So you’re looking for a new project? The decision to restore or preserve a classic Jeep can be a very fun and rewarding one. The question we get asked most often is how to pick “the one.” When searching for the perfect Jeep restoration project, keep in mind that not all Jeep parts are readily available. This is true for both replacement and reproduction parts. For instance, Jeep forward control trucks are extremely rare and unusual, making them a prize to collectors. Throughout their nine years in production, about 30,000 Jeep forward control trucks were actually sold. It’s unknown how many remain today, but what is known is that parts for these exotic vehicles are scarce, if not completely unavailable. If you decide to restore a similar vehicle, be prepared to spend a lot of extra time and money searching for and possibly restoring these parts yourself.
To be sure you’re making the right decision on your Jeep restoration project, ask yourself what drives you to complete it. Do you view your project as an investment, or is it more like a hobby for your own enjoyment? If your project is an investment, the rarer the Jeep, the more money it’s usually worth. If your project is a hobby, the more common vehicles (like CJ series Jeeps) may be fun and easy. However, their resale value will almost never match what you originally spent. Finding the balance between hobby and investment will mean the difference between a fun project and a potentially frustrating one.
In preparing to commit to a vehicle, you will want your candidate to offer a balance between condition and price. Starting off with the best possible quality will definitely make your project easier and more enjoyable. When evaluating a restoration prospect, there are a number of general items that you should verify in order to make the most informed decision possible.
Take an inventory of the vehicle – what’s there and what isn’t? Does it start and drive? What obviously needs to be repaired?
What will need to be prepared in order for the vehicle to run and drive?
Spend some time behind the wheel. Does everything electrical work? Are there any unusual noises, shakes or vibrations when driving the vehicle? Is there any smoke or strange odors coming from the engine or the tail pipe? Are the fluids topped off and fresh? These are some of the primary items you should get a gauge of during your initial inspection of your project.
If you plan on driving your Jeep during its restoration and working on it over time, you should only consider a Jeep that is mechanically complete and as rust and corrosion free as possible. On the other hand, if you plan to strip your Jeep down to the frame, any part is fair game for replacement. This makes it easier to deal with a high level of corrosion or mechanical issues.
Now you’ve had a crash course on what to look for in your Jeep restoration project. Get out there, and have fun with it! Happy Restoring!