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Old 03-30-2004, 08:06 PM
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Opening a Hot Rod/Custom Car Shop

Please anyone who has opened their own shop i would love any insight and thoughts you have. I am only 18 but when i get bit with somthing i dont let go of it until i have acomplished it. Everyone has always told me to find a job i love doing, well working on my truck this last year and a half has been FUN. Even the times when i came in with bloody knuckles and sore and worn out I LOVED IT. never once did any of it seem like work. Even when i got mad i enjoyed myself still!!! So what i am wanting is what all does it take generally to open up a shop. I'm talking like body mods, engine everything but interior and possibly even interior if funds energy and time will allow it. I like to plan things long in advance and work through every possible angle that might come up. I have found by doing this there isnt much i cant accomplish if i really want to. So really i am open to any comments there may be.

So my plans are go to college, get a degree in Business Managment (helpful for shop too!!) and get a real estate liscence during or right after I finish school. Get a working business job. You know the boring kind with a cubicle and casual friday. On the side do the real estate thing and earn as many greenbacks as possible. Then hopefully 5 (realistcly 10) years later start with a small shop with me and a few employees. Hopefully build a truck of the year and move onward and upward.

Please any thoughts or ANYTHING i am open for criticsicm bashing praisng laughing mocking help advice throw it all at me!!

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Old 03-30-2004, 08:15 PM
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Nice to have dreams....hope you accomplish them.

My advise....Stay in school and get that degree. I wish that I had.
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Old 03-30-2004, 08:17 PM
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no worries there school comes before anything right now. I already have 12 hours with several more on the way. Im still in High School so not a chance i wont get that degree
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Old 03-30-2004, 10:00 PM
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Get the degree and stay in Real Estate full time. You will have much more earning potential. I've been in this repair/custom/Hot Rod business since the sixties. The face of the business has changed over the years and dramatically in just the last ten years.

Now you have to contend with zoning, noise, environmental groups, EPA, traffic control, 5 different kinds of building inspectors, parking lot specs. Then you have sign ordinance's, business liscences, waste disposal and once you get past that.

One of the biggest problems for repair shops is the simple fact that cars last longer than ever because of overdrive trans, fuel injection, computers and modern building techniques. Plus the fact that Joe average does not buy cars now, they lease them. Fewer and fewer cars get heavy repair because the cost exceeds the value of the vehicle. That is why Automotive machine shops are disappearing every day.

Experienced people are getting very hard to find. The good guys seem to have gone to higher paying jobs, non automotive repair and use car building as a hobby. The kids the High schools are putting out have little mechanical skills, the schools around here do not even have shop classes to teach basic stuff. It also seems the kids want to start out at premium wages and have no work ethic.

Also the work done to vehicles now is just replacement. Most modern mechanics are lost if they have to modify or fabricate a part. Same for modern body men, all panel replacement, very little true "body work".

Long hours, parts that are wrong, fighting with insurance adjusters, non paying customers, shoplifters,vandals and thieves. Everybody has his hand trying to get in your pockets.

My two younger brothers started out in the car building/repair business with me, one now is sales director for three new car dealerships in North Carolina. Lotsa dollars comming in. Jets to meetings etc. The other brother went into advertising and has several auto manufacturers accounts, lotta bucks also.

My dream in High school was to build my own car totally from scratch, all myself. I did that very early on, just out of college and should have gone into something high paying. I was offered several chances but I loved creating Hot Rods and the whole scene. You might say I was bit HARD.

I worked in my dads Trim shop till I graduated High School. Then I went worked in a body shop in college. I got into the Speed shop/Machine shop biz in the early seventies and been doing fabrication and odd ball builds since. I love it! plus you can't teach an old dog new tricks! My ex-wives all say I'll never be rich as I have too big a heart (whatever that means). Besides they got the Gold Mine I just got the Shaft. Sorry for the ramble it was late and I couldn't sleep.
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Old 03-31-2004, 06:32 AM
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Bob,
I read your post and was astounded at how close your business parallels mine. I own a construction company and its almost identical. I have no EPA, but I have OSHA to contend with. Oh well, it pays the bills....

Jeff
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Old 03-31-2004, 07:19 AM
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Bob, do you do the medium size town type thing were you repair cars? Or is it a Rod & Custom type shop? I want to do the custom shop thing. I also considered putting in a showroom floor, and have custom accersories. This might give me a little more recgonition locally and a little more income. I am talking about building a show truck to start the business, i have a couple of people who will invest good money in the business. So ideally i would want to build an awesome truck and get it in the national citcuit and win a few shows. I know that is all nice dreamy thoughts but it could happen. I am exploring trying to find what route to go and if i could even go down this path!!!
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Old 03-31-2004, 10:10 AM
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In a perfect world you could do just Hot Rod and custom work, but in this world as a small businessman you have to have steady income to pay the overhead. You have to take on common repair jobs. As bad as the economy in lower Michigan is even the regular repair shops are struggling. Unless you get recognition as a super show car builder or get in with that crowd, you take in repair work. Besides its not what you know, its who you know. I have always worked for the common working guy who wants a nice car on a budget. I am not a glitz and glamor person. Just a working stiff that likes working on or creating unusual rolling iron. Gettin ready to retire and build some more of my own stuff, got 52 project cars stashed in area barns and garages ranging from a 23 "T" to a 65 Rambler Rogue coupe and some mighty unusual rides in between.
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Old 03-31-2004, 10:28 AM
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So does anyone know anybody who is in the national circuit and runs a shop or a custom accersory shop? I know all of this is far fetched but I really really want this dream to come true. I will try even if I do fail I will know I tried...
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:01 AM
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Bob -

FIFTY TWO CARS?? No wonder there's a shortage of nice iron !

Lets do the math:

Bob's ready to retire,
has 52 cars.
30 years left of turning wrenches +/-,
averages 1 car a year to go hog wild on,,,,,
I'll be over with a trailer , expecting a deal , Buddy !

Congrats on the upcoming retirement!
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:16 AM
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Hey 70... nobody can tell you that you will not accomplish a goal you have- look at George Barris, Big Daddy Roth, Troy Trepanier, Chip Foose, etc... I just started a part-time shop here in my small town where I will focus on the Rod and Custom aspect of things. I will still keep my 8-4 teaching job for now and I don't have BIG plans for making the next AMBR winner or Street Machine of the Year... I just want to have fun and make a few bucks while I'm at it... many have said if I don't actively persue jobs I won't have any- that will not bother me as it won't be my lifeline. If teaching goes sour (as they are currently making cuts), I will actively persue jobs. I have 3 large jobs lined up now and I haven't even told anyone I'm open...!!! (word of mouth and they've seen my work at shows...) Dream,- that's healthy- Work,- that's reality. Get that degree, work hard- keep studying current trends, practice your skills, and create cars. Nothing sells your talent like a few show cars! Be creative... something NO ONE has tried before is pretty hard to come up with!! Who knows- maybe it will be you! troycurt and kriskustoms are shop owners on this site- look them up for advice if they don't post. Good Luck to you and work hard- it WILL take many years to open the doors- unless you have a lot of loans!!! the Dragon
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:37 AM
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Yeah 52 cars geeez. My dad has three and he is paying on mine i think he is crazy. Dragon nice to hear someone doing the same type scenario i want to have. If the real estate gig works out i may use that as a lifeline until i can see if i will survive in the custom world. about the taking a long time to open the doors... I have gradnparents who are not rich but wealthy, if i can put on a good presenatation he is a big time business man, i can talk him into sinking some big time money into my shop. Then i would take out the standard business loan and between the family investments and bank loan hopefull i could employ who i need, buy/lease a shop and build somthing that will at least compete on the national circuit.

This leads me to another question, in your opinions does it take a big town to open a custom shop and be sucessful? My grand father owns a 8 year old building zoned for commercial use (it was an Ace Hardware) i belive he said 6,000 feet. The shop is BIG. It has a loading dock and is in the prime section of a 35,000+ plus town in East texas. He told me i could pay the taxes and utilities and have it if i wanted to rent it and eventually buy him out. He would sell to me cheap. Does this sound like somthing that is fesible? Will customers come to me if i am away from it all?
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:53 AM
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Quality will sell- if you're in a small town like Orange County Choppers is or a place as big as LA. The building sounds like a winner if you can swing it and keep up maintennance... My Dad helped a little with a CD he gave all us kids... I should have waited to cash it in, but the property was for sale and is at the other corner of the block from my house...I can walk it in 45 seconds!!! Don't rely on relatives too much- it's a whole lot more satisfying to work for what you get. Keep making plans but keep them inperspective. I NEVER thought I'd have a place this big, this fun. I may regret all the work for people later, but hey, if the other job holds up, I still have the shop!!
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Old 03-31-2004, 11:58 AM
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Taxes and utilities is CHEAP rent. Your survival is linked with the Quality of work and the ability to get your work/name out in the public and the shows. Remember you are trying to be a custom shop and the percentage of people wanting your services is small.

Yup 52 of em. I had sixty but I sold off 6 old 42-48 Ford coupes last spring and parted out a sedan and traded off a model "A" to a neighbor. He's making a Kustom Kulture type Rat Rod out of it. Got a 62 Mercedes-Benz Ponton comming but not here yet.
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Old 03-31-2004, 12:05 PM
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I am a guy who wants to pay for it all himself. I hate that my parents have payed so much on my truck now. I am going to take over payments on the loan and pay for stuff that they promised me from the very beginning just because i want to have taken up over half the finicial responsibility even though it was a HUGE 1.5 uear long gift. I would plan to pay back everything my gradnfather gave me. Currently he rents that place for 1500 a month which only gives him a profit of 6 grand a year. I would rent it for that price because for its location, size, and condition that is a STEAL. That way he is doing me one less favor technically but still helping me out. Know of any books on small timers who have made it in the Hot-Rod world? I get more excited every time i think about this happening. There was an article of a 25 year old guy who built a black 67 gmc 1/2 ton he is on roddoors and in custom classic trucks or classic trucks i dont remeber. He got bit with the same bug and at 25 now owns a sucessful shop. THinking about a shop is like 10x's better than thinking about my truck, and i love my truck. It isnt even finished just this morning i woke up dreaming/thinking about it finished. In college english we had to write a research paper over a subject and put spin on it to convince our reader of our view. It had to be 5 pages long then have 5 cites of information. My prof told me she didnt think i could write 5 pages with 5 correct cites on the 1967-1972 chevrolet truck being the best chevy truck ever built. I got an A. Sorry i am just rambling. Sombody must have tripped my spill switch. I just LOVE considering dreaming and thinking of owning my own shop!

not to sound like a brat but bob do you have a wife?
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Old 03-31-2004, 02:22 PM
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Yup! A younger Kentucky "Bakker" farmer, hell raiser, loves anything on two or four wheels.
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