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?

We’d like to say that these things happen for simple reasons—maybe incompetence, maybe dishonesty—but the truth is usually a little more complex. 

We’ve seen great restorations from bad shops and bad restorations from great shops. To us, the common factors in success or failure are project management and effective communication. 

So, what do you do if you’re the victim of a botched restoration? Unfortunately, there isn’t a sure-fire course of action. The solution usually involves negotiation, a willingness to redo parts of the build, a fair amount of cash, and some heightened emotions. 

Be prepared to cut some losses, too. Rarely will a shop be willing or able to accept all of the cost and work—hence the negotiation—and emotions will usually flare on both sides of the situation. 

Need a silver bullet for a problem with an ongoing restoration? The closest thing we can offer is a popular phrase: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Before signing a contract, check the shop’s references and look at their previous work. This can go a long way toward selecting the right place for you. We’re surprised at how rarely car owners perform due diligence. Most of the horror stories that we hear start similarly: “I should have checked references.” Also, employ good project management and communication before the trouble happens. While this part of a restoration is essential, it’s often neglected. 

A successful project requires three types of management: technical, financial and time.

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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.

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