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Beginning Your Classic Car Restoration

by | Jul 3, 2013 | Restoration

It’s very important for anyone looking into a classic car restoration to know that this is a good example of what they’re getting into.  To know that the exact cost of restoration cannot be set firmly in the beginning. It’s going to be costly for you to have quality work down. But what’s most important is that you, the customer, just have to love classic cars.

Recently, a potential customer came to me asking about a classic car he would like to restore. It was a 1965 442 Oldsmobile. I was impressed with the level of detail he gave me along with the questions he asked. 

Below is the conversation we had about the vehicle’s condition and what else I would need from him to give him an estimate of cost and worth.

That is an excellent example of the mindset and level of commitment we should expect from anyone looking to restore their classic car.

Have a Conversation About Your Classic Car Restoration

Chris wrote:

I have a 1965 Oldsmobile 442. I have been looking to get myself a classic, muscle car for years now.  However, rather than purchase something turnkey ready, I would prefer to have something old that needs restoration so I can appreciate the vehicle and the work going into it.  

I am taking the liberty of attaching some pictures of the 442 and hoping you could provide me with an approximate estimate of what it might cost to get the vehicle completely restored.  Moreover, perhaps, you could give me your honest opinion on whether the car is even worth restoring.  If not the 442, then perhaps, I may have a 66 Mustang you could help me with.



PalmBeachCustoms Reply:


First off, I want to say hello. My name Is John Russo, and I’m the owner of Palm Beach Customs. I would need some better pictures of the underside of 1965 Oldsmobile 442 to understand the quality of the floor pans better. Also, I need to know the motor’s history and if it matches numbers and any other intel you can provide me. 

As you might know, having the car done properly would cost $45,000-$60,000. Here are a few examples of a restored Hemmings.

Also, you have to consider how much you like the car and what it might be worth 10 years from now, just like an investment. If you buy a bunch of Apple stocks, it’s worth a set number and where it will be in 10 years. 

The 442s are a good and popular investment.  There are fewer examples available than many other collector cars so that they will hold their own on the value side. I think this would be a good car to restore; it will hold value and most likely appreciate it. Something you should also consider is parts available for the restoration rubbers, chrome, and interior. They make just about everything for these cars.

I have done many restorations, and it’s amazing to see some of these cars double in value in 4 to 6 years.

But the bottom line is, do you like the car enough? If you do, then the numbers will come together at the end of the day. As far as pricing goes, send me some more info, and then we can chat on the phone and get a better estimate on your project. Also, where are you located, and what is the history of the car?

Chris’s Reply:

John:  Unfortunately, the vehicle is in Georgia, and I am a wounded Marine and am not getting around like I previously could.  

Nevertheless, an extended family member of mine told me she would sell the car to me for a grand or two, depending on my financial status.  I had asked her all those questions. But my Uncle, who owned the car, had passed and she doesn’t know anything about the car.  

However, I had her take a magnet around the vehicle to check for bondo, and there was none.  She also informed me there wasn’t any major rust except on the front hood.  Unfortunately, the major question is whether the numbers all match, and there is no way for me to find out.  

I tried to explain where she could look, but she claims she is too old to dig around.  Now my uncle planned on restoring the vehicle for his grandson, but that doesn’t mean the numbers match.  Moreover, one brother had 3 65 Oldsmobile 442, and each of the three brothers took one of the colors.  My uncle got a red one.  

Before he passed five years ago, the vehicle was supposedly running, but now it’s not.  At first, the information was that car needs a new motor. But when I asked what happened in those five years to make the motor go bad, she told me it might just be the battery.  I was hoping one of the engine photos could indicate whether the vehicle looks like a real 442 or if you believe it’s a clone.   

Therefore, I was hoping to hear your professional opinion about whether you believe I should have a flatbed go pick it up. Sure is one expensive way to find out if the numbers match.  On another note, I am a  Marine and would only have 2-3 thousand a month to do the job; I wouldn’t have everything upfront.  Now that I have laid my cards on the table, what do you recommend?

Palm Beach Customs’ Reply:

   “I appreciate the honesty. What I see in the car is most likely an excellent start. On the inside of the trunk wheel, the tubs look good. The trunk jambs look good as well. It seems to be a dry car. 

We saw the hood, and it’s not too bad. The firewall looks like it was originally a blue metallic. It looks like it’s all there. The distributor is electronic, and someone switched it off. 

Every restoration needs new wiring, chrome, and interior, and it’s all there. If you check on a classic industry website, there are most of the things you would need.

I would get the car on a ship and have someone bid to pick it up to see if you could get it for 1000-2000k.

The car is worth the money. If you get lucky and the motor matches, you have a home run. If you don’t, you can build it as a restoration mod or original. It’s your choice. Save up 6 to 10 thousand and start.

  • phase 1- you could make a tear down get the body and frame phase going (then refine your list)
    phase 2 – color in jambs – get all the wiring replaced and all rubbers
    phase 3 – suspension – drive train – motor
    phase 4 –  final paint fit finish and chrome
  • Even if you did 2 phases a year – in 2 years you would have a nicely done project take action – live your dream. As long as you are committed to finish, then you win. If something is way out of whack – (doesn’t look that way), you can sell.

That is a win-win situation. Many people would die to get that car for 1-2k.

I hope this helps!

Chris’s Reply:

You are the man! Not many people would do another fellow a favor and break everything down like that unless something was in it for them.

I was reading your email with my brother, and we couldn’t get over the fact you broke everything down so easy for a couple of knuckleheads like us so kindly.

Honestly, I was hoping I would hear something positive like your review and just get the car, but since I don’t have much knowledge about muscle cars, I was hoping to get a business with someone honest like you. You have already proved to be and just have the first 3 phases, though out immediately. Basically, in essence, I should have a little change for my dream.

Would you be interested? How much do you think it will cost me to do it, right? Thank you kindly!

PalmBeachCustoms’ Reply:

“Chris I would be happy to restore your 442

It’s difficult to price without seeing everything because maybe it’s rust-free – or maybe it needs a few floor pans. So the only way I can rate it is to get the car in and do a real estimate. If that didn’t work, then I’ll help you sell it. It looks excellent, so I don’t believe that’s the case. Once I see it, I can make you a list of something like this is a ballpark of 450 hours plus parts and materials. It’s easy to go over 50 hours and underestimate prices for items. Most suppliers are willing to offer discounts when you purchase complete sets like rubber, interior, etc. 

It’s very important to get quotes in when doing the final estimate – It will take an entire day to get close –and you will have a pretty solid idea on exact pricing for items needed when it’s time to order (it makes it easier)

  • Body, all sheet-metal blasting, prepping, blocking 10k
  • frame, blasting, painting, brake lines, gas tank, suspension 3k
  • interior, wiring, chrome, rubber………………………… 5k
    engine and mechanical………………………………………5k
    Materials for bodywork, epoxies, metalwork……… 2k
    sheet metal cost and labor……………………………… TBD
    tire rims………………………………………………………..1-2k
    final assy, paintwork finish………………………………10k
    materials…………………………………………… 2500.00
  • at this, you’re at 39,000- so 40-45 k would be my estimate.” 

As you can see, even considering starting a project for your classic car restoration requires a lot of thought, time, and research. But, if you really want to follow through, the only thing stopping you from finishing your classic car restoration is yourself. 

Here at Palm Beach Customs, we’re willing to work with our customers based on their budgets to help them achieve what they want.

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