Classic car restoration is a highly specialised craft and involves meticulously returning a vintage or classic vehicle to its original condition or better. In the UK, enthusiasts and collectors take immense pride in the preservation and revival of these iconic vehicles but sometimes they do need professional assistance.
But what is the team that helps put a vintage vehicle back together again?
- A typical restoration project begins with an in-depth evaluation of the vehicle's current condition, assessing the extent of wear and tear, damage, and corrosion.
- Most restorations involve a combination of mechanical, electrical, and cosmetic repairs, alongside part replacements and refinishing.
- That may often entail sourcing rare or hard-to-find components, ensuring that the restored vehicle remains true to its original specifications.
Mechanical work during a classic car restoration includes overhauling the engine, gearbox, brakes, and suspension systems. Vintage vehicles often require attention to their carburettors, ignition systems, and other components that may be in poor condition.
Meanwhile, the electrical aspects of the project involve rewiring and upgrading systems for safety and reliability. Then there are cosmetic considerations such as bodywork, upholstery, repairing or replacing trim elements to match the original and much more.
What Types of Jobs Are There in Classic Car Restoration?
A classic car garage specialising in the restoration, maintenance, and repair of vintage vehicles will need to recruit a team of skilled workers with quite a lot of specialised knowledge and expertise. Here are some of the key roles:
Classic Car Mechanic
Average salary: £33-43,000. (ref: Glass Door)
A classic car mechanic specialises in the maintenance, repair, and restoration of everything from old Fords and Morris Minors to more exotic Bentleys and extremely rare makes and models. Their responsibilities typically include:
- Diagnosing and repairing mechanical issues: Classic car mechanics work on engines, transmissions, differentials, suspension systems, brakes, and other components specific to older vehicles.
- Routine maintenance: They perform servicing tasks such as oil changes, tune-ups, and fluid replacements, ensuring that the cars are well-maintained and operate smoothly.
- Restorations: Classic car mechanics will often collaborate with other specialists in larger restoration projects, working on various aspects of the vehicle to return it to its original condition.
- Parts sourcing: They may need to source rare or hard-to-find parts, something which requires extensive knowledge of older vehicles and their components.
- Custom work: Classic car mechanics may also perform custom modifications and upgrades, such as installing modern parts or systems to improve performance, reliability, or safety.
Classic Car Bodywork Specialist
Average salary: £31,000+ (source: Glass Door)
A classic car bodywork technician is an expert in repairing, restoring, and fabricating the exterior components of vintage and classic vehicles, everything from the doors to the bumper and roof. Their responsibilities can include:
- Repairing damage: This includes the skill to repair dents, scratches, and other damage to the vehicle's exterior, using techniques such as metalworking, welding, and body filler application.
- Rust and corrosion removal: They treat and remove rust and corrosion from the vehicle's body, often using methods such as sandblasting, chemical treatments, or hand tools to ensure a clean and rust-free surface for repairs to be carried out.
- Panel replacement: In cases where damage or rust is extensive, bodywork specialists may need to replace entire panels or fabricate custom parts to match the original design. This is particularly common for rare or unique classic cars.
- Alignment and fitment: This involves ensuring that body panels, doors, bonnets, and other components are properly aligned and fit together seamlessly and it’s a critical aspect of the bodywork specialist's job.
- Preparing for paint: They also prepare the vehicle's surface for painting, which may include sanding, priming, and applying body fillers to achieve a smooth, flawless finish.
Paint and Finish Specialist
Average salary: £34,000+ (source: Reed)
- Colour matching: Paint and finish specialists need to accurately match the original colours of classic cars, often working with limited colour codes and resources. This is done to maintain authenticity during the restoration.
- Surface preparation: They can prepare the vehicle's surface for painting by cleaning, sanding, and priming it to ensure a smooth, even finish.
- Paint application: Specialists apply paint using various techniques, such as spraying or hand-painting, to achieve the desired finish and appearance.
- Clear coating and polishing: After the paint has been applied, they can apply clear coats to protect the paintwork and enhance its appearance. They also polish the vehicle to achieve a high-gloss, show-quality finish.
- Paint repair: Paint and finish specialists may also repair paint damage. This includes chips or scratches where they blend the repair and fresh colour seamlessly with the surrounding paintwork.
- Custom finishes: A paint and finish specialist could be asked to create custom paint jobs for the client. This might include intricate designs, pinstriping, or adding graphics to meet the specific needs of a restoration project.
Upholstery and Interior Specialist
Average salary: £26,000+ (source: Pay Scale)
An upholstery and interior classic car expert will be involved in restoring, repairing, and fabricating the interior components of vintage and classic vehicles. Their main responsibilities include:
- Assessing interior conditions: They will often evaluate the condition of the vehicle's interior, including seats, carpets, dashboard, door panels, headliners, and other trim elements, to determine the extent of restoration or repair required.
- Upholstery repair and restoration: They repair or replace damaged upholstery using materials that closely match the original fabric, leather, or vinyl to maintain the vehicle's authenticity.
- Carpet restoration: Specialists clean, repair, or replace carpets in classic cars, ensuring they match the original appearance and quality. This can involve having to source old components or having new ones specially made.
- Door panel and trim restoration: They restore areas such as door panels, dashboard components, and other interior pieces using appropriate materials and techniques.
Classic Car Auto Electrician
Average salary: £33,000 (source: Reed)
A classic car auto electrician is a skilled professional who specializes in diagnosing, repairing, and upgrading the electrical systems of vintage and classic vehicles. In most cases, these are vastly different from the intricate systems that we see today. Their main responsibilities include:
- Diagnosing electrical issues: Auto electricians identify and troubleshoot problems with a classic car's electrical system, such as wiring faults, malfunctioning components, or charging issues.
- Repairing electrical components: They repair or replace faulty elements such as alternators, starters, ignition systems, lighting systems, and switches. They need to do this while ensuring compatibility with the vehicle's original design.
- Rewiring: Auto electricians may need to rewire classic cars, either partially or completely, to ensure proper function, safety, and reliability. The older the car the more challenging this can be.
- Electrical upgrades: They may be asked to install modern electrical components or systems to improve the performance, safety, or convenience of a classic car while maintaining its original appearance.
- Custom electrical work: In some cases, they may be responsible for creating custom electrical solutions, such as integrating modern audio systems or power accessories.
Average salary: £32,000 (source: Talent)
A classic car fabricator or welder is involved in constructing, repairing, and modifying the metal components of classic vehicles, including cars and motorbikes. Their responsibilities include:
- Sheet metal fabrication: They create custom metal parts, such as body panels, brackets or structural components, using various metalworking techniques like cutting, shaping, and forming.
- Welding and repair: They fix damaged metal components by welding, brazing, or soldering, ensuring that the repairs are strong, durable, and visually consistent with the original design.
- Rust and corrosion removal: Fabricators and welders can also remove rust and corrosion from metal components, using methods such as grinding and sanding as well as chemical treatments.
- Panel replacement: In cases of extensive damage or rust, they may need to replace entire panels or sections of the vehicle's structure, ensuring proper fit and alignment. They may also be required to find custom solutions for other parts of the car.
Classic Car Machinist
Average salary: £35,000 (source: Glass Door)
A classic car machinist is required if the car needs components to be manufactured, repaired or modified in any way. The job may include:
- Component manufacturing: They create custom mechanical parts including things like gears, bushings, or engine components. To do this, the machinist will use various machining techniques like turning, milling, and grinding.
- Repairing mechanical parts: They repair or refurbish damaged or worn mechanical components, ensuring that the repairs function properly, are durable and visually consistent with the original design.
- Custom modifications: Machinists may be asked to create custom parts or modifications for a classic car. This might include high-performance engine components, upgraded suspension parts or other bespoke drivetrain elements.
- Precision work: Machinists can also perform precision work to ensure that components meet exact specifications and tolerances, which is crucial for proper function and performance in classic cars.
Classic Car Parts Specialist
Average salary: £26,000+ (source: Glass Door)
A classic car parts specialist will attempt to source, buy and supply the correct parts and components for classic car renovations. These are typically independent experts who may specialise in particular makes and models. Their role can include:
- Parts identification: The specialist will identify the parts required for a particular classic car, taking into account the make, model, year, and any unique specifications or variations.
- Sourcing parts: They locate and procure rare or hard-to-find parts, often navigating a global network of suppliers, collectors, and enthusiasts to find the correct components for a restoration project.
- Quality assessment: They’ll assess the quality and authenticity of parts, ensuring that they meet the requirements for the classic car restoration.
- Inventory management: Parts specialists will generally maintain a well-organised inventory of parts and components, which may include new-old-stock (NOS) items, reproduction parts and refurbished original components.
- Custom parts fabrication: In some cases, a parts specialist will work with a machinist or fabricator to create custom or replica parts when original components are unavailable or prohibitively expensive.
Garage Manager/Service Advisor
Average salary: £44,000 (source Reed)
Simply put, a classic car garage manager is a professional who oversees the day-to-day operations of a vintage and classic car restoration and repair facility. Their role is to ensure all the different components of the garage come together and work as efficiently as possible. The role includes:
- Staff management: The manager is responsible for hiring, training, and supervising a team of skilled technicians, specialists, and other staff members, ensuring that they have the necessary qualifications and expertise to work on classic cars.
- Project management: They oversee the progress of restoration and repair projects, coordinating with clients, staff, and suppliers to ensure that work is completed on time, within budget and to the highest quality standards.
- Customer service: The garage manager will usually serve as the primary point of contact for clients, providing updates on project status, addressing concerns and ensuring overall satisfaction with the services provided.
- Financial management: They are responsible for managing the garage's finances, including budgeting, cost control, invoicing, and purchasing parts and materials.
- Quality control: They will also ensure that all work carried out in the garage meets the highest standards of craftsmanship and authenticity, adhering to industry best practices and regulations.
Do Classic Car Garages Take on Apprentices?
Many classic car garages take on apprentices as a way to train and develop the next generation of skilled professionals in the industry. Apprenticeships in classic car restoration and repair provide hands-on experience and training under the guidance of experienced technicians and specialists. This allows students to learn the unique skills and knowledge required to work on vintage and classic vehicles, while also obtaining a formal education at the same time.
Apprenticeships typically involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction, often leading to a recognized qualification such as an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) or BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) in the UK. An individual will often start being something of a Jack of all trades before focusing on a specific role.
All these roles can vary depending on the size and scope of the classic car garage, but having a team with diverse skills and expertise is the best way to ensure the highest quality work and customer satisfaction. In many cases skills will overlap and having more than one string to your bow can be a huge benefit when you’re looking for employment.
At White’s Bodyworks, we believe in recruiting the best in the business. Our team of talented restoration technicians have many years of experience and one more important qualification – passion. That’s why we’re one of the leading classic car garages in the UK today.
Want to find out more about what our classic car team has been up to recently? Check out our extensive portfolio of some of the amazing cars and motorbikes we’ve worked on here.