Category: Stuart Simonsen of Billings MT

Classic Car Restoration Safety: Best Practices in the Workshop

Embarking on a classic car restoration project is an exciting venture that requires not just skill and patience but also a strict adherence to safety protocols. The workshop, filled with tools, chemicals, and various machinery, is a space where passion meets precision, and where safety must always be the top priority. This post from Stuart Simonsen of Billings, MT, delves into the essential safety practices that should govern any classic car restoration workshop, ensuring that enthusiasts can enjoy their hobby while minimizing risks to themselves and others.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Eye Protection

Always wear safety glasses or goggles when working in the shop, especially during cutting, grinding, welding, or working with chemicals. Eye injuries are common but preventable with the right protection.

Hearing Protection

Prolonged exposure to noise from power tools and machinery can lead to hearing loss. Earplugs or earmuffs should be worn during noisy tasks to protect your hearing.

Respiratory Protection

Dust, fumes, and vapors are prevalent in restoration work, particularly during painting, welding, or working with solvents. A proper respirator, not just a dust mask, is essential for filtering out harmful particles and gases.

Hand and Skin Protection

Gloves are necessary to protect against cuts, burns, and chemical exposure. Use nitrile gloves when handling chemicals and heat-resistant gloves for welding. Additionally, barrier creams can provide an extra layer of protection for your skin.

Workshop Ventilation

Proper ventilation is crucial to dispel harmful dust, fumes, and vapors. Ensure your workspace is equipped with adequate exhaust systems, especially in painting or welding areas. Open doors and windows to allow fresh air circulation whenever possible.

Fire Safety

Fire Extinguishers

Keep fire extinguishers accessible and ensure they are suitable for electrical, chemical, and combustible fires. Regular checks and maintenance of extinguishers are essential.

Safe Storage

Store flammable liquids in approved, clearly labeled containers away from sources of ignition. Use safety cabinets for larger quantities.

No Smoking

Enforce a strict no-smoking policy within the workshop to prevent fire risks.

Tool and Equipment Safety

Regular Maintenance

Keep all tools and equipment well-maintained and in good working order. Regularly check for defects or wear and repair or replace as necessary.

Proper Use and Handling

Always use the right tool for the job and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use, maintenance, and safety. Avoid taking shortcuts that compromise safety.

Electrical Safety

Ensure all electrical tools and equipment are properly grounded. Use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets in wet areas to prevent electrical shock.

Chemical Safety

Proper Storage

Store chemicals in their original containers with labels intact. Use secondary containment for hazardous chemicals to prevent spills.

Handling and Disposal

Always handle chemicals with care, using appropriate PPE and ventilation. Follow local regulations for the disposal of hazardous waste, including paints, solvents, and batteries.

Lifting and Handling

Restoration projects often involve moving heavy parts and equipment. Use proper lifting techniques, mechanical aids (like hoists or dollies), and seek assistance for heavier items to prevent back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.

First Aid and Emergency Procedures

Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in the workshop and ensure easy access to emergency contacts and procedures. Training in basic first aid and CPR is highly recommended for all workshop participants.

Continuous Education

Stay informed about the latest safety standards and practices in classic car restoration. Participating in workshops, training sessions, and staying connected with the restoration community can provide valuable insights into maintaining a safe working environment.

Safety in the classic car restoration workshop is paramount, ensuring that the process of bringing a piece of automotive history back to life is both enjoyable and secure. By adhering to these best practices, restorers can protect themselves, their projects, and their passion. Remember, a safe workshop is the foundation of any successful restoration project, allowing enthusiasts to focus on the craftsmanship and beauty of their classic cars without compromise.

Budgeting for Your Classic Car Restoration: Hidden Costs to Consider

Embarking on a classic car restoration project is an exhilarating endeavor that can quickly turn from a hobby into a passion. However, without careful planning and budgeting, it can also become a financial pitfall, especially when unexpected costs start to emerge. A well-thought-out budget that accounts for both visible and hidden expenses is crucial for a successful restoration. This post from Stuart Simonsen Billings MT will guide you through the essential aspects of budgeting for your classic car restoration, highlighting the hidden costs that are often overlooked but can significantly impact your project’s overall expense.

Initial Purchase Price

The journey begins with the purchase of your classic car. While the initial cost might seem like the bulk of your investment, it’s often just the tip of the iceberg. It’s essential to factor in the cost of transporting the vehicle to your location if it’s not locally sourced, which can add a considerable amount to the initial outlay.

Parts and Materials

Replacement Parts

The cost of replacement parts can vary widely depending on the rarity and condition of the vehicle. While some parts may be readily available, others might require sourcing from specialized suppliers or even custom fabrication, which can significantly increase costs.

Paint and Bodywork

A major part of any restoration, the bodywork and paint job can be one of the most costly aspects of the project. Beyond the apparent costs of paint and labor, hidden expenses such as rust treatment, body filler, and undercoating can add up.

Labor Costs

While many enthusiasts undertake restoration projects themselves, certain tasks may require professional assistance, such as engine overhauls, transmission rebuilds, and paint jobs. Professional labor rates can vary significantly and can quickly inflate the project budget.

Tools and Equipment

Restoring a classic car often requires specialized tools and equipment that you may not already have in your garage. The cost of purchasing or renting these tools, which can range from engine hoists to spray guns, should be included in your budget.

Unexpected Repairs

It’s not uncommon to uncover additional problems as you delve into the restoration process. Issues like hidden rust, electrical faults, or mechanical failures can necessitate unplanned repairs, increasing the project’s cost.

Registration, Insurance, and Taxes

Once your classic car is road-ready, registration, insurance, and taxes become part of the ongoing costs of ownership. Classic car insurance can vary in price, so it’s worth shopping around for a policy that suits your needs and budget.

Upgrades and Modifications

While not essential, upgrades and modifications are often desired to improve performance, safety, or aesthetics. These can range from installing modern brake systems to upgrading the suspension and can significantly impact your budget.

Contingency Fund

A contingency fund is an essential part of any restoration budget. Setting aside a portion of your budget (typically 10-20%) for unexpected expenses can provide a financial cushion, ensuring that unforeseen costs don’t derail your project.

Tips for Managing Your Budget

  • Detailed Planning: Before starting, list all anticipated expenses, including parts, materials, labor, and any upgrades or modifications.
  • Prioritize Tasks: Identify which aspects of the restoration are essential and which are optional. This can help you manage your budget more effectively by focusing on the necessities first.
  • Track Expenses: Keep a detailed record of all expenses as the project progresses. This will help you stay on budget and identify areas where costs may be escalating.
  • DIY What You Can: Consider what work you can realistically do yourself to save on labor costs. However, recognize when it’s wise to hire a professional to avoid costly mistakes.

Restoring a classic car is a rewarding venture that requires not just a passion for automobiles but also a keen eye for budgeting. By anticipating both the obvious and hidden costs, you can ensure that your restoration project is financially manageable and ultimately successful. Remember, the goal is to bring a piece of automotive history back to life, an endeavor that’s as much about the journey as it is about the final result. With careful planning and budget management, you can enjoy the process without breaking the bank.

Finding Hidden Gems: How to Spot a Great Classic Car Restoration Project

As someone who has successfully restored a ’61 Chevrolet Corvette, Stuart Simonsen Billings MT understands that embarking on a classic car restoration project is an exciting adventure that combines passion, patience, and the thrill of transformation. Whether you’re a seasoned restorer or a novice eager to dive into your first project, the initial step of finding that perfect vehicle to restore is crucial. It’s about uncovering a hidden gem—a car with potential for restoration without becoming a bottomless pit for your time and resources. This post will guide you through the process of spotting a great classic car restoration project, ensuring your journey starts on the right foot.

Understanding Your Goals

Before you start looking for a classic car to restore, it’s essential to define your goals. Are you aiming for a show-quality restoration or a reliable weekend cruiser? Your end goal will significantly influence the type of project car you’re looking for, including its make, model, and condition.

Where to Look

Online Marketplaces and Auctions

The internet has made finding classic cars easier than ever. Online marketplaces, forums, and auctions are treasure troves for potential projects. However, the key is to look beyond the photos and descriptions, asking for detailed pictures and information about the car’s history and current condition.

Classic Car Shows and Clubs

Attending classic car shows and joining car clubs can connect you with enthusiasts who might know about available projects. Networking with like-minded individuals can lead you to private sales not listed publicly.

Barn Finds and Garage Sales

Never underestimate the potential of a barn find. Cars stored away in barns or garages for years can be excellent restoration projects, often preserved away from the elements. Keep an ear to the ground for local estate sales, garage sales, or even word-of-mouth leads.

Evaluating a Potential Project

Structural Integrity

The foundation of a good restoration project is its structural integrity. Check the car for rust, particularly in critical areas such as the chassis, floor pans, and wheel wells. Surface rust can be manageable, but extensive corrosion might be a deal-breaker.


The more original the car, the better. Original parts are not only a testament to the car’s authenticity but also reduce the need for expensive reproductions. Verify the engine, transmission, and major components are original to the car or period-correct.

Availability of Parts

Before falling in love with a particular model, research the availability of replacement parts. Some classic cars have a robust supply of aftermarket parts, making restoration easier. Others, especially rare models, may present a challenge in sourcing parts.


A car with a well-documented history is a gem. Original manuals, service records, and even previous restoration attempts can provide valuable insights into the car’s condition and authenticity.

Know Your Limits

Be realistic about your skills, budget, and time. Restoration projects can be more demanding than anticipated. Choosing a car that matches your ability level and financial commitment can make the process enjoyable rather than overwhelming.

Making the Decision

After finding a potential project and evaluating it against your criteria, take a moment to consider the decision carefully. A thorough inspection by a professional or an experienced restorer can offer a second opinion on the car’s condition and the feasibility of restoration.

The Reward of Patience

Finding the right classic car to restore is a process that requires patience and diligence. Rushing into a project can lead to costly mistakes and frustration. However, the reward of bringing a classic car back to its former glory, knowing you’ve saved a piece of automotive history, is immeasurably satisfying.

The journey of restoring a classic car begins with finding the right project. By understanding your goals, knowing where to look, and carefully evaluating potential finds, you can spot a hidden gem that offers both a challenge and a reward. Remember, the best classic car restoration projects are those that match your passion with practicality, turning the dream of restoration into a reality. Happy hunting!