We’ve been working on retro cars for almost ten years now, long enough to have tackled all manner of builds on an immense variety of different models. All have posed their challenges, and it really doesn’t matter whether the build in question is a traditional restoration or a ‘restomod’ undertaking – all can and will be complicated as the project evolves, so it’s merely a case of working out how best to devise solutions as and when they’re required. 

Part of what makes a traditional restoration so difficult is the lack of room to manoeuvre when it comes to completing it; there’s no deviation from standard, manufacture specification, which in the case of some of the cars discussed below can mean a (largely) fruitless search for panels, or more likely, the creation of one-off replacements. Seeing as it’s all too easy to underestimate the challenge associated with a traditional, ground-up restoration project, we thought it high time we take a closer look at 3 of our favourites to date.

Mazda RX3

This project was made all the more challenge by the almost non existent parts availability in the UK. Let’s face it, the likes of the RX3 were hardly common cars when they were for available new back in the late ’70s, and that’s before we touch upon their inadequate rust protection and the added layer of complexity lent by its rotary engine. Still, it’s hard to deny that the RX3 is a cool looking car, and also represents a small yet highly signifiant era for Mazda in this country, which is all the encouragement we needed to take the project on some years ago.

We were at least able to commence the project with a complete (if tired) example, a car that actually looked far worse than it was; most of the panels were salvageable, as was the complete interior and various other essential RX3-specific fixtures and fittings. Key areas that did require metalwork included the rear arches, rear sill, the leading edge of the inner wing and associated inner reinforcement sections, the headlamp panels, sections of the rear scuttle panel, floor pan and part of the chassis rail. This done, the shell was painted in a fresh coat of OEM yellow, then reunited with its recently rebuilt rotary. It has since been shipped to Australia to be reunited with its owner.

Mercedes W116 S-Class

A car currently in the final stages of a Retropower restoration, and one you might well have seen on our various social media channels, the W116 S-Class has proved to be a challenging rebuild for a number of reasons. Part of this is down to it being a an early ’70s Merc, an era when big Benzes were known for being both over-engineered and riddled with idiosyncratic touches, some of which we’ve touched upon previously. Suffice it to say that bringing this, an example of the first large Mercedes saloon to wear the S-Class badge officially, back to its former glory has been something of a labour of love – and it has certainly increased our knowledge of Stuttgart offerings from this era.

Fiesta RS Turbo

Few cult cars leave as visceral impression as a fast Ford, even more so if the Ford in question hails from the glory days of the hot hatch genre, the early ’90s. The Fiesta RS Turbo played a key role in this era, and while it never attained the kind of rabid following as its Escort siblings or GTI-badged rivals, it remains an incredibly cool slice of late ’80s blue oval chic and one well worth saving.

While hardly as rare as either the RX3 or the W113, the sheer number of RS Fiestas crashed, stripped or otherwise mistreated throughout the ’90s and into the noughties means that finding parts is tricker than you might think. Tony has actually owned this car from new, though it had fallen on hard times by the time it came to us three years ago, the demise of its T2 having seen it wheeled into a garage to gather dust. We therefore set about a traditional restoration, a means of bringing this former hot hatch icon back to life and back to its former glory.

Tony having owned the car from new meant that we could at least work from a complete example, and the good news was that, while rusty (it’s an old school Ford, remember) the Fiesta was far from the most rotten of cars to have passed through our doors. Most panels could be salvaged and returned to the car, which is always nice on a build like this, one focussed on originality.

Things weren’t quite as simple inside, the interior having suffered over the course of the Fiesta’s enforced hibernation, primarily through sun bleaching and the standard bolster wear to the RS Turbo’s famous Recaro bucket seats. Much of the interior was salvageable however, so the decision was made source and purchase another, identical one, then combine the two to make a single, flawless interior.

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