Classic pickup truck restoration
Restoring an antique car at the age of 30, realizing a dream or experiencing an everlasting nightmare? Photos and time-lapse video of my restoration process.
At the age of 30, I’ve decided to restore an old truck. However, I had neither the knowledge nor the experience in how it should be done.
I found a rare Suzuki SJ40T pickup truck. The truck was lying outside at the back yard of a shepherd, with plenty of missing parts and huge holes in the truck’s body. I bought manuals explaining about the truck, learned how to weld, and watched hundreds of Youtube videos.
The first year was dedicated to disassembling and restoring rotten body parts. The second year was dedicated to renovating the engine, the gear, and the axles. The third year, which is documented in the time-lapse video, was dedicated to reassembling the truck together.
I started reading on the pickup truck model, and found that this model is rare in Israel, as in other parts of the world. Internet forums had very little information on this particular model, and only had few documented restoration projects of a pickup truck of that model.
The more I read about this truck in different forums, the more I fell in love. Every thread that mentions this particular vehicle is accompanied by responses from forum members lamenting the rarity of this vehicle and telling of their dreams to own one.
While reading through these forums, I’ve gathered every picture of the truck I found online, and cataloged them in folders according to project\color\location. I was so in love with this little truck that I’ve decided to share with the world the pictures I’ve collected. I founded a blog calling for all truck owners to present their trucks. Currently, the list compiled through my blog has representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Columbia, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Israel, Namibia, and more. I’ve cataloged these photos in folders, which I post every day on my Instagram and Facebook page, which has a total of 7,000 followers. Additionally, I’ve also documented the restoration project in Jeepolog forum – which already has over 50,000 views – and where you can read all about each step of the restoration process.
Where did you acquire the knowledge needed to restore a car?
That is the first question I get from people who hear about this project. The truth is, I’ve never studied mechanics, never disassembled an engine, and certainly had never taken on a project of this magnitude. Everything I know how to do, I learned on the job.
The first stage was to take the truck apart. While disassembling the truck, I made sure to take pictures of everything and to put all screws in separate bags with labels documenting the parts from which they were taken. I had no idea what I was taking apart, and so this stage was a big challenge. The original screws were 30 years old, got corroded and became very weak. Each screw broke down in my hands, creating more work in extracting the broken pieces.
Since the vehicle’s body was rotten and filled with holes, the second stage focused mainly on restoring the vehicles’ body and doing metal work.
The third stage focused on mechanical tasks regarding the engine, gear transfer case, and axles. In this stage, I used an original Suzuki owner’s manual I found on ebay, that explains in detail how to take apart, treat, and reassemble each part. Today, when I see the pictures I have taken, I simply cannot believe that I had done everything myself. When I started this project, I didn’t know how the components are even called, and now I know how they work.
The forth and last stage (documented in detail in the video clip), was assembling the vehicle. An entire year of putting together the pieces of the puzzle that led to a functioning matte-blue pickup truck.
Where do you start, and how do you finish?
Time and money are everything. My project is considered a low cost project, as I had done all of the work myself. But the amount of time I had to put into it is beyond apprehension. In 3 years, I’ve dedicated at least two days a week for this project. This means that, for example, I would come back from work and take some parts apart during the night, only to wake up early the next day to sand blast and paint a first layer of primer paint before work, letting it dry until nightfall, then taking the time during the evening to watch some Youtube clips on how to do metal work or tune the engine. The entire project was done in a homemade improvised workshop, in the yard of the rented house in which I currently live. Luckily, my landlord was interested in the project and didn’t mind the mess and the noise.
Managing the project had an important role in its success.This means creating a timetable, researching parts online, making sure that they are delivered on time, managing a budget, and especially understanding what your capabilities are and establishing boundaries accordingly
I've made it to the finish line. Many people try, disassemble, and end up selling a heap of metal parts that was lying around in their backyard – in the sun and in the rain – for the past 15 years. I think you can divide automobile renovators into three categories: the majority are project managers – people who buy an old wreck and pay others to renovate it for them. The second group are the many enthusiasts who begin a project, but can not finish it. The third and last group are the few who took it upon themselves to do all the work and made it to the finish line.
Motivation for classic car restoration
3 years of renovation were spent on the spectrum between a living nightmare and a wet dream. There were times that I found myself sitting in front of a pile of metal scraps, drinking 3 cups of coffee in a row without taking apart even one screw, frustrated and having no desire to go on. But the next day, things start to sort themselves out and you succeed in moving forward. A week later frustration comes again, and you hold on to the progress you’ve made and go on full speed ahead.
The satisfaction that accompanies such a project helped me go on and find my motivation. During the project, I’ve realized that writing and publishing pictures on my blog also encouraged me to continue. The compliments I’ve received in social media regarding the quality of work and the attention to detail spurred me on to continue and to renovate each part of the car. Readers enjoyed the pictures I’ve taken and I translated their warm responses into motivation.
Antique car restoration is a hobby for retirement
People often tell me that I will have nothing left to do when I retire. I say, why wait for retirement? You only live once, and you should follow what you love all the way. After finishing this project, an endless stream of ideas for projects and places to visit came to mind. Truthfully, I don’t think that my retirement will be long enough for everything I have planned.
In the meantime, until I choose which dream to pursue next, I’m enjoying every ride in my renovated pickup truck. I still haven’t quite figured out what is it about this little truck that makes people fall in love with it, but the smile it gets from other drivers seeing it when they stop next to me at a traffic light is worth everything. Thank you to all of those who see me with my truck down the street, ask questions, honk, or simply smile at it.