They say first impressions last forever. On any car, the first thing you notice is the way it looks on the outside. If you're going to restore a car with the intent to sell it at an auction or other event, it had better have a top-notch exterior or it won't get noticed.
An exterior restoration means more than just a new coat of paint. Depending on the state of the car, a full restoration means stripping the whole car down to the bare metal underneath. Usually, restorers will remove every body panel from the frame of the car and remove any traces of old paint, often via chemical treatments or sandblasting. The panels are then coated in a gray epoxy primer before they are repainted piece by piece and placed back on the car [source: Central Florida Customs].
Rust is one of the most expensive issues you might face when restoring a vehicle. You can expect some rust, often hidden under the paint, as a result of the car's age. While some rust can be sandblasted away, there are times when you'll have to decide whether to repair an exterior part (a fender, for example) or replace it entirely. In places where rust is affecting just one part of the panel, you may even have to cut away the rusted part and weld in some new sheet metal [source: Cain].
Once the car has been primed and all the rust removed, it's time to paint the car. The exciting part of this is that you or your restoration shop can do whatever you want. Want to add some racing stripes or flaming graphics? Go for it! If authenticity is what you're shooting for, many automotive stores offer original factory paint. For popular muscle cars like the '65 Mustang, you can find a wide variety of original colors on the market [source: Muscle Car Club].
The exterior job doesn't just end with rust removal and new paint. Think about all of the parts that comprise the outside of a car -- door handles, mirrors, the windshield, the gas cap, headlights, taillights, bumpers, hood latches and more. All of these things need to be examined and repaired or replaced as necessary.
In the next section, we'll look at one of the most difficult and exciting parts of car restoration -- restoring the engine.