WHY DO RESTORATIONS COST SO MUCH?
I occasionally will get a call regarding a restoration concern on the cost and/or the shop that they had a bad experience with. Many times it involves the shop not doing the work and charging too much, the most frequent complaint is that the shop ‘lost’ parts with no intent to replace them! And the customer walks away with no intent to take recourse, just happy to get the car back, in some cases worse than when they left it there! That’s just a damn shame because the restoration process should be an exciting and positive experience for the customer ,for most of them will only do this once in their life.
A reputable shop will take the restoration responsibility very seriously for the customer, providing a premium service process from the talent and knowledgeable staff to having an efficiently set up shop. For example, I have an L shaped shop with my main tool box in the center area, so no matter where ‘im working, its not a long walk to the box for tools.
Most reputable shops charge from $50.00 to $100.00 per hr. or more for the exotic autos. Its important to find a shop that specializes in what you want done, they can demonstrate their efficiency practices, and show you an example that aligns with your needs. It’s just as important to interview the shop as they will you. I recommend staying away from a contractual price, rather an hourly rate plus parts. An honest shop will perform the restoration efficiently, inform you of issues along the way and advise of any additional costs that may incur. I often hear that ‘I don’t want any surprises in the end’. The surprises happen during the process and should be communicated to you. You could pick a shop that only charged say $25.00 / hr, thinking that your getting a great deal, when the shop that specializes in your car may charge $60.00 / hr could get it done better for less $. It comes down to knowledge and efficiency.
Now for the “nuts and bolts” of it. There are many different levels of restoration work [quality], many several levels of extent, ie a paint job vs a body off complete, and many, too many definitions of the word restoration. Because I do this for a living, I have the curse. I’ll walk through a car show only to end up talking to someone who waxed his car and painted the engine compartment [the wrong gloss level] black, bragging about how he restored his car! The definition of restore is to execute the process to return the item[s] back to its original state, or day 1 after assembly. This involves completely disassembling the car, leaving no misc bolt or bracket on the frame. All pieces cleaned and stripped of old finishes and corrosion, make any necessary repairs, or replacements, recoat and assemble.
No, it’s not as easy as it sounds, assuming that you have an example that is a nice complete car, your way ahead of the game because you won’t be searching for hard to find parts, and the deterioration isn’t as bad, assuming that the car isn’t a nice orig and requires the restoration, the process still needs to happen. There are 1000 decisions to make and potential for hundreds of mistakes, the subcontractors like the engine guy, the tranny guy, plating; chrome, zinc, cad etc, interior guy, gen /starter guy etc all need to do a great job the first time. If you didn’t take the car apart, you’ll need to find out the proper finishes on everything, what bolts go where, what direction do they go. If you will be doing the disassembly, there is no such thing as too many pics or notes, you will need to flag issues that will need to be corrected during the assembly, for example, your 63 has a blue washer bag, it should have a red one. Be mind full that it’s been serviced and repaired by many different people through the years, that most likely treated it like any used car and had no concern for leaving it like they found it, a good example is the first time your Galaxie went in for alignment, when the had to access the upper control arm, the retainer clips that fasten the splash shield to the frame were taken off with a set of pliers and thrown on the floor, It didn’t matter, it’s just a used car. All of these needed corrections need to happen. Having the knowledge and experience makes all of the difference.
Some have questioned the day the car was assembled it took several hours to do it, why does it take many months to complete a restoration? The assembly plant of a particular car company has been designed, built, stocked and staffed with hundreds of trained individuals to be able to accomplish that. And it takes millions in capital to make it happen. There should never be a comparison made between assembly plants and the restoration process. Consider all of the parts supplied to the plant, they are all brand new and put in the appropriate bins for the assembler. In a restoration, the part needs to be removed, usually involving some pb or a torch, and saving the fasteners. Cleaning, stripping, making any needed repairs, and recoating before it’s put out on the floor for assembly. And oh, you’ll need to do that to all of the parts, every nut, bolt, washer, bracket, etc etc. some 10.000 of them. A bit of a challenge for a few hours..
My best advice is to plan the project, work with the shop, communicate frequently, don’t cut corners to save a few bucks, in the end when the sticker shock is gone you want no regrets. When you plan to take your family out in it on a Sunday, it needs to be all that you wanted and paid for.