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Classic auto restoration process

Anything you want, we can do.

We know that every car is different – and every owner is different. So the most important part of our process starts with understanding what you want. Make an appointment, and we’ll listen to you. What comes out of these conversations is a plan – and from the plan, an estimate of cost and time to complete. With so many options for restoration and customization, we want to make sure we get it right.

Nearly unlimited possibilities

What are the possibilities? Almost limitless. We work on all makes and models of classic cars built between 1920 and 1979. That includes driving cars, muscle cars, and show cars, complete restorations and extreme customs. We work with our hands, with custom machinery, and with computers. We do complete rebuilds and partials, including rust remediation, painting, interiors, engine overhauls, even exotic stereo installations.

From my first meeting with Jeff Pate, I was impressed with the depth of his knowledge and wide range of experience in the classic car business.
— Ray Spreen

Our restoration process

Initial assessment

In order to know where we are going, we need to know where we are starting. This is where we get to know your car: get a real sense of its condition and what has been done to it. It’s not unlike a pre-purchase inspection, if you have had one. Once the vehicle has been assessed we’ll meet to discuss our findings and recommendations.

Often a vehicle comes in for one particular job but we find that that task can’t be performed because of other factors. For example, previous work on the car or its general condition may require attention first. This is truly the crucial step and what is often missed at other shops. In addition, this is why over-the-phone quoting doesn’t work. We simply can’t know the true condition of a car until we’ve gone over it in person.

After the initial assessment, we’ll schedule a time for you to bring your vehicle back to begin the work.

Document and tear down

No matter what the plan is, we will be reusing at least some of the parts off your car. As we take a car apart we look for damaged or suspect parts and note them. Everything is documented, bagged up and organized in containers. These parts will be reinstalled, repaired, restored or replaced. As we take the car apart, more damage can be found and documented. In a factory-correct restoration, it is also an opportunity to verify authenticity.

Stripping and paint removal

Whether it’s an all-steel muscle car, a fiberglass Vette or a wooden bucked pre-war car, the paint has to come off and get down to the base material. This means incorporating several techniques and media to get the best outcome. This is another opportunity to see previous repairs and obtain a better view to assess damage. Photos are taken along the way for further documentation.

The process of paint removal and surface restoration is so important that we have perfected our own techniques for doing it right. It’s another reason why we don’t trust anything we do to an outside source.

Once we have the parts taken down to their most basic forms we can begin the rebuilding process. It starts with repair of the body and in some cases frame and chassis components. This is the step where most people think of rust repair. It is actually much more than that. We replace rusted metal, of course, but we can actually fabricate complete missing panels from scratch as well.

If you are building a custom or restomod, this is the point where custom panels could come into play. In many fabrication jobs we create mockups of the components before we fabricate them. If you expect your car to fit and gap better than it ever did from the factory, this is the step where that is done. The options are endless, but the point is that this is when it takes place, not after paint.

Metal work and fabrication


There is a difference in the way things can be put together. Everyone has heard of a balanced and blueprinted engine; but have you heard of a blueprinted distributor? Well, they exist, and this same level of attention should be executed on all components of the vehicle. In fact, we treat the bottom of the car as if it’s going to sit on a mirror – on many occasions our restored or custom cars do just that! If you are building a show car, this is one of those critical details that are often missed by your basic shop.

And speaking of engines, yes, we can build motors in-house to our standards: another item that we cannot trust to outsource. 

Mechanical and Assembly work


After metal finish, the vehicle moves over to the Paint and Body department. This is where the parts are further refined to make them color-ready. Panels are worked until they are laser straight. When the panels are blocked to the agreed standard, the car or component moves into the paint booth. Only the highest level of product is used.

After all the components are cured via baking, the vehicle and/or its parts are removed from the booth for wet sanding. This step not only removes possible blemishes in the paint surface but also removes texture or “orange peel” via wet sanding/ color sanding.

Body and Paint


The finished Product

Every vehicle is tested and prepped for their intended level of use. Road cars are tested under actual road test and put through their paces under actual use. Testing on show cars is far less strenuous, as extended use can become detrimental to some finishes – especially if that vehicle is intended to compete indoors. 

Ultimately, whatever the goals are for your car, our promise is to exceed them. We want every customer to drive away in a car that will make them proud to be seen in it… and glad they came to Classic Cars of Houston.

(If) you’d rather work with nice people who are responsive and treat you like a human being (as opposed to a human checkbook), then, Classic Cars of Houston is your place.
— Alex Lopez Negrete
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