Car Collector's Corner: Who Is The Most Valuable Player On Your Vintage Restoration Team?

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland
car collector s corner who is the most valuable player on your vintage restoration

The easy answer to this question is everyone one of them- from the tranny guy, to the engine rebuild guy, to the auto body technician and all the other restoration people along the path to a completed project. But which one of these trades will figure most prominently into the final equation for you?

The question is wrapped around a restoration project concept, so the tasks are centered on the ability of the professional tradesmen to bring the showroom magic back to a tired old vehicle. The degree of difficulty is complicated by the ravages of time, hard miles and rust in every restoration.

The mechanical challenges to the project include availability of parts that will fit and technicians that can work on older vehicles. Old iron requires old school guys that can work on old school engines and transmissions that are not a simple computer diagnosis away from smooth operation, and both require old school parts for ultimate success.

The task is not easy for shops that handle older vehicles, but most of the good ones love the challenge of the hunt for parts and successful repair of the vintage rides. The sound of a smooth power-train, right from the smooth idle to the smooth shift of the automatic or manual transmission is the sweetest music ever played for the guys that can work under the hood of an old ride.

They also like brakes that brake and steering systems that steer like the first mile on the road for the vehicle. They are cognizant of the limitations of these systems from the past, but they are anxious to get them back to their best days on the road.

The mechanical tradesmen are invaluable to every project because the vehicles simply will not get restored without their automotive services, however the one trade that will get most of the attention is the auto-body technician whenever the resurrected old set of wheels hits the road.

The worst part of every show is the static display where every vehicle will get subjected to extremely close scrutiny by a highly critical crowd of onlookers. They will leave no stone unturned as they hover over every flaw in the paint and body work and they will be merciless in their critiques.

The mechanical work is largely invisible to the viewing public, unless they notice any leaks under the vehicle, but the body work is naked and vulnerable to very close gawking and heavy criticism, usually from tactless people who have never actually owned, invested (or actually been involved) in a restoration project.

As stated in the opening sentence, a car restoration is a process that involves numerous talented tradesmen to complete the project but the tradesmen that will take the most heat for their work are the auto body guys. A badly rotted sub-frame is only part of the body guy’s challenges, because his metal work will become a lightning rod for every yokel with an opinion at every car show.

Their line of work never escapes the spotlight and, for this reason, the auto body guy will figure very prominently into the final equation of every completed restoration project at a car show. His work is right in front of everybody, so the auto body technician will be a very important part of every successful restoration. In fact, the body guy is the most important guy in the restoration food chain.

Just ask the self-appointed experts at any show.

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  • Lumbergh21 Lumbergh21 on Feb 13, 2012

    I guess it all depends on what you mean by restoration and what your purpose is in restoring the car. Personally, I have two classics, and I want them to be the most mechanically sound transportation they can be. In other words, I want to use them; not trailer them to shows for people to look at and judges to pick at. It is not worth me sinking more money into the paint job of a car than I spent on the original project and all of the parts that it took to get it running well again. The quality mechanic is the most important person to me. At the same time, I am not a restomod kind of guy. I appreciate the original designs and limitations of the 50's and 60's. I will keep a car as close to original as is feasible. In other words, you won't find me scouring the country for a '68 Mustang windshield washer fluid pump (I gave up on that after 10 websites). I won't pay twice as much for a period correct radio as I would for one that works better. However, I'm also not going to convert from the originalmanual steering in my truck to a power steering unit. The manual works just fine thank you. Having typed in this comment, has brought me to a realization. I like classics, but I don't like to spend anymore money thatn is absolutely necessary. To put it succinctly, when it comes to restorations, I guess that I'm cheap.

  • Icemilkcoffee Icemilkcoffee on Feb 13, 2012

    Actually it is not the body work you could see that is challenging. The real challenge is rust repair. You really need a specialist for this sort of work. The best rust repair guys have specialized spraying tips for sealing the backsides of the replacement panels (simply ignored by a lot of body shops). In some sense though- the most important player is the 'support community', which includes parts suppliers, reproduction shops, and clubs and online forums. This larger 'support community' is what makes certain car eminently restorable (ie. aircooled VW's and Mustangs of any year) and other cars impossible (rear engined Renaults or 1st generation Civics for example) to even try.

  • Arthur Dailey "Check out the used car market." Late model, low mileage vehicles are in many instance selling for more than you would pay if you put a deposit on a new vehicle. The reason? Supply and demand. You can take the used vehicle home now. Whereas you might have to wait up to 24 months for your new vehicle.
  • VoGhost Matt, you say 'overpriced', but don't you mean 'underpriced'? It's when a manufacturer underprices, that dealers add their markup. If they were overpriced, the dealers would discount.
  • Bobbysirhan I'm surprised by the particular Porsches to make the list, and also by the Cadillac. Most of all, I'm shocked that the 2-door Mini Cooper is on here. I didn't even know they still made them, let alone that anyone was still buying them.
  • Ajla I assume the CT5 is on the list due to the Blackwing variant.It would be interesting to take the incentives that existed in October 2019 and include that in an analysis like this as well. The thing about the used market is that while you'll pay less in total dollars, in some cases the percentage increase from 2019 is even worse than with new cars. Buying a Saturn Relay for $6k isn't exactly a winning move.
  • VoGhost Reminder: dealers exist to line the pockets of millionaires who contribute to local politicians.