So with White Lightning being 80% done I wanted to put this out for anyone who wants to try and restore or resto-mod a LT/GT. I don’t want to toot my own horn so I will primarily be focusing this on what not to do. Restorations are hard, and it will be frustrating at times, but the results are so satisfying and there is something special about the ability to say “I made that work again/look and work like new again” and it sure can get you working with your hands and thinking mechanically. I love my White and I have yet to hear of a restoration that someone didn’t enjoy in retrospect. Anyway, here it is.
Tip #1: Don’t exceed your skillset or shop capability if you can.
I made the mistake of not realizing that some things in this hobby require specific tools. I had a socket set and a standard wrench set, which can certainly get the job done, but for my fabrication work I needed an angle grinder, and for repainting I needed a sander. I advise that, as a rule of thumb, remember that the more work you need to do, the more tools you will need and consider budgeting for that.
Tip #2: Be careful when working on things with limited skills or knowledge. I always find it embarrassing to have to get help, though there is absolutely no shame in doing so at all. Take your time, do some research, and ask for advice. If you are unsure of how to go about a small job, find someone to give you pointers. A lot of people who do mechanical work are keen to teach people if they want to learn, particularly if there is a common interest. I tried to paint some fenders I made as an example, but I didn’t know about degreasing parts with acetone, so my paint job was awful. I could have fixed this with a 5 minute google search on paint prep for steel and saved myself some headaches. YouTube is key for this, as is taking pictures with a phone as you go.
Tip #3: Expect to be over budget, financially and time wise. This particularly applies with the level of work you are doing, a battery+tires+carb job don’t stress this too much, but for a ground up or partial ground up expect to be 1.5x over in both departments. Be careful about buying machines that need a lot of either, there will always be a better one along unless you want something incredibly rare.
Tip #4: Make a plan, and sleep on it. I went through several iterations of mine, and it cost me somewhat. A more clear plan will give a more clear path though your resto. This can really be helpful because otherwise it can be very easy to wind up in a trap of buying parts you won’t use or the like. It’s ok to change things, because all restorations wind up different from the original concept, because it’s physically impossible to predict the future, but this a little like ordering at a restaurant: Know what you want before you call the waiter over.
Tip #5: Be careful of what you buy. This doesn’t reflect on buying brands of tractors/parts/engines/etc (there are some stinkers, but most are good) as much as it is as the condition. Again, people probably aren’t out to swindle you, but expect that “runs good” means that it will fire, but it may leak or it may need a carb cleaning. It isn’t anything against anyone, some individuals selling machines may just not know what they have. It is very helpful to know what certain tasks will cost on a machine when buying it. I use the formula of (tractor asking price)+(parts/work needed)+(time involved)=(realistic completed value). Redneck Computer Geek/Maine Mud Mower has one that works out better of buying the tractor for the combined value of all sellable parts, which I think works better. All credit for the second one is his.
Tip #6: Start with getting it running, then driving, then start cosmetic work.
This is something I strongly reccomend because if you have serious mechanical damage that should be addressed first, because a pretty machine that won’t drive is a shiny paper weight. I think it is a more sound option to buy these essential mechanical parts first and that way if your budget goes sour (which mine did) you won’t have to worry about the machine as much; even if it has rusty sheet metal or an ugly seat, you can use it like it is until things get easier and you can finish the job. I am watching a gentleman on YouTube restoring a 359 Peterbilt (channel name is twinstick garage) and he did exactly this, and he enjoys his truck, sans shiny paint job, but it runs, drives, stops, and is mechanically sound, and it can be painted in a barn once he builds one, budget permitting, as an example.
Tip #7: Buy in the spring, or ask around when people are moving or cleaning out. This was how I got mine, an acquaintance was moving to an apartment, had what is now my White in a barn, and sold it to me for a mutually fantastic deal. because he needed it gone and and I wanted a machine to tinker with. People often times will buy a new machine and see no use in the old one, or the stereotypical carb-fills-with-liquid-corn-so-it’s-going-to-the-curb. Free machines do exist, but be ready to get it IMMEDIATELY when you find the listing. These go very quickly, and if you get a machine in these scenarios, make sure to thank the person.
Tip #8: Don’t rush things.
I have had to redo several things because of this, namely when I didn’t sand my front rims enough and got a poor paint job. Be wary of this one!
Tip #9:Show off your work.
I among many others are addicted to shiny machines and fresh paint jobs, so if you are able to, put her on here! All machines are cool, and pictures are well appreciated.
Tip #10: Don’t be afraid to try it.
It will be a hard at times, and you may need to iron things out along the way, but there are very few things that can rival the pride from building something awesome or having old or custom iron that draws every eye around. You won’t regret it.
There they are. These are just quick tips, and everyone does things a little differently, so take this with a grain of salt.
If you have questions just ask and I will do my best to help. Thanks for looking and I hope this helps somebody!