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Why Do Car Restorations Take So Long?

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Why Do Car Restorations Take So Long?

We read about it every day......”1949 Classic Talbot – totally restoration took 4 years to complete” and many of us reflex with “why did it take so long?”

In our most recent restoration, the 1961 Mark 2 Jaguar, we were astonished to note that we have owned the car now for 17 months and it’s still only 90% complete. So we reflected on why the job is taking so long, and along with the many conversations I have had with friends and enthusiasts, generated the following observations and thoughts about how to short cut this time.

  • Evaluate the project well and plan, plan and plan and include contingencies for low probability but still possible events. When we bought our car, we assembled a lengthy list of what needed to be done, and what we assumed needed to be done. Much of this stood us in good stead for both the negotiation on the purchase price, as well as to acquire the right parts and schedule the restoration in a logical order. So we pat ourselves on the back here.

  • Double or triple the amount of time that your sub-contractors estimate for crucial jobs. We have had 2 examples of this. The first was where the bodyman was so disorganized and eager to accept any and all jobs, that the body work, preparation and painting took 4 months, instead of 4 weeks, and would have taken longer except for my constant vigilance. The second was on the rebuilding of a Borg Warner Automatic Transmission which took 3 months, instead of weeks as originally promised. This took so long because the shop was very busy (they do great work, at a reasonable price!) and they neglected to order / find long delivery time parts early after stripping down the transmission.

  • Plan out the finances......many of those surprises are expensive and beyond the original budget, so many times we defer work to fit the budget, especially when we are all loathe to put expenses on the credit card.

  • Shop well for parts, and be prepared to buy when the price is right. This will help with the cost of the restoration, but can retard the finish. Actually we had the opposite effect when I pre-purchased the leather interior to take advantage of a 30% discount during the depths of the recession – lucky us.

  • Parts may be plain unavailable. This is usually a serious schedule impact, and may involve specialty machining or fabrication. Usually major cost impact as well.

  • If the car must be left at a restoration shop, then it is difficult to move along simpler tasks that you can do yourself. This we have found to be a major effect, as when the car is in our garage all waking hours are dedicated to progress. Unfortunately body work, transmission, cooling systems, brakes, rear axle rebuild, engine bearings are all reasons for the car being out of my garage. In spite of this we have organized to do wood and leather interior work independently, as well as all the exterior chrome. But much time for installing insulation, refitting parts, and polishing the beauty is foregone.

But when you really get down to it, if we had retired, it would have taken half the time.......something to ponder for us baby boomers.

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