If you’re on the hunt for a new project, trying to figure out if the potential starting point you’re looking at is worth building can be tough. For most projects, you can resign yourself to the fact that you will have more invested (both time and money) than what the car’s actual list value is. But then you have to ask yourself if you are building it with dreams of a fiscal windfall at a big-money auction or for the fun of it and sunny-day cruising enjoyment?
If you’re resurrecting a car to sell, then you’ve got to start with a vehicle that has a high, sentimental-free (for you) inherent value. Some examples would be a ’69 L78 Camaro, ’66-67 L79 Nova, any ’66-72 Chevelle SS396 convertible, etc. These cars all have rarity and high performance to boost their value, making them more attractive for the profit-minded restorer/builder. A six-cylinder anything will never be as much as these cars unless it has some bizarre provenance, like it once belonged to Zora Arkus-Duntov or Vince Piggins himself used it for some purpose.
Now, if you’re building a car for fun, nostalgia, to have a cruiser, or a more sentimental reason, you end up with more things to consider. First, how plentiful are parts for the car you’re looking at? Hand in hand with that is how expensive are said parts? Take sheetmetal for example. If you’re restoring a ’55-57 Chevy, most metal pieces are going to be readily available and at reasonable prices. But say you’re working on a ’58 Chevy? Metal parts are tough to find, and usually much more expensive. The same could be said for things like trim pieces, interior parts, and so on. This is especially important to consider if you’re on a tight budget.
Second, the work your project car (or potential project) needs can you handle it? If you’ve never really used a welder before and are looking at buying a rust bucket, weak metal working skills are not going to help your cause. Now, the same project can be a great way to learn those metal skills, but you have to figure this into your expectations for how long the project will take. A good shop could install a whole floor in a ’69 Camaro in a day or two, but the DIY’er at home is probably gonna take a month or two for said installation.
If you’ve already bought a car, but get the sense you’re in over your head, STOP! Do a serious evaluation of where things are and the work you’re looking at doing. If it’s going to be too much, selling the project so you can get one that’s more in tune with your skill set, bank account and available time is a viable option to consider. We see it all the time where guys get far into a build, then lose interest, or get frustrated, and sell it for pennies on the dollar to another enthusiast who has the ability and/or resources to pick up where the former left off.
Third, how long do you want to spend working on the car before you can actually drive it? If the itch to get behind the wheel of something isn’t too bad and your patience good, then a car with more work to be done, that’s also cheaper, is a viable option. Some people don’t care how long a project will take and may only work on it a few times a year. This is an important consideration and you have to be honest with yourself. Heck, we know some people who have worked on the same car for decades. But if you are dying to hit the local cruise night and area car shows, a vehicle closer to turn-key condition would be more up your alley.
Another note on this one: Working on a car that’s actually drivable can be a great boost to motivation. From personal experience, we know too well how easy it is to put off a project once it becomes inoperable. Keeping a car roadworthy is a big help along the way, until you absolutely have to tear it down for a long-term installation.
So, you take all the factors above, and put them together for a basic gauge of whether you should buy it, build it, or sell it? There are plenty of cars out there for most people and most budgets, so don’t let short sightedness or zeal get in the way of making a sound decision.
Using what we’ve talked about above, let’s take a look at our subject ’67 Chevelle, which will be our next project in Super Chevy, thanks to the fine folks at Auto Metal Direct in Buford, Georgia.
It was built in the third week of January 1967. While brave men were fighting in Southeast Asia and women were burning their bras, factory workers at Chevrolet’s Fremont, California, assembly plant were putting together an Emerald Turquoise/white vinyl top SS396. The car has a fair amount of rust damage, some in the usual places, some in some more difficult spots. Vinyl tops are notorious for causing oxidation on cars in humid climates, and this one is no exception. The top can be repaired, but will require some more intense and involved work than, say, patching a quarter-panel or putting in a new floor. Be prepared for this.
Being an original A/C-equipped, SS396/TH400 car does increase the value of it. Along with that, it’s a factory console/bucket seat model with power drum brakes. Discs would make it even more attractive, but this is a minor thing that can easily be changed depending on the circumstances.
Handling the restoration of the Chevelle will be Craig Hopkins and his crew at C. Hopkins Rod & Custom in Commerce, Georgia. Supplying us with fresh steel will be Auto Metal Direct. The AMD lineup of metal parts for classic Chevys is extensive and growing rapidly, including aluminum front clips and decklids for ’69 CamarosZ-11 guys eat your hearts out! Craig’s shop is AMD’s main installation and R&D center, so his knowledge of everything going into our Chevelle is beyond intimate.
Our goal is to show how any vintage Bow Tie can be saved. What, you thought we were gonna crush it?
Our overall goal is to end up with a fresh ’67 SS396 hardtop like it would’ve rolled off the assembly line. We’ll show you some restoration tricks and tips along the way, so if you’re building that 1,000-point car, you’ll have a great shot at bringing home the plaque from every show. For the things where factory can’t be duplicated, we’ll show you how to disguise it. Not everyone has factory-style spot-welding equipment in their garages after all.
Value vs. Value
Seems like the value of a restoration, be it monetary or sentimental, is almost as important as the pure desire to build a car. Virtually any automobile can be restored if you have a large enough checkbook. The quandary this raises now is, what’s worth restoring?
We talked to Jim Barber at Classic Automotive Restoration Specialists to get a restorer’s perspective on the subject. Jim is a past chair of SEMA’s Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) committee and has a chart he uses to measure the basic value of a car:
The subjective 1-10 scale has three factors: Rarity, Desirability and Value. Rarity’s pretty self-explanatory. Desirability is whether the car in question is a Victoria’s Secret model or the bearded woman at the local circus. Value is a combo of monetary plus sentimental value. For car guys, these two factors are almost never mutually exclusive.
Some examples: ’69 Camaro six-cylinder convertible - Rarity 10 (only 1,707 built out of 243,085 total) Desirability - 3 (convertible six-cylinder, not really a head turner) Value - 4 (unless sentimental value is enormous, monetarily this car doesn’t rank high compared to an SS396 or a 427 COPO car).
Value is the most subjective factor in the scale, mostly in the sentimental area. Take our example car. Say this car was your first car. Or your father bought it new. Perhaps there’s some other memory that makes you willing to sacrifice a lot before ever selling it. If that’s the case, start cranking up the value. Say the value goes up to an eight. Since most of that value goes towards sentimentality instead of monetary, the cost of restoring said car (depending on its condition) versus its real world value puts a wrinkle into the restoration question.
Notoriously, potential customers make the comment I don’t want to have more money in the car than it’s worth’ and my response is then you should not restore a car, because there is no hidden guarantee as to the hidden needs/costs of the project.
We asked Jim to give his take on our ’67. Here’s what he had to say:
I would place this car as a 5 on the rarity scale, as ’67 SS396s are common to find. As for desirability, I rank it a 7, as ’67 Chevelles are in demand. These rankings result in a 6 on the value scale.
For another view on the whole Is it worth restoring? question, we asked Craig Hopkins, owner of C. Hopkins Rod & Custom and the man turning the wrenches on this project, for his thoughts.
Is it worth restoring? This is a decision that usually isn’t based on a dollar-and-cents basis. It just doesn’t make senseit is almost always emotional. What you get back when you drive the car of your dreams, well to coin the phrase, it’s priceless.
The reason for restoring any particular car is as many as the cars being restored. Any project being restored to meet a desire will be way more fun than trying to restore for profit. If you restore it, then please enjoy it.