How To Properly Restore A Classic Truck

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Classic truck restoration is not easy, and without a thorough understanding of the process, it's challenging to do it properly while sticking to your budget.

Buying an old classic truck, you don’t love or can’t afford is not the correct route. Instead, you can learn how to properly restore a classic truck to have complete control over the type of truck you will own.

To restore a classic truck properly, you need to start with a detailed plan outlining your budget, goals, and tools required. Next, you must move to the demolition stage, where all old or outdated parts are removed. Then you can fix tedious damages and begin installing all new parts.

The classic truck restoration process will vary depending on many factors, including the type of truck you are restoring. However, some general steps that apply to most types of trucks can be followed. This guide will show you these steps and help you set a budget and plan accordingly.

Restoring a classic truck is a bucket list item for many vehicle enthusiasts, but they are afraid to get started without the expertise. Luckily, we have that experience, and this guide shares all the tips and tricks you need to know.

Table of Contents


How To Properly Restore A Classic Truck

This is a guide on how to restore a classic truck. It is not intended to be an exhaustive restoration guide but rather a general overview of the process.

The restoration process is not easy since these trucks have been put through years of wear and tear. The restoration process can be divided into four primary steps: planning, demolition, installation, and assembly.

You'll want to start by getting your hands dirty and doing some basic mechanical work, like stripping the interior and removing old rugs. These are easy tasks that don't require any major tools or expertise.

You'll also want to replace the timing belt and water pump at this point to avoid any future issues down the road. Once you've done that, you can get started on more complicated tasks like replacing both front shocks or rebuilding an entire engine if needed.

We will explain the entire process in more detail below.

Create A Detailed Plan

To start a classic truck restoration, you need a detailed plan outlining every step. It is a long process, so taking the time to lay out each step will ensure things are done properly.

Your plan should include the following details.

  • Budget
  • List of parts needed
  • Deadlines and timeline
  • Tools required

Don’t forget to have a clear vision of what the final product will look like too. Whether you found a design idea you want to copy online or are using your own vision, writing it down will make it easier to accomplish.

Remove All Old & Outdated Parts

Once your plan is in place, it's time to get to work. But this is the rugged and dirty part of the classic truck restoration process.

Before getting new parts, painting the truck a new color, or upgrading anything, you need to perform a minor demolition of the truck. This means ripping out all of the old and outdated parts that need replacement.

Some of the most common things to remove in this step include

  • Old bumpers, trims, and panels
  • Window glass
  • Engine, transmission, gearbox
  • Old wiring and headlights

Fix Tedious Damages

Once all the big parts have been removed, you’ll need to do some touch-up work. This includes finding dents, rust, and other damages.

It is common to find rust or sealing issues underneath the truck. This needs to be addressed before installing any new parts.

You can also perform a thorough investigation under the hook to gauge whether or not the engine needs any work done. This likely will be something small like replacing the wiring or adding new auxiliary parts.

However, an engine swap is common for classic trucks if you have the budget. It is the best way to give your classic truck new life.

After handling all of these problems, you can make a list of the parts you’ll need to order. We recommend waiting until now to order so you have a complete list and don’t end up ordering things you don’t need and running up the budget.

Acquire New Necessary Parts For Upgrade

Ordering your parts can be tricky, especially if you need some outdated items that are more difficult to find.

Check out Classic Parts if you have trouble getting anything at local stores. This is an extensive database with good pricing and fast shipping times. They also have a huge database of items available for trucks from every decade.

Put The Truck Back Together Step By Step

Putting the truck back together is extremely tedious and difficult. This is why we recommend documenting the process during each step, so you know exactly which parts go where.

Some of the most difficult reassembly steps include

  • Putting the cooling system back together
  • Installing the engine and gearbox
  • Properly fitting the fuel system and suspension

It is not uncommon to bring in an expert for a few of these steps if needed.

Repaint The Truck

Finally, once the truck is back together, you can start thinking about the aesthetics for a final paint job. This is when you can relax a bit and feel relieved because all the heavy lifting is done.

Test Drive Your New Truck

After everything is complete and the restoration is done, take your truck for a ride. Finding out if it is road ready is the final step.

A test drive is a great way to ensure that your vehicle is working properly and everything is in good condition. You want to ensure that this new equipment is working correctly before you put your truck back on the road.

How Long Does It Take To Restore A Classic Truck?

Vehicle restoration is a process that requires a lot of time, effort, and money. However, with the help of technology, it has become easier to restore classic trucks than ever before.

It can vary depending on the type of work and the truck's age. It is estimated that the average truck restoration takes 1,000 hours, so it ultimately depends on how many hours a day you can devote to the repairs.

To restore a truck, you must remove all the parts from your vehicle, clean them up and replace them with new parts. Depending on the damage to your truck, this process can take anywhere from a few months to two years.

The restoration process includes replacing the body, repairing the engine, and restoring all of the exterior parts. The restoration process is quite costly and expensive if done by an individual.

How Much Does It Cost To Restore A Classic Truck?

The cost to properly restore a classic truck depends on the amount of work needed. On average, restoring a classic truck costs between $20,000 to $60,000.

When a classic truck is restored, the cost of labor and materials will be replaced. In addition to labor, replacing the original paint on a truck will cost $5,000 to $10,000.  But the exact cost of restoring a classic truck depends on a few factors.

Truck’s Condition

The age of the truck and its condition is significant. This is determined by its condition and the amount of work done to it already in the past.

For example, an older truck that requires a total demolition of the interior is a much more expensive restoration than a truck with salvageable seats and windows.


Your level of expertise in repairing and restoring trucks will have a huge impact when calculating the expected costs. A more experienced mechanic would likely save lots of money because they can perform tasks faster and cheaper.

For beginners, you will make mistakes, and this will cause your costs to go up a bit. But taking your time and using proper planning is the best way to avoid this from happening.

Important Tips For Restoring A Classic Truck

The restoration process is not as simple as it sounds because many steps need to be taken to complete the job correctly. Because of how complex the process can be, learning from others can help.

This is why we are including some key tips for restoring a classic truck. Remember these three tips during your journey to avoid hitting roadblocks along the way.

Set Deadlines

Because this tends to take months to complete, we recommend setting strict deadlines that you aim for at each step. For example, setting a 30-day deadline to have the truck taken apart is a good place to start.

However, these deadlines will vary based on your own time. If you can commit to working on the truck daily, you will move ever faster.

Document Everything

Another essential tip to keep in mind is documentation. Everything you do to your truck should be written down somewhere because when it is time to reassemble everything, you can quickly get confused and miss something small.

By writing down everything, you are less likely to make this mistake. One small mistake can be monumental if it is not realized until the end.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Lastly, you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help along the way. Doing it wrong will only cost more money and time, and pride won’t pay the extra costs.

Instead, use the help of someone who is experienced to avoid wasted resources.

Pros Of Restoring A Classic Truck

Restoring a classic truck is a lot of work and requires a huge effort. The process can be long and expensive, and it's not for everyone.

But many people are willing to take on the challenge of restoring a classic truck in order to enjoy the benefits that come from owning one. There are a few pros of taking the risk worth considering.

Increased Resale Value

The restoration process of these trucks can be very expensive, but it will significantly increase the resale value of the car.

If you have an older truck with not much to offer, restoring it could surprise you. It is a hobby for some, while others can turn it into a profitable side hustle.

Do Things Your Own Way

Another benefit of restoring a classic truck is that you get to enjoy it for years to come. When you restore an old car, it becomes yours forever, and you can have a say over the final look and feel of it.

Owning and restoring an old truck can be very rewarding, especially if you have done all the work yourself or with friends and family members. You will feel like you accomplished something and have something that is truly your own, even if it was just a project to pass the time with your loved ones.

This gives you full control over the restoration. You can install the parts you desire, paint them the color you want, and everything can be based on your preferences.

Cons Of Restoring A Classic Truck

Many people are against the idea of restoring a classic truck because they feel that it would be too expensive and not worth the money.

These can certainly be considered cons and are worth keeping in mind before trying. The cons of this project are listed below.

Complex Process For People With Less Experience

Restoring a classic truck is not always easy, though. It can be a lot of work and money, from sourcing and finding original parts to doing all the labor. Depending on when your truck was made, it can also be difficult to find original parts.

Finding the parts is considered the easy part too. Once you have the parts, it will take weeks or even months to complete everything step by step.

If you can commit to all of this time, then you likely won’t mind the long process ahead.

DIY Process Leaves You Prone To Mistakes

Taking the DIY restoration approach with a classic truck leaves you prone to mistakes. This is true for most truck owners unless they are career mechanics with prior experience.

Otherwise, every step taken would be a first. This is why it tends to take so long mistakes are inevitable.