"About Restoration", page 3
For a typical American car from the mid 40's to the late 60's (with some table gaps, such as early 50's) the parts cost for a
good restoration candidate including items such as engines, (we just install them) transmissions, interiors (usually
subcontracted out) can run a minimum of $10,000. As the quality of the candidacy of restoration declines, both those
numbers go up. If the car is a rare model in that range, think about doubling the parts price. European cars (British and
German) start doubling the parts price and go up from there. If it's and 'E' Type Jaguar, count on increasing the labor by
at least 50%. There are more small (lowest bid) parts in these cars than any other two cars! There is a Beverly Hills
restorer that advertises in Hemmings Motor News for 'E' Type restorations "starting at $60,000!" Though if doesn't
happen too often, we sometimes find a particular part is made out of a material called unobtainium. What do we do then?
We fabricate, of course! If you feel compelled to ask the cost of that for any reason other than, (1) you believe in occult
numerology and wanted to use the number to examine your horoscope, or (2) you were hoping to obtain a good random
number sample to play the Virginia Lottery, then you cannot afford it!
Here is a simple sad fact: almost all vehicles manufactured in this country and Europe from the mid 40's to the late sixties
in excellent condition (but not restored in my strict definition of the word) are worth between $2500 and $30,000, with
most of them being worth less than $15,000. Given the above minimum costs of restoration, that says that most of these
vehicles are not economically restorable. Incidentally, these market values are about half of what they were ten years ago.
That is to say that tese vehicles are economically repairable, most of them are. But I must caution you as to your
perception of what a repaired vehicle is versus restored.
There are many forces that affect the aging of vehicles. Yes, just like we humans, trapped by the unsympathetic laws of
physics, automobiles do age. Some of the aging factors are exposure to oxygen in the atmosphere, causing oxidatino (rust)
of most metals; electromagnetic radiation (light, particularly ultraviolet) infrared radiation (heat radiation from the sun)
cosmic radiation, (I'm not kidding) and thermal cycling (simple mechanical wear from physical contact between
non-deformable parts, i.e. bearings, pistons, and the like). Simply replacing every obviously non-functioning and
damaged part in a 40 year old vehicle, for instance, does nothing to prolong the life of every other 40 year old part in that
vehicle that still happens to be functioning at the time of repair. Most of these parts are at or near their service life, and if
one believes that they have the equivalent of a restored vehicle, they may be lulled into a sense of false confidence they
can treat the vehicle as though it were new with extensive and vigorous use thus hastening the failure of these worn out 40
year old parts. You could leave my shop after a 6 month intensive (and expensive) repari job, and have the car break
down on the way home from the failure of a part that was not replaced. I cannot anticipate the near term failure of any
part which I have not disassembled for inspection, and once I have done that, you may as well replace it. I am a restorer,
not a magician! I recently had a 60's Continental Convertible in my shop for almost a year for seemingly routine repairs.
No less than 13 parts failed while we were testing the vehicle after replacing or repairing other non-functioning parts. The
primary point is, if you are willing to bear the cost of a true restoration, then do not delude yourself into thinking you hav
a vehicle with brand-new dependability.
Length of a Restoration Project
I could make one of my mathematical arguments here such as, I have 3 Techs and 3 apprentices and about 30 projects
underway at any given time, thus, 6 times 40 (hours per week) divided by 30 equals 8 man hours per car per week. For a
350 hour restoration, simple math yields 44 weeks. In the real world, ground up restroations typically take 75 to 150
weeks, with waiting for parts a major delay factor. But I won't make that argument! I'll simply say that the longer a fine
French Bordeaux wine ages, the better it tastes. Rushing a restoration, will do nothing to impove its quality, and will
more than likly compromise it. A good restoration takes as long as the restorer needs for his own comfort level. I have
reached a point where, if anyone expresses impatience before (waiting for an opening) or durign the process, they will be
asked to take their vehicle somewhere else.
The purpose of this rather long-winded article was to begin to educate those who have no experience with true restoration
and, who may be laboring under the illusion that repairing an old car is just like repairing a new car. Or even worse, that
since an old car is cheaper to buy than a new one, it must be cheaper to repair! All I ask is that you show a little
sensitivity and awareness, should you find yourself still willing to stumble into my shop after having read this! When
one is in an airplane, approaching an airport to land, one obtains alphabetic code named information about the airfield
conditions, thereafter only needing to mention this code name when conversing with the controllers. If you have read this
article and you find yourself in my shop, simply tell me you "Have information Alpha," and I will dispense with reciting
the above litany. Then we can talk about lighter subjects, such as solving world hunger. You may be coming in to take
issue with what I have said here. In that case, I welcome vigorous debate over virtually anything!
Footnotes: Although this article has become aged by date written, we
still make this required reading for any prospective customer who
interviews with us. We may have lost a few customers with this article,
but if it scares you in the beginning, you should run and never begin
something that will turn too costly.
A perfect example of what was just read, we had a customer, after
doing extensive mechanical restoration on their vehicle, and inquired
as to what the exterior paint cost would be, we quoted a price. Well
this customer felt it could be obtained cheaper and proceded to another
shop. Two and a-half years had gone by when we were contacted by
this customer, wanting us to finish what had been an attempt of the
final portion of their restoration. After obtaining the vehicle back, we
quickly notified the customer we were not interested unless we could
do this correctly, as stated when first asked to complete the exterior
cosmetics. Need we say, at this point this customer had to spend tripple
of what it would have cost them originally simply because there is no
cutting corners to acheive quality results.
We thank Mark O'Neil for his time and words. We hope you enjoy this