69 GTO

69 GTO Restoration Costs

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I sit back and read this post and find it interesting on the assorted comments and opinions. I would say 90 percent of the paint I see is either terrible, poor, or lousy. To properly strip a car, fit and finish panels, sand, finish, and buff a car can't be done for anywhere near 25 grand at a commercial well equipped shop. Work is done right, or it is not. Let's face it, this hobby can be expensive, it also can be affordable, overhead on a modern shop in a populated area is staggering. Add in talented employees and restoration costs skyrocket. Same goes for chrome most is terrible or poor at best. Want to know if your getting good chrome? If the plater can do it unless than 12 months, you are not getting good work. All the best platers have work three years out. Craftsmanship is slowly fading away, and the true talented guys have more work than they can handle. Ed

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5 hours ago, Peter S said:

Am I missing something?

 

In most states, doesn't the customer have a legal right to a written estimate, which must be revised if charges exceed it by a specified percent?

 

If that's true and the shop complied, how could it be a surprise that the bill mounted so high?

 

In Pennsylvania restoration shops working on collector cars are not required to provide written estimates. Regular body shops and mechnical repair/inspection shops are.

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3 hours ago, edinmass said:

I sit back and read this post and find it interesting on the assorted comments and opinions. I would say 90 percent of the paint I see is either terrible, poor, or lousy. To properly strip a car, fit and finish panels, sand, finish, and buff a car can't be done for anywhere near 25 grand at a commercial well equipped shop. Work is done right, or it is not. Let's face it, this hobby can be expensive, it also can be affordable, overhead on a modern shop in a populated area is staggering. Add in talented employees and restoration costs skyrocket. Same goes for chrome most is terrible or poor at best. Want to know if your getting good chrome? If the plater can do it unless than 12 months, you are not getting good work. All the best platers have work three years out. Craftsmanship is slowly fading away, and the true talented guys have more work than they can handle. Ed

 

Amen brother. I'm sure this will set some folks ablaze but at the very top end of the quality scale it sometimes comes down to "if you want some aspect of the job to be absolutely perfect, be it chrome, paint, upholstery, woodgraining or whatever, you may have to pay to have it done more than once". Some restoration work is easy but some is exceedingly difficult and time consuming. There are those operations where you do it once just to learn how to do it, then do it a second and maybe a third time to get it perfect. Someone has to pay for that time. We do a lot of woodwork, including some woodwork on woodie wagons. There are individual pieces on woodie wagons that might take 10 hours to make and screw ups can't be repaired if they show. You might put 9 hours and 30 minutes into a piece then make a miscut that renders the piece unusable so you start over. Again, someone has to pay for that time. There is a world of difference between passable and perfect. Therein lies the rub.

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1 hour ago, Restorer32 said:

 

 You might put 9 hours and 30 minutes into a piece then make a miscut that renders the piece unusable so you start over. Again, someone has to pay for that time. There is a world of difference between passable and perfect. Therein lies the rub.

 

Really? YOU screw up and send the customer a bill for it? When I was in the trades, mistakes came out of MY pocket, I didn't act like it was all part of the process and pass it along. That really surprises and disappoints me, knowing who you are and the integrity you represent. I'm flabbergasted, to be honest.

 

"Sorry, one of the guys backed his pickup into your car's door. We had to find a replacement and refinish it. Increased your costs by $5000 but you know, you wanted perfection and all, nothing we could do..."

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34 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

Really? YOU screw up and send the customer a bill for it?

 

Right on!  Striving for excellence is one thing;

but ethics, too, can't be overlooked while doing so.

 

The person who makes a mistake should be man enough

to take responsibility for it.  Doing so will win any individual,

shop, or company a lot of respect.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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I'm not talking about production work where of course you would eat the cost of any mistakes. I'm talking about one of a kind work that you've never done before and there is a lot of that in the resto business. I also didn't mean to imply that you would bill the customer directly  for your screw up but it all goes into the overhead and has to be factored into a shop's hourly rate. There is a difference between a screw up and discovering that what you thought was a minor detail on a part is actually critically important, causing you to nave to redo the work. It is of course a judgement call. We recently completed a woodie where the original wood was barely usable for patterns. We reconstructed one piece of wood as best we could to use it for a pattern (the original was more than half rotted away and a better pattern was not available) , made a new piece, then discovered that our pattern was not exact enough and had to remake the piece. Was it a screw up? No, we did the best we could with the info we had at the time. Should we have eaten all the time we had tied up in that piece? Should we have told the customer "Sorry, we can't make this piece" ? It is inevitable that some times you are going to be paying your restorer to learn on the job.

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Cars were mass market items that had to be sold at an affordable price, so they came with many small imperfections. A "perfect" car is no longer a re-creation of an original object - should it even be called "restored?"   

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5 minutes ago, Peter S said:

Cars were mass market items that had to be sold at an affordable price, so they came with many small imperfections. A "perfect" car is no longer a re-creation of an original object - should it even be called "restored?"   

I heard this from multiple shops and I do believe it applies to the current restoration industry, especially regarding the body.

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Understand that at times, even now, we have vehicles in the shop that are so rare that no one has ever restored another one and the resto will, by definition, all be unexplored territory. Would you be willing to give the customer a price or even an estimate before beginning work? I think not. You don't know what parts are missing or unusable until you do. Maybe if you restore Mustangs, Camaros, Model A Fords or yes even GTOs you should have a pretty good handle on what the job should cost but on a one of a kind 1909 ONLY that came to us totally disassembled and missing lots of parts? After 37 years I am still shocked at how long it takes to do a good job but I won't apologize for it. The bitter truth with the vast majority of shops is that they don't bill customers for all the time that goes into a project. Yes there are shops that rip off customers but they don't last. We had a fellow who came to us wanting to restore a very ho hum car he had bought new and had left outside to deteriorate for 20 years. We gave him the usual advice that he could buy the very best restored example in the world for far less that restoring his would cost but he persisted. When we disassembled the car and discovered that the rust was even worse than anticipated we again suggested that he not proceed with the restoration but yet again he insisted. Eventually he came to the realization that the work was going to cost much more than he thought. Were we in the wrong? Should we have refused to work on the car? Matt, I'm sure you understand "buyer's remorse". Do you try to talk customers out of buying a car from you? If a defect that you didn't know about shows up a year after you sell a car is it your responsibility?

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30 minutes ago, Restorer32 said:

I'm not talking about production work where of course you would eat the cost of any mistakes. I'm talking about one of a kind work that you've never done before and there is a lot of that in the resto business. I also didn't mean to imply that you would bill the customer directly  for your screw up but it all goes into the overhead and has to be factored into a shop's hourly rate. There is a difference between a screw up and discovering that what you thought was a minor detail on a part is actually critically important, causing you to nave to redo the work. It is of course a judgement call. We recently completed a woodie where the original wood was barely usable for patterns. We reconstructed one piece of wood as best we could to use it for a pattern (the original was more than half rotted away and a better pattern was not available) , made a new piece, then discovered that our pattern was not exact enough and had to remake the piece. Was it a screw up? No, we did the best we could with the info we had at the time. Should we have eaten all the time we had tied up in that piece? Should we have told the customer "Sorry, we can't make this piece" ? It is inevitable that some times you are going to be paying your restorer to learn on the job.

 

OK, that makes more sense. Scared me for a moment! It sounded like there is no accountability when perfection is the goal.

 

I think we should remember during this discussion that the guy who is having his GTO painted isn't planning on taking it to Pebble Beach. I understand blank check restorations to get to that particular level, but a GM A-body should be the best-looking car on just about any other field with a $25,000 paint job on it, which is the point of this discussion. I understand that a $45,000 paint job on a Delahaye going to Pebble Beach is relative chump change. I understand that you need to spend big to get to the top level and that you're going to have to pay a shop whatever it takes to achieve it. But we're talking about a mass-produced car in the real world and, sorry Ed, you're going to have to come back to live with the peasants, because a $25,000 paint job on a GTO had better be world-class, never mind the $45,000 job he's apparently getting.

 

The problem with this GTO project was managing expectations, both on the shop's part and the client's part. They both just started moving forward without knowing where the finish line was. Results will be excellent and it'll turn out OK for that reason alone, but it's an important lesson for us all to learn in communicating with clients and shops.

 

 

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Well said. We always ask potential customers several questions. What is your ultimate goal with your car? What do you think it should cost to do what you say you want done? This gives us somewhere to start. If the customer thinks the work should cost $10k and we think it will cost $30K we will politely suggest that we may not be the shop for them. Some shops compete on price, some on quality. It is important to know which you are dealing with. Maybe Mr GTO didn't ask enough questions, maybe the shop did in fact lure him in. We'll never know but I'd bet he will eventually forget the price if the quality is there. With all he is spending on new trim and interior I would encourage him to reexamine what his ultimate goal with the car actually is.

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This has been a very interesting thread but I think communication is the core issue here.  It really seems like a lot of grief could have been avoided (I am guessing the shop is or should be concerned with a very unhappy customer due to perceived cost overruns) if the simple question of "what is your approximate budget" and "what is your estimate after seeing the car" was touched on when the shop was interviewed.  I get all of Restorer's points on restoration (especially at the level of rare cars) but would expect a pro shop dealing with a not unheard of car to be able to get fairly close for the defined work.  Does not sound like GTO was adding work that was not discussed.  He might share some responsibility but shop should know what it averages for similar work especially if it does a lot of the same vintage.  A few thousand vs. double or more what customer is expecting are two different scenarios to me.

 

Hope he ends up happy with the car when all is said and done!

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46 minutes ago, Restorer32 said:

Understand that at times, even now, we have vehicles in the shop that are so rare that no one has ever restored another one and the resto will, by definition, all be unexplored territory. Would you be willing to give the customer a price or even an estimate before beginning work? I think not. You don't know what parts are missing or unusable until you do. Maybe if you restore Mustangs, Camaros, Model A Fords or yes even GTOs you should have a pretty good handle on what the job should cost but on a one of a kind 1909 ONLY that came to us totally disassembled and missing lots of parts? After 37 years I am still shocked at how long it takes to do a good job but I won't apologize for it. The bitter truth with the vast majority of shops is that they don't bill customers for all the time that goes into a project. Yes there are shops that rip off customers but they don't last. We had a fellow who came to us wanting to restore a very ho hum car he had bought new and had left outside to deteriorate for 20 years. We gave him the usual advice that he could buy the very best restored example in the world for far less that restoring his would cost but he persisted. When we disassembled the car and discovered that the rust was even worse than anticipated we again suggested that he not proceed with the restoration but yet again he insisted. Eventually he came to the realization that the work was going to cost much more than he thought. Were we in the wrong? Should we have refused to work on the car? Matt, I'm sure you understand "buyer's remorse". Do you try to talk customers out of buying a car from you? If a defect that you didn't know about shows up a year after you sell a car is it your responsibility?

 

I totally get what you're saying. It's like that anecdote I told about the shop I use when they rebuilt my 1929 Cadillac transmission. The owner said, "I can't charge you for the time it took me to figure out how to do it." It still cost $2500 but the honest approach made it go down easy.

 

I do often try to talk customers out of buying cars. I call it managing expectations and if I can't give a customer a good result, I don't want to sell them a car. For example, a young couple came in from PA last Saturday to look at an old Mustang I have. Not a great car, but it had one thing they loved: a low price tag. They didn't like the color, they didn't like that it had a different engine (351 vs 289), they didn't like that it was a 3-speed instead of a 4-speed. In short, it was nothing they wanted except cheap. They spent five hours here, I bought them lunch, and we talked about what they wanted out of a car. They never had a hobby car before, so they had no idea. Since Mustangs are hardly scarce, I recommended that they keep looking until they find one that delights them. I could have easily pushed them into this car--they were right there--but I didn't. You just can't do that. There definitely would have been remorse and it would have been 100% on me. It would have come back to me in one way or another.

 

Hell, there was the guy just yesterday who flew in from California on a one-way ticket, expecting to buy a 70-year-old car and drive it home on I-80. Hey, let's go talk in my office about shipping and look at plane tickets, shall we?

 

We, with our greater experience and knowledge in our respective fields, are obligated to do our best to protect our clients from themselves. Just as with your client who wanted his rust bucket restored--you knew better. But after a point, you can't protect them. If you've offered your expert opinion, you have to let them decide and move forward. They're adults, they can make adult decisions. You've done your best to steer them down the right path, after that, you let them do what they want. Buyer's remorse is real, but if you've been straight with them they really don't have anyone to blame but themselves. As I said, the $2500 transmission rebuild was eye-watering, but the fact that he acknowledged that it should have been even more made it more palatable. I never even think about the cost now, but I'll never forget him being straight with me.

 

That's what should have happened in this GTO's case. Someone, somewhere, should have called a time out before the numbers got out of hand and there should have been an honest heart-to-heart talk. Managing expectations--it's the key to success in any environment, but especially in ours where passion often overwhelms common sense.

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We find it interesting why certain people want to restore certain cars. In the case of the car I mentioned above, and it really was a ho hum car, likely not worth what the first month's restoration bill was, the elderly retired owner had bought it new and it still had his college parking pass decal on the windshield. He wanted to leave it to his Son. The car was so bad that we first had to find and purchase a rusty body (but less rusty than his)  just to have something to work with. And by ho hum I mean a 1960's orphan 4 door with the smallest engine available and virtually no options. We did finish the car and the owner was happy and that's what really counts in the end.

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1 hour ago, Steve_Mack_CT said:

if the simple question of "what is your approximate budget" and "what is your estimate after seeing the car" was touched on when the shop was interviewed

I asked the shop for any information on the approximate cost and stated I have a budget of 25K. They stated that they cannot estimate and would know more after the blasting. After blasting they stated it was a "top 10" in condition but that was also when the $3,500 went into block sanding the quarter panel and I realized I would be into 45K. I called to confirm expectations and they stated it would wind up 40-45K but again, no promises "could be more". That led to the initial post.

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I do not like to throw out a opinion on what some thing should cost, just way to many things play a part in the total at the end. But the numbers you keep throwing around are very high for paint work on a solid/straight GTO.

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How about a new vehicle like a Chevy Yukon $40,000 price tag should you expect a decent paint job? I was looking at these over the weekend for the wife and I swear they have the most awful paint jobs of any vehicle ever sold in the United States. If in fifty years from now I wanted to restore one to original I would have to through dirt into the paint and create enormous amounts of orange peel to be correct in the restoration.  

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Worst paint job I have ever seen on a factory car, was a black H3. If you talk to guys that work in body shops, they will tell you the hardest part in the re-painting is matching the OEM finish on some of these cars. If you are a good painter, and want to do a good job/repair. It is hard to have to lay down a bad paint job just to match what is there.

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1 hour ago, Xander Wildeisen said:

Worst paint job I have ever seen on a factory car, was a black H3. If you talk to guys that work in body shops, they will tell you the hardest part in the re-painting is matching the OEM finish on some of these cars. If you are a good painter, and want to do a good job/repair. It is hard to have to lay down a bad paint job just to match what is there.

 

That's why I have so much respect for the guys who do NCRS Top Flight and Bloomington Gold Corvettes. Perfection is relatively easy. Perfectly imperfect the way the factory did it? Now THAT's a challenge!

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GTO, when you take delivery, bring a couple of detail oriented friends, maybe marque judges, you get the picture - and a high resolution camera.  That way you can have a little help with the final inspection.  Go over every inch of the car and do not accept any defects no matter how small, demand perfection if you are being charged for it.  It would be interesting to see how far they would go in correcting defects identified at delivery, right?  Strip and redo a panel for orange peel or buff it out when they are not on your tab.  

 

Yes, a lot of top notch shops out there deserve what they charge but it just seems to me like they had a better idea of the cost up front.  You may or may not have gone with them if they said "well $25K is light for what we do here, if you want to know why we can go over the process" which would have been the right thing to do.  

 

 

 

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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22 minutes ago, Steve_Mack_CT said:

GTO, when you take delivery, bring a couple of detail oriented friends, maybe marque judges, you get the picture - and a high resolution camera.  That way you can have a little help with the final inspection.  Go over every inch of the car and do not accept any defects no matter how small, demand perfection if you are being charged for it.

Good idea. Thanks!

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I have watched 5 pages of this discussion without getting involved in it. I wish I had a perfect way to respond to this topic but I don't. In this case, it sounds like the restoration job is going to be as close to perfect as it can be. Unfortunately, it sounds like this is not the level of restoration that the owner would have preferred. From my perspective, and only getting one side of the story, it sounds like the restoration shop did a poor job of communication with the owner at the start of the project. The car is a production vehicle. It is obviously being restored at a level far better than its original condition, which seems inappropriate for a car that the owner initially expected to restore for $25,000 to be a "Driver". I don't think that anybody can convince the owner that everything is going to be as he wished... but at least the car will be better than he ever dreamed of it being at a cost far beyone what he originally wanted to spend. 

 

I hope that this discussion can serve as a warning to others about the importantance of communication at the start of a project with any shop that you intend to hire for a job. If I was going to paint any of my cars (which I don't plan to do except maybe a slight bit of touch up on one car), I think that I would choose a regular body shop instead a restoration shop known for its high level restoration work. 

 

I don't want to close down this discussion but I will simply say that in 101 posts on this topic, we have not really been able to answer the original question very well. It seems to me that the original question (if I even remember it correctly) was essentially, "Is this what paint should cost for my car, or am I being ripped off?".

 

The answer seems to be, "This is not the level of restoration that you expected but it sounds like you are getting a much better restoration than you wanted at what is probably the going rate for that type of restoration. 

 

I see no way to help you feel better about your situation. I think you would have been happier if you had changed painters after your first bill. At this stage, you feel that you have invested too much to change shops. That is probably true. I hope you end up being happy with the car when you are done and hopefully you will eventually feel better about the cost. If nothing else, you have paid a pretty steep price to learn a lesson about communication. It probably does not help much, but at least your expense will help to teach others to be more careful if they find themselves in a similar situation. 

 

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I have a friend that has a Corvette restoration shop.  He routinely does $25,000.00 concours quality paint jobs on Corvettes and this price is for reasonably straight cars.  He is a perfectionist.  The price is spot on for the quality of work that he does.

 

Knowing up front his work and costs when I went to have our Corvette painted and that I was not doing a concours car but a driver I did not have him paint our Corvette.  Nothing against him as, but I am not his type of customer for the high end work he does.  His shop does GREAT WORK.

 

I had some one else paint the car for a fraction of that price which I feel great driving around including on dirt roads and not enjoy the car without worry if the paint might get chipped.

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Thanks McHinson, this basically sums it up. The point at which the cost became known was at the point of the initial block sanding which is only 25% of the way complete. The post was to understand if the cost is reasonable and if not, should I pull the car and find a shop willing to do the remaining work at the level of my budget. That said, I'm already 5K over due to the post blasting work, so it will not solve the issue and the most important concern is whether there would be a shop willing to finish the project. That seems unlikely. I really did not want go 45K deep into the body but it seems I may have no choice.

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I am going to throw some thing out there. And I am not saying that it might be in play here, just some thing to think about. There are a lot of shady things that small shops have to deal with. (69 GTO read the topic restoring cars for a living) If you have a shop that does a good job, and other people/shops want to cause them problems. One way that they can do it, is to cause problems from inside the shop. If you have a bad apple in your company, that person can cause a lot of problems. Delays in getting stuff done and cost over runs. And then that spills over on to the shop/owner. He or she gets hit with a bad rap, over charges customers,long time frame to finish the job, and so on. Again, I am not saying that this is going on. Just saying that some things like that go on. And a customer can get wrapped up in the middle of it. We all like to think that it is a fair playing field out there, but it is not. I think that this post is a good one, and others like it should be posted as well. A real honest conversation must be had from time to time about things, in order to keep the bad from getting to far out in front of the good. This is a wonderful job to have, restoring/building cars. You get to create, build,restore, improve,show and drive your finished product. A lot of pride goes into fixing up cars, so self policing and helping people out who do the same thing helps us all. Competition is a good thing, but dirty tricks behind the scene hurts us all. Maybe the shop is dealing with other factors we do not know about.        

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