Deciding Where to Have a Car Restored
The process of selecting a restoration shop will depend on your instincts. I recommended a personal visit and tour first. You’ll want to look for such warning signs as too many dusty cars just sitting around or a shop owner (and thus, shop employees) who has little enthusiasm for your project. As a restorer, I’ve received work simply because I felt more excited about a project than the other guy.
I encourage any potential customer to come and see the shop. It’s important you see the place that does the work and get to meet the technicians. I like customers to walk through our shop and see the things we do. We like them to be part of the process. Especially with a body-off restoration that may take a few years, customers like to be involved, and we want them to be. Once we’re going, I encourage them to come in every 30 days. Some customers simply say, ‘We love what you do, just handle it, I don’t have the time.’ If that’s the case, I try to get someone to come in who represents the customer, like a caretaker or a custodian. Even so, I won’t take a job on until I meet the owner. I want them to know exactly who they’re dealing with.
Whether a shop owner responds to you – either over the phone or via e-mail – should also factor into your shop decision. One that doesn’t respond in a timely manner will likely not provide frequent updates or consult the customer when problems arise.
The best experiences I have are when the customer understands the restoration process. They also should have at least an idea of what they want to do with the car once it’s done. Are you going to drive your car or are you going to take it to shows and compete for trophies? If it’s the latter, then the customer should know that doing a trailer-queen car is very expensive. But if you’re doing a 318 Challenger and do it all up as a 318 Challenger, but dump a Hemi into it, most people at your local cruise-in aren’t going to know and you’ll still have fun with it.
It doesn’t take much to screw up a restoration. But it also doesn’t take much to spot a shady or shoddy restoration shop. Take the time to decide whether you want to entrust your muscle car and your hard-earned dinero to that shop. Take that time, and the next time your buddies are telling these restoration shop horror stories, you can thankfully stay out of the conversation.