by Matt Dye
As spring turns to summer, vintage cars start rolling out of garages and onto trailers and highways to be shown off at any number of car shows along the I-10 corridor. These beauties are known to turn heads of adults and children alike, but for most of the driving public, entry into this world of car restoration feels like something only gearheads do.
While you’ll probably be an expert on turning wrenches when you’re finished, getting into this game only takes the desire, some spare coin, and a little free time to get started on your own masterpiece.
Jonathan Unglaube, a 21 year old SOWELA student and member of the Cajun Mustangers, might have grown up in his father’s garage, but car restoration wasn’t always a family affair. “When my dad brought home his first car, my grandfather asked him why he hated himself,” he says with a chuckle. He admits you do have to have a high tolerance for frustration when dealing with restoring cars, but that it’s well worth it.
So, where to get started?
“The key when putting a car together is to research,” Jonathan says. And in the 21st century, it’s never been easier. The new class of car experts aren’t found only in junkyards or used car lots, but instead on a plethora of online forums geared to the hobby. There you can research car types, where to find potential fixer-uppers near you, and a passionate fan base eager to point you in the right direction.
“Online drastically changed the game. You no longer have to go and find a frame or a wreck and hope that it is what you were looking for. My dad got started before after-market parts, so he would have to go to the junkyard and cut them out of a car.”
The internet makes getting started easier, but this is still a hobby that takes both money and free time. Jonathan started three years ago when he purchased his ’67 Mustang Coupe at an estate sale in Westlake.
“I drug mine home for $1500. The ’67 was originally the grandkid’s college present. This car was pieced together. The floorboards were originally street signs, it was sitting on cinder blocks, and it was ripped into a million pieces. It took us two days of searching through a barn to find them all.”
Since then Jonathan estimates he’s put a little over $20,000 into the car, but stresses that “you do that slowly.” Over the course of the rebuild, he’s also learned a number of things about working on cars, and has appreciated the time he’s gotten to spend working with his father, Ralph Unglaube. And if there’s something he doesn’t know or wants to try, there’s always a video on YouTube or a post on an online forum with some helpful advice.
But he also points out that if you do the research and have an idea what you want, you can get started at any time.
“I would buy parts on the side over three years, so I had parts stacked on shelves just ready because I know I’d need this, so when I put the car together last year, the parts were already bought and ready to roll.”
Now, with a little help from free time during the pandemic, Jonathan’s three-year project is on the road and running off to car shows. There, he points out, is another great place to get ideas and to network with other people as you begin your restoration adventure, which he admits never really ends, as he’s always tweaking something or taking inspiration from another enthusiast’s upgrades.
Next on the list for Jonathan is on the hunt for a 1969 Chevy Truck and helping his little brother, Alex, with his own ’73 Mustang.
As for the ’67 . . . “I wouldn’t sell my car. This one has sentimental value to me because it’s the one that me and my dad put together.”