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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

How to Choose the Right Restoration Shop

restoration shopEmbarking on a classic car or truck restoration can be a huge undertaking.  Even if you plan on doing as much work as you can on your own, there is a good chance you won’t have all the time, tools and/or know-how to complete every phase of your build.  99% of the time you are going to require the help of a professional.  That is where shops like ours and other restoration experts across the country come in to help make your dream car come to life.

So how do you know which restoration shop is the right choice?  Performing a full restoration can and often will be a pricey endeavor.  Taking a little time to do the research to find the right restoration team will save you a considerable amount of time, money and frustration.  Even more important, you will end up with a vehicle that will be built to last for years of enjoyment.

Before you begin searching for a restoration specialist you will want to have a good idea of what your expectations are for the final product.  Will you want a fully restored show car or just a car that you can cruise around town from time to time?  Will you require all original OEM parts or can you settle for reproductions?  Knowing the answers to these questions will not only help you set your budget, but will help restoration shops to give you a more realistic quote.

A great place to start looking for potential shops is online.  Google can give you a general idea of the restoration shops in your area and can also provide plenty of testimonials and reviews from previous customers.  This is a great way to narrow down the list of experts you choose to research further.  Pay close attention to the shop’s specialties.  If a shop specializes in restoring classic Jaguars and Mercedes then they are likely not the right choice to restore your American made classic and vice versa… American classic car specialists probably would not be the best choice for a European classic.  No one single shop will be an expert in every car manufacturer and you may find that some shops will take it a step further.  Sure they can probably restore any American car, but they specialize in working on Fords.

After narrowing down a list you should do some footwork.  Go to car shows and part stores in the area to ask other owners and classic car enthusiasts if they have any opinions or suggestions pertaining to the shops on your list.  You will often find these people to be a priceless resource.  It can be much more reassuring to hear a review straight from the source rather than reading a review online and you are likely to get more details.  Car owners are typically happy to share their experiences both good and bad.

Once you have one or two shops that you are interested in pursuing, do yourself a favor and visit the shop  to speak with the owner or principal restoration specialist.   Visiting the shop has many distinct advantages… firstly you will be able to see the overall cleanliness and organization of the shop.  You can’t expect it to be spic-and-span, but you shouldn’t see piles of spare parts and leftover scrap either.   Another red flag might be the available space the shop has.  If you see employees working on projects outside then you know they are probably in over their heads.  Adding to this point is the fact that shops are usually only insured to a predetermined amount.  To many cars and they will be under insured with any unforeseen accidents or catastrophes.  If you see something that just isn’t right, then trust your gut and move on.

Another advantage of visiting the shop is seeing what tools and capabilities the shop has.  Can they do all the work in house or will they need to sub out some of the work to other shops.  This allows you to further research any other specialists that the restoration shop may hire to complete your build.  Be prepared to encounter this as it is very common for shops to bring in outside help.  Rarely will any one business have all the equipment and staff to properly complete every phase of a restoration.  Visiting the shop directly will give you a good idea of the quality of work they perform as there will be other vehicles that you will be able to see.  Most likely you will be able to see projects in different phases which should help you to determine the skill level of their workforce.

When you have decided on a shop it is extremely important to work out all the details of the cost for your restoration.  This might sound like an obvious statement so let me explain further.  Most shops work at an hourly rate and no two restorations will ever be the same and neither will their pricing.  You should expect to pay an additional 10-20% more than an original quote. Be very leery of any shop that tells you they can finish the project for a set price.  There is no way of knowing the full extent of work necessary until they get into the build.  There will certainly be surprises the project will face along the way that were not recognized upon the initial inspection.  Any shop that guarantees a set price will need to cut corners when these unknowns arise.  This means they could simply cut a corner on a cosmetic fix that will never be seen, but it could also mean that they decide to not replace old brake lines that might have another year or two left in them.  You don’t want any shop cutting corners where your safety is concerned or that could mean even more money in future repairs.

Be aware that there is a good chance you will have to go on a waiting list for the right restoration shop.  When they are the best at what they do the demand for their services is going to be high.  This also should tell you that they don’t rush the work they do and take pride in the final results.  Waiting lists can range from months to even years, but if you want your classic car or truck to done right then it is worth the wait.  Once the project begins a good shop will want to stay in touch with the owner to show and explain the progress and discuss any hurdles that they encounter.  In the end you may end up paying a little more than expected to get the job done right, but as the old saying goes… “Buy Once, Cry Once”.

Here at Wilson Auto Repair we hold ourselves to the highest of industry standards.  If there are any questions you have about a restoration you would like to complete, please contact us via email, through our website contact form or by phone by dialing (972) 271-3579.  We will be happy to answer any questions.

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