Buying a car for restoration isn’t often done with a cool head and a clear view of the future. But it can be, and arguably it should be. Taking a punt on a car that looks okay through a pair of rose-tinted Ray-Bans and then finding out you’ve signed up for an all-in restoration can spoil anyone’s fond feelings for classics.
There’s nothing wrong with lavishing large sums of money on a well-loved car that will never be worth what you’ve spent on it, as long as you can accept that financial and emotional stress. We’re not trying to select cars that you can restore for a profit, but we are suggesting some that won’t ruin you.
More than that, we’re suggesting exciting, good-looking, desirable cars that have a growing fan base. This doesn’t just make them easier to sell, should you ever want to, it drives a thriving club scene, remanufacture of spare parts and the growth of restoration businesses that specialise in these models. All of these are important if you’re embarking on a project.
There’s one other vital condition a car needs to meet to make our top ten: availability. Many of the best-loved classics would make great restorations if only you could find cars to restore, but they’re either so rare or have been popular for so long that projects no longer turn up. Some of those in our list may seem obvious choices. But if interest in them is still strengthening - and cars are still emerging in ripe, restorable condition - they’re in.
1 Porsche 911 901 - pre-1974
2 Jaguar E-type
3 Aston Martin DB 2/4 MkI-III
4 Alfa Giulia GT/GTV
5 Lancia Flaminia
6 BMW E30 M3
7 Maserati 3500
8 Ferrari 365BB
9 Bentley Continental
10 Triumph TR6
• Ask around. Find someone who’s restored a similar car and pick their brains about specialists and suppliers.
• Invest in a professional inspection before you buy, ideally from the team you plan to hire for the restoration.
• Work out your budget, then add a 25 per cent contingency, even if the specialist has given you a written estimate.
• Don’t change your mind about the aims or the extent of the work midway through.
• Stay in touch. If months go by without communication, your project could be left to fester.
• Pay bills regularly. Several smaller bills hurt less and are easier to manage, plus it guarantees steady progress.
• Become a nerd. Know your car inside-out; which parts should be used, what’s right and what isn’t.
• Set targets. Even if deadlines end up being broken, everyone works better with at least some time pressure.
• Do a little bit of work yourself, even if it’s only parts sourcing, polishing new door handles or helping with the stripdown.
• Make plans. It’ll be finished one day, and planning where you’ll go keeps morale up.
Who to contact?
Paul Stephens Porsche paul-stephens.com, 01440 714884 Classic Motor Cars (Jaguar): classic-motor-cars.co.uk, 01746 765804 Eagle E-types eaglegb.com, 01825 830966 The Aston Workshop aston.co.uk, 01207 233525 Omicron Engineering (Lancia): omicron.uk.com, 01508 570351 TRGB trgb.co.uk, 01487 842168 Barkaways (Ferrari): barkaways.com, 01622 872100 McGrath Maserati mcgrathmaserati.co.uk, 01438 832161 Frank Dale and Stepsons (Bentley and Rolls-Royce): frankdale.com, 020 8847 5447 Munich Legends (BMW): munichlegends.co.uk, 01825 740456 Alfaholics alfaholics.com, 01275 349449