|The following article was written by Mark O'Neil, former automotive restorer. He has given
us permission to continue making it available for viewing.
|Most people are greatly misinformed as to what restoration is. To those of you who are seasoned restoration customers, a lot of
what this article is about is common sense, but you may find it interesting anyway. For those of your who have never had
professional restoration done before, even if you have done some amateur restoration yourself, this article is required reading.
Any resemblance of people in this article to anyone, living or dead is purely intended. The names are changed to protect the
Let's examine just exactly what restoration is. Where automobiles are concerned, restoration is simply, a complete disassembly.
If the parts shows too much wear than the OEM (original equipment manufacturer's) recommends that parts is (1) replaced with
an OEM new part, (2) replaced with and OEM or secondary market remanufactured part or, (3) refurbished by the local shop or
subcontractor to a level equivalent to new OEM specifications.
Part of restoration is surface repair. All metal rusting surfaces must be treated. Pieces that are not rusting, must be protected
from future rusting opportunities.
All upholstery, and fabrics, including all new fasteners and seals must be replaced. Any interior trim displaying age or damage,
must also be replaced. Prep and finish the exterior of the vehicle with modern finishing systems as called for by the particular
level of restoration. And end by replacing all exterior trim which shows age or damage.
A True restoration will return a vehicle to as close to brand new as possible, as the original method of manufature is not available.
Restorers recognize two types of restoration, show and street. The main difference between the two is, show vehicle restoration
is sometimes called "over-restoration" where the vehicle is brought as close to perfection as possible, disregarding cost. A show
restoration is better thatn the best brand new, fresh off the assembly line vehicle. A street restoration is as close to factory new
as possible. Show restorations are generally only shown at a few, serious shows, (such as Concours d'Elegance) and never driven
on the street. These cars are entered into judged competitions, and are expected to win. STreet restorations are intended for the
pleasure of driving. These, however, are still driven only infrequently.
Restorerss do not like to do "partial restorations". Though the reason should be obvious, let me see if I can explain why. Joe
Below Zero brings his 1962 Francia Oblongatta boattail shooting brake to ABCD Goldfish Restoration Co. to fix the rusted
panels on the floor and paint the body and rechrome certain small finish trim parts. Joe cannot afford to rechrome the bumpers.
Joe also plans to effect all other repairs to the vehicle as well as its complete reassembly. Joe has, for years, been a serious
amateur automobile collector and part tiem repairer of his own projects, and thus believes himself competent enough to handle
tasks not meted out to ABCD. But more to the point, Joe cannot afford to pay ABCD to do the complete restoration. Since Joe
does not work for ABCD, they have no control over the quality of his work. Joe brings his completed project to a show. Tom
asks: "Say Joe, who did your restoration work?"
Why, ABCD did, of course!"
Tom wanders over to Brad and says "Jeez, I'm never going to have ABCD do anything for me! Look at what a crappy job they
did here in the engine compartment!" End of story! Now there are amateurs out there that are very good. In fact, so good, I've
tried to hire them! But the vast majority of amateures simply do not have the skill and experience or equipment to equal the
quality of my carefully selected middle-aged professionals, who have spent all their adult lives working as automobile restorers.
My local restoration customers, reflecting the nature of the Tidewater (Virginia) marketplace, fall into the following categories:
95% budgeted repair work, 4% street restoration, 1% show restoration. Why so little rearl restoration? The simple reason is
Let's explore this issue. The vast majority of my local customers are first timers. That is, when they bring me their project, it's
usually the first time they've ever had restoration work done by a professional. What they are familiar with is paint and
bodywork done by collision shops. The philosophy of the collision repair industry is to get it done quick and cheap! This is
mainly because the typical collision customer is in need of the lost transportation, thus necessitating a short repair interval.
The repair is usually being paid for by a large insurance company, whose bottom line is, control the cost. Collision shops use an
estimate system often provided to them by the insurance companies that closely approximates the real cost of the repairs. Thus,
the final cost rarely differs from the original estimate. They can do this because the average age of vehicles they work on is 5
years. Parts are in good supply, repair techniques are simple and variances from these techniques (mostly from corrosion or poor
quality of previous repairs) are at best nonexistent or at worst very predictable. Yes, Virginia, many aspects of vehicles are
better made today! the diagnosis and repair strategies are easier, thus requiring less skilled technicians and the results are cheeper
(in inflation adjusted dollars). Even when there are "additions" to the original estimate, the additional cost is still not felt at the
customer's pocketbook, since the collision shop will usually negotiate directly with teh insurance company.
The average age of projects flowing throught my shop is 40 years. All of the first-timers coming into my shop, generally are
infected with the belief that I can spend several minutes looking over their 40 year old vehicle and come up with a collision
industry type estimate, or in other words, a firm bid! I can come up with a firm bid for you right now; I don't have to get out of
my seat, I don't have to look ay your car, in fact I don't even care what it is! 60K! Of course if you want a reasonably accurate
estimate to restore the car, I will give your one as soon as we have completely disassembled the car. This is, of course, not an
insubstantial operation and could itself cost upwards of a thousand dollars! And then there is always the risk that we would
discomver the cost to restore or even just repair the vehicle would far exceed any expectation on the part of the owner; thus at
that point he would have to discountinue (at least with us) after having already spent upwards of a grand!
What should a restoration cost?
Well first let's deal with some quaint notions about this.