- PRELIMINARY STEPS: Before we turn a single wrench, there are preliminary steps we like to take so that we know just what we're going to be doing.
- Questionnaire: The process begins with us getting an understanding of your goals and expectations. With or without the vehicle on-hand, we can get an idea of what you want us to do by going through our standard questionnaire. Yes, it does sound like a dull, boring and tedious process. But, after doing this for a while, we’ve discovered that going over certain aspects of the project before a single wrench is turned not only helps us to better meet your expectations, but it also helps us to do it more efficiently – which means a lower final cost. Once we’ve gone over the questionnaire with you (whether you fill it out on your own time or with us), we can then start putting a basic plan together.
- Document Intentions & Expectations: While the questionnaire gives us an idea of what you’ve got for us to work with and what you plan to do with it, we need to do our best to translate that into a verbal and written definition of what you want to drive home at the end of the project and what we’ll need to do to make that happen. It is critical to note that at this point, the roadmap to get to that final goal will still be fairly vague at this point because until we get the vehicle dismantled and stripped bare, we can’t be quite certain what we’ll be up against.
- Fund Initial Labor Block: Once we’ve agreed upon a basic restoration plan, then your project is assigned the next spot in the queue for restorations – assuming a queue exists. If we’re able to make space to store your vehicle until its turn at bat, then we’re set. If not, then we ask for a $1,000 deposit to secure your place in the queue. As your project’s “turn at bat” approaches, we will contact you far enough in advance to make any financial preparations you may require. Assuming that you’ll want to take advantage of the discounts available with our prepaid block labor program, then this will be the time to purchase your first block of labor. Experience has shown us that a complete disassembly and strip to bare metal (via sodablasting) typically takes roughly 100 hours. So, we highly recommend purchasing a block of 100 labor hours at the beginning of the project.
- PHASE I: This is the first billable step in the restoration process. This is usually the least time-consuming phase of a restoration project.
- Dismantling: When performing a full restoration, we prefer to completely dismantle or “teardown” the project vehicle. It begins with the disassembly of the entire vehicle – removing everything - in component form where possible – until we are left with a bare shell and frame. We then sodablast the body down to bare metal (or fiberglass) and (where applicable) strip the frame clean via sodablasting or media blasting with more aggressive media. Throughout the dismantling process, all parts and components removed from the vehicle are inspected/evaluated, bagged, tagged, and inventoried prior to being put in storage.
- Post-Teardown Evaluation & Project Plan: As the saying goes: “like the peeling of an onion, more will be revealed”. In the restoration business, this saying couldn’t be more appropriate. At this stage, the inventory is reviewed – with particular attention paid to the inspection and evaluation of the components recorded during the dismantling process. With this information, we are better prepared to meet with you to discuss the overall condition of the project vehicle and just what it will take to meet your goals and expectations. At this time we can work with you to establish an estimate of the final project costs and make adjustments where necessary and formulate our plan for completing the project.
- PHASE II: This is where the bulk of the “restoration” work is performed. This is typically the most time-consuming portion of a project.
- Initial Parts Order(s): The review of the inventory along with the post-teardown evaluation and project plan will leave us with a list of items that need to be ordered. While there will be numerous orders placed throughout the project's life, the bulk of the items - specifically those identified during disassembly any added during the course of project planning - are ordered at the beginning of Phase II. Placing the initial orders early helps to ensure that any backorders have plenty of time to arrive. While parts orders can be funded out of the prepaid labor block, we prefer to have these initial orders funded separately in advance.
- Sheetmetal Repair: All repairs to the body’s sheet metal are performed first. This includes patching/replacing body panels, floor pans and straightening bent metal.
- Bodywork: Once the sheetmetal work is complete, the body is finished smooth using various fillers, primers and sanding. Just how much work goes into the bodywork depends greatly on your expectations for the quality level in the overall appearance of the vehicle’s finish. This can be a very time-consuming process. Also, for a long-lasting quality finish, it is best to let bodywork sit and cure for several weeks before performing the final block sanding. This will ensure that all body filler and build primer has gone through nearly all its shrinkage prior to applying paint.
- Initial Assembly: With some projects, it makes sense to assemble some of the key components of the vehicle before moving on the applying the final paint job. This is particularly common with two-tone or custom paint jobs. But it can also be beneficial in many other projects. In many cases, much – if not all – of this “initial assembly” is later disassembled prior to final assembly.
- Paint: Paint is applied after the bodywork is completed to the standards required for the expected quality level of the finish. Depending upon the quality level desired in the finish, the topcoat can be colorsanded, polished and buffed to achieve a high gloss.
- Component Restoration: People often overlook the sheer volume of individual parts and components that need to be cleaned, stripped and refinished during a restoration until faced with all the nasty, ugly items that need to be installed back onto/into the nice freshly cleaned and refinished body. Even the best paint and interior restoration work will look like garbage if all the parts you install after the body and paint work are ignored. Component restoration includes everything from small items (such as original fasteners and trim pieces) to larger components like the interior components, engine, transmission, rear axle and even the frame. While not everything will be restored during this phase, the goal is to have nearly everything ready and waiting for reassembly before going on to the next phase. Most items that might be done on a sublet basis (engine building, transmission and differential rebuilding, etc.) are typically sent out closer to the beginning of Phase II to ensure that such work will be completed well in advance of Phase III.
- PHASE III: This is where it starts to get really exciting and when nearly every day produces visible progress.
- Custom Interior Work: When a restoration project calls for a custom interior, we usually fabricate any custom structures in-house and then outsource the upholstery work to a dedicated interior shop. The best time to do this is usually either prior to or part-way through final assembly.
- Final Assembly: With the body and frame refinished, and most all of the individual parts and components ready and waiting to be installed, the next step is to put it all back together. Depending upon the complexity of the vehicle and the number of items remaining to be restored, this can be a relatively quick or lengthy process. This is also a step where several last-minute items and discoveries tend to surface – often requiring additional work or parts. While we attempt to keep the number of parts orders to a minimum so as to minimize shipping costs, it is not uncommon to see a number of last-minute orders being placed because of old parts that are found to be broken or otherwise unusable or new parts that are incorrect or otherwise unacceptable.
- Initial Testing: As we complete the final assembly, we start running through our project checklists. Once final assembly is complete, the steps where the battery is first connected and the electrical system checked are all documented in advance (via checklists) to limit opportunities for errors and omissions. The same applies to the first engine starts (including any required break-in procedures) and initial test drives. All of the initial operational phases are documented in detailed checklists and supplemented by comments.
- Shakedown, Sorting, Adjustment & Inspection: The last thing we want to have happen is for you to drive off with your “new” baby and have it break down on the way home. We’ve heard such horror stories from others. So, we make sure it is fully sorted-out so that you don’t have to. In order to ensure that everything is in order, we actually drive the vehicles we restore – up to 100 miles – so that we can be certain that you won’t be calling us to come pick you up on the side of the road. That road time gives everything a chance to settle in and go through initial break-in. That gives us an opportunity to sort out any problems and perform some final adjustments of items that typically change after a few miles of use. Most of the restorations we do will not have current inspection stickers by the time we complete the project. If desired, we can take it to a local inspection station so that it will be ready for you to drive it home – legally. Also, most of the time a front-end alignment will need to be performed. We can have that taken care of you before taking delivery as well.
- Finishing & Detailing: Once we’ve completed the final assembly and testing, we run through our final checklist items and then run over the entire project with a fine-tooted comb looking for and remedying any details that need attention. Finally, the entire vehicle is given a thorough detailing.
- Project Documentation: Our documentation starts the day the first wrench is turned and continues beyond the day you drive your baby home. Throughout the project’s life, hundreds of digital photographs are taken both for the purpose of providing online and post-project documentation as well as for internal use during reassembly. When the project is completed, the photographs become part of the project’s portfolio in addition to a detailed summary of the work performed, worksheets detailing labor hours charged and parts installed, copies of the project checklists and details regarding the vehicle’s operation, specifications and recommended maintenance. Throughout the life of your vehicle’s relationship with us, this portfolio is updated to reflect additional work we perform. Finally, we provide you with a framed poster of your project that is suitable for hanging or displaying with your vehicle at events.
- Delivery: Eventually the day arrives when you come to pick up your “new” classic. Like taking delivery of a new car, we go over the vehicle with you in detail so that we can ensure that you are completely familiar with its operation and any idiosyncrasies. We realize that a lot of our clients may not remember (or ever have known) some of the things that were just normal in operating vehicles 30-60 years ago – like what it’s like to start an engine that doesn’t have a carburetor when it’s 30 degrees outside. We also walk you through the documentation we’ve provided so that you know just what resources are at your disposal.
- Post-Delivery: We anticipate being a part of your life with your classic for as long as you own it – and beyond if you ever decide to let it go. Nobody will ever know your baby as well as we do and nobody but you will ever feel as connected. Not only do we expect to see it when it’s time for servicing or potential upgrades, we look forward to seeing both of you at car events. We also would like to see it back in here sometime during its first 12 months or 1,000 miles so that we can go over it in detail and make sure that it is living up to our expectations.