Effective January 1, 2023, the base labor rate for all services (except sodablasting) is $160/hr. 100-Hour blocks of prepaid labor will be sold at the discouted rate of $150/hr. Projects that are already underway and those with deposits holding a spot in the backlog queue will be grandfathered in at their originally-quoted rate. See our "Ways to Pay" page (Company Menu) for more information.
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77 Lancia Scorpion

67 Camaro RS Conv.

68 Austin Healey Sprite

68 Cougar

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70 Opel GT

69 Marcos 3000GT

86 TVR 280i

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90 Buick Reatta

Classic Auto Glossary of Terms

Just as the term "restoration" can have multiple meanings in the classic automobile world, there are numerous terms that get tossed around that can be confusing. Even in our own shop, some terms have been misinterpreted to mean one thing to the person speaking and something completely different to the person being spoken to.

So, in an attempt to reduce the confusion and hopefully eliminate misunderstandings - both between us and our clients and internally between members of our staff - we provide here a list of terms we use in our shop and often read and hear used out "in the field".

This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive or definitive source of definitions for terminology used by people in the automotive world. But, it is our own guide to automotive terminology as we communicate internally within Midlife Classics and externally with our clients. We hope you find it informative and helpful in understanding "car speak".

  • 2-Stage Paint Job: A paint job that utilizes a base coat for color topped by clear coat for hardness, durability and shine.
  • 5-Footer: A car/truck that looks good (few - if any - flaws visible) when viewed from 5 feet away or further.
  • 7-Day Wonder: A term coined by Midlife's owner to refer to cars that were restored in just 7 days - as on a popular reality television show. While that show worked wonders to bring the hobby and profession of classic auto restoration into the homes of millions, it did many of us professional restorers a great disservice by creating unrealistic expectations in the minds of potential clients. It is certainly possible to restore a vehicle in seven days - if you have a crew of 20+ people attacking it 24-hours a day and the top parts and components suppliers eagerly waiting to drop off whatever you need at a moment's notice so they can get some exposure. But, in the real world, the "crews" working on a restoration range from an individual to a small handful of people. And, sourcing parts is a much more involved and time-consuming operation. Lastly, since most body fillers and primer products require days - if not weeks - to fully cure, a quality body/paint job that will still look great a year or more down the road just can't be done in less than several weeks time.
  • 10-Footer: A car/truck that looks good (few - if any - flaws visible) when viewed from 10 feet away or further.
  • 20-Footer: A car/truck that looks good (few - if any - flaws visible) when viewed from 20 feet away or further.
  • Adjustment Tool: Any tool, item or device that is used to adjust or "persuade" parts into proper position or alignment. Various types are specified below:
    • Nudger: Palm of the hand.
    • Precision Adjustment Tool: Standard hammer.
    • Micro-Fine Precision Adjustment Tool: Large hammer - or small sledge hammer.
    • Subatomic Particle-Accelerating Precision Adjustment Tool: Large (10+ lb) sledge hammer.
  • Aftermarket: Parts produced by manufacturers other than the vehicle's manufacturer. In many cases, these "aftermarket" parts may in fact be produced by the same manufacturers that made the original parts for the vehicle manufacturer. Most mechanical parts found at your local auto parts stores are considered aftermarket parts.
  • Anti-Sway Bar: A u-shaped section of spring-steel round bar stock that traverses from one side of the suspension to the other for the purpose of preventing body "roll" or "lean" in corners. Anti-sway bars (often referred to as just "sway bars") can be mounted on the front or rear suspension. Mounting sway bars on the front acts to increase understeer (or reduce oversteer), while rear sway bars reduce understeer (increase oversteer). Many production cars were fitted with front sway bars so as to reduce vehicles' tendencies to "spin out" by increasing understeer. More sporting vehicles use front and rear bars to help balance understeer/oversteer for optimum handling. Some sway bars are adjustable so that handling can be tailored to the driver's preference.
  • Ball Joint: A ball-and-socket type of joint that is normally used in front (and sometimes rear) suspensions to connect the vertical spindle to the suspension's control arms. These provide for movement in 3 dimensions - allowing the wheels to move up and down and steer left-to-right using just one pair of joints.
  • Bare Metal: A term used to refer to a restoration where the vehicle's body is stripped of all paint products - or to bare metal.
  • Basecoat or Base Coat: The color coat of a 2-stage paint job. Base coats typically use no hardener and are not intended to be the topmost coat of paint. Base coats are topcoated with clear coats that are hardened using a catalyst.
  • Bleed or Bleeding: A process by where air is removed or "bled" from a hydraulic system - such as brakes and clutches
  • Block Sanding: The final stage of sanding a vehicle's body in preparation for painting. A rectangular "block" of one sort of another is covered on one side with sandpaper (at this point, typically a fine grit) and the block is passed over the body - producing an even surface. This method ensures that high spots are sanded down without sanding the low spots at the same time. The longer the block, the less the chances are of creating ripples or waves in the body. "Long-block" sanding is preferred for higher-end bodywork.
  • Body Filler: Body filler is a material that is used to fill imperfections in bodywork - be they sheetmetal or fiberglass bodies. There are various types, but they normally use some sort of plastic base with a catalyst and some sort of filler. Different materials are used in the filler to accommodate different requirements in strength, sandability, and the material of the body. Body fillers typically shrink as they cure (harden) and will continue to shrink for weeks. Final sanding on body filler is best done after it has had adequate time to cure.
  • Body Roll: The effect of a vehicle's body rolling or leaning to the left or right on its suspension. Bodys tend to roll to the outside of curves. Body roll can be significantly reduced through the use of anti-sway bars, stiffer suspension springs and firmer shock absorbers.
  • Bodywork: The process of filling imperfections in a vehicle's body and then smoothing it in preparation for painting. At Midlife Classics, we consider bodywork to begin after sheetmetal repair has been completed. Some consider sheetmetal repair to be bodywork as well, but we prefer to make the distinction for clarity.
  • Bondo: A brand name of body filler that has become the ubiquitous term for all fillers regardless of brand.
  • Brake System: All components included in providing the ability to slow a vehicle and bring it to a stop. Components include:
    • Master cylinder
    • Brake calipers
    • Wheel cylinders
    • Brake discs/rotors
    • Brake drums
    • Hydraulic fluid hard lines
    • Hydraulic fluid flexible hoses
    • Proportioning valve
    • Brake light switch & warning systems
  • Build Primer: A paint product sprayed on the body to help fill-in low spots and irregularities. Build primer is sanded smooth prior to painting. Several coats are typically required to ensure a smooth body. Spraying and sanding build primer smooth is the final step in bodywork.
  • Clearcoat or Clear Coat: The coat(s) of clear catalyzed paint that is applied over the basecoat color(s). Once cured, the clearcoat can be colorsanded, polished and buffed to a very high gloss.
  • Club Car: A class of rating a car that we at Midlife Classics use to describe a car/truck that is better than a daily-driver, but not quite up to show car standards. These cars are very much at home at casual car club get-togethers and even at local car shows. Although they wouldn't normally be considered contenders for car show awards, they're nice enough that no owner of a club car would feel embarrassed to show up at a local car show and pop the hood (or bonnet).
  • Colorsanding: The process of sanding the final coat of a paint job with progressively finer grits of sandpaper in order to remove imperfections in the paint - including orange peel.
  • Concourse: A class of rating a car where it is considered to be in completely original condition - as delivered new from the factory. This level of originality is typically judged on a 100-point system where even having a bolt with the wrong markings or not having a specific chalk mark can cost points.
  • Control Arm: A suspension arm that connects the wheel (via the spindle) to the vehicle's chassis. Bushings at the chassis and ball joints at the spindle allow the control arms to move up and down in response to road conditions.
  • Cooling System: All components included in providing the engine with coolant so that operating temperatures can be kept constant - typically in a range between 165-200 degrees (F) for most classics.
    • Radiator
    • Water pump
    • Thermostat
    • Heater core (if heater-equipped)
    • Heater shut-off valve (if heater equipped)
    • Radiator fan (mechanical or electric)
    • Thermostatic fan switch(es) (if equipped with electric fan)
    • Hoses
    • Temperature sending unit & gauge
  • Core Support: The structural component of a vehicle that spans the width between the two front fenders to form the front of the engine compartment - so named because it acts as the mounting point for the radiator core.
  • Creeping Elegance: A phenomena whereby projects tend to become increasingly more "elegant", option-packed or even just held to a higher standard than originally planned. This is a quite common phenomenon experienced not only in auto restoration, but in construction, remodeling, etc. While it's often a good thing, it is important to keep on top of creeping elegance so that costs are kept under control.
  • Daily Driver: A class of rating a car that is reliable enough for daily use, but may not hold up to the scrutiny you might expect to experience at a car show or even a car club. But, most daily drivers are great cars to enjoy driving without undue concern about getting a rock chip or door ding. Actually, a well-maintained daily driver can be more fun than a show car that you might be afraid to drive.
  • Drivetrain or Drive Train: The system of components that convert the engine's rotation into movement. While opinions may differ as to what is included, here at Midlife we consider a powertrain to be composed of a clutch, transmission, driveshaft(s), differential and rear/front axle (or half shafts). On front wheel drive vehicles, there is no driveshaft. See also Powertrain
  • Engine Bay: The area under the hood (or "bonnet" for British cars) where the engine resides.
  • Etch Primer: Coat(s) of primer that can be sprayed directly on bare metal to provide better adhesion to the metal for succeeding layers of build primer. Most etch primers also include a corrosion inhibitor.
  • Flat Rate: A method of charging for shop labor based on what a "flat-rate manual" states are the number of hours required to complete a specific task. While these are great for cars that are 10-years old or less, when you're working on vehicles that are 30-60 years old, there's no way to know how difficult it will actually be to disassemble, clean and reassemble the components involved in the job. Also, work done by prior mechanics is always a big variable and we've seen some "repairs" that have more-than doubled the amount of time required to do a job.
  • Frame-Off: A restoration where the body is removed from the frame so that the underside of the body as well as the frame can be properly cleaned, stripped and refinished. While unibody cars have no frame per-se, fully disassembling a unibody car so that you can access the underside is often still referred to as a "frame-off" restoration.
  • Frame-On: A restoration where the body is not removed from the frame - or in the case of unibody vehicles, the suspension and related components are not removed during the restoration process. This is typically considered a lower-level of restoration, but it is often adequate for daily-driver restorations if the vehicle was in relatively good condition before the restoration.
  • Front Clip: The group of exterior body components forward of the doors & firewall.
  • Front End: In order to eliminate confusion with the term "front clip", at Midlife, "front end" refers to the suspension and steering system/components of a vehicle.
  • Fuel System: All components related to providing the appropriate fuel supply to the engine. These components include:
    • Fuel tank
    • Fuel pump
    • Fuel filter(s)
    • Carburetor(s) or fuel injection system
    • Fuel hard lines
    • Flexible fuel lines/hoses
    • Fuel level sending unit & gauge
  • Full-Frame: A vehicle design that incorporates a structural frame (separate from the body) that runs the full length of the vehicle.
  • Guide Coat: A "dusting" layer of contrasting color applied on top of build primer - in the form of a fast-drying paint/primer or graphite powder - to provide a "guide" to indicate when high spots have been sanded down far enough to be level with the lowest points on the body.
  • Half Shaft: On rear-wheel drive vehicles with independent rear suspension, the rear axle is split into two independent axles - also referred to as half shafts. Front wheel drive vehicles also use half shafts.
  • Interference Head: A cylinder head design in which valve-to-piston clearances are tight enough so that if valve timing is off by a significant amount (as when the cam timing belt/chain breaks), one or more valves will come into contact with the top of their respective piston(s) - resulting in bent valve(s) or worse.
  • Jetting: The process of changing the fuel jet size(s) in a carburetor to tune the fuel/air mixture.
  • Lean: References a fuel/air mixture where the amount of fuel in the mixture is less than the 14.7:1 stoichiometric ratio of air/fuel. Lean mixtures can result in the engine "coughing", stalling or surging.
  • Media Blasting: The use of an abrasive media - such as sand, aluminum oxide, glass beads, ground glass or baking soda - sprayed under high pressure (using compressed air) to remove rust, paint and other unwanted material from an object. "Sandblasting" is one form of media blasting.
  • Media Cabinet: A box or "cabinet" with sealed work gloves and a view port that is used to media blast items in an enclosed environment.
  • New Old Stock (NOS): New parts that have never been installed/used, but have been sitting around a long time.
  • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM): New (current production) parts made by the vehicle’s original manufacturer (Ford, Chevy, etc.)
  • Orange Peel: A way to describe the finish in a paint job where at close inspection it appears a bit "bumpy" - much like the outer skin of an orange. Orange peel can be eliminated via colorsanding and is often considered a measure of the quality of a paint job. Nearly every paint job has some amount of orange peel at the end of the paint application stage. Some paint jobs stop at that point while higher-end paint jobs typically remove most - if not all - orange peel. Basically, the less you want, the more time it takes and the more it costs.
  • Outgassing: The release of gasses generated during the curing of paint, body filler and many other forms of catalyzed material. This is the result of a chemical process and the gas being released (mostly from the solvent used to thin the paint mixture for spraying) is one of the reasons why body filler shrinks and paint tends to "pull" or tighten around even the tiniest flaws in bodywork. That is why you may see imperfections one day that simply weren't visible daye - or even weeks - before. Paint jobs can outgas for 6 months or more - leaving a dull milky residue that is removed via polishing.
  • Oversteer: Oversteer is the sensation where the front end of the car experiences more body roll/lean while corning than does the rear. The result is that the rear end has a tendency to slide or "break loose" before the front. Oversteer can be reduced - or even eliminated - by adding or increasing the size of the front anti-sway bar.
  • Patina: A term used to describe a worn or aged finish or condition that is appropriate for the age of the vehicle. Patina can be used to refer to the condition of paint, interior and other aspects of a vehicle. It is not necessarily a bad thing if it is in-line with the age of an unrestored or "survivor" vehicle and would not be aged to the point of being considered to be "worn out".
  • Powder Coating: A coating process used instead of painting where powdered pigment is sprayed onto a metal object that has a metal charge. This causes the powder to be attracted to the metal object and helps to provide a uniform coating. The coated object is then baked in an oven to liquify and then harden the coating.
  • Powertrain: The system of components that propel the vehicle. While opinions may differ as to what is included, here at Midlife we consider a powertrain to be composed of an engine, clutch, transmission, driveshaft(s), differential and rear/front axle (or half shafts). On front wheel drive vehicles, there is no driveshaft. See also Drivetrain
  • Pre-Purchase Inspection: An inspection of a vehicle performed prior to committing to purchase.
  • Rack & Pinion: A form of vehicle steering system that utilizes a simple pinion gear on a flat "rack" with gear teeth to provide left-to-right steering motion. Rack & pinion steering is considered to be a simpler and more precise design that older system designs that remained the standard on domestic vehicles well into the 70s and early 80s.
  • POR-15: A paint product that is sold as more than just a rust-inhibiting coating. POR-15 actually encapsulates rust and stops it cold. It can be applied over clean or rusted metal. We use their products almost exclusively when it comes to painting chassis, underbodies and (quite often) suspension components. If your classic's engine bay is done in black, then (in our opinion) POR-15 is the best solution. Their motto is "We Know Permanent" and they claim their product is "Hammer Tough" - and we agree whole-heartedly. In fact, in areas where black is permissible and a perfect finish isn't required, we actually prefer POR-15 to powder coating.
  • Rat Rod: A style of classic vehicle that is typically left either unpainted (displaying rust) or in primer. Such vehicles are often intentionally built to look like they were put together with scrap or leftover parts of other vehicles or even common household items.
  • Rear End: Rear axle assembly
  • Rich: References a fuel/air mixture where the amount of fuel in the mixture is greater than the 14.7:1 stoichiometric ratio of air/fuel. Rich mixtures can result in poor engine performance, "chugging", backfiring, black smoke and fouled spark plugs.
  • Project Lead: At Midlife Classics, the restoration mechanic assigned to be in charge of a particular restoration project is the "Project Lead" for that project.
  • Rebuilt: – Often confused with “remanufactured” (and some rebuilders hock their wares as “remanufactured”). But, unlike remanufactured items, rebuilders typically only replace parts that have clearly worn out. Any parts that can be considered “serviceable” are put back into the assembly.
  • Remanufactured: Used parts (usually assemblies, such as starters, alternators, etc.) that have (or are supposed to have) been disassembled, inspected, and rebuilt using all new parts to replace any parts that typically wear out.
  • Repaint: A paint job that is applied over an existing paint job.
  • Reproduction: Parts that have been produced by aftermarket manufacturers – either using original tooling purchased from the OEM manufacturer, or made via their own tooling. Fit and quality can vary widely – especially when the original manufacturer’s tooling is not used.
  • Respray: A paint job that is applied over an existing paint job.
  • Resto-Mod: A style of classic auto where the restoration includes any number modifications from original.
  • Restoration: (v) The act/process of returning a vehicle to its original condition. (n) A vehicle that has been repaired/rebuilt/refinished to some extent. This term has been misused and overused to the extent where it has little meaning on its own. To some, a "restoration" may be nothing more than a fresh paint job with maybe new carpet and upholstery. For others, nothing short of a bare-metal frame-off restoration - where every part is stripped and refinished and all wearable components are either replaced or rebuilt will do. For most, people, their restoration will be somewhere in-between. When purchasing a "restored" vehicle, the only way to know what the term means for that specific vehicle is to perform a thorough inspection and review all available documentation.
  • Return to Service: Midlife Classics' program developed to bring stored or neglected vehicles back to life and put them back into safe and roadworthy condition.
  • Rolling Chassis: A vehicle that is more-or-less complete except for engine and transmission and capable of rolling on its own wheels and suspension.
  • Running Gear: This refers to the collection of parts and components that allow the vehicle to roll, steer and stop.
  • Seal Coat or Sealer Primer: A final coat of relatively diluted primer applied just before the color basecoat to provide a consistent primer color and fill the last of any minor imperfections in the bodywork.
  • Scope Creep: The phenomenon where the scope of a project tends to expand or "creep" as new issues/concerns are revealed or as a client opts to take advantage of opportunities that add to the amount of work required.
  • Sheetmetal Repair: The process of repairing damage to the body or structure of a vehicle via replacement of sheet steel or reworking the metal in some way or another. While sheetmetal repair is often lumped in with "bodywork", at Midlife we generally refer to it as all the metal repair work that is done before the use of any body fillers and build primers.
  • Shock Absorber: A suspension device that utilizes fluid to dampen the motion of the wheel's travel to improve ride and stability.
  • Show Car: A car that is built with the specific intent of being displayed at car shows. While such cars are typically roadworthy, driving is actually a secondary purpose or these vehicles. Their driving is often limited to going to and from shows and other events.
  • Shrinkage: For the purposes of bodywork and paint, "shrinkage" refers to the phenomenon where body filler actually shrinks as it cures (often over a period of weeks). If this occurs after final sanding, the outline of the body filler repair will show in the final painted product. Modern paints also tend to cause additional shrinkage as they cure and "pull" tight on the surface below. This can exacerbate the problem. This is why we prefer to let all bodywork sit and cure (after priming) for several weeks before final block sanding and paint.
  • Single-Stage Paint Job: A type of paint job where the color coat(s) also act as the final coats of paint - providing the protection, durability and shine - as opposed to a 2-stage paint process where the color "basecoat" requires the protection of a clear topcoat.
  • Sodablasting or Soda Blasting: A form of media blasting that uses bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) as the blasting media. The primary advantages of sodablasting for automobiles are that it does no damage to the sheetmetal body under the paint and it helps to retard rust during the period before primer is applied to the bare metal. Also, unlike other media, it rinses away leaving no particles of media to blow into the final paint job and it is environmentally friendly.
  • Spindle: The vertical link between the upper and lower control arms of a front (and sometimes rear) suspension. Spindles typically include the axle that supports the wheel & tire as well as the wheel's brake components.
  • Stoichiometric Ratio: The stoichiometric air/fuel ratio is the mixture of air to fuel required for optimal performance in a gasoline engine. In automobiles, 14.7:1 is considered optimal - or 14.7 parts air to 1 part fuel. Less fuel results in a lean mixture. More fuel results in a rich mixture.
  • Strut: A suspension component that combines the functions of both the shock absorber and upper control arm - eliminating the need for a separate upper control arm.
  • Subframe: A section of a vehicle frame that attaches to a unibody for the purpose of providing attachment points for the suspension and steering components.
  • Survivor: A well maintained, but unrestored vehicle that remains in original condition. Like the term "restoration", there are many interpretations of what constitutes a survivor. At the very least, a completely original vehicle that has never been repainted or restored in any manner would be considered a survivor. Some would also consider a repainted vehicle with maybe a redone interior to be a survivor, while to others that would constitute a restoration. For our purposes, a repaint would not necessarily deny a vehicle "survivor status", but a redone interior usually would.
  • Tie Rod: A component of the steering system that links the steering mechanism (rack & pinion, or pitman arm w/centerlink) to the spindle steering arm.
  • Time & Materials: A method of charging for shop work where the labor is based on an hourly rate and billed based upon the number of hours logged against the project - plus charges for parts and other materials.
  • Topcoat or Top Coat: A catalyzed coat (or coats) of paint that provide a hardened exterior surface that can be colorsanded, polished and buffed to provide a lustrous finish. Topcoats can be color (single-stage) or clear (2-stage) depending on the paint process selected.
  • Trailer Queen: A vehicle that has been built strictly as a show car and is transported exclusively by trailer or other transport vehicle. Trailer queens need not be roadworthy as their only purpose is to be displayed at car shows and other events.
  • Undercarriage: Usually used to refer to a vehicle's steering and suspension, but may also include all other components found under the body.
  • Understeer: Understeer is the sensation where the rear end of the car experiences more body roll while corning than does the front. The result is that the front end has a tendency to slide or "push" before the rear. Understeer can be reduced - or even eliminated - by adding or increasing the size of the rear anti-sway bar.
  • Unibody: A vehicle chassis design where there is no separate frame. Instead, the structural integrity of the chassis is built into the body. Unibody vehicles often utilize "subframes" for the mounting of suspension components.
  • Used: Used parts are just that…”used”. Such parts are typically sold “as-is” with no warranty or any effort to repair or refurbish them. Often, used parts will require extensive labor to refurbish to a point where they will be acceptable to use on your project. The cost to refurbish some parts (particularly trim items) can easily exceed the cost of reproductions by several times the cost of the reproduction.

British Car Terms

The British have their own set of terms that they use when talking about automobiles. Since we're also big fans of European cars here at Midlife Classics, it's only fitting that we make an effort to point out some of the distinctions between the terms we Yanks use when referring to cars and the British version of "car speak".

  • Bonnet: Hood (as in what covers the engine)
  • Boot: Trunk
  • Brake Disk: Disc brake rotor
  • Brightwork: Chrome, aluminum or stainless steel trim
  • Cockpit: Interior
  • Drophead: Convertible
  • Gear Stick: Shifter
  • Hand Brake: Parking Brake
  • Hood:
  • Top (as in hardtop)
  • Lorry: Truck (typically commercial)
  • Petrol: Gasoline
  • Silencer: Muffler
  • Spanner: Wrench
  • Tags: License Plates
  • Tyre: Tire
  • Windscreen: Windshield
  • Wings: Fenders

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