12 things to expect when restoring a car

Brace for some headaches
by Paulo Rafael Subido | May 21, 2010

Lessons learned in car restoration

When restoring a car, are the lessons hard or are they easy? It depends on how you handle the circumstances thrown at you. The wagon finally sees paint after ten months in this shop. I am relieved, but that feeling didn't last.

You see, the next two months after these photos were taken not a single thing was done. When I had the chance to visit the shop, all the painter could say was, "Don't worry your car, don't worry your car." One day, after letting the car sit for two weeks, I returned to the shop hoping for progress. Nothing. Not a single thing was done. That was the last straw. I was getting desperate. I moved the wagon to a different shop.

Do I feel bad about these developments? Well, when I said that restoring a car is a learning experience I wasn't kidding. Maybe some guys out there have it easier than me, or some experience more difficulty. Here's what I learned on my journey (so far).

1. A full-on and proper restoration will not take three months--even if the proprietor of the shop guarantees it. There are way too many factors involved, or maybe it was just my misfortune. Have realistic expectations.

2. Having all the parts you need and the money to see the restoration through does not guarantee the completion of the job. Working with people teaches you things about the human psyche. I may not be a shrink, but I do know that running a place of business (a car garage or talyer) involves individuals. It is inevitable that there will be hiccups.

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3. Visiting your car at the shop every other day does not guarantee progress. I hate to say it, but when your car is in pieces you are at the mercy of the guys working on it.

4. Should you be nice or be an asshole? I've contemplated this a lot, and I think I was a little too nice. But, once again, if your car is in pieces what can you do? I'd rather be nice than have my car sabotaged. To be honest, I am still undecided about this.

5. It is the owner of the shop that should run the restoration, not you. Even if you are paying for the job, the painters and metal workers are not your employees--unless there is an agreement.

6. Small jobs will get priority over your long-term restoration. It can't be avoided that your car will be set aside when a customer comes in for some collision repair jobs. This is understandable, as long as your car is not completely forgotten.

7. Bring all your important car parts home. If not, I guarantee that some will be lost or disintegrate. This is inevitable.

8. When things go wrong, sometimes there is no point in blaming anybody anymore. Before pulling my wagon out, the owner of the shop even blamed me for the delays and said I was too meticulous and I expected too much. Imagine my anger when I was blamed, but I kept my cool. I suspect that the owner only wanted to save face. I'd rather save my energy for getting the job done instead of arguing.

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9. Communication is key. Everyone involved should at least communicate so that there aren't any delays.  I find out later on that the painter in charge of my car was in bad terms with everyone working at the shop. No wonder there were so many delays and wasted effort. The metal worker was so pissed that the painter would destroy panels that were repaired, he never came back to finish the job. This then leads me to...

10. Throwing money at a problem isn't going to work if there is so much ego and bullshit surrounding your automobile. How can your car be finished properly if the people working on it are fighting all of the time, and making your project a venue to vent their personal problems? Having a budget isn't going to solve all of your problems.

11. I am still lucky. Some other people take decades to restore a car. I also realized that even if you have it all planned in your mind, there are things that are just beyond your control. Is this a healthy attitude to have? You tell me. What I do know is I am more relaxed now. I decided not to stress so much. It is so easy to forget that car restoration is supposed to be a fun thing to do. I think the wagon just needs some positive energy to get going again. I also remembered that I have to see this project through.

12. You have to smile and stay positive man, because if you don't you will go completely crazy! Plenty of time was wasted, and a few of my interior parts disintegrated during that time, but it will take more than that for me to give up.

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On a positive note, I still consider myself fortunate because the proprietor of the shop gave me my money back because the job wasn't completed. It was time to move on and to make sure that wagon rides again.

What did I learn so far? Patience really is important, and so is learning how to deal with people. More importantly, not to give up.

This list is also motivation for me to learn how to do metal work and painting on my own. What's to stop me, right? I know that there are wonderful restoration shops out there. My case is an isolated one I am sure. I guess I have yet to find a crew that I can totally trust. I hope you readers don't experience my headaches. The saga continues.

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