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Thread: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

  1. #1

    Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Lately i have been interested in doing my first body off restoration. Today's labor rates for restorations along with the cost of a desired,finished #2 car. I do not paint or bodywork but have a very good connection in that department. I do have a place to do such work. My intentions are to get a hold of a car that has minimal rust issues that is complete and that can be completely disassembled, rebuilt, refinished, and reassembled.

    Question:

    Are there any guys on here that have actually saved money on doing most of the restoration work on their cars? I ask this because most say they lose money even if they do their own work.

    I am in disbelief of what the car market has done the last 10-15 years (even in these hard times) I must say i am looking for an alternative than paying for the labor rates of today's restoration shops.

    As i bounce this idea around in my head,,,,
    ANY ADVICE would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dwight Romberger's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Buy a car that is already in the condition you want.

    Drive it with the idea that you will make the necessary repairs to keep it that way.

    You will not save any money doing a restoration. It doesn't matter who does it.

  3. #3

    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    For whatever reason this is what i am having a problem grasping.

    For instance i feel i can perform a frame off restoration to my rust free 76, silverado for approximately12-14k. However if i took this to a reputable shop i could easily see 30-40k with today's labor rates. Naturally this wouldn't make sense as the labor of the shop would far outweigh the value of the finished truck.

    I saw a west coast guy spend 230k on the complete rotisserie restoration of a 54 roadmaster convertible. The car was clean to start with. It's these labor rates that i am having a problem with.

    On a side note i wouldn't exactly count my time on a dollar for dollar basis as i enjoy working on my own classics far too much to count every minute of my time.

  4. #4
    Senior Member wmsue's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Costs have risen.
    It's taken over two years for me to get the body of my 65 Electra Conv. ready to paint. New OEM fenders, sanded off all panels to bare metal, filled and primed with self-etching primer. Doors adjusted and body panel edge lines are pretty darn good. Complete interior and all chrome and weatherstripping taken off. Hard to guess what the cost would have been if I had it done professionally. I'm sure they'd have it done faster. I got a few prices on painting this summer after being put on 'hold' by a local shop. Most of the prices started at 5K for priming and painting. So I've decided to paint it myself in the spring. The shops all wanted to use Urethane and clear coat. I'll use Acrylic Enamel. I'm in the process of sanding the old fenders down and preping them exactly like I've prepped the car. I'll make a nice wooden stand that simulates how they would sit on the car and try my hand at painting them the first nice weekend we get in April or May. I've got an HVLP system I've used for many years painting houses both interior and exterior. Never tried it on a car, so this will be the first. I'm guessing I'll have under $500 in materials. Sea Foam Green Metallic color. I've got all winter to read up on what could go wrong. That means I'll have more $$$ available to buy my new conv. top. and maybe enough to have the trans rebuilt over the winter. That's one job that I'm not experienced enough to do. What does a rebuild of a ST400 run these days if I take it out of the car?

    Thanks
    Bill
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    65 Buick Electra Conv.
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    Looking for next project...

  5. #5

    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    That trans rebuild would cost $300-$450 in my area out of the car.
    Of course that would be just a rebuild. Any correct detailing would be extra.

  6. #6
    Grease Monkey shadetree77's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    You will not save any money doing a restoration. It doesn't matter who does it.
    I agree with Dwight, it doesn't matter which way you go. In the end you are probably going to put way more into it than you could get out of it when it's done, especially in today's market. I say do it yourself. Not because it's more cost effective, but because of the simple fact that it's fun. If you enjoy it, that's reason enough in my book. Whatever you decide, good luck in your endeavors and keep us updated on the restoration!
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  7. #7

    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Most people will tell you, the chances you'll get your money back on a restoration are slim !! Restoring a car is a labor of love, doing it for the love of the automobile.

    If your gonna keep the truck, fix it up the way you like it then enjoy it.. Don't worry about the money as long as you can afford it..
    Last edited by Kingoftheroad; November 25th, 2011 at 08:05.

  8. #8
    Proud BCA Member buick5563's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Another thing to consider is that just the parts necessary to do a complete restoration (or even hot rodding) can often add up to more than a car is worth. If you are going to paint, you need all new weatherstripping. Take the body off? New rubber body mounting pads. You end up spending $1000 just in rubber. More rubber costs, new tires. Everything adds up, and that's just parts.

    For rapidride, good luck with your truck project.

    For anybody else, ALWAYS buy the best car you can afford. You will always spend more than you expected to, whether you do it yourself or pay somebody else.
    Mike Middleton

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    Senior Member sintid58's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    I am repairing my 55 with the idea that when done I want a driver and don't want to have so much invested I am afraid to drive it whenever and where ever I want. The people that spend thousand totally restoring a car to better than new perfection will think it is a joke but it will look good and what is more important to me is drive good and if they don't like it too bad. Also unlike so many of them I won't have $100,000 invested in a $20,000 car and not be able to sell it if I decide I want to do that. Also as you can see by my signature I enjoy a variety of cars and would rather have a shop full of nice drivers to enjoy rather than one just to look at and haul around on a trailer.
    Last edited by sintid58; November 25th, 2011 at 14:19.

    Sid Rollings, BCA 35109, AACA 991083, ROA 10960, BPG 2156 / 2012 Dodge Ram Laramie Longhorn / 2001 Ford Focus Wagon / 1990 Maui Blue Reatta / 1970 Skylark / 1970 Riviera /1965 GMC Hot Rod / 1958 Special / 1955 Special / 1929 Buick 29-27 / Company Car 2013 Freightliner Cascadia

  10. #10
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    I've definitely squirmed about the price. I decided to do body on to spread the cost out a bit. (Then I spent the last three months and thousands of dollars finishing my garage before I even start this project.)

    I frequently need to remind myself that this is meant to be fun, and that's why I'm doing it. Otherwise yeah, to me the math says go buy something that's already in good shape.
    Geoff, from the land of salt and slush. Pictures of my one and only project: 71 Buick LeSabre, two door convertible.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Skyking's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by wmsue View Post
    I'll use Acrylic Enamel. Sea Foam Green Metallic color. I've got all winter to read up on what could go wrong.
    Bill, if you've never painted a car before, I truly recommend using BC/CC painting any metallic color.......
    Bob
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  12. #12

    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    By the way Buick guys... Don't count me out as i also have a 52' 2-door roadmaster that i plan on enjoying just the way it is (other than mechanical repairs) rescued from a farmers field simply because it will be alot more costly restoration. I figured the 76 pickup would be an easier resto.

  13. #13
    Satisfied Driver JohnD1956's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Is there a market for that 76 Pickup?

    John C. De Fiore BCA # 3757
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    69 GS 400: Convertible Added in 2003 :rolleyes:
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Caballero2's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Patience and tenacity are key ingredients to doing a body off. I have done two and have been very satified with the results. The first, a 1957 Caballero begun in 1984 and finished in time for the 1991 national show in Sacramento. The second a 1957 Roadmaster convertible begun in November 1991 and just finished (never really finished) this month. I warn you that life circumstances can cause signficant delays, but you seem to be up to the task and I think that you will enjoy the work and at a pace that you set yourself. If a spouse is involved, the project is that more enjoyable. I will attach some photos that will indicate just what I went through. The file names reflect the year the photo was taken. Dan
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  15. #15
    Sr (grey-haired) Member Rob McDonald's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    RR2, I agree with everything said here, that it makes no dollars and cents to restore most cars and even less so with trucks. Happily though, many of us aren't practical enough to really care about that. So we spend foolish sums of money and time bringing dead vehicles back to life - and the world's a better place for it.

    CASE IN POINT: Dan's Magnificent Sevens ('57s, that is). I'll bet he didn't spend much time fretting about hitting that critical point, where he might have spent more on the cars than they could be worth at auction. Does that ever really matter, as long as you're pleased with the results? Huge bonus if your spouse is pleased, too.

    Speaking from north of the border, single stage acrylic enamel isn't available anymore, due to environmental limits on VOCs. I had my MBG painted with it six years ago. The nose of the car was recently backed into and it's now in for repairs. The couple of shops I talked to said they'd have to try to "dumb down" the gloss of base coat/clear coat to match the old finish. Interesting to see how that turns out.
    Last edited by Rob McDonald; November 25th, 2011 at 21:21. Reason: overlapping posts
    Rob McDonald
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  16. #16
    Senior Member trimacar's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    I'm a trimmer, so don't quite understand the base coat clear coat question.

    It seems to me that a paint job with color all the way through (i.e. no clear coat) would be best.

    My Pierce is painted with Glasurit, about 8 years ago. It's not a "deep" paint (as is the old lacquer paints), but it shines and looks great, and is very durable. Perfect for a car meant to be driven....

    I once heard that clear coat was developed because of the high cost of primary paint, thus you could put on a base coat, then build it up with less expensive paint. I'm sure someone will comment on that.

    I've also heard that it's difficult to fix minor problems with clear coat, as it's hard to make things blend...again, comments?
    David Coco
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  17. #17

    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD1956 View Post
    Is there a market for that 76 Pickup?
    Ha,, not much of a market for that 76 pickup. Very nice truck. I just figured that it would be an easier project to do a first full restoration to get my feet wet.

    By the way John do you know a fellow in your neck of the woods by the name of Duane Dodds who owned a 56' Buick Roadmaster 2-door? (turquoise and white)

  18. #18
    Senior Member Skyking's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by trimacar View Post
    I'm a trimmer, so don't quite understand the base coat clear coat question.

    It seems to me that a paint job with color all the way through (i.e. no clear coat) would be best.
    Not if a novice is doing metallic. A single application of metallic takes a lot of experience. When I painted my 66 Skylark, it was the 2nd car I had ever painted and being metallic I didn't want the blotcheness associated with metallic so I used DuPont bc/cc and it came out perfect. Anyone that seen it at the Buffalo or Flint Nationals would agree.
    Bob
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  19. #19
    Satisfied Driver JohnD1956's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by rapidride2 View Post
    By the way John do you know a fellow in your neck of the woods by the name of Duane Dodds who owned a 56' Buick Roadmaster 2-door? (turquoise and white)
    Absolutely! Do you live in this area too?

    John C. De Fiore BCA # 3757
    56 Super 56R: acquired September 1974 :D
    69 GS 400: Convertible Added in 2003 :rolleyes:
    69 Electra Limited 2 dr. bought 1995 or so. Sold March 2009!
    72 Electra Limited added July 2014...
    78 Estate Wagon: added 10-2008 :cool:
    95 Riviera Supercharged: added May 1998. Sold September 2006
    06 Lacrosse CXL Purchased July 4th 2006. Traded in Aug 2013
    2013 Regal GS acquired Aug 2013 ( thanks to the La Crosse)

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  20. #20
    Satisfied Driver JohnD1956's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by Skyking View Post
    Not if a novice is doing metallic. A single application of metallic takes a lot of experience. When I painted my 66 Skylark, it was the 2nd car I had ever painted and being metallic I didn't want the blotcheness associated with metallic so I used DuPont bc/cc and it came out perfect. Anyone that seen it at the Buffalo or Flint Nationals would agree.

    I am lead to believe single stage metallic paint cannot be easily wet sanded ( color ( or colour depending on where you live) sanded) and will lead to blotches as the metallic particiles are sanded then polished.

    John C. De Fiore BCA # 3757
    56 Super 56R: acquired September 1974 :D
    69 GS 400: Convertible Added in 2003 :rolleyes:
    69 Electra Limited 2 dr. bought 1995 or so. Sold March 2009!
    72 Electra Limited added July 2014...
    78 Estate Wagon: added 10-2008 :cool:
    95 Riviera Supercharged: added May 1998. Sold September 2006
    06 Lacrosse CXL Purchased July 4th 2006. Traded in Aug 2013
    2013 Regal GS acquired Aug 2013 ( thanks to the La Crosse)

    "Yes! I'd really rather drive my Buick!"

    Member of the UPSTATE NY CHAPTER
    check it out at : http://unybca.com

  21. #21
    Senior Member Skyking's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD1956 View Post
    I am lead to believe single stage metallic paint cannot be easily wet sanded ( color ( or colour depending on where you live) sanded) and will lead to blotches as the metallic particiles are sanded then polished.
    John, S/S Metallic Urethane can be sanded lightly and buffed as long as you don't go into other coats as far as I know. I don't know about enamels. Today I wouldn't paint with anything but Urethane single stage or BC/CC.
    Bob
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  22. #22

    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD1956 View Post
    Absolutely! Do you live in this area too?
    My father and i were the ones who purchased the 56 from Duane. He was a very nice guy to deal with. We have been enjoying the car while making small improvements along the way.

  23. #23
    Satisfied Driver JohnD1956's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    We are in planning stages right now for a spring project and I was thinking of using single stage Urethane in the following pattern:
    Day 1- three coats of the color without metallic.
    Day 2- Wet sand till smooth and then three more coats of the color without metallic
    Day 3 - Wet sand again and then one or two coats of color with metallic, and no polishing or buffing, assuming I have no runs drips or errors

    John C. De Fiore BCA # 3757
    56 Super 56R: acquired September 1974 :D
    69 GS 400: Convertible Added in 2003 :rolleyes:
    69 Electra Limited 2 dr. bought 1995 or so. Sold March 2009!
    72 Electra Limited added July 2014...
    78 Estate Wagon: added 10-2008 :cool:
    95 Riviera Supercharged: added May 1998. Sold September 2006
    06 Lacrosse CXL Purchased July 4th 2006. Traded in Aug 2013
    2013 Regal GS acquired Aug 2013 ( thanks to the La Crosse)

    "Yes! I'd really rather drive my Buick!"

    Member of the UPSTATE NY CHAPTER
    check it out at : http://unybca.com

  24. #24
    Senior Member JZRIV's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Most say you can't restore a car and come out ahead and I suppose thats true much of the time. I've done it 3 times and came out ahead and I've at a minimum broke even on everything else. You just have to invest time pre-planning. Most that fail is because of not doing their homework, picking the wrong car to start with and/or can't do alot of work themselves, or say make a bad decision and put a $6000 paint job on a car thats only worth $7000.

    Hiring out a full restoration is for folks with excess cash flow that looking for a place to spend it and get some enjoyment. In this case I agree its very unlikely you could come out ahead and will be way upside down x 2 or 3 on end value vs investment. For poops and giggles I got a price from a high end shop for turn key work on the body portion of my current project. The cost for that alone would have been $40,000 and I still would have had to provide technical details if I was concerned about maintaining authenticity.

    I am currently doing a body off on a 66 Riv and am doing most everything but the final body prep and paint myself. I started out with a budget and when one area goes over budget, I find ways to cut costs somewhere else. For example my engine ran over budget due to a cracked block. I had planned to pay someone to do the body sheet metal repair/welding. I bought a MIG welder and taught myself to do professional metal repairs. I estimate it paid for itself at least 6 times over and achieved the goal of getting the project budget back in line. I have a spreadsheet and am keeping track of every cost no matter how minor. Amazing how those little things add up.

    Set realistic goals for a project and start by doing market searches and estimating what the market value would be of your candidate if completely restored, then start working backwards assigning real costs for each part of the restoration. Then add 25-30% for the unexpected and and see where you end up.
    This research process takes time to correctly estimate new and used part costs as well as all labor you will be outsourcing. Time consuming yes but it can be the difference between having the project completed within a budget or fail part way because costs are far exceeding expectations. Unlike the government, if the project goes over budget we just can't raise taxes to bring in more money.
    Nothing worse than getting half way through and realizing you are in over your head. Partially completed projects sell for pennies on the dollar unless its a very sought after model.
    Last edited by JZRIV; November 26th, 2011 at 18:29.
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  25. #25
    Satisfied Driver JohnD1956's Avatar
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    Re: Shop restoration/labor costs vs self restoration

    Quote Originally Posted by rapidride2 View Post
    My father and i were the ones who purchased the 56 from Duane. He was a very nice guy to deal with. We have been enjoying the car while making small improvements along the way.
    I'm not surprised you are enjoying that car. It was a very nice automobile. And I know Duane spent a bunch of $$$ making that interior better than it was when he got it. Here's a pic of when Duane first got it and he brought it to my place to look it over with him.
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    John C. De Fiore BCA # 3757
    56 Super 56R: acquired September 1974 :D
    69 GS 400: Convertible Added in 2003 :rolleyes:
    69 Electra Limited 2 dr. bought 1995 or so. Sold March 2009!
    72 Electra Limited added July 2014...
    78 Estate Wagon: added 10-2008 :cool:
    95 Riviera Supercharged: added May 1998. Sold September 2006
    06 Lacrosse CXL Purchased July 4th 2006. Traded in Aug 2013
    2013 Regal GS acquired Aug 2013 ( thanks to the La Crosse)

    "Yes! I'd really rather drive my Buick!"

    Member of the UPSTATE NY CHAPTER
    check it out at : http://unybca.com

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