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The Price of Perfection
By Richard Lentinello
Editor and Publisher, CRANKSHAFT Magazine
Life-Long Car Guy and Avid Triumph Collector
Originally published in Hemmings Motor News, July 2012
Reprinted with permission
The road to a perfect restoration is an expensive one to travel. When we hear the term, “Pebble Beach quality,” we know that it’s a reference to a collector
car that has been perfectly restored to number one condition. Absolutely flawless, if such a thing exists.
So what does it take to have your car restored to such a glorious condition? Well, money, of course. Lots of money. And the simplest explanation why all
comes down to one thing: labor.
We’ve all heard that old adage: Time is money. And when you think about it, truer words have never been spoken. Especially when it comes to the
laborious job of restoring an old car. The amount of time required to transform a car from forlorn barn find to concours show winner is simply astonishing.
Because every single aspect of the restoration, be it the body, interior, engine or
suspension, and everything in between has to be rebuilt and restored all by hand, you
have to pay for every single minute of that time. If it takes a mechanic four hours to
disassembled a frozen clutch slave cylinder, bead blast it and rebuild it, you’re going to be
charged for four hours of labor. If it takes a body man five hours to unbolt a fender
because all the fasteners were rusted solid, then you are going to be charged for five
hours of labor. And if it takes three hours to install a single interior door panel as perfect
as it can be installed, then expect a bill for three-hours labor too.
While many people don’t think it’s fair for a shop to charge them for every single hour (or
minute, even) that work is being done to their car, then consider this: If you work on an
assembly line and you have to work 30 minutes overtime, don’t you want to be
compensated for those 30 minutes? Why is it acceptable for an attorney to charge his
clients for every single minute they work on a case, including the time it takes them to
write and send an email, but it’s not fair for a mechanic to charge for every single minute
of his time that he has to wrestle with a rusted bolt?
Same can be applied to any office worker, government employee or civil service worker
such as cop, fireman or bus driver. Everyone who works wants to be paid for the hours
they put in, and if they put in three hours worth of overtime they expect to be paid for
those three hours. And so should the person who is restoring your car, especially so if you
want that car to be perfect when completed.
Just like a publishing company, accounting firm, law office or manufacturing company, the
owner of the restoration shop has employee responsibilities too, including health
insurance, unemployment insurance, casualty insurance and sometimes even a 401K
pension plan that they contribute to, plus heat, electricity, and rent. Restoration shops are
no different than any other business that has workers who get paid by the hour, so it’s
only right that they pass along those labor charges to you. After all, what’s fair is fair.
Because there’s so much time consuming labor involved in automobile restoration, for this
very reason alone you should consider dealing with only those shops that are
experienced in restoring your type of car. A shop that specializes in Pontiac GTOs is not
going to know the intricacies of a Model A Ford, thus it will take them longer to restore it
than a Model A specialist would, and in the end it’s going to cost you more money.
So choose a shop that’s well experienced with your kind of car, and not only will the
restoration cost you less, but the end result will be far superior. Most importantly, the
specialist will know the correct fasteners to use, how the carpet needs to be crafted and
what colors certain components need to be painted, or left in bare metal. And those are
the details that will separate a nice restoration from a concours restoration.
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