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Where do I start?

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Where do I start?

OldNova OldNova
New User | Posts: 5 | Joined: 08/12
Posted: 08/05/12
02:26 PM

I have an old Chevy Nova sitting in my back yard, and I'm dying to restore it. It is my mothers, and someone drove into it in our driveway. I was much too young to remember specifics, but we live at the bottom of a big hill and the story should tell itself.
I just want to know where to start with the restoration, and possibly even a price range. Basically, everything in the car is probably bagged. It's been sitting for at least 8 years, and the engine has never started during that time. Here's some pictures:

The inside looks like it's full of mold and if I didn't spend 2 hours pressure washing it before I took the pictures the outside would still be green and brown.

I know only a bit about engines, but I also know a few mechanics that I can use as resources. So I shouldn't have any issues when it comes to the technical part of restoring the engine etc. My main question is where the hell should I start with this thing? And what should I be expecting to do and pay to get it looking new again?

Sorry if you guys get this question a lot, I assume you would. If that's the case and I'm being a total idiot just delete the thread or something and I'll figure it out.  

redneckjoe69 redneckjoe69
Enthusiast | Posts: 388 | Joined: 04/10
Posted: 08/05/12
04:40 PM

sounds like you already made a start by pressure washing it? lol.  cleaning mold and things can usually be done when you have the free time.    figureing out an honest budget and end result, or goal, would be how id look at it.     pull it out and jack it up,....hows the frame look underneath?    obviously gonna need lots of body work to make it look new.    having some friends help out is always cool and usually dont cost more than some beer and pizza.  lol.   one of the best places to start on a project is the brakes.   you dont want the front looking like the back.  dont get over-whelmed, thing at a time.    looks like a cool project from here. Cool  

OldNova OldNova
New User | Posts: 5 | Joined: 08/12
Posted: 08/05/12
11:45 PM

Thanks, and starting with the brakes was exactly what I needed. Yeah I know I can start with cleaning/pressure washing it but I meant technically what can I do. That was really helpful and I'll look into towing the thing up into our garage while it's not being used and changing the brakes. At least then I'll feel like I'm making progress, and then I can take a look underneath too.  

Ricks73 Ricks73
New User | Posts: 9 | Joined: 03/10
Posted: 08/06/12
03:05 PM

Looks like lots of work, however it seems to be a real SS car.  As mentioned just getting it clean, probably need to pull out the carpet if its moldy, take a bucket of water and lysol and wash everything, scrub the upholstery and plastic trim etc. Just a few hours of work can make a big difference.  Once you have it cleaned up, go through the various systems and replace the fluids, hoses, belts, plugs, wires, etc. Once you've changed the oil, fuel, and antifreeze, drop in a new battery and see what happens!!  You may get lucky.  As mentioned get the brakes bled, many times the hoses corrode on the inside and won't pass any brake fluid so they have to be replaced.  Good luck.

idrivejunk idrivejunk
Guru | Posts: 1050 | Joined: 12/09
Posted: 08/07/12
08:29 PM

I would:

unbolt the front seats and get that carpet OUT of there immediately, headliner too

clean the inside (no blasting with water! Shop vac, sponge, air hose, DRY) put the front seats back in if you want

take the rear bumper off and inspect the rear half of the body

order a couple thousand bucks worth of replacement sheetmetal, and at least that much labor

get the vehicle structure competently repaired, the rear "rails" are important

You probably need floors, maybe all of them.

You probably need both quarters or large patches and both outer wheelhouses and trunk drops

You definitely need a new decklid and tail panel, bumper, etc.

Redo the glass bedding, probably need a new windshield

Clean and check the seatbelts, get every light working and inspect /repair all wiring, fresh tires

THEN maybe you can see what kind of mechanical condition its in, after its safe to roll down the street

I have fixed, inspected, and estimated a lot of rusty repairs like this and the car is worth fixing but it needs a LOT of that. Thank goodness it sat with decent paint on it and the roof isn't all ate up from a vinyl top. I'd love to have one like it! If this would be a first project, it might be a better idea to sell it to the proper enthusiast rather than to jump into a full blown body restoration. Nice car but it is a mess that will take some thousands to clean up. You'll be over ten grand getting the body nice, probably more like twenty by the time its painted.  

OldNova OldNova
New User | Posts: 5 | Joined: 08/12
Posted: 08/08/12
08:15 AM

I guess the most I can do is thank you for your honesty. I'm real young and I want to make it a longterm project where I set it up in a permanent garage sort of thing and work on it when I get money/time. It was/still is my mothers and people have tried to buy it before but she wont ever let it go. Someone offered to buy it because he wanted to restore it but she was unsure, I've been thinking of getting in touch with them and maybe they can help me with the restoration.

I think what I'll do as soon as I can is get the inside cleaned out. Bring it out of the yard, chock the tires and just rip everything out because there is no doubt it's molded through. The front windshield has a crack in it I think, so I will have to replace that regardless. The back one is okay, could I possibly still use that windshield given I put in new bedding?

Also, given I don't get it in perfect condition, what if I make it legally drivable safety wise, what do you think I would need to do mechanics wise? Also if you want any information about it just let me know and I can go check it out.  

redneckjoe69 redneckjoe69
Enthusiast | Posts: 388 | Joined: 04/10
Posted: 08/08/12
10:14 AM

there is a thread going on over on by a guy named Mike.  hes restoring a 79 nova.  i know its a different year, but might give you an idea whats involved?  check it out.  hes a cool guy.    IDJ/Matt is the body guy i would listen to or hit up for advise.  hes an awesome body guy and wont steer you wrong.  if your gonna keep it, id start taking pics and save them.  same with receipts.  what year is it?    i heard that nova was the first letter of a few makes? Nova, Omaga, Ventura, Apollo?  idk?  cool car none the less.  get that puppy up on some stands and see whats up.   Cool  

OldNova OldNova
New User | Posts: 5 | Joined: 08/12
Posted: 08/08/12
11:59 AM

Well literally an hour ago I had a friend come over with a winch and pull it out of the yard, got it up on the pavement. It's a 71 stock nova, Not SS. I think one of our friends put that SS on there just for shits and giggles, never took it off I guess. At the moment I don't plan on doing much body work, maybe fix the trunk so that it will close, just bang it out if I can. The engine was running when we put in back there, it was being driven and was in great condition. It still has oil it in and well, some hoses will need replacement. But mainly, i want to get it running, from there make it safe enough to drive, and then I will be able to take it into body shops or whatever need be to get things fixed on it.

The biggest thing is, it was never put back there because it was junk or in bad condition, in fact it has hardly any miles on it at all. It was hit by a stolen car while it wasn't insured, because of this we couldn't afford to fix it at the time so we just moved it into the back temporarily, which turned into "long term temporarily".

I took a look at the inside when I moved it, looks like the carpets are done, the seats are all torn up and I assume there's been some sort of rodents in it. Do you think I could wash down the inside and things like that with water? Given I take out the carpets and seats first  

idrivejunk idrivejunk
Guru | Posts: 1050 | Joined: 12/09
Posted: 08/08/12
09:06 PM

The fact that its not an SS turns it into something that will definitely need a larger investment than anything you could recover by selling it fixed up.

Right now before messing with it, you might get a couple grand out of it from the right buyer. So you can sell now, or spend too much. Anybody I know would rather buy it untouched and dirty than sort of taken apart and cleaned up. "Heres the car." is easier to sell than "Heres the car and heres the pile of stuff that I took off it". Either way, I hope you have a clean title to it.

That being said, I also want to mention that if you get hit by a jerk in traffic with the car all rusted out like that, not only is the car more likely to be junk afterwards, but you stand a bigger chance of getting hurt. If you gotta drive it around without fixing the rust, at least find a replacement trunk lid and pay a bodyman (WITH a frame machine) to pull out the tail light panel and see about getting the trunk to close with a new lid. All that sheetmetal and the bumper have to be in good shape and latched tight, in order for the car to withstand a hit from somebody texting in an Escalade.

I don't recommend getting the bare floor wet, moisture stays in the seams right where you don't want it. Just use a sponge and bucket and old towel unless you have a compressed air hose to blow out all the cracks and dry it out afterwards.

So in keeping with the safety first attitude, I would say-

Make sure the suspension mounting points are all solid. The rear spring mount areas can rust and be unsafe.

Make sure the ball joints, tie rod ends, and idler arm are not dangerously loose.

Check wheel bearings

Check brakes and repair as needed

Remove/replace and dispose of any old fuel and oil and check ALL other fluids

Blow out the fuel line from the carb end

Visually inspect all wiring for varmint damage

Check battery cables

Check belts and ALL hoses (theres some at the gas tank, too)

Check the water and fuel pumps, and alternator

Get the lights all working

Get it running

Test the transmission briefly

Do a vacuum test

Do a cranking pressure (compression/leakdown) test

Pressure test the cooling system

Rebuild the carb, tune the ignition, fresh plugs and wires

Fluid and filter for the trans


Drive it five miles, fix what breaks

Drive it 50 miles, fix what breaks

Drive it 500 miles, fix what breaks


OldNova OldNova
New User | Posts: 5 | Joined: 08/12
Posted: 08/10/12
03:45 AM

I don't ever plan on selling it anytime soon, it's not about the money I get out of it but rather the sentimental value of the vehicle itself. Thanks for all the tips and I plan to get started real soon now that I have it moved. When I make some progress I'll post some more pictures to show you guys. As well, if I have any issues I'll just ask here.
Thanks again,
Daniel, aka OldNova  

HarleyDavidson1 HarleyDavidson1
New User | Posts: 5 | Joined: 12/13
Posted: 12/25/13
05:06 AM

Depend on you because which side you easy to clean.. and i think u start back side. Hog Parts  

Paul Foster Paul Foster
New User | Posts: 6 | Joined: 07/14
Posted: 07/20/14
05:34 AM

This car seems like it has a lot of personal value to you because it was in the family. I would check to see if it would turnover first. then get it out of the yard and into an area that you can actually do work on it.

Next strip out the interior and inspect how much actual rust you have. That is going to be a major cost I would imagine. Make sure that the chasis isn't bent or damaged or even rusted out. that is a major cost.

Once you know what your dealing with on the rust side then you will have a good idea if this is going to be a long term restoration that you can afford.

that was my thought