A classic car restoration, for the average human with an average income and average space to clutter up in the garage, will usually take years, not weeks or months. It’s a long-haul labor of love (and hate) that comes with screaming, crying, throwing tools, and a massive smile when you mash the pedal for the first time.If a classic car restoration is on your plate, let us give you a hand - figuratively, not physically of course. Here are the broad strokes of the steps to take your car project from a junk heap to a show stopper. And before you begin, you probably want to make sure you've got the right tools for a restoration.1. Assess the BodyIt all starts with some planning. The first thing, and the most important thing, is to start with a solid car. Rust holes in a panel or two aren’t bad. Most classic cars have replacement panels available and dents and dings can be banged out. But if you’re starting out with rotten frame rails or the cancerous type of rust on more than just a few spots, you’re starting with the wrong car.Unless you’re working on an extremely rare, matching-numbers car, expect to repair 30 percent of the panels, even with minimal rust showing. If you can see holes in a couple of panels, expect to touch at least half the car with body repairs, not just paint prep. Time wise, expect about four hours per panel. That means you’re at around 25 to 40 hours of body work with a relatively clean car. See why you don’t want to start with a wreck?2. Plan the PowertrainThere are so many options for powertrains, regardless of which car you choose. You can keep it original and just rebuild the engine and drivetrain the car originally had, or you can change it up. You can choose a higher displacement motor, build it with performance parts, add a supercharger or turbo, swap from standard to auto tranny – the options are seemingly endless.If you want to get crazy and don’t care about the haters, you could bastardize the powertrain too. One crazy guy I know (my dad) slapped a 6.2-liter Chevy diesel into a 1967 Mercury half-ton pickup because someone told him he couldn’t. Just be aware you’ll get feedback.The main focus is to know what your power goals are, and what parts you need to achieve them. Set a budget for your powertrain, then double it. And expect to still go over budget.3. Set a TimelineIt’s already been said to plan your classic car restoration in a matter of years. If you expect you’ll be driving your car next summer, double it. It’ll be two years, maybe three. Because, let’s face it, life gets in the way.Take the steps listed here and mark down the time you expect it to take to get through each step. Mark it on your calendar, or set reminders in your phone calendar. That way, you’ll be able to tell how far behind you’re getting.Another idea is to post your progress to social media like Facebook and Twitter. You might also want to blog about it or add videos to your Youtube channel. (Editor's note: We'd love to feature your work!) Your followers will ask for updates once in a while, and you’ll have to oblige. But that means you’re going to need to get stuff done. Consider it an added layer of motivation.4. Strip It DownAll right, let’s get started on the real work. It’s like home renovations, essentially – strip it down to the studs before you build it back up.How much you strip the car down depends on the results you want to see at the end. A frame-off classic car restoration turns out the best usually. That entails carefully stripping each piece of the car off, packaging and inventorying it, until you’re down to a rolling chassis. Your results will show with frame-off restoration every time.If you want to do a quick refresh, you might only need to pull the engine and interior, then slap on a bit of bondo and paint. Just know that it’s probably not going to be the same show quality as a frame-off resto.5. A Solid FoundationYour frame is the first piece of the puzzle. If it’s compromised at all, your car could be a pile of bolts in no time at all. It could also be unsafe. If you’re building a high-horsepower engine, a weak frame will crack or twist the first time you launch the car from a stop.Check your frame for rust, holes, cracks and bends. Most muscle cars have frames that can be repaired if necessary with simple welds or splices. And this is the point where you find yourself a high-end personal-use welder or an entry-level commercial welder.If you want your frame to last until the end of time, strip it and paint or powder coat it. It looks great and will protect it from rusting out for years to come.6. Stuff in the EngineWith the proper planning, you don’t need the body on the frame to put in your engine. It’s not mandatory that the engine is fully built yet, but it should be mostly complete. There are a few main ideas to this step: Weld your engine mounts to the frame in the right places Mock up the exhaust and transmission so they’ll fit when you’re done It’s easier to work on the drivetrain when the body isn't in the way. Finding or building a driveshaft, the rear diff and axle, and the exhaust is so much easier when the body is off.Install your suspension, brakes, hoses, lines – all the little things that are still in boxes on the shelf. The plumbing especially needs to be installed so you can drill holes and make mounts that you don’t want to do during final assembly.You’ll be at this stage for months. It takes more time than you think to mock it all up. The best part is that, once the powertrain is all built you can fire up the engine for the first time.7. Build the Body, Fix the RustOnce your frame and powertrain are good to go, it’s time to deal with the body. Test fit the body back on the car, clamping instead of bolting or welding it together. You’ll be able to tell spots that need to be modified to allow for your build, such as the firewall and tunnel for your built-up powertrain.Then, cut out the rust. Any rust that’s deeper than superficial will come through the fresh paint you put on in as little as a few months. Cut it out and weld in patches as necessary for hard-to-get and difficult-to-replace panels. If it’s a fender that’s beat up, you can probably find a replacement for cheap. Companies like YearOne and Dearborn Classics sell parts online for most common classic car restorations and repairs.Then, do a final test fit. If it all looks good, move on.8. Route the WiringAt this stage, you know what parts need to be wired up. Like body parts, you can get a factory wiring harness for most classic cars. It’s a clean base for your car’s electrical system. Or, you can try to work with the original harness. But beware – old wiring is brittle and may cause reliability issues.The extra parts you’re adding that need power can be spliced in at this point. Custom gauges, electric fuel pumps, AFR sensors – they all need to be wired in. You can add a small junction block under the hood for your accessories. Get a block with a few extra spots for expansion later on and for the items you’ve forgotten now.9. Wrap the InteriorI don’t suggest trying your hand at upholstery. However, the cracked vinyl and worn-out original fabric look like garbage and need to be replaced. Take the interior parts to your favorite upholsterer, along with a fat stack of cash, and tell them what you want.Don’t skimp on the interior. The rest of your car can look like an award winner but you won’t win any medals with a crappy interior. Choose to remain with an original look or modernize the upholstery – it’s up to you. Just have it done professionally – please.Test fit it all once you get it back from the upholsterer.10. The Details You May Not Consider…Everything you’ve done to this stage is on point. Keep up the good work. The little details matter too, including lighting, fasteners, wheels, tires, badges and such.Test fit everything you have before it all comes off again. Put the lights in, check the chrome bits, and fit the badges and nameplates onto the car. Some may be tarnished and need to be replaced. There may be busted corners on plastic pieces or a missing part – it’s been more than a year now, right?Before you go on, purchase or repair these little details. It’s going to make for a top-notch finished classic car restoration.11. Strip It Down AgainThis is the worst part. All your hard work has to come apart. Remove everything from the rolling chassis – the body, the electrical, the interior. You need to keep it all very well protected right now to prevent damage. You certainly don’t want to scratch, dent, crack or rip anything now.Keep in mind that stripping it all down is a step forward, not a step back. You’re not too far from completion now.12. Apply the Perfect FinishHow nice do you want your classic car restoration to look? What’s it worth to you? A paint job will eat up a big chunk of your budget, especially if you want show quality paint. $5,000 and up isn’t out of the question for a good paint job, unless you want to settle for a cheap Maaco job.You have a few options. You can pony up the cash for a high-quality paint job. That’s the best choice. You can find a middle-of-the-road painter and save some cash. You can buy the painting supplies and do it yourself for thousands less.There’s a certain pride in painting your classic car restoration yourself, but don’t do it unless you’re prepared for the mess, and to fix your own mistakes. If you decide to paint your car yourself, do it right. Use a completely spotless workspace free of dust, make sure it’s well ventilated, and hang plastic to keep your ‘booth’ clean. And use high-quality paint.Another option you might want to consider is a vinyl wrap. Easily applied, can change color much easier, and can be removed if it gets scratched or you want another change.13. And Back Together AgainYou’re all painted? Good! You’re just a couple steps away from driving your car. It’s the point where you get to assemble everything for the last time.Permanently fasten the body onto the frame. Use seam sealer for a professional result with less vibration and better adhesion. Lock nuts wherever possible, corrosion-resistant bolts, etc. Use new fasteners wherever you can for the best finished appearance.Put the electrical back in, along with the interior. Get it to the point where you think you’re almost ready to fire it up. Then, you’ll debug.14. Final AssemblyIt looks like a car, but don’t get too excited yet. It could still be a bit before you can drive. Once you’ve hooked up a battery, you can turn the ignition on (but don’t start it) and check that everything powers up. Don’t be surprised if something isn’t working – that’s what this step is all about. Repair any connections or electrical systems that aren’t working.Then, fire it up. Adjust your idle, your air-fuel mixture, and your timing. Then make sure your mechanical systems all work. Your brakes need to be adjusted, your steering and wheel alignment corrected – all the problems you don’t want to discover on the road.15. Drive It!Go for a boot! Enjoy the open road and show off your classic car restoration. Make sure your first drive is a short one, just so you can get up to temperature and check for any problems you didn’t notice before.Gradually break in your engine with longer trips. Then, when you know you can trust your car, see what it can do! Lay down some rubber and test its acceleration (but don’t break any laws).And make sure you drive it regularly. Parts like brakes, bearings and steering will rust and seize when they don’t move. Prevent those failures by actually enjoying the car you’ve just built!