is reduced to a collection of pieces in your garage. “You’ll save yourself much frustration during restoration,” they wrote, “if you can focus your interest on the project—making your time in the shop a solace, relaxation, change of pace from your everyday life—and not on getting the car finished for this occasion or that event.”

And like so many people involved with vintage vehicles, they approach the question of passing the hobby on to members of younger generations and say it’s up to collector car hobbyists to provide “the right spark” to get young people involved.

“The younger generation will own collector cars; they’ll inherit ours!” Brownell and Scott said. “The question is will they enjoy our cars with the same enthusiasm, and will they perpetuate the hobby?”

Motorbooks—400 First Avenue North, Suite 300,

Minneapolis, MN 55401;;

; ($29.99)