If you’re pricing up the repairs for your classic car restoration, you’ve probably gotten to some welding jobs. And, if you’re not sure, it can be a minefield of different welding types, approaches and expertise levels. Today, we’ll unpack these topics and define ‘what is classic car welding’ and how you can use it in your refurbishment or restoration project to the best effect.
1. What counts as a classic car?
You can define a classic car as whatever you want, really. It could be a pre-2000s boxy and rigid design aesthetic or the boat-length cruisers of the 40s and 50s. But there is an actual legal definition for a classic car that’s related to tax exemptions, however. And that’s a model that’s 40 years or older. According to the UK Government website, “You can apply to stop paying for vehicle tax from 1 April 2021 if your vehicle was built before 1 January 1981. You must tax your vehicle even if you do not have to pay. If you do not know when your vehicle was built, but it was first registered before 8 January 1981, you can still apply to stop paying vehicle tax.” So, they’ve put a pretty fine point on what’s legally considered a classic car. But most purists would consider a car a classic only if it’s very old – from 1915 to 1948. Anything newer is colloquially referred to as simply vintage. But for the purposes of classic car welding, we’re taking the legal definition.
2. And what is classic car welding?
Classic car welding is a speciality service offered by reputable bodywork shops. Welding is a process that secures two metal pieces together without a binder material. But with classic cars, you’ll want to consider how these welds were completed on the original piece, the materials you’re welding and their use. Using the wrong type of weld can yield disappointing and obvious repair results. So, you’ll want your classic car welding team to understand the different types of welds and how they will impact your finished rebuild or restoration.
3. Types and purposes of classic car welding:
There are different types of welds that a bodyworks shop might use on your classic car and unique reasons for undertaking a welding job.
Some of these include:
- TIG and MIG welding – MIG is slightly preferred over TIG, but the correct weld for your car depends on the application. According to American Torch Tip, “The difference between the two is the way the arc is used. MIG (metal inert gas) welding uses a feed wire that constantly moves through the gun to create the spark, then melts to form the weld. TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding uses long rods to fuse two metals directly together.”
- Spot welding – TWI Global explains, “Spot welding (also known as resistance spot welding) is a resistance welding process. This welding process is used primarily for welding two or more metal sheets together by applying pressure and heat from an electric current to the weld area.” It’s generally appropriate for low carbon steel fusing.
- Adding new and replacement parts – If welds are required internally or externally, extra care must be taken to prevent spark and fire damage to existing hardware and upholstery. There are specialist techniques available for welding parts near electricals that you should discuss with your classic car welder.
- Welding panel sections – In restoration, welding panel sections can be tricky to do without getting any warping. A good shop will tell you that you need to butt weld without overlapping the seams and never ever do a stitch weld. You’ll need to go to a shop for this because the tack welds you do place must be air nozzle cooled instead of water-cooled. And most home shops don’t have the right equipment for this work.
- Cast iron, aluminium and steel repairs – Cast iron and aluminium are fairly difficult materials to work with. According to Building Conservation, “Cast iron can be repaired using a variety of processes according to the exact nature of the cast iron and the circumstances in which the repair must be performed. These processes include specialised welding techniques, cold metal stitching, and various types of reinforcement.” Similarly, an expert shop will know what classic car repair techniques to use for each of your aluminium or steel parts.
4. Average classic car welding costs in the UK
Most of the time, welds are priced per square inch or square millimetre patch. If you’re patching good metal and you’re not dressing the weld on a 4-inch by 4-inch patch, £80 GBP is reasonable. If you want it prepped and painted, that’s going to cost more. And if you need a job quoted by the hour, £11.79 is the median wage for a mid-career auto mechanic with welding skills and 5-9 years of experience. But that’s not including any margins for the shop on top, so expect to pay around £40 per hour as the average classic car welding costs in the UK.
5. Why do you need a classic car welding expert?
Improper welding techniques even plague original factory production line vehicles to this day. So, when you’re doing a classic car restoration, you might be dealing with welds that were never really fit for purpose, to begin with. You need a classic car welding expert to ensure that your restoration investment is safe and roadworthy. That’s a must. Beyond that, they have the skills and expertise to apply welds that fit in with the other joins and won’t look out of place. They can work near electricals safely and they practice the most up to date techniques to reduce the risk of spark damage. Lastly, they will update you at each stage of the process so you can keep your project within the timeline and budget.
There’s more to welding than getting a machine and putting fire to metal. Using the right type of weld for the job is critical to getting a high-quality classic car repair. If you have a welding job, let’s talk about how we can help.