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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

How Come Classic Car Restorations Take So Long?

long-restoreIt is not uncommon to hear that a full restoration took years to complete.  Many of us ask the question “why does it take so long? “  To answer that you will need to understand all that goes into doing a classic car or truck restoration.  You will also need to understand that the process is just as much an art form as it is an engineering science and that neither should be rushed.

The term frame off restoration means that your car is totally disassembled down to the bare frame and all the parts are clean restored or replaced, painted or powdered coated and reinstalled.  Restoration is a long term commitment. It is a very expensive undertaking and we recommend that you consider a project of this nature very seriously.

Restoration experts take great pride in their work and are always looking for ways to help speed up the process when working with clients.  When clients and the experts work together to make an intelligent plan of attack the results are often much more timely and satisfying to both parties involved.

Here are many of the variables that need to be taken into consideration and understood before embarking on a restoration project.  Hopefully this will help you to realize why this process can take longer than expected.

Assess, estimate, analyze and make a plan – Put together a list of everything, and we mean everything, that needs to be completed.  The majority of this list will most likely be made by the restoration shop.   They are better prepared to make the proper assessment of the car and create a list of what needs to be accomplished to get the vehicle fully restored.

They will also create the logical steps that need to be taken to reach the goal.  We certainly wouldn’t install a new interior before the car went into the paint booth.  This is common sense, but there are more intricate steps to the build that the experts know need to happen in a specific order.

The owner’s part in this plan is more along the lines of choosing the parts, materials, colors and accessories that will be used in the build.  Will the interior be leather or cloth?  Should the paint have a candy or a matte finish?  Shall we install a new crate motor or rebuild the original?  These are questions that will need to be answered by the owner to complete a restoration plan and proposal.

Double time estimates from subcontractors – Rarely will one restoration shop be able to complete every step in the restoration project.  Subcontractors may be needed to paint the car, upholster the interior or rebuild a transmission.  Whatever part they play in the rebuild, be prepared for them to add a considerable amount of time to the project.  Chances are a good subcontractor is going to be busy and may not be able to perfectly mesh your timetable with their schedule.  They will most likely be doing work for other customers as well and you will have to get in line.

Parts acquisition – If you want to reduce the time your vehicle spends at the restoration shop, an owner should try to assist in acquiring the parts and materials necessary for the build.  There is no way of knowing everything required, but getting as much together as possible before going to the shop will certainly help.  Finding a replacement windshield or locating a rare trim package yourself means that your car won’t sit idle while your restoration guys look for the parts themselves.  It may also help you to understand that parts don’t always show up on time or in the condition that you expected.  Returning faulty or damaged parts you ordered and waiting for replacements can certainly slow down the entire process.  Looking for parts yourself may also make you aware of any back-ordered items that simply will take time to receive.

Fabrication – You may very well run into the situation that the part that you need simply is no longer available.  The sooner you know about this the better.  Parts may need to be machined or fabricated to replace a part that is no longer manufactured or available.  This is where the “art” portion of the build comes in that we spoke of earlier.  These fabrications can range from simple to complex and either way should not and cannot be rushed if you want quality that is equal to or greater than the original.

Unexpected surprises – Be very conscious of the fact that the original plan is going to have some hiccups during the build process… it is almost guaranteed.  Until the car or truck is full disassembled will a full assessment of the project be possible.  There is no way of knowing that a certain part is rusted out or defective until they get their hands on it.  Be prepared for your original estimate to be increased by at least 20%.  This extra work also means that extra time is required to correct the situation.

I want to reiterate what was written earlier… restoring a classic car or truck is just as much an art form as it is an engineering science and that neither should be rushed.  Owners need to fully understand this before beginning a project.

They also need to understand that they have chosen a shop that they trust will do an outstanding job and not cut corners.  Other classic car owners have also done their research and that makes for a very busy restoration shop.  Try to be patient with your time expectations as shops are doing their very best to manage time and make fair workflow decisions.

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