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Restoring Character

For many of us, despite the incessant demands, pitfalls, self-inflicted swift kicks to the rear, and other similar occurrences, restoring vehicles is something that must be done.

For many of us, despite the incessant demands, pitfalls, self-inflicted swift kicks to the rear, and other similar occurrences, restoring vehicles is something that must be done. The disassembly process is relatively easy. Things are moving along. You can see the progress. There's a drive to continue until every nut and bolt is undone, every panel removed, every mechanical system unbolted. Like some prehistoric hunter, you imagine yourself triumphantly standing in the midst of your now disemboweled prey. Only you don't get to clean, cook, and eat your kill. No, my dear friend, like some wicked cross between a palentologist, historian, overworked ER resident, and galley slave you must take what you have just deconstructed and put it back together again. System by system. Piece by piece. Fastener by fastener. It's like playing with God's own Erector set, only the directions make less and less sense the farther you delve into the reconstruction process, and you discover that you've been given the keys to the Tower of Babel.

This is where you come to the fork in the road to reconstruction. Down one tine sits seemingly endless days marking, bagging, and photographing the vehicle on a system-by-system basis until the whole mess is catalogued and boxed, and you have a list longer than an ape's arm of parts you need to replace. The other tine puts everything to one side until sanity returns, or there's a pressing need to sell the lot to someone who really wants to put it all back together. Unlike you, they didn't watch the latest episode of Dream Car Garage or Overhaulin', and have never, ever walked Woodward Avenue during the Dream Cruise listening to folks recount how they resurrected their '40 Ford Coupe from a junkyard, fitted an independent rear suspension, added a modern powertrain (oddly a 350 in.3 Chevy crate motor mated to an automatic is the most common combination), air conditioning, a new interior, and finished it with 10 coats of Black Pearl and 3 coats of clear - all in the space of two years. Therefore, unlike you they aren't as likely to get discouraged when things don't happen overnight.

And yes, there are times when you have to fix the same problem over and over and over again. The process is time consuming and frustrating in the extreme. All progress stops, usually at a point where moving on to the next task is within grasp. If the repaired section is important, it gets all due attention. If it isn't, there's no telling how imaginative the repair might be. (I've seen many - too many - of the latter on my Lotus Elan, though - as much as I curse the previous owner - honesty requires me to admit that no one forced me to buy this particular vehicle.)

Eventually, it all comes to an end. The restoration process leaves you with refurbished parts that will result in a complete and - you hope - good-as-new vehicle when reassembled. One that will be used, not hauled from place to place. You discover that the restoration process is satisfying and frustrating, creative and destructive, with a personal value far greater than the price others might pay for the finished product. It teaches character, and improves budgeting skills. You make new friends, though most of them know you best by your credit card number. Even your mastery of arcane facts improves, as do your fine motor dexterity and swearing skills. It's a microcosm of life.

Call out:
"It's like playing with God's own Erector set, only the directions make less and less sense the farther you go."

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