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First Steps

You found your car, it's purchased, and now it's sitting in your garage / driveway. The first thing you have to do is resist the urge to start ripping the car apart. One of the most common errors that novices make is to completely dissasemble a vehicle willy-nilly only to wind up with no plan and a pile of unidentifyable parts. I buy a good number of my cars in such a state.

Before doing anything to the car, it's time to assemble your most important tools. These simple items, when used properly will ensure the success of every car restoration:

A notebook (I prefer old-school Composition books)
Memories get fuzzy fast, especially if you are continuously working on something. Use your notebook, take copious notes. I divide mine into three sections: Working notes, Parts List and Costs. Put not only the date, but also the total time spent working when you do your working notes. Time is a cost, and you'll have a far better idea of the actual total project cost when you can calculate the number of hours you've spent. The parts list is for all the stuff you know you need to buy. When you use it sequentially with your Working Notes you will ensure that you buy the right parts in the right order, and it'll help you keep from buying the unnecessary whiz-bang stuff. The other important bit is costs. If you record what you've spent, then you have a good historic record of the parts/labor cost over the life of the project. It's easier to do it while you're working rather than trying to locate all your reciepts at the end of the project. (I also use an 8.5" X 11" envelope to hold the reciepts.)
A camera (you're really going to want to get a digital one if you don't have one)
In tandem with your notes, photographs of the process are invaluable. Take pictures frequently. My recipe for success is that for each step of the process I snap a minumum of one photograph, and more likely two or three. When you're sitting there later trying to figure out how the heck to get something back together again you just have to go backwards across your photos. Also, since you want to take a lot of photos, this is where a digital camera with a goodly amount of memory is invaluable. Plus, you don't have to wait for / pay for processing fees for normal film.
A collection of various sized ziplock-type bags
You're going to need to collect screws, small bits, etc together. Ziplock type bags work best. As an additional recommendation, keep the bolts/screws/etc with the component you removed them from. That way you know you're using the exact hardware to reassemble the item.

A standard type of storage box. (I like the 12 Gallon flip top ones)
Not everything fits in bags. Hard boxes like these are great because they have decent capacity, are stackable, and will hold up to oil/goo/spills far better than old carboard boxes. For ~$5.00 they are definitely worth the investment.
Sharpies (Black & Silver)
Label everything! I like sharpies best, but for some parts you may want a paint pencil or a grease pencil as well. I recommend silver as well in case you need to mark something that's already black.
2 inch wide masking tape
This is useful for taping bags of bolts to the parts they came from. Also, you can attach it to parts to add notes (with your sharpie). It also is good for putting labels on your storage boxes.
a bottle of whiteout.
When you get to the point of having to dissasemble parts that require specific alignments you can create alignment marks with the whiteout. The best part is that the line will stay there until you remove it.
Simple Green cleaner
D'uh, you and the car will be or already are dirty. :) Simplegreen is biodegradable and doesn't have any ill effects to most parts or your skin.

For those who are over-the-top anal retentive here's a few more items:

Clear sheet protectors
You can use these on the outside of your storage boxes to contain notes or better yet a list of all the parts contained within the box. It takes time to add this in, but is invaluable when you're looking through ten containers for a two inch square wonkilator necessary to reassemble your motor.
Nitrile rubber gloves (like the ones your doctor uses)
If you wear these it saves on the cleanup afterwards. It also provides protection for your skin from oil, grease, and other wonderful unknown goo in your project.
Looseleaf ruled paper
For making notes that don't need to be in the notebook. Also very useful for the lists of parts that go in the clear sheet protectors you've attached to your storage containers.
Laptop and color printer
For viewing and printing your pictures when needed. I personally don't print so much, but then I also have an old laptop that's specifically for my garage. If your computer is in the house or you don't want to get it dirty, then printing pictures is the way to go.
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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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