Back in September of last year I left a cliff hanger of sorts by creating a post on restorations with the intention of making it a multi-part series. Due to lack of photos, however, I didn't make a part two, but now I can. The restoration of an automobile is a process that can be fun, exciting, expensive, and difficult. Depending on the car you are restoring, and the condition and completeness of the subject (as well as you determination to make it as original or unoriginal as possible), it can be a long road from idea to running vehicle. A skilled craftsman, a good understanding of basic mechanical work, and a steadfast commitment to completing your goals can all make for a successful restoration.
The question of when to restore something can occasionally be asked, and is raised more often that not nowadays. The relatively recent emergence of valuing originality over restorative good looks has created the question of what makes a survivor? I don't want to attack that question now (I will save that for a later date), but rather I'd like to focus on vehicles that are definitely not survivors, but are not so far-gone that they are beyond restoration. The most common source of these types of vehicles is, ironically, restorations.
The huge commitment of time required to restore a car (often hundreds or thousands of man hours) is daunting, and the decision to restore a car is much easier than the process of actually restoring the vehicle. It is also much easier to take apart a car than to put it back together again. As a result, many still born restorations end up as 'cars in a box' wherein the owner decides to restore a vehicle, takes it apart, may do some work on it, but never gets around to putting all the pieces back together again. As a result, these cars often show up as projects for others to undertake.
One such example of this is a 1952 MG TD that is being restored by my good friend, Dr. James Wagner, the President of my Alma Mater, Emory University. President Wagner is a car buff to the n-th degree and a fantastic constructor of all things mechanical (besides being a great University President). Recently, he acquired the MG in question in parts and has began restoring it. It is a process that requires a lot of work, but it gives those involved the best opportunity to learn how a car really works--because cars don't get much more basic than an MG T-car. As the photos indicate, the chassis/frame is almost complete, but the body still needs to be finished (these older cars are assembled like modern trucks, body on frame). The engine has been professionally rebuilt and looks stunning. The only problem I have with the car is the fact that is was purchased after I left Emory, or else I'd be there with grease under my fingernails too.
I look forward to seeing the completed vehicle in the future, but until then, it is a long road ahead. If you have the time, money, and wherewithal to do a restoration of a car that had ended up as parts in a box, I'd fully recommend the undertaking as a way to learn about how cars work, as well as to build your own vehicle. I've helped on a few projects, but I haven't done my own vehicle...yet. I think I'll need some more money, and a garage, before I can do that!
For a humorous review of a 1952 MG TD, check out the one on the CarTalk website.
Also, to read about someone's own restoration of an MG TD (with pictures), click here.