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Old 11-16-2011, 01:33 PM
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Can this be a career?

I have been lurking on the site for a while now. I finally registered :/
Hello, officially, I am Jeremy.

Now my question:
How do you feel about auto restoration and customization as a career?
Are there any members out there making it happen?
I am 29, I have been working on cars and restoring classics(VW's and 4x4's mostly) since I was 15. I will admit my work is not always top notch.
I recently picked up a 74 bug that I have been dumping alot of time into and doing things the right way. It has got me to a realization that id love to do this for a living.
I am able to put myself through more schooling and or trade schools if need be.
Currently I work in retail management and hate it. Its an easy job with long hours and decent pay, but it bores me.
I would love to hear other hotrodders thoughts and ideas on the subject.


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Old 11-18-2011, 10:34 PM
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Like many crafts, it's hard to make a good living unless you're one of the best at what you do. Stick with the day job and try some smaller projects in your off-time/weekends, and see how it goes.

My job isn't the most exciting at times either, but it pays well, which allows me to do fun stuff with cars in the evenings/weekends.

Not saying you can't do it, but start small, get some little wins under your belt, and go from there.
Bringing history and technology together.
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Old 11-19-2011, 10:20 AM
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Moving out of the technical question forum, to the lounge, you might get a good discussion there.
I'm the one your momma never told you about...

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Old 11-19-2011, 11:32 AM
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Welcome to the forum. When the '74 Bug is done and it is over the top, submit your ride, with write up and build pictures to the appropriate magazines and see if the editors are interested and will run it in a issue. That would be the time to announce that you do this professionally and gauge the response to that article.
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Old 11-19-2011, 11:37 AM
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build a car ............ sell it. build another car ......... sell it.
you will make far more money without the stress of customers. it only takes one to screw up your year.
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:52 AM
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That`s one of the reasons when I was in tech college why I decided automotive was not what I wanted to do for a living. We had guys who worked on cars we got from the people who worked on campus. If they didn`t fix the problem the car came back with a grumpy owner,, someone who got there car worked on for free and they`re still grumpy about it. I really didn`t learn anything in tech school anyway that I didn`t already know, all I learned was how to rebuild automatic transmissions. My instructor said to me "Your one of the sharpest guys I got, when you finish, I`ll make sure I get you a good job at a dealership" and I said "I won`t be finishing, this is my last quarter. When these other guys don`t fix someone`s car the first time the car comes back with a owner who`s ticked off about it and here they are getting it fixed for free. God forbid if I worked at a dealership and didn`t fix it correctly and got paid for it what they`d be like. I don`t even want to know"
So I took other paths in life, later on becoming a self taught CNC machinist. However, when the economy fell over and I lost my job, since then I`ve had to repair vehicles to make money and I hate it. I`m a Hot Rodder, not a mechanic. While I was in tech college a nice looking lady with a 80 camaro in almost perfect shape dropped her car off at our shop. The trans was gone in it so my instructor said "DV, It needs a overhaul. It`s got a TH350C in it, Elvis (Todd) don`t have any experience doing these so teach him how" So Elvis and I jumped on it and I showed him how to rebuild it and he caught on fast. Once finished our instuctor hopped behind the wheel with us riding. All was well and my instructor was happy. The lady came back and picked up her car and that was the first time we got thanked for what we did.
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:16 AM
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i think about this alot. Here's my opinion:

First, some definitions:

H= horse
C= Cow
O= octopus

1) Would you be willing to work with cars, but not nessesarily customize or restore them?

For example, buying cars and possibly "rehabing" them (if nessesary) or getting them presentable and then selling them at profit? You are still working on cars and really it's all kind of related.

How would this rate on a scale of 1-10? 1 being you want to vomit, 10=orgasm

2) Why i don't think the customization route will work:
i've noticed a few things about the car world, i and think most people will agree: It doesn't matter whether you are a jerk or nice, older or younger, male or female, bucks up/bucks down. You basically "need" a car in society to get around. To "function" really. You need transportation. Everyone needs a car. It is considered a necessity in society.

HOWEVER, when it comes to luxury things----i.e., a customized hotrod or restored 72 chevelle SS there is a lot of H.S. going on. People leave a car with you and then they don't pay for services........somehow the money gets short----are they going to pay the electric bill or the toy? Suddenly they need medicine----are they going to get the medicine or the 454 big block? Or the fancy paint? i've seen this happen many times even when the economy was good.

i mean even just normal stock transportation cars get repoed all time, so there's C.S. in the car world in general. Do you think you're going to have it smoother in the custom world?

3) i hate to say it, but people in general are full of O.S. including myself. And car guys are part of the general population which means many car people are also full of S. Look at how many bad deals go down. Scams etc.

As a business idea, i'm thinking of doing #1 above. Personally, this would be just as satisfying as hotrodding because to me it's all related---i actually get off looking and analyzing emissions equipment!

NOW IF YOU NEED to do the customizing thing, then why not compromise and have the regular transportation cars as your bread and butter and then ALSO on the side customize/restore a ride on the side which you could also make big profit on? Don't start another custom until that one sells at good profit. And the main focus should be on the bread and butter cars----don't let the custom interfere with the main income stream.

How would that rate on a scale of 1-10?
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Old 11-20-2011, 11:52 AM
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Over the last 50 years I have had the opportunity to meet some of the guys who are well known in the PNW area as racers and customizers and they all have one thing in common in that they are good business people first. All of those guys would have been sucessful in whatever they did and they also have a great interest in cars and do well in that area..

I have tried most all of it and now do what is known to work..
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Old 11-23-2011, 01:44 PM
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I think when you see those commercials on tv for tech schools that you can get year degree and work at a shop building hot rods, or on a nascar racing team. That it is not very realistic. I think all they want is your money.

I went to college and got a 2 year degree in electronics then go into maintenance for the last 15 years and it has treated me good.
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:22 PM
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Bad timeing

Originally Posted by shine
build a car ............ sell it. build another car ......... sell it.
you will make far more money without the stress of customers. it only takes one to screw up your year.

Shine is right

Its a bad time Especial during this economy shops are going under all over the country! Build at home & sell , easy hours, low overhead (like business insurance)! And no customer up your butt because the part for his car took 2 hrs. to put in instead of I5 min. because year ones (Chines made) part was a piece of s@#$!!!
A friend of mine builds street rods at home and is doing good and he sells em on the internet sites like! I have a restoration & speed shop, And its getting hard in this area people don't have the extra money !! Besides the fact that prices on restored cars dropped with the dollar! Im taking in cars and doing things that a few years ago I wouldn't have: like letting customers buy their own paint or parts (They buy cheep and get what they pay for ) and then BIT@& because It costs more in labor because the part doesnt fit and you have to file for an extra hr. (Thats my stress with customers) Id like to give em the part see them put it on and then stick it up their A S $ !!! I got stressed today!!!! LOL

the Jester
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Old 11-24-2011, 03:04 PM
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I... like you... found that I loved working on cars. I was a hobbiest, or painting part time, for about 18-19 years, then finally went full time. That was in 1986. :-) No regrets... except when I tried to go too big, and lost it all when first the economy dipped, and then my best market (Corvette restorations) collapsed.

Here are some observations...

Part time can be more fun! You can say "no" to the jobs you don't want to do... or they don't pay enough... or the customer is a "problem personality". You also don't have to worry about supporting your family on the proceeds. The economy dips about every ten years... but you don't HAVE to work on cars to support yourself.

If you decide to go full time, you will need these things:

Live in a large community where there are a lot of people...and many of them make a good living. I moved from a town of 300 to a town of 400,000, partly for that reason.

If you have been working part-time, you may have established a reputation... and also a good amount of repeat customers. More than anything else, satisfied customers are a MUST! They will send other customers... and will hire you again to do their next project. If you are starting with none of this, you will probably not make it in this business.


Pretend every job is your "business card". If it isn't nice enough to attract customers, don't let it go out the door.

If the customer doesn't have the budget to do it right, wish him luck... try to give him some suggestions about how he can do it cheaper... and then wait for the next phone call. It is no fun working on something that will cost you $$$ out of your own pocket. Some people expect it for free, if they can get you to do it. Just treat them with respect as you say... "Sorry, I don't do that sort of work." They may even be back some day when they have a bigger budget.

Make the project a fun experience for the customer. They are doing this for fun, and so are you.... and then they will be back!

If there is a problem... quit whining... put a smile on your face... and fix it. Then figure out what happened, and change the way you do things so it won't happen again!

Always keep trying to get better at what you do. As the years have ticked by, I have attracted jobs for Boston to L.A. I don't believe I am better than others... I just did a lot of things right, and kept pressing to improve my work and reputation.

Good luck.

Last edited by TucsonJay; 11-24-2011 at 03:14 PM.
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