A Ground Up Restoration – A Restomod

This will be a short update as I am focusing a lot of time on my restomod. When I refer to a “ground up restoration,” I am thinking about what I am doing to my 1962 Pontiac Catalina, not what a butcher does to make hamburger. However, if you get clumsy during a restoration, the car can meet a similar fate from the whirling jaws of a car crusher. Most “restorations” are mainly cosmetic in nature in that the car is given a nice paint job and perhaps a new interior. Some basic mechanical work is usually also necessary. For a “ground up restoration,” the car is totally disassembled right down to the bare frame and body. If it is a true restoration, the car is then put back together to showroom condition. This can be a very daunting and expensive task, and one that I have done several times now.

What I am now doing is what is called a “restomod.” This restomod qualifies as a “ground up restoration” since we have totally taken the car apart, and we are putting it back together with modern components rather than original parts. What results is a car that looks old but is actually brand new. In today’s market, restomod cars are easier to sell and often bring a lot more money that fully restored originals. There are several reasons for this. One – unless the car is a popular make like the tri-five Chevrolets (1955 to 1957) or any year Corvette or early Ford Mustangs, there are no new parts available. Two – if the car has a large cult following, manufactures will see a good profitable market and reproduce the parts frequently with permission from the original manufacturer. This makes it possible to take a very degraded vehicle and bring it back to life in all its glory.

If you are restoring a less popular car like my 1940 Lincoln Continental or a true Chrysler 300, there are very few reproduced parts that are manufactured. This forces you to scrounge around the internet to find used parts that are sold by privateers often at very high prices because, in some cases, they may have one of the only parts left in the world. A car has to be particularly significant to deserve that level of preservation. The restoration can be very expensive and well beyond the means of the average wage earner. Another factor is that the number of people who know how to overhaul an old transmission or rebuild a carburetor are limited. The new GM mechanic schools no longer even mention carburetors. Parts that were once made in the millions are now melted down to make Toyotas.

With my restomod, I can find lots of great brand new parts that I can fit into the old body of this car as both Ford and Chevrolet now cater to this market. My LS3 engine and six speed transmission are brand new and even carry a factory warranty. They come supplied with a factory computer especially programmed for this engine and transmission, plus all the necessary cabling and accessories for a “plug and play” installation. If there is a future problem with these parts, it can be handled by a GM mechanic or parts department.

One of my motives for doing a restomod rather that another restoration is that at my age I desire to have a trouble-free high performing vehicle that I can use knowing it will be about as reliable as a new car. Another reason is that if it becomes an “estate car” (i.e. I am dead), it will be easy to sell. The buyers of today have no direct experience with the old machinery, and they have no emotional attachment to them. They consider an 80s car a “classic,” while I consider it to be a modern car. They want all the convenience, power and reliability of a new car wrapped in the old car “classic” look. Men in my generation consider a “classic” car by definition to be confined to the coach-built cars of the 20s, 30s and 40s and consider the later era machinery to be just “old cars.”

Here is my Progress Update:

All the dirty disassembly has been completed, and I am very pleased with what I discovered. The essentials of the car are totally sound, and the corrections that it needs are relatively minor. This last Friday, we got it back from the media blasting and put on a coat of epoxy primer. When buying the primer, I could only buy a quart as there was no more available around town. It appears all of the “stay safe at home folks” like me are spending the idle hours building hot rods and restoring cars. When you run out of toilet paper, you can find a work around to get by. (There can be multiple uses for the Denver Post editorial page – just saying!) When you run out of primer, you have to stop and wait until you can get more. The car body was covered as necessary, but only the bottom of the frame has been done. I made a deal with the paint and body restoration shop, and the body goes in for a three week beauty treatment.

When it comes back, the real assembly begins.

Stay tuned!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *