Step 2: Zero In On The DetailsIn a vehicle restoration there are a lot of zeros at stake—namely, the ones in your bank account. So do yourself the favor of zeroing in on as many details as possible. A reputable shop will gladly explain details like how it figures its labor and material costs; here are a few more things you should know/ask about:
Let the Shop Know Up Front What Type of Resto You Want:If you want it back to dead stock, chasing OEM parts can get expensive. How original must it be? Can some aftermarket replacement parts be used?
If you want a custom or restomod-type resto, clearly explain to them what is staying stock, and what is being replaced or modified.
Know that “estimated cost” and “your actual cost” aren’t the same. A shop won’t know the exact cost until they take your ride apart. That cost will hinge on a few things:
How solid, rusted or damaged your body and chassis are, once they get it disassembled. Rust is the most labor-intensive repair.
If there is any low-quality or “botched” previous work that needs to be fixed the right way.
How complete or incomplete, parts-wise, your car is.
The availability of replacement parts for your model, and if any model-specific parts are very rare/expensive. (If the shop has done restorations on similar vehicles, they’ll have good advice for you)
Ask About the Cost Structure:Many shops use a total time/total material cost structure, which is preferable as it gives them the time to do the job right.
When using the above total time/material structure, you can set a tentative budget based on the estimate, then have the shop contact you when you’re getting close to that number so the price doesn’t go way over without you knowing.
A flat-fee agreement isn’t recommended; it may save you a few bucks, but if you want a comprehensive restoration done right, a flat-fee deal may cut a few corners if time runs out during the resto.
Find Out About Shop Insurance:Make sure that the shop you’re working with has adequate insurance in case of fire or other vehicle-damaging events.
While you’re at it, be sure that your classic car insurance is current, and your agreed/guaranteed value is up to current market prices.
You can look into “Vehicle Under Construction” insurance too—it is specifically for cars under construction/restoration.
Bring Up Car Storage:If the shop is far away or you don’t have storage at home, you may be able to store your vehicle there until work starts on it. This allows you to deliver it when it suits your schedule.
Verify that communication will be a two-way street:
Your restorer should know how you want your resto to go by now. But make sure that if there’s a previously un-discussed decision to be made, the shop will contact you and let you make it.
Ask How Payment Works:You may be able to pay weekly, monthly, in four scheduled payments during the process, or possibly even by big lump sums.
Some payment arrangements include setting up emailed, faxed, or mailed invoices, giving them a credit card number on file, or dropping off payment if the shop is local.
Be sure you agree with the shop on the payment process so there are no problems or holdups during your restoration.
A small, “save the date” deposit may be needed; however, be wary of shops that ask for large deposits up front.
Finally, if you’re considering a back-to-stock, “concours” restoration:
Restoring back to absolute stock for concours judging events can be hit and miss for many late-model GMs, as judging manuals may be subjective (or may not exist), and judges can be subjective.
If you plan to go this route, either buy an unrestored vehicle that’s as original as possible, or prepare to spend lots on your restoration.
Corvettes are fortunate to have the NCRS judging manuals, which are ultra-detailed and standardized manuals that can help you restore a Vette back to stock.
And that’s it! You now have the expertise you need to sort through the field of resto shops, and pick the best one for your ride’s revitalization.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our “How to Buy a New Classic” series. Best of luck with your current or future EFI hotrod, and remember: you’re driving something that will one day be looked upon as our generation’s Ram Air 400s and Z/28s. So do your current and future self a favor—never sell it!
*Special thanks to Gary Tanner at Tanner Coatings in Oshkosh, NE (308-772-0199) for letting us shoot photos in his shop.