Rust 'N' Pieces

Sentimental reasons: How to begin a restoration

Online associate editor Dinzo Tabamo forwarded this letter to me, and asked for my thoughts on the matter:

Hi, Top Gear!

I would like to ask your advice on what I can do with my dad's old car. It's a 1980 Toyota Corona that has been sitting in our garage unused ever since my dad passed away in 2005. I personally have no idea how to check if the car will still run, or if any repairs need to be made. The wheels don't have air, the gas tank is empty, and I probably need to buy a new battery.

I was also told that old-model cars are no longer allowed on the road? What can I do? Our landlady is repeatedly asking my mother if the car can be removed from the garage. She even suggested that the car be sold to a junkshop. As much as possible, I would like to avoid that scenario.

Right now, I'm trying to look for parking/storage lots that can be rented. Is there something like that here in Metro Manila?

I would really like to have the car restored, but unfortunately I don't have the money right now to finance this endeavor. I also wouldn't know where to start. I am really hoping to hear your advice on this. Thank you very much in advance!

-Edgar Doe



Hi, Edgar,

I totally know what you're feeling. When my dad passed away in 2003, he left behind a 1976 Mitsubishi Galant Wagon; a car that he loved so much. He drove it from the day he bought it brand-new in 1976, until the day he left us. The car sat for five years before I gathered the courage and saved up the funds to begin work on it.

It wasn’t an easy road. The wagon ended up going to three different shops before I was happy with the work done. You may have to backtrack a bit but the entire process was documented in this post. The wagon is fully restored now, and driving it brings me so much joy.

Ask yourself these questions before you dive into an endeavor like this: Are you a car guy? Do have any experience with maintaining a car? If not, are you willing to learn as you go along? I’m warning you now that if you have no knowledge about cars whatsoever, you will fall easy prey to unscrupulous shop owners out there. There are many. Of course, there are plenty of reputable shop owners out there, too. Just do your homework.

Your dad’s Corona has been idle for more than decade now, but don't fear. As long as it wasn’t flooded there is a good chance that it will start right up. This is what I would do, just to get the car running. You may need the help of a professional mechanic.

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*Check to see if the engine isn’t stuck by giving the crankshaft a turn or two.

*Remove the oil cap and put your finger inside the cam cover to make sure that there is oil in the engine. Remove the dipstick and check the oil level.

*Clean out the carburetor, which is probably gunked up by now. I’m not an expert at this, so I would probably bring it to a shop.

*Throw in a fresh battery and see if the starter can crank the engine over. If it does, bypass the fuel tank (which is probably rusty inside now) and feed the fuel line into a bottle with fresh gasoline.

*Install a new set of spark plugs, clean up the distributor, and install a new contact point and condenser.

*You may have to retard the timing a bit just to get the car running. Experience is what you need, but any veteran mechanic can get a car started easily. That is the beauty of these old cars. It’s so easy to figure them out.

*Don't drive off just yet, though. Put fresh rubber on the wheels first and clean up the brakes—maybe even install a new set of brake pads and shoes. It will take a while to get the car roadworthy, so take your time.

You can also register an old car. Don't believe the stories. And if the registration has already lapsed, you only have to pay a one-time penalty fee that maxes out after two years of not registering the car. 


It’s fairly obvious that you have a sentimental attachment to your dad’s car, and that counts for a lot. There will be times when you encounter difficulties, but knowing that the car was your dad’s will keep things moving along. Once you are committed, you just have to see the project through.

If the car is running, don't be scared to use it. Drive it everywhere and just fix it little by little. When the car is mechanically sound, then you can move on to repairing the rust and getting the paint done. Do check out my blog. There are tips there that will help you.

Good luck!


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