Creating Contrast

Second to the thrill of the hunt, which is finding that elusive classic or holy grail piece of automotive history in a shed, barn or back ally garage, is creating contrast. Taking a rat shit filled old jalopy, rusted into the ground car, and getting it back on the road. In addition, is seeing the before and after or your hard work after a complete or even partial restoration. Be it a piece of jewelry, furniture, house, or a classic muscle car. 

Below are the some of the creations of contrast from #jakesgeneralstore #fromthistothatchallenge found  by Jake, done for Jake, in Jake’s hobby shop. 

Most of the builds above are on the Jake’s Cars Page here.

The Brougham Society

The Brougham Society- Long hoods, plush pillow top seats, interior gallery lighting, and trimmings that would out do Grandma’s Thanksgiving table.  These Cadillac models were the last of the long bodies. The last cars with chrome  bumpers and external protruding door handles where you pushed in a button with your thumb to open the door.  These are the sophisticated cars of luxury and power. These are the elegant and stylish cars of the Brougham Society. 

Continue reading “The Brougham Society”

Bout with a Beemer— 1989 BMW 325i E30 Garage Rescue

It has been said that the most expensive used car is a BMW. After rescuing this ’89 BMW 325i E30 from shelf duty in the front of a garage, I understood why the repair costs on BMWs are so high.  Pictured below is how I first saw this E30 BMW two years before purchasing it. The story is that a neighbor gave this BMW to another neighbor because of starter problems. Turns out the starter actually fell out of the car, or at least fell out of the hole.  The car sat for eight years. I decided since the car was rust free, was relatively unmolested, and the interior was in like new condition,  it was worth saving. Moreover I needed to feed my resurrecting habit. I bought the car for $1,000 and trailered it home. It was a HUGE risk in that I had no clue if the motor would even turn over. 

After getting the car home and into the garage a standard assessment was done. I had ordered a new battery and a cheap starter. I also had ordered a starter bolt kit. Being that the bolt and nut starter hardware was being sold as a kit,($8.95) it seemed to me that this starter issue may be common place. I needed to resurrect this car in careful steps to limit risk, mainly the loss of dollars. Time is a sunk costs in my opinion in the car hobby.

Tackling the starter was the first job, and get the motor to at least turn over. The starter replacement was a two week project requiring patience. Walking away and thinking about the “how” to replace the starter in an extremely tight space with an I6 engine taking up all of the length of the engine bay. After reading countless old internet BMW forums on this very topic,  I was determined to NOT remove the intake and to NOT remove the motor mount bolts and jack up the engine. The challenge was getting one stubborn bolt into the hole from the rear of the bell housing and then get a nut started on the starter side. The body of the car around the bell housing only offered 3/4 inch at best. Sneaking the bolt up from the bottom was not an option. I ended up taping the bolt to my middle finger pointed towards the front of the car and going in from the topside. As I pulled my hand out from behind the bell housing the bolt, loosely taped to my finger came out of the tape loop and entered the hole.  EUREKA!  The next challenge was to install the starter without pushing the bolt out of the bell housing. . All of this is being done blind due to the restricted view underneath the brake booster assy., and the intake. An angled 10MM wrench would not fit. The solution here was cutting off the box end of a 10mm wrench and affixing it to the end of another wrench. Yes again electrical tape saved the day. With the custom wrench on the head of the bolt on the back side of the bell housing,  the bolt stayed in place and the starter was able to be installed. I installed the NEW battery and hit the key, the car turned over. Success!

I had added fresh Non-Oxy gas on the ride home the day the car was bought. I do this to shake up the old gas in hopes to saturate the varnish that has no doubt accumulated. With the old gas extracted with a Pella extractor I added a few more gallons of non-oxy fresh gas.  

Fire in the hole!- With fresh gas and a new starter, also fresh oil, it was time for a fire in the hole. When doing this initial start up I like to get the vehicle out of the garage, and have a fire extinguisher on hand. I hit the key and turned the motor for a bit and no fire. I did not hear a fuel pump engage and key-on. Thankfully the German engineers made replacing the fuel pump extremely easy. With the back seat removed, this exposed a trap door, I replaced the fuel pump with only a 5 day delay while I awaited on the part arrival.

Time for a fire in the hole again.  This time when I hit the key the engine fired and the car actually idled. No major bad sounds but the starter was continuing to spin. This is not good. This issue was resolved after online research ,and a wiring diagram determined that I had the starter wired incorrectly.  Because the starter had been already removed when I bought the car I was unable to see how it was wired prior to removal. 

Next was a timing belt for insurance as I had no historical records for the car.  This I outsourced for $350. Well worth the spend. Turns out the timing belt had in fact been replaced but I had the tensioner done as well. 

Over the next few months I chased small issues and gave the car a good cleaning. The tires were in fact dry cracked from sitting. A few short trips around town and a couple longer road trips proved the car road worthy.  All in I had $2,000 into the car. 

A few tweaks for personal preference and I called this rescue done. One was the yellow stickers on the inner high beam headlamps provided for a euro look. 

*Project from 2019


Iola Car Show 2019

Midwest Mopars Does the Iola Car Show

Over a year in the making, a group of members from Midwest Mopars recently attended the Iola Old Car show near Steven’s Point Wisconsin. The club was invited to participate in the Iola Old Car Show’s Calling All Car Clubs theme. Club member Mike  made the trip over to Iola last summer with his ’62 Dodge Dart for the 2019 Program cover photo shoot and dinner.   Mike’s car was displayed indoors and the other club members displayed their cars in the blue ribbon area of the show field with other clubs from around the nation.

Our club display outside served as base camp for attending club members and NEW members. 

The Iola Old Car Show , located in the dead center of Wisconsin had over 2,200 show cars this year. Link to website here-

All the major manufacturers are on site.  Automotive celebrities and aftermarket vendors have first class displays. Most impressive is the volunteer army that puts on this major annual event. The food and beverages are 99% sold by local community clubs and organizations. The Lions, the highschool spanish club etc. When you buy the pork chop, steak and or their famous chicken dinners the proceeds are going to the local community. 

Here are some pictures from the show. 

The over 18 acre swap meet is a challenge to walk in one day. Over 4200 swap spaces. The show also recently added an Amphitheater where live music concerts happen Friday and Saturday evenings.

Iola in July is always hot hot hot!!! For many years in the past I had only swapped parts in the swap meet. I had never taken in the car show itself, nor showed a car. Having the Cuda on display and visiting with the non-stop stream of spectators was a blast.

For three nights I decided to camp in the show campground with 500 other campers to be close to the action, and because I am frugal. The nearest hotels are 10-15 miles away. The campground does not offer electric or sewer hook-ups but they did have public showers. The lines were never long and the biffs were always clean and serviced. I slept in my car trailer in a small area in front of the Cuda each night. The pop-up Karaoke party and RC car races along with muscle car grass drags were evidently common campground antics each year. There were two squad cars patrolling the campgrounds every 30 minutes at night. No idiots or issues and my fellow campers were a blast to hang out with.  Many 4th generation Iola show goers were in their glory. 

The trip home had bad and good luck. The bad luck, was the big Dodge Ram blew an intercooler hose clamp just outside of Steven’s Point, WI. POOF & POP are never good sounds going down the highway. No power, no turbo, I was broke down hours from home.  Admittedly I was loaded heavy pulling the car trailer, bucking the wind and pouring the coals to the turbo making lots of boost. After a roadside inspection and repair with bailer wire in the 88 degree hot temp with, oppressive humidity, sweating out three days of beer and Cheese Wiz,  I limped the truck into town to a Fleet Farm and performed a parking lot repair with a couple of hose clamps hoping they would hold temporarily. However, the truck’s computer was still in limp mode (prohibits the turbo from working, top speed 30-40MPH. ), and the old trick of disconnecting the battery cables to reset the onboard computer does not work on my truck. The good luck was finding a Dodge dealership in town with a service department open on a late Saturday afternoon who reset the Ram’s computer and got me on my way. Kudos to Dom the mechanic who let me supervise and calmed me down.  They did not have a new correct high-pressure clamp in stock. The fleet-farm hose clamps held for the white-knuckle 4 hour ride home but I was not racing big-rigs up the hills with the heavy load. Slow and easy I made it home before dark.

The Iola Car show is a must see. Well worth the trip to see the variety of cars and treasures in the swap meet. The organizers of this show have been doing it for years and did not forget a thing. There is even a small Pub on site with AC.  The tradition of going to the Iola car show runs deep and strong. THIS is America. THIS is the best of the car culture.  Bring a good pair of walking shoes, lots of water, and high pressure hose clamps. Mopower to ya!. –Jake

Managing Your Automotive Restoration

They say if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life. A passion of mine, second to restoring cars is managing projects. As a professional project manager by day, a Project Management Professional (PMP) certified by Project Management Institute, I use many best practices when restoring cars as a hobby. To date I have about fifteen true restorations under my belt. When there is not an unlimited budget, and when there is not an open-ended time frame, astute project management techniques will add immeasurable value to an automotive build. My dream, my passion, my goal is to guide my fellow hobbyists who may be lost in a project get back on track, or help those who want to explore doing a project.

Restoring or even fixing up a car takes money and time. In the project management world these two things are referred to as cost and schedule. If you are outsourcing any of the work now you have introduced vendor management into your project, another passion of mine. Managing your own expectations as well as the expectations of a vendor or subcontractor in the areas of cost, schedule and quality are paramount in a build. I will outline below many of the techniques I have used on the restoration projects contained on here on my hobby website,

First we need to establish your end game. Take a shot at answering the questions below.

  1. Are you restoring your car as an enthusiast and hobbyist? If yes, proceed to next question. If no, I doubt there is nothing of value for you here.
  2. Are you interested in restoring or building a car or truck, and maintaining a planned schedule to; a.) Establish a budget and then remain in that budget?
    b.) Achieve the quality you desire? And
    c.) Adhere to a pre-planned time schedule? If yes, read on. If no, move on.

Planning your build:
The first goal is build a project plan that you will use to adjust the main elements of cost and schedule until your plan works for you. i.e. what you can afford and the quality you desire are the big drivers here. Since most of us have more time than money, yet desire safety and quality, schedule takes a back seat. A common saying in project management is “ plan your work and work your plan”. I used to cringe when I heard this after being in the trenches of managing projects for fortune 500 companies. There are many outside factors that can affect even the best laid-out project plan. Most often it is the client or owner, and their desired changes in project scope, that will derail a cost item or an established schedule in a project plan. A good project manager will build in cost and schedule reserves to mitigate these changes affecting the project. Managing expectations is half the battle here. For car hobbyists like us let’s just try and manage our own expectations, and maybe the expectations of our spouces.

Step 1. As I stated above, it is important to know what you want to end up with before you begin a project. It is also important to know what resources and or skills you have.

Resources are things like money, a garage, a shop, a truck, a trailer, tools, and time. Next think about what amount of work you want to do. Are you a do-it yourselfer? Do you enjoy the dirty work of a tear down? Do you have the patience to put in a headliner? Are you comfortable vacuuming up rat and raccoon crap and coming face to face with live snakes? Are you ok with getting stung by a swarm of bees? The answers to these questions will determine what if any of the work on your build is outsourced. Often times even though you have the skill to do something, it is a better value to outsource.

Examples are; honing your engine block, porting heads, sandblasting parts etc. There are service providers who have the tooling and equipment to do the work. Buying the equipment to use once, or even twice is not prudent.

Another example is a simple as a car trailer. A car trailer can cost $2-$3,000. You many only need to haul your car 2-3 times. A tow truck service even at $120/per haul might be a better value. Moreover storing the trailer may not be an option where you live. Another example is a welder, even though you took that welding class in high school and know how to weld, maybe having a professional welder do the work is a better way to go. Don’t get me wrong, having a car trailer, a small sandblaster, a blasting cabinet and even a small 220 AMP welder are very fun, effective tools to use as an automotive hobbyist.

Above we talked about understanding your skills and resources before you begin your project. These decisions will drive the next exercises, the cost or budget of your build, and the timeframe or schedule you expect on your build. Many tasks on your project, even though they may be a better value, can still be performed by you, after all this is a hobby and doing the work on your build is up to you. Learning a skill and understanding the tooling used is very fulfilling. Moreover, they both can be used on future projects. Once you complete your first project plan or estimate of cost and schedule, you may need to come back and re-consider what work you will be doing. We also need to do an exercise on what vendors you have access to. Keep that in the back of your head for now.

Step 2- Secondly think about what you want to end up with. First and foremost it should be something safe if for use on public roads. If you want to kill yourself out in the desert or woods, have at it. I feel sad for your friends and family but I can’t fix stupid. From there, the level of quality and functionality (performance) are also considerations for you to decide on. Write down on paper what you want. Find pictures of what you want. Build out what you want on paper, lay it all out on your kitchen table. Get what is in your head out in front of you to look at. Maybe the build you want already exists, or a least a close version of what you want? Go talk to that owner and go see that car in person, ride in it if you can. Ask what they would do differently etc. This is the fun part. Research the differences in a concours, show car and driver restoration. Learn about resto-mods, customs etc. 

Step 3 -Costs: To establish a budget on your build. Start to gather your costs. I use software spreadsheets. I have a pretty standard template I use for all of my builds. Short example list of the categories below;

Task or Item Work Done by or Vendor Cost Time- days
Acquisition Cost Wife $15,000  
Tear down Me   20
Engine build AMC Machine $8,000 60
Valve covers Rock Auto    
Tires Tire Rack $500  
Sandblasting L&E Blasting $1,200 14
Body Work & Paint Itz Custom Cuz Stock Sucks $15,000 120
Assembly Me   90
Re-chrome Bumpers   $700  
Stainless polishing Me   7
Trans rebuild BJE Transmission $1,200 14
Partial Total   $41,600  

Separate the outsourced work from the work you will be doing. Then separate out parts from outsourced labor. Group similar items together. Run a total in each category and analyze. Then run a grand total. Build out your spreadsheet so as each cell or value changes the category total and grand total will change. Do these costs work for you? Can you realistically afford this? Re-adjust items and or re-source less expensive parts and or look for a better value.  You are collecting estimates for your project. You are determining how your project will be executed. The more time in planning and researching the more options you will have to decide on how your build will be executed.  Take your time here. Be as accurate as you can. SWAGS ( silly wild-ass guesses) should be avoided or eventually defined because numerous  SWAGS will corrupt your the data and cost estimates you are using and making expensive decisions on. I also use the spreadsheets for historic reference so include web-links to vendors and their phone numbers. I track parts received and returned as well, along with order numbers.

A note on outsourcing: In other blog articles I discuss vendor management, finding body shops, machine shops, upholstery shops etc. Remember, join local car clubs, go to swap meets, network and learn who is who in your area. Get more than one source for a given task. Go talk with them in person and see their shop. Use your gut because you will get what you pay for. Using a buddy’s brother in a back woods pole barn with a dirt floor to assemble your engine is not worth it. Paying some guy on the side with cash who is a “tweeker” working out of his garage will turn out bad. Price is one thing, but actually getting work done in a quality form is more important. The cost of having body work re-done or an engine blow up 2 miles down the road is no good. Get a time frame from the vendor to do the work. Hold them to their timeline. There are some common talking points in negotiation I use here. Negotiations and managing expectations begin at the estimate stage in any procurement.

Step 4- The Schedule: We covered resources and skills used to get the work on your build done. What work will you be performing on your build? For outsourced work, what were the timeframes received back from the outsourced work? Lay this info out on your spreadsheet or a timeline. Use a day count or a month count of need be. Generate a total.

Step 5 Compile the plan- Bring it all together. You now have your project plan. Adjust the plan as needed to fit your goals and resources. Analyze, re- shop, rethink and re-research.

Executing Your Build

Time to rock and roll and get things underway. Take-a-part starts. The basis here are bag and take and box. By now you have chosen your outsourced work and vendors. Long- lead items, things that will take the most time, are determined from your return time estimates provided by your vendors. Re-Chroming bumpers and misc. parts I have found often take the longest. Get your long-lead items to the vendor so they can begin work. Body and paint is often times another long-lead item. Get your car to the shop. Managing the body and paint vendor will most likely be your biggest job. The supply and demand of skilled tradesmen are not in your favor here. Decent body and paint people are in short supply.

Go through your parts list and determine availability. A parts list can grow and change. Determine what you will buy online, or at a local parts store, and what you will need to find used. Look for bulk buys and coupon codes for online suppliers. Be careful here. Often times using several parts suppliers vs. using one close to you, and or one who will work with you on returns is more valuable. Here again the relationship will win out every time. Look for total value not just price.

Parts & Labor Cost Received Order #
Motor rebuild $4,900.00    
Clutch, Bolts $439.55 yes 595062
Idle Solenoid $153.89 yes 1159146
Alternator $112.48    
Battery Cable, Coil & Parts $98.38    
Exhaust Manifolds $249.00    
Alternator $148.88 yes 1157207
Radiator $895.00    
6 pack carb rebuild $922.00    
Misc. $94.53    
Exhaust system $1,000.00    
Polyglas Tires $1,335.00    
Brake Booster/ Master $1,150.00    
wiring/ Filter $1,006.20 yes 21782
Dash Pad $750.00    
Interior $1,174.50 yes 22390

Managing Changes
The largest risk to keeping any well laid out project plan on time and on budget is the owner. In this case the biggest risk is you. Changes changes changes. Again this is a hobby project and not a multi-million dollar IT software or an outer space expedition so changes are allowed and no one is going to get fired. Like construction, subcontractors salivate when the Change Orders come. Change Orders are common and often times priced much differently than originally scoped and priced work. Unforeseen changes in scope are expected, i.e. until the car was sand blasted, or until the ¼ skin was removed, the inner wheelhouse sheet metal now needing replacement was not known. Expect an additional charge for materials and labor. Ensure the price is reasonable and move on. This is where the 10-20% budget project reserve comes in handy.

Assembly and Finishing
Second only to the hunt and the find this stage of the restoration project is very exciting. If you are doing the assembly work yourself in your garage, the smell of mice piss is long gone. New parts start to arrive like Christmas, the smell of new paint is in the air, and your garage or shop starts to look clean again. Have a garage party the day your ride comes home from the body shop. Get some encouragement from your friends and family to finish it off.

For kicks re-visit your project plan and add a column called “actual cost”. In this column start to populate what things ended up costing. How close were you? If you are very anal you can create a third column called variance for future analysis. This will show you the areas and items you were off in your estimating. This data will come in very valuable on your next build. Also known as lessons-learned.

Take your time on assembling your car. Remember most of us have more time than money, so if you blow your scheduled time frame for assembly, no harm no foul. Sure you will run into stuff you forgot to order or buy, and no one has an entire hardware store bolt and nut section in their garage. Countless trips to your local hardware store are expected. The good news is spending money at a hardware store on nuts and bolts far exceeds blowing cash on pull-tabs or over-priced beer at a swanky downtown bar. In the end you have an amazing ride that YOU built, with a plan.

Summary- The spectrum of getting a car build done for everyone varies. At one end of the spectrum you have a completely outsourced build to a restoration or speed shop. Known as Turn-Key.  On the other end is the do-it-yourselfer who will go at their own pace, in their own place. Your preference coupled with your resources will determine where your build will fall on the spectrum. A properly planned project will cost less, be of higher quality, and take less time, then an unplanned build. Go at your own pace, go as you can afford the project. For goodness sake, if you don’t have the money upfront, please do NOT use credit cards to build a car.

Plan out your work like planning a road trip before GPS. A prudent person would never head out on a cross-country road trip without a plan including an idea of costs, what roads he will take to get there. Once done, enjoy the ride.-Jake  612-518-7425

“..but I can buy one cheaper”

I chuckle when I hear the statement, “I don’t want or need to restore a car because I am savvy and I will just buy one done, it’s cheaper.”  This article is a follow-on to the Restorations Build vs. Buy post.  I will reiterate my statement in that post;  Do you really think guys are going to loose their ass and sell you their meticulously restored car for the same price as an auction dealer fluff and flip car? The answer is hell no!  Please learn what a concours restored car is and a show car restoration is. The extent and quality will not be the same. Moreover you just paid huge auction fees to buy that “done” car.

My intent here is to share my experiences, specifically the estimating process,  in restoring a classic car. Restoring a car should be fun.  I don’t want you to feel ripped off or disappointed when you a). see the price of a restored car, and b). overspend your hard earned money re-working or going backwards to achieve your end goal, oh, and c). establish a good price to pay for a project car.

With that said, what is your end goal?  If you are looking for a Saturday evening cruiser,  or a trailer queen, concours award winning car, I hope this article will provide you with guidance and insight.  Give this decision a lot of thought.

Even a driver is a blast. I have a couple I call my “bar cars”. Good cool drivers/hot rods and a cream puff that can withstand a box store parking lot or a cruise-in riddled with toddlers and drunk idiots.  Still a great time visiting with like-minded car guys about their rides.  The drivers were built with this purpose in mind. Even if I were to have bought them done, which I rarely do, I am safe on the money.  Remember this is a hobby after all and not a business. From time to time I don’t mind being upside down in a car.  Your job is to NOT spend near concours restoration money on a driver, regardless what the seller claims. Why spend the money twice if your end goal is to someday restore the car?

We have covered the difference between a survivor car and a restored car in the post noted above. Now will will delve into the restoration project and related costs. Trying to predict the cost of a build is tricky and often times impossible. There are many variables depending on your end goal.  As a project manager by profession my job is to manage cost and schedule in a given project.  Because I have historical data AND real world experience with automotive restoration, I can predict within reason what a restoration will cost and how long it will take. In the absence of data there are methods to perform a build-up of costs.

You will see on most of the restoration car pages here on my website there is  a build and acquisition cost listed. You will also see the year the work was done and whether the work was outsourced or done in my hobby shop. All of these things are factors in restoration costs.

No tricks here just get our your pad and paper and start listing, purchase price, parts and labor.  Let’s break each down parts and labor and discuss the variables. I use an Excel spreadsheet on every car.

Parts: Depending on your end goal, quality and extent of restoration, the parts needed, and or restored and re-used, or replacing missing parts, will drive this section of your cost build up. Often times you wont know every single part you will need until you tear the car apart. i.e. a heater box diaphragm.  You also may not know the sticker shock or the price of a used or hard to find part. Regardless start your list and identify the costs.  Leave yourself a 20% reserve of your total parts line.  See the “Pieces & Parts “article about sourcing parts.

Next are the labor costs. Sorry but as a hobbyist your time is not able to be charged to the project. Turn key shops will obviously cost the most. Having a hobby shop with heat and mechanicals like I did will save substantial dollars. Having a space to do tear-down, do blasting and light parts painting will save big dollars.  However building a $30k garage to restore one car is not conducive to the one car build. Even in a two car garage or the third stall in your suburbia home, a lot of disassembly and assembly work can be done. You don’t need a hoist.  Store completed parts in your basement. Get a lawn shed or an enclosed trailer to store parts or other items.

Farm out your engine and driveline components and re-assemble in your existing garage. Same goes for upholstery, either do these items yourself or haul them to an upholstery shop to have professionally done.

Tear Down & Blasting: This is an easy area to save money. Tear down and take apart your own car. After all you are the one who will be putting it back together. This will also dictate the extent or your restoration project. Of course take pictures. Even though you have manuals, pictures work the best for re-assembly. If you don’t have a blaster haul your car and parts to a sand and media blasting shop. Stay away from the dustless blasters. Have a plan once your parts and car are stripped to bare metal for the means to apply primer sealant.  Don’t plan to allow a car sit in bare metal for even a month. This is something that needs to be taken care of in days, not weeks or months. This is a great time to revisit your parts list now that you can see what parts are savable and usable.

Body Shop Jail:  Finding body guys to do restoration work is tough. Body guys generally go for the easy collision work to make more money. Can’t fault them for that. Stay away from the collision shop that will take your restoration in as “side” work. This almost always turns out bad. Your project sits, parts start to turn up missing, and months can turn into years. This has happened to many of us. Before I had my own hobby shop I outsourced a lot of paint and body work. Once the relationship deteriorated due to missed deadlines and empty promises, I was not shy about just showing up with a car trailer, a long cable, and loading my car.  Live and learn.

Knowing I was going to do several restorations I built a hobby shop. It doubled as storage and a man-cave. Overkill for sure with AC and in floor heat but what the hell. I do miss it but it served me well. Something to consider if you have the space and means. I went one step further and hired paint and body guys to work for cash at an hourly labor rate vs. a loaded hourly shop rate in my own pole barn. I paid for heat, AC, yes AC, the repairs to the air compressor, garage doors etc.  I could control and track material costs and usage with my own facility.

Look for a body shop with lower overhead. Be cautious of the guy charging $90/hour out of his back yard pole barn out in a rural area. Does he have shop insurance against fire and theft? Probably not. Is there a crew there where 2-3 people will be working on your car for the $90/hour?  The sweet spot is a 1-2 man shop that do restorations only, maybe light repairable work. Make sure they are a real business for anything over $40 bucks an hour. Get a discount for cash. Get an estimate on cost and schedule. Let them make the estimate and let them pic the schedule. Then remind them that they picked both and you will hold them to it. Progress payments are normal but always do a 15% withhold payable when the entire project is completed.

Don’t get wrapped around the axel so to speak about an hourly rate. Get an estimate. Work with the body guy to do an hourly build up by part if he is unable to tell you how many hours for each phase.  Metal work, rough in, paint and final cut and buff are good phases.  If he refuses to work with you on an estimate walk away. I generally wait for them to tout their 20-30-40 years in doing body work.  If that is the case then they should have no problem providing you an estimate, or work with you on a build up.  200 hours-600 hours? Is the $90/hour for 1-2 men or just one? $90/hour may actually be $45 depending how you look at it. Who is paying for materials?  Is there a mark upon materials? Where do they get their materials? Have them give you the estimate in writing. Generate your line item price for body labor from the hourly rate x their hours estimate.

If you are are working on a project someone else started or have to switch body guys, be wary of the guy that criticizes the workmanship of the previous body guy. This negativity is bad news and a true sign of an attitude you don’t want to work with. This belly aching is not productive. Look,  shi* happens and while re-work is expensive it is not the end of the world. Move on.

Good help is hard to find. There are old school body guys out there that enjoy doing restoration work. Network and make good connections. Ask your local auto-parts store that mixes automotive paint for names of body guys.  Ask your fellow car club members.  Another reason to join a car club and attend the monthly meetings. See Car Club Article.

At this point your project plan and cost estimate should be filling up. Revisit your numbers and list your outsourced items along with the business that will be doing the work.  Common misses are exhaust, brakes, bulbs and fluids. These small items can add up.  This data  can now be used in determining what you will pay for a project car.  Buying knowledge is buying power so you don’t overpay.  Use this estimate on other project cars you are looking to buy, or the one you already have.

Now that you have a good cost estimate think about what your end result will be. Is it what you want? Is it a restomod? An OE restoration or a combination? For most the hunt and restoration journey is part of the dream and most certainly garnishes respect. Also a great sense of accomplishment.   Working though this estimating and then the restoration process can be challenging but in the end is well worth it. If you work with good vendors and shops the experience can be grand!  In the end you know what you have for a car.  Now ask yourself if that done car you were looking at buying in haste at an auction, with no back story, with no true knowledge of the type or extent of restoration performed, is something you want to pay big money for?

Please think of this. Your buddy with the thirty thousand dollar bass boat, a few grand in tackle, another couple grand in fish finders etc., he does not think how much he can sell the fish for that he catches, in fact he may throw most of his catch back in the lake! Classic car restoration is like fishing, it is not about the value of the fish you eventually land in the end, but the experience of the journey it took to get the fish in the boat. 

– Jake

Restoration Builds VS. Survivors VS. Build or Buy

This article is about the important difference between a car that has been restored, to a given degree, and a survivor car.  Then I will talk about Build vs. buy. Right now the year is 2018 and for a few years now the hot cars have been survivor cars.  I get it, and I too think they are only original once. That is something very special. Before Survivor cars were hot is was Restomods, and before that it was RatRods, heck in the 90’s Model T’s hit their high and were hot.   Many opinions claim the survivors should bring more money than a restored car.  I say they are apples and oranges just like a restored car often next to another restored car, that analogy is a green apple compared to a red apple. Don’t use one to determine value on another. Silly.  It is like comparing the value of a house on a lake or river to a house not on a lake or river. 

Restorations have been my thing so that is what I can write about with confidence.  I have owned some ultra low mile survivor cars, i.e 900 mile and 1,200 mile cars. Cool but tough to drive, and not really a project. Tough to see a transformation and get a sense of pride and accomplishment.  When I started restoring cars the quality was far less than the extent and quality I do now. It was a natural path vs.  going the other direction,  from high quality to lower quality. It is important to remember while cars are in fact are only original once, and seeing that originality is cool, if your plan is to drive your car, even occasionally, having reliability, including being able to start and stop is important.  

The basics of a restored car are the new or rebuilt mechanical systems.  Along with their components are far superior than a worn out, or car with wear ,and or has leaking components. Moreover, when the parts and components that make up a vehicle’s systems sit idle, they deteriorate from nonuse. This concept alone is why a survivor car is the orange and a restored car with new or rebuilt systems is the apple. Two very difference things.  What your preference is is irrelevant, but again it is not logical to use one to establish value for another. 

Another statement I hear is “buying a car done is cheaper than building one”. This always makes me chuckle.  (see blog article on this)  I rarely hear a guy 2-3 months or years after he claimed a big ‘score” on a car that the score was a real value. A recent story was a “score” at a live TV auction of a “restored” ’70 Dodge Challenger Big-Block car for $38k. While walking around this car I noticed house wiring on the car, yes 12 gauge house wiring and wiring cap nuts used for connectors. This is unsafe to the owner and those of us around that car.  The car clearly had been restored fast and built to flip. If this is what can be seen on the surface, what might be lurking underneath and in hidden areas? Not a good value. Hence building a car vs. buying a car, the vast majority of the time is the better choice.

Do you really think sellers are loosing their ass and selling a well restored car all that often? The answer is hell no. Buying a restored car done right or building the car yourself is the best deal going.  You know what you have and you can truly be proud of your car. Picking up an unfinished project or basket case can be a great value. Look out for any work already done so you don’t run into re-work. When it comes to valuation be sure to keep things in perspective. (See blog” but I can buy it cheaper for costs) 

Not unlike a Restomod, or a Ratrod, or a customized Jeep, maybe a late model car is your thing, there is no right or wrong preference to a car and all good car guys never judge, smirk or sneer at your ride.  Wheels and a motor, working or not are the basics of our hobby. The good people that make them go make them great! 

Please think of this. Your buddy with the thirty thousand dollar bass boat, a few grand in tackle, another couple grand in fish finders etc., he does not think how much he can sell the fish for that he catches, in fact he may throw most of his catch back in the lake! Classic car restoration is like fishing, it is not about the value of the fish you eventually land in the end, but the experience of the journey it took to get the fish in the boat. 


Pieces and Parts

This article is part of the restoration series here at  Of the 13 or so restorations I have done on my own cars, sourcing used parts and reproduction parts is paramount to completing the restoration. 

Parts List: Making a parts list is a basic function of managing your restoration project before you start. This list is dynamic but provides something more than a SWAG, (silly wild-ass guess), as to what the parts line item in your restoration budget will be. 

Used Parts: If you have the space get a couple or parts cars. How do you find parts cars? Read the hunting article I have here on the site. Having a parts car, even a 4 door to build your 2 door and often times even a slightly different model can prove priceless in your build. The $3.79 trips to the hardware store for a bolt or fastener can add up but are also a huge drain on time. Walking out to your parts car and seeing how a part is fastened,  and fastened with what, is invaluable.  Combing swap meets can prove to be a good value especially for the guy who is cleaning out his garage after his build.  Look for that guy if you are buying.  If you are in or around Minnesota I was that guy selling parts at swap meets from 1999-2014. This is a great was to serve your fellow hobbyist and put a few bucks in your pocket to fund your build. Moreover an excellent way to get educated about your brand and hang out with your pals. 


Parts Hoards:  I have scored those hard to find parts off of online ads where a guy is selling one part, when I get to his house he actually has a garage full or parts or an old shed out back full of parts or even better a PARTS CAR. I end up buying all the stuff for the low price of one-time/one-money deal. 

Reproduction  Parts:  For years I would comb the auto-forums for Year One codes and ask for 15% off, free shipping etc. from the plethora of reproduction parts suppliers. They come and go like Paddock and others. I would shop Classic Industries and others for their prices and try and do bulk buys for an even bigger discount.  What I found to be the best value is getting your parts from the same small group of suppliers. I deal with a small  mom, pop & son reproduction parts house. They also happen to be the closest parts supplier to me so shipping is very cheap and timely. They know me by name and I can trust them with a credit card on file. They also know the car I am building. Often times they will catch duplicate orders and always take care of me on defective parts.   If you have to go with the big houses always create an account. This will help with returns and warranty issues.

The quality of the re-pop parts continues to plague our industry but since many of us are cheap “bustards” we continue to buy this crap and deal with the frustrations.  The quality is getting better and I have found manufacturers in Canada are turning out great parts. 

Car Clubs

Car clubs are invaluable, both online and locally to the car hobby.  I belong to many car clubs. It is the best $20 bucks per year, per club I spend. I get a newsletter and access to other members to network with.  The benefits are; social, sourcing parts and vendors, and education. 

When I bought my Model T the first thing I did was joined the Model T Club.  Within a week the local club president came to my house and went over my Model T with me. I learned a lot and to this day am very thankful.  I attended the monthly club meetings and clinics learning about and first hand, how to fix my car.

When I got my Crosley I joined the Crosley Club. A local group of guys who meet on the first Tuesday of each month in a club member’s garage. 2-10 people show up. 

The social aspect of belonging to a car club for me is the best part. I get to hang out with like minded car people and visit about cars.   I get to know their families and they get to know mine. We do social things together like Go-Kart racing, museum tours, Christmas parties, car cruises and at times travel.  Some of my longest friendships have started at a car club meeting or even responding to a parts-for-sale ad.  

Parts & Vendors:  Finding that hard-to find part or a guy who does good stainless repair is most often done by word of mouth. Attend those club pizza parties and get to know your fellow Kool-Car Guys. “Who did your motor work?” just ask around and you will hear who the good guys are and who the not-so good guys are. Club members also have parts from past restorations, or know of someone who might. Networking is the name of the game here. 

As primarily a Mopar guy here is a write-up I did for our newsletter on why I joined the club, a real life example;

The  Mopar club and its membership have truly benefited me for decades. The annual car show has provided me with incredible networking opportunities and a venue to swap parts and learn about Chrysler products. Most importantly, networking with other club members has provided me with knowledge and introductions to Mopar gurus who graciously helped me with my restorations. One is example is my recent AAR Cuda restoration. In discussing the project and the engine build with fellow club member, he suggested I talk to Mopar guru Jim  who I had not heard of, to help with my engine build. Needless to say Jim turned out to be an invaluable resource on two engine builds since, that are factory exact OE builds. Turns out Jim has had a few cars featured in magazines and while he is a retired snowbird, he does help out folks with their Mopar projects from time to time. I would have not met Jim if it were not for the club. Thanks again Dan.


Online clubs or car forums can also be a great source for networking and learning. Often times members of those forums will publish data, have hard to find parts and will just help out. Before you know it you will find yourself helping out a junior member and sharing your knowledge and skills with members of the group. 

Car clubs online and offline can be a great source for keeping your daily driver on the road as well. A good example and an experience I will share is when I had a long daily commute to work and drive a VW TDI. I joined Fred’s TDI and learned how to maintain and repair my own car saving myself thousands of dollars (literally) from having to take my car to the “stealerships” for repair and service work. I hosted a “GTG”- Get To-Gether in my hobby shop in the middle of winter and allowed club members to perform mods and maint. to their TDIs.     Find a club and join it! Or even better, start one. 

Auctions and Valuation Data

Auctions:  The concept of collector car auctions has always baffled me.   Ask yourself, what value do they add to the car hobby?  Here are some Pros & Cons;  I like them because they are exciting, have bright lights and a lot of excitement. They are also a good pseudo snapshot on what the auction market is on a given item, sort of.   It is important to note that the auction market is a very different market than two people standing next to each other in person negotiating and conducting a transaction. Buying hay or cattle or antiques at an auction, in person, is one thing, but buying something like a vehicle at an auction, site unseen no less, is not for me.  It is a fad that has thankfully cooled for the prudent car collector yet blossoming for the mainstream public.  Note the term prudent I used there. Auctions are marketing events and while I love to see the wheels of commerce turn, as a buyer my preference is to spin my wheels a bit slower. 

I like auctions because they are pseudo public transactions where the data can be used as “comparables” to like-kind items. While they are in fact skewed with buying and selling fees, and hype, they can be used as a guide, a VERY loose guide.  I don’t know if the buyer was there in person. Nor do I know how much they inspected the car, or if they even drove the car.   Maybe the sale price resulted from an auction that took place on a Thursday where there were 4 people in the room. The hammer still dropped, the car still sold. Is that a good reflection of where the market is at for that car? 4 people in a room on a Thursday someplace in Ohio? Worse yet somewhere in the desert?

I rarely use online auction results, i.e. eGouge, in valuing a collector car because I believe buyers are holding back a bit on their offer as a means risk mitigation because they are in fact buying something site unseen,  at least I hope they are.

Every car has a story and that story is a huge factor when I buy or sell a car. The story must be shared and understood.   I have to ask when buying or selling a car at an auction, or even worse at an online auction, how much of that story is able to be told and conveyed from seller to buyer? The auction house acts as a facilitator between buyers and sellers. There is immediately an insulator inserted between the buyer and seller, online or in person. This is going to restrict the conveyance of the story. That is a problem for me.

Auctions are a game you need to understand before you play.  I have bought and sold cars at auctions, and because of my experiences, and the reasons shared above, I avoid them for business but enjoy the people watching, the cars, and the social aspect. Again,  good entertainment and eye candy. However, I have seen first hand cars “short-saled” or “quick-hammered” to an auction house’s good buying customer. Often times the bids being announced are fishing bids by the auctioneer.  There is not any real money behind the bids even though the bids appear to advance in steps. This is just one example of the smoke and mirrors that take place.  Know your auctioneer and watch the room. Again much too fast and loose of a game for me to play in. No thank you. Please tell me what value these big auctions add to the collector car hobby? 

Valuation- Collector car appraisers use auction results in valuing a car. Insurance companies use auction results in determining a car’s value for loss purposes.   This is really the only sales data out there. I use a combination and try not to use auction results. If I do, I create a separate “auction value”.  If you ever see a seller using “Appraised Value”, know that the only hard core data available to the appraiser was auction results. Again, auction sales are very different than NON-auction sales. Moreover, online auctions and very different than in-person auctions.

Word of mouth transactions can often be like the big fish stories, a bit embellished. Good sources I will trust, others I toss back into the lake. 

Using asking prices as a data input to valuation is very dangerous. Most sellers shoot for the moon when listing a car for sale. Moreover most buyers are going to offer less, the sellers know this. The buyer wants to “feel good” about their negotiation tactics, so the seller builds in room to come down. Imagine if the asking price data is the majority or sole data in valuation? The result is you have a very inaccurate price. 

As I stated above auctions are fun and exciting. Great eye candy and again good social events. To blend and consider auction results that include seller and buyer fees, hype and pressure, and alcohol, the same as a buyer and seller standing in a driveway or garage conducting a transaction is absurd. I have a horse on both races and know better than to trust auction data as the sole valuation metric.   You should too.  Use your gut.  

This meme is spot on…

Our worst fear has come true.  Someone is actually using auction results as data that drives costs that affect Joe consumer car guy each and every day, the premiums we pay for our collector car insurance policies.  Illegal, no of course not. Bad form and insulting to our intelligence? Absolutely. How stupid are we? The collector car insurance companies generate premium revenue based on their own price guide?  Here let me pour water down your back and then tell you it is just raining.  Driving the narrative or even contributing to your product’s narrative in the market place, is as shameless as it is disappointing. 

Should price guides include auction data? Well actually yes. By definition a valuation price guide does include auction data. That being said, please be careful when using a published price guide. The price guides I have seen touted on the net today vary greatly. Some use data analysis practices that are not repeatable, meaning the results are not provable.  If you cant prove to me how you arrived at the answer, your answer is worthless. This means it is subjective and not objective. Subjective means it is one person’s or a group’s “opinion”.  I can form my own opinion and so can the rest of us. No need to pay for someone’s opinion.  I would gladly pay for a collection and output of good data, where a formal analysis is or can be done. I have not found this type of data yet. Stay tuned. 



Flippers and “Flippees”

The car hobby is expensive so we don’t need any help driving up the costs any higher.  What defines expensive is different for everyone. The buy/sell is the point of this article.  If you are going to flip a car do something to add value vs. flip the darn thing.  Do some research and at least clean the thing up. You can shoot for the moon on a price but the guy who has restored even one car knows what it will take, so be realistic.  Before you buy it, think about giving the info to someone you know that has been looking for that particular car.  No need to drive up the price of the hobby.  I find that when restorers sell a project car it is priced fairly because they know what it will take to build the car.

Unethical and unscrupulous people create mistrust.  I despise them.  Pay a fair price and always make sure you tell an unsuspecting seller what they have. Steeling the Hemi GTX from the little old lady is wrong and most certainly not something to brag about.  Everyone wants to be a flipper but very few will want to be the “flippee”.  Buying a car filled with short cuts like house wiring and countless plumbing junctions after junctions is bad quality and is unsafe.  People can die. While everyone including myself likes to make a buck, creating an unsafe vehicle that goes down the road is wrong.

Reality TV shows are good entertainment but some programs  have created unsafe and ironically unrealistic picture of the car hobby.  Finding, building driving is what the car hobby is all about. Flipping unsafe low quality junk for big fast profit is not a hobby but instead is a business model, and a bad one for the hobby at that.  Don’t be that guy and please don’t be that unsuspecting consumer and buy an unsafe car in haste.  Talk to the owner and get the story. If you can’t get the story on a car, say at an auction, please do not buy the car. Identify your seller as either a businessman or a hobbyist. A good hobbyist can and oftentimes will make a profit,  when done ethically, meaning some value was added, this is grand for all parties.  A well respected attorney once told me, “to defend profit be able to demonstrate that you actually did work for the money. “- Jake

“I Still Cant Spell NFL”—How It All started At Age 15

“I still cant spell NFL” is a phrase I use often. I was a small small kid so football and sports weren’t my thing, and still aren’t.  Cars are my thing and have been my thing my entire life. Being raised on a farm mechanical work was part of the job. In addition one of my 5 older bothers was a car guy who brought me along as a 5 year old kid on his projects. Most of the projects were his daily work commuter cars and trucks and eventually dump trucks etc. When I bought my first ’68 Charger at the age of 15 out of that field for $300 bucks I was hooked. Dumping a little gas down the carb of a car that had sat in a field for years, airing up the tires that had sunk into the earth, pounding on the starter with a big pipe to get it to engage, and hearing the motor turn over is still one of the best memories of my life. The thrill of finding that car and getting it fired up for me is what the hobby is all about. 

As a young boy I quickly learned that to buy brake parts, antifreeze, and oil etc. takes money.  Our farm was a hobby farm and there was no fancy big shop. The shop was often tools stored in the trunks of old parked cars and in later years a pole barn with a dirt floor, no lights and one workbench made for a crude but effective workplace. We got the job done and the machinery back into the field. There was no free oil, gas or antifreeze to grab out of a barrel or cabinet. My Charger sat for months while I worked as a janitor for the school district, bailed hay or sold my feeder pigs off if the fall for some cash. I did get $3 bucks an hour from my dad for doing farm work which helped a lot. Later I got a job at $8 bucks an hour working on my brother’s paving crew. Every dollar and dime I had went into my ’68 Charger and it was still a bondo-buggy with green indoor outdoor carpeting, GTO seats and some Plexiglas for a couple of the side windows. However, the 383 ran great and the car stopped well. Cracked tires on the front and big Styleline 60’s on the back,  MY Charger looked great to me. I stored it in an old lean too on the farm under the section with the good roof.  The floor was dirt until I laid down an old billboard sign. to park on.   I found a parts car about 8 miles from home and with  some good tires, meaning the held air for over an hour, I flat-towed the car home with my buddy Chuck. There was no car trailers on our farm, only hay wagons.  The tow vehicle was the 2WD old Ford farm truck that rarely went over 40MPH and left the property about twice a year.  The parts car had a good set of Charger seats so the GTO seats got pitched. I was so eager to get the car out of the highway and drive in my Charger  in a real Charger seat that I just set the seat into the car and put a big chunk of wood behind the seat so it would not tip back.  No time to put the passenger seat in so my pal just sat in the back seat on the passenger side.  I hit the key  and headed out for the highway. We were off driving down the road.  No license plates, no insurance but a running driving Dodge Charger just like on last Friday’s new episode of the Dukes of Hazzard.  We made it out to the county highway (asphalt), a big deal when you live on miles of dirt road.  The dust from the dirt road had filled the car even with the windows down so the windshield was tough to see out of.  I hit the gas pedal and away we went!  At 70MPH the car settled down into 3rd gear of the 727 and kept on climbing fast. Typical Chrysler steering wandering and kept true. Our eyes were wide as saucers and at 108MPH the tail end of the car started to swoop so I let off the throttle and slowly brought us down.  Nothing started on fire so we determined the first true flight was a success. Not knowing our true supply of gas, or how long the two leaking tires would keep the rim off of the ground we headed for home.  What a thrill.