Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
8/24/20 9:00 a.m.

We’ve all been around the restoration world long enough to hear a few horror stories: botched jobs, runaway bills, delays that last years, missing parts and more. These miscues rarely end well, and on top of that, the owners still need to get their cars properly restored. Now what?


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8/24/20 9:50 a.m.

The stories I imagine you could tell!

I project manage for a living. A restoration is the quintessential example of a project that can and must be managed. Ant the truth is that car projects are pretty esy to manage since there are few surprises to a qualified team.


What I never see in restoration management is what I call "Cute Puppy Killing" A lot of projects should never get off the ground, and a good project manager will kill these cute little guys before they grow into mean dogs. I could save people a lot of time money and marriages by talking them OUT of doing a car project.


ShawnG UltimaDork
8/24/20 10:52 a.m.

We've fixed several bad restorations now. Autobody guys need to learn to get on the ground and sand rocker panels.

We also kill the cute puppies. A customer had a sad the other day when we told him his 1975 Corvette wasn't worth the trouble.

I've told members here that restoring their baby, even doing it themselves isn't worth the trouble but nobody listens until they're over budget and still have a project taking up two bays of a garage and part of a storage unit.

300zxfreak Reader
8/25/20 7:04 a.m.

Just food for thought, there are quite a few free project management apps and software available, and they can really help keep a project in line and manageable. Seeing a visual timeline is quite a motivator, at least most of the time. Unless you're "that guy", and never look at it once you've filled in the blanks.

TinBox New Reader
9/18/21 12:53 p.m.

As a 30+ year restorer being realistic (on both sides) is crucial! Never low ball a job to get it, we do quite the opposite - ugly truth first, if we're still talking after 10 min then that's a good sign. It's not a cheap hobby, there's no getting around that, your car doesn't know what it's worth and you're primarily buying time. Education on the part of the shop is one of your jobs - tv shows in particular have given people an unrealistic expectation of time and cost. 

Had a guy stop by in an early 911, clearly rusty, and asked about restoring it - I said if we do everything, expect to start at 150...he asked if that was hours! No, that's (Canadian) dollars...he went white and drove off. Had no concept of what 'restoring' the car would entail. 

A big up front deposit should be a giant red flag. Unless there's a big parts purchase the shop should be solvent enough to carry the labour and misc costs for the month, and bill every month thereafter...then everyone's on the same page. As the client, if your situation changes, say so! We've had a number of jobs paused for a period of time over the years - wife wants a kitchen, kid started uni etc - easy to deal with before you can't pay a big labour month. 

Trust your gut! Again, on both sides - we've declined work based on the hair on our neck, and found out later we were correct in doing so. Same goes for a client, if it doesn't feel right move on to interviewing someone else.

Stop by on a regular basis, don't drop it and say call me when it's done. We enjoy showing you the progress, and seeing your enthusiasm for the car and work. We're all car guys, and enjoy doing work for the same. 

Underpromise and over deliver, and remember that restoring a car can be fun...and if it's not ask yourself why. We're currently running a four plus year wait list, and everyone of them is a repeat client. 

Happy motoring!

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