As parts come off your car, make notes about their condition. Can they be cleaned, repaired, painted, and re-used, or will you have to locate and purchase replacements? Sometimes the decision to repair or replace is not always obvious. If the crankshaft comes out in two pieces, your decision has already been made for you, but it usually isn’t that easy.
Try to work with what you have whenever you can, even if it means using some creative methods to save the items. For example, is it better to patch repair the lower section of a front fender, or replace it altogether? The answer depends on the severity of the rust damage, the overall viability of the original panel, and the cost to repair versus replacing with a rust-free used piece or a reproduction. If you are handy with a welder, chances are you can save a few bucks by repairing what you have, though the quality of the repair needs to be high enough to ensure the proper appearance and/or function. You may also save some time with body panel alignment by keeping your repaired original fender versus buying a reproduction, though the quality of the repair also plays a role in that operation.
Another area where the decision may not be very easy is with trim pieces. As long as you don’t actually break the pieces as you remove them, they can likely be repaired. This is one area where reproduction pieces aren’t going to fit quite as well as the originals. While reproduction parts are an option when pieces are missing and unobtainable through used parts channels, they should be used only after all attempts to fix the originals have failed.
On the bright side, a professional trim repair shop can effectively repair stainless steel, pot metal, and aluminum trim pieces—even those that most restorers consider beyond saving. Get on one of the Pontiac-oriented message boards and look for advice on finding a reputable company that provides good results for the money.
The truth is, plans change, and sometimes for the better. As you are disassembling your car, you are learning a lot. You may well be learning things you don’t want to know, and the scope of the restoration may end up changing. What may have started out as a repaint and interior freshening may end up as a body-off project if a substantial number of surprises pop up.
It is okay if your initial plan for the restoration needs some modifications or even a complete rethink. While it may take some extra time to change course or line up some additional specialists to get the job done, the idea here is to take it in stride. Don’t get upset about the initial easy plan that becomes a major job. Most importantly, don’t become discouraged, even if you feel you were misled about the condition of the car when you purchased it. With the availability of reproduction sheetmetal and the power of the Internet to find just about any used part, most problems can be worked through. Keep your composure and your eye on the prize: a successful outcome.
It’s Really a Parts Car—Now What?
If you find the worst-case scenario has happened and your restoration project is not a viable candidate but rather a parts car, you still have several options. Above all else, don’t fall in love with it. Falling in love with a parts car is like falling in love with a really bad girl. Both will leave you disillusioned, heartbroken, and of course, financially drained. Fall in love with the idea of owning a GTO, not necessarily this particular parts car. If you need to break up with this GTO, consider these options:
• Sell this GTO as a parts car. This works best if the car hasn’t been significantly dismantled.
• Buy another GTO and use your current car for parts. This can actually be your best plan, particularly if the second car is in need of pieces that are still good on your donor car.
• Part it out and use the proceeds to purchase another GTO. This is a good option if the GTO is no longer a complete car, but a huge pile of parts. Chances are you can make some money to find a better car and aid others in their projects by going in this direction.
Trying to restore a parts car is almost a rite of passage. Resisting the urge to restore a parts car is a sign of wisdom.
One area that I cannot stress enough is the use of quality jackstands and related equipment. Cutting corners can literally kill you. Spend the money to get quality equipment because there is nothing worse than a tragic outcome.
Also, proper ventilation is a must. While many cars are sprayed in a paint booth for professional results, some restorers paint their cars in their own shop. If you are going to paint in your shop, be sure to have the proper masks and filtration. Some paints are ridiculously toxic, and even welding galvanized metal creates very dangerous fumes. Be sure to check with your paint manufacturer for guidelines to the proper use of their products. Different types of paint require different precautions and procedures.
Make sure you are doing everything the right way. Nothing slows down a restoration like hospitalization and lengthy recovery times.