1956 Chevrolet BelAir Car Restoration Project — Part 2: Remember to Bring Your Camera
Have you ever worked on something in pieces and wish you knew what it looked like before it was torn apart? Perhaps you have had a friend helping you do some engine work on your car. In a frenzy to get it done quick all kinds of brackets, hoses, vacuum lines and wiring end up scattered all over the garage floor. The next day your buddy decides he has better things to do and you weren't really watching what he had taken apart. It's not that you can't eventually figure it out but if you had at least numbered the wiring and lines with some masking tape along the way it might have helped. Even better, if you had taken some digital pictures.
Taking pictures of the car before the restoration and during the restoration is very important for a couple of reasons. The first reason is to have pictures for re-assembly. Before the digital camera came along we used 35mm cameras and hoped the pictures would be good enough after they were developed. The digital camera has become an essential tool in our restoration business. You can take several hundred pictures, download them onto your computer and check the quality instantly before you proceed with any work. There are also computer programs to enhance the quality of the pictures. If you don't have a digital camera I strongly encourage you invest in one. You won't regret it later. I am using a camera that is about seven years old and is only a 2.0 mega pixel. It still does a pretty good job.
Make sure you take pictures of everything before you tear it down such as outside of the car, the interior, the engine, and if possible the underside. Also take pictures as you are doing the tear down. I can't stress enough to take pictures of every detail. No matter how many pictures we take it always seems that we need a picture of something we missed.
As mentioned earlier, if you are having a friend or family member help you on the restoration you might have to re-assemble something that you didn't take apart. I have a picture folder for each project car on my computer. I can easily print pictures off and take them out into the shop for reference.
Pictures also come in handy when you need a part that is hard to describe over the phone or there are several versions of the same part. You can easily attach a picture to an email and send it to the company or person you are dealing with. I have done this many times when I have received the wrong part.
When you are re-assembling a car after a period of a few months to a few years you can easily forget how it was originally put together. You will be glad you spent the time to photograph everything. Taking all these pictures does take time. However, is it so important that this is a step that you really don't want to miss.
Another reason that it is a good idea to take pictures is to document the restoration. Take pictures of the rust before and after it has been repaired. Take pictures of the bodywork, the paintwork and the assembly process. If it's possible that you might sell your restored car later on, this serves to document the entire restoration process. Not only does it give proof of the original condition of the car and the work that was done to it, but it also helps the buyer to connect with the car in much the same way that owning the original build sheet of a classic car does. Document everything that you do (hang on to all receipts for parts and labor) and keep your photos and documents in a well-organized loose-leaf binder.
Here are some pictures of detail items that I thought we might need later.
Rubber door plug on the left door.
View of shims between the radiator support and right fender.
Photo shows inside right door after door panel was removed. Of course, we had to reduce the size of this photo for quick download on the internet, but we kept the original large version so that we can zoom in and view things like screw heads and other small details.
Detail photo of the right side wing vent window. Besides taking detail photos, we will label each piece as we remove them and store them in baggies.
This is a clip that supports the center of the door garnish molding. Taking pictures of small details such as this might same some time and frustration later on.
This is a photo of the right side door latch rod and clip.