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ant_8u 06-19-2013 05:49 AM

"Typical" Hours in a Rebuild?
Hi guys

I'm needing some reassurance, and hoped you guys could share some of your knowledge and experiences?

Here's the story.....

I was on the phone to the body-shop yesterday, and they told me there's about eight weeks work left before they're finished

Their job is to carry out all the body and chassis work and get them into paint. I will be doing the assembly work myself

Later on I got talking to a friend about the progress. He told me he'd heard a high-end full rebuild could take about 1,000 hours and that a full rebuild on a custom could take almost 2,000 hours

This got me wondering how many hours have gone into my car

So, after doing a bit of maths I've worked out my body-shop are probably going to end up charging me for 720 hours of work. They've already charged me for 400 hours

This is not a full rebuild, it's just the body and chassis

Now, based on my friends comments of how long a full rebuild should take I'm wondering if I'm being taken advantage of?

I've spoken to the guys on the Triumph forum and they say I'm being charged way too much for body and chassis work

The body had been blasted previously, and had zero rot. The doors, floor pans, rear wings, and rockers had already been fitted when they received the body. No repair panels have had to be fabricated, just straight forward panel replacement

I do understand there's time to be spent in gapping and straightening everything

What does everyone think?

I can't change what's done, but need reassuring about the remaining work and how many hours are involved

How long could a typical body and chassis rebuild take, and how much work should I expect to have remaining?

The body is currently in primer ready for blocking. Is that eight weeks (320 hours) work?

Any experiences and advice you can share are all greatly appreciated

I'll upload a few pictures when I get to my computer

Thank you to everyone that takes time to read and respond

delawarebill 06-19-2013 06:38 AM

doing a build
wow thats a tough question.. condition comes into play. more/less body work equals more/less time involved. the shop working on it now is the only one that can give a time line. for if u don't see whats needed u can't make a guess on repair time. u would have needed to take it to a few shops for estimates to get an avg time table. and don't forget the skill of the tech's doing the work comes into play too..

timothale 06-19-2013 06:50 AM

weekly progress report ?
I have a friend that does custom work. Some of the projects he has done are featured in Tex Smith's books. He always takes a lot of picts weekly showing what he has done. and bills the customer every week. You see the progress and know you aren't getting scammed at the end when the final bill is sent. He is protected if someone loses a job and decides to not to finish a project if he was half way thru and not paid and have to Lein and impound a half finished car.

BarryK 06-19-2013 07:13 AM

Your question has no answer.

I deal with restoration shops every day on the phone and may talk to 10-30 a day for tech questions and the story is about the same when you get to hours.
A 48 Cadillac may run into 1000ís+++ of hours, a 67- 69 Firebird or Camaro for one shop we have that this is all they do, can do a frame off in 300-400 hours but they send engine and trans out.
A normal restoration shop doing the same thing may be 500-700 hours depending how car is done.
So much depends on how car is done, did they block the car four times or once with a finer block?
I can do a frame off of a C-1, C-2 or C3 corvette in about 350 hours, not counting engine and trans work but I have owned around 70 some so I know every nut and bolt, same with a 60ís GTO, now give me a 78 Trans am, that I have never done and those hours would easily double if not triple.
Hell it took me four hours to get front headlights out of a Lexus a few year ago and broke one doing it!

Most shops from what I hear, I would say average hours for restoration will be min 500 and average 800 hours for most easy type cars.
Two of the pebble beach cars one shop did, the one had 3000 hours and the other was around 2500 hours.

The one riddler car a friend of mine did a few years ago they had in the area of 5000 hours and they had gotten to the point, they stop keeping track for billing, as more concerned with winning and they did. It put them out of business.

I think you can see why there is no answer.

killeratrod 06-19-2013 07:52 AM

first of all it is a little to late to worry about this now , you are more then 1/2 way already.700 or so hours seems to be right in the ballpark. have you checked on the work every week or so?

NEW INTERIORS 06-19-2013 08:41 AM

Alot of things come into play on this.. The builder finding things as he goes that the owner don't see..Just one bolt can cause a pain in the ***** sometimes... The smallest things can be the hardest sometime..;)

69 widetrack 06-19-2013 09:05 AM

For the OP and for anyone that is reading this thread. When you bring a car into a shop for restoration work, body work or paint work. Discuss with the management of the shop what your budget is, what you expect the vehicle to look like when it's done and how often you want to be updated. I document every hour, every takes me about 15 minutes during or at the end of the day, my customers are informed weekly and welcome to come in and witness the progress (I've had to draw a line in the sand on that one though, a shop can turn into a hang out quickly).

Getting a hard and firm estimate in the beginning is difficult and when I've been asked, I ask the customer, "how long is the string in my pocket", they answer "I don't know" and neither do I. There are so many variables and as Barry said, it can depend on how experienced they are with the car your trying to restore.

You won't get a definitive answer on any forum, it's impossible for us to judge, you may get opinions but no one here or any other forum is doing the work on the car. There must be a reason that you chose this particular shop, a reference, seen the work they put out whatever. I've seen what your experiencing many many times and the only solace I can give you is that often during a restoration it seems as though not much is happening, I've had customers that don't understand why I put product on and take it off several times and get concerned about the material costs. Think of a restoration like Christmas can take several days to only takes a few minutes to eat it...and a few hours to clean up. Body work can take time to get it right, it only takes a few hours to paint it and depending on the finish and size of the painted area, 30 to 40 hours to clean it up by color sanding and polishing.


MARTINSR 06-19-2013 09:05 AM

Just a nice paint job, no chassis work, just a nice paint job with all the body work on my friends 1970 ElCamino, I had almost 200 hours in it. I certainly wasn't ripping him off, so that can give you an idea. But all the body work, I did replace the roof skin. But the rest was pretty nice. Removing all the trim, painting it and reinstalling all the trim, bumpers and stuff.

Just ONE thing like some rust in the lower quarters could have doubled that in a snap! It really depends so much on each cars condition.


MARTINSR 06-19-2013 09:08 AM

A little diddy I wrote on the subject years ago. :D PLEASE don't take offense to this if you do this stuff for a living. It's a little jaded being I was a paint rep when I wrote it and I was visiting shops every single day all over the state of California, had been in HUNDREDS of shops at this point and believe me there were patterns. Not everything in this little article is carved in stone, not by any means. They are generalizations I witnessed in these patterns that I saw every day. I am NOT saying everybody works this way! Please don't take offense to it.

Confessions of a body shop owner.
By Brian Martin

“Anybody know of a good body shop in (enter your city name here)?”, “How do I get my body shop to work on my car?”, “My car is being held for ransom!”, or just simply “Body shop Blues”. I’m sure you have all seen topics similar to these posted. Gentlemen, my name is MARTINSR and I was one of those dirty rotten bastards that would keep your car ten times longer than I promised.

For the guy not doing his own body work or at least not all of it, he is at the mercy of the body shop. It is not a nice position to be in. In fact, it can go down as one of the low points in your life. I have seen horror stories that would make your hair stand on end. A long time customer of mine (he owned about 60 cars and usually had a few in shops around the area at all times) had a car that was held as evidence in a murder. Yep, it had blood splattered on it when one of the shops owners killed the other with a baseball bat!

The following is my generalization of restoration shops that I have owned, seen or worked at. There are exceptions to the rule. Please don’t beat me up if I have rolled your shop into the mix when you are an exception. But, if you do see yourself, I suggest you get down to your neighborhood junior college and take a course or two in business. One of the great myths is that we each think our business is so unique, we can’t learn from a “regular” business class. Well after much instruction and exposure to the business side of things I can tell you, business is BUSINESS. Whether you are running a liqueur store, a cat house, or a body shop, they are all exactly the same. Sales are SALES, period.

So, we can agree a body shop is a business, being a good body man does not make you a good businessman. Restoration shops are usually owned by good body men, not good businessmen. It is very hard to make money doing restoration work, it is very easy to make money doing regular collision work. The business man makes his money doing collision work and tells all the customers with restoration work to go to Joe’s Body shop down the street, he does the restorations. Joe loves doing what he is doing, but seldom makes much money. He is an artist, a true master at his craft. Joe sees things at what they can “become”, not what they “are”. When Joe sees a car he doesn’t see the time it will take to make it the show winner he knows it will be, he only sees it as the show winner. I really don’t believe he means to lie to you when he says it will be done in a month, he is looking at through rose colored glasses, his vision is altered. Like a woman forgets the pain of giving birth, so does Joe when he gazes upon the beautiful car he has carried for nine months (or longer). And when the next rust bucket rolls in, he has forgotten about the hundreds of hours needed, he only sees a luscious rose garden.

Like I said few make a living at restoration or hot rod work. The biggies that you have heard of like Roy Brizio or Boyd Codington all make money with other ventures, not the rod shop. The first time I visited Brizios shop this was very apparent. The rod shop is about 5000 square feet sitting in the middle of a 50,000 square foot building. The rest of the building is Brizios manufacturing business. It is all non auto related by the way. The rod shop is a hobby, I don’t doubt for a second he makes money, but it is a hobby none the less.

So when you go looking for a shop to do your car you have to remember this, you are most likely going to be dealing with an artist. If you think the business end of it is going to go smooth, think again. If you build yourself up and believe everything, you are in for a BIG let down. If you set yourself up for less than that you will be much better off. I suggest getting ready for MUCH, MUCH less and then you will be happy when it only takes five months instead of the ten you got ready for. If he said one month and that is what you are planning, by the time five months rolls around you are ready to kill someone.

These are HUGE generalizations but I have found a few signs that may help you in picking out a shop. If nothing else they will help you understand who you are dealing with.

1. If there is more than one car sitting in the shop covered with dust, this may be a bad sign. If you have been around body shops much you know that dust build up is like the rings in a tree, you can tell by the layers and colors how many YEARS it has been sitting. If there is a car that is being used for storage of misc. boxes and things, bad sign. My brother used to joke that I should bolt a vice on the fender of the car, at least I could get some use out of it! Coyly ask “Cool car, is that yours?” if he says “Naw, it’s a customers”, BAD SIGN. If there are ten stalls in the shop and six have dust covered cars in them, RUN. I shouldn’t have to tell you this one, but if there are guys hanging around with beers in their hands, RUN.

2. How many stalls does he have? I have found that the real restoration/rod shops seem to have only room to have three or four cars at a time. If you only had room to work on three cars, you are going to be damn certain they get out so you can have room for the next. One of the most successful custom shops I have ever seen was a little four stall shop in Pittsburgh California. It is the famous (well at least on the west coast) DeRosa and son Customs. Frank has been around since the fifties making show winning cars. He and his son Frank Jr. do the same today and do it FAST. They a neat, little and clean shop. If you have seen the 2001 DuPont calendar they did the “Cadster”. It was only in the shop for a few weeks. By the way, it doesn’t have DuPont primers on it like the calendar says, Martin Senour primer was used.

3. Does he look at your car like they do at the McPaint shops, you know, all jobs all colors the same price? If he doesn’t take a good long look at the car taking notes, he has no clue what he is doing. He is looking at the car with those rose colored glasses. Every single panel should be examined and noted for the amount of hours needed. If he just looks over the car without doing this he is surely going to be WAY off. If he is way off on how much he is charging you, what incentive does he have to work on it?

So let’s say you have a shop you would like to bring it to, you really need to case the joint. Turn into a stalker and keep an eye on the shop. You know for months that you are going to need a body shop. Watch the shops for months. Drive by during business hours and see if they are actually open. Many of these guys (remember they are not good businessmen) take their open sign as sort of a guide line. If it says 8:00 to 5:00 it is more like 9:15 to 2:00 then 4:25 to 7:00, they can’t get your car done like that. See if any cars leave. If you go by there and see the same cars sitting there and many little jobs going in and out, BAD SIGN. I have to tell you, those little money making collision jobs are dang hard to turn away. If I had a million hour job sitting there and it was the 28th of the month I am going to set it aside for the $800.00 job I can do in two days to pay the rent.

If they don’t allow you to walk around and check the place out, be wary. Look at the paint dept, does he have a booth? Is there junk and open cans all over? Is there many different brands of paint? This is usually not a good sign, he buys anything he can get his hands on. This is many times the sign of a “junior chemist”, they guy that mixes products and doesn’t follow tech sheets.

If you have decided that this is the shop you want to go to, help the poor guy. You “suggest” to him how you want to go about the money part. This is the ONLY way you should do it believe me. Don’t give him a deposit and leave the car. This is darn near a guarantee that your car will be sitting for weeks while he uses that money to buy parts for a high profit collision job or simply pay a long standing bill. Which then leaves your car sitting there with no incentive to work on it.

Here is what you need to do. Tell him that you want to do only ONE of the things on your car, at a time. You want to get a price for all of them maybe so you know what it is headed, but do only one at a time. You will pay him for one step at a time. Not because you don’t trust him, but because YOU are bad with money and that YOU don’t want to leave him hanging after the car is done with no money to pick it up.

This way it is more like he is in control and made the decision. Then you negotiate the time it will take for each step. Let’s say you have patch panels to do on the front fenders. You agree that he will have them done at the end of the week, and that they will cost $200.00. He has something to work for, he knows he will get the money and he actually does it. You go see him on Friday see the work done and give him the $200.00. Then you pick another thing to do. Just as if you were doing these things at home, break them down into bite sized pieces so he can swallow them. If you go in there and find that he hasn’t done it or he has done poor work, you can then say “I am sorry to yank your chain, I don’t have any more money, I just lost my job” and take the car, no body owes a thing. If he does not want to do this, you really need to start rethinking your choice of a shop. Either this or variation of this should be fine with him. If it is not, something is wrong.

If he really wanted to make money he would be doing this. The first restoration job I ever did where I really felt I made money was done just this way. It was a little ’58 Bug eye Sprite. I had decided that something had to be done or I would fall into the same trap as before with a car sitting forever. One of the first shops I ever worked at was a full on restoration shop. It broke the rule and was pretty big, with four full time employees. Every car had a time card assigned to it. When you worked on the car, you punched in. Then each month (these were HUGE frame off restorations on 30’s and 40’s vintage Fords) the owner would receive a bill with the times worked. If they couldn’t pay, the car left, period. The guy made money and I finally got smart (after about 12 years in business) and followed his lead. I put a sign on this Bug Eye and would post the hours I spent on it. I told the guy to come by each week. Now, when the guy came in and saw only two hours were spent, he was not very happy. That was a heck of an incentive for me right there I will tell you that! It worked great, I actually got paid for every minute I worked, unlike most restoration projects. And he actually got the car back in close to what I said. It was still late, but not ten times as late as I had done before.

Another thing I highly recommend is to take plenty of photos of the car, really detailed photos. When you drop the car off leave him a copy of them. Letting him know you have a copy. Not threatening like “I am doing this so I can prove you lied to me” more like “I can’t wait to see how different it is and you can have these before shots to show future customers”. Which is true, it is just not the only reason you are doing it. If he is doing a full on restoration for you, I HIGHLY recommend parts like chrome and interior be taken home after he removes them so they don’t get stolen or damaged. You need to have a very close relationship with the shop, if these visits make the guy edgy, you really need to find another shop.

If you have the attitude that you are genuinely interested in how this work is done, not how he will do YOUR car, but just in general. You will find that he will be much more likely to “show off” his talents than if you go in there like an untrusting customer.

Along with these photos you want a VERY detailed work order. Run like the wind if he has no work order. Still run if he has a work order that says “fix dents and rust” as the repairs being done. RUN, I say. You need to have a fully detailed work order, not for legal reasons (wink, wink) but for your own records to show the wife where all the money went. The “wife” is a great way to get things done. You need to come look to see what is done because the wife wants to see. Bring her in there, she has an excuse, she knows nothing right? So you bring her in to see what magic this guy is doing to your car so she can understand why it costs so much. Bring a friend when you drop the car off, be sure he hears everything that is said. Let him or her help you make the decision on leaving it there. Sometimes YOU too can be looking through rose colored glasses. If someone else says they have a bad feeling, LISTEN to them.

There are few things that can compare with returning to a shop to find the place is locked tight and the mail is piling up on the floor where the carrier has dropped it through the slot. I have seen it, it really happens. The good news is it is rare, just take your time and find a shop where you feel comfortable.

MARTINSR 06-19-2013 04:07 PM

I just re-read this, and it hit me, I think I was talking about MYSELF being a poor businessman more than anyone else! LOL It's kind of a the speech you give on your first AA meeting. :D


ant_8u 06-19-2013 04:26 PM

Thanks to everyone that has taken time to reply to my question

As Barry said, it's almost unanswerable, and I kind if already knew that before asking, but I wanted reassuring that what they were saying was at least in the ball park

And from everyone's answers it seems like it could be

Brian, thanks for your message/story
Yes, you're right, there was certainly a reason I took my car to these guys

I think my 'situation' is down to bad business on their part as you suggested, but also due to me being a little naive

I've got a bit of a bad taste in my mouth right now about the time and cost, etc,
But I can see just how good the work they're doing is

They're certainly artists rather than businessmen, and I think I gave them too much freedom

I know my car will be done, and done to a good standard, and I've learned an expensive lesson should I take on another project in the future

Brian, I have saved your story, and will make sure I read it through again each time I go to send any other parts out to other shops

Thanks again to everyone

MARTINSR 06-19-2013 04:57 PM

I may have written that years ago and like I said, it's kind of an inner reflection of myself. But there are plenty of guys like that. I have a co-worker dealing with one right now. This guy has a shop here in town and we have used him at the shop as a mobile mechanic, we have paid him a LOT of money over the years. He made a deal with my co-worker to assemble his 64 Impala chassis and rebuild the motor, get it in the chassis firing it up. I told my co-worker do NOT give him any money, he has a very bad reputation, do NOT give him any money, see some work first. My co-worker had all the chassis parts, control arms and what not, and the frame powder coated. So every thing is like new, assembly is all it needs. That was 5 years ago, FIVE years these parts have been in the guys shop with the frame up on a shelf like you see at Home Depot, those heavy duty shelves they have, the frame is on the top of one. The body is on a cart on the other side of the shop. Now mind you, this is a 1500 square foot shop tops, it's not very big. He has had this stuff along with a few other cars in the same fate for 5 years! My co-worker paid him something like $7500 cash up front and NOTHING, not one single bolt has been turned! The guy told him with his insistence this past January that it would be done June 21st. You guessed it, my co-worker went over there three days ago and it is UNTOUCHED. He went off on the guy and we think he may actually get to it. But I doubt it, he as given him to the end of the month to show serious progress or have it done. I don't think it will happen. You should see the Chevy pickup that is out side in the weather, and it has been for about 10 years! He has had two different shop locations with this BEAUTIFUL truck sitting out side. It's a 65ish fleetside short bed. It is totally disassembled with just the cab and fenders and bed on a frame. This sucker is show quality, I am not kidding you, it's painted two tone, and I mean NICE, FIRST CLASS work. The inside looks darn near as good as the outside. I have no idea what the story is, but that truck's beautiful new paint is now failed from being out side all these years.

Oh yeah, and my co-worker says it looks like some of his suspension pieces are missing!

We will see, we will see.:boxing:


ant_8u 06-19-2013 06:45 PM

Ouch, man, that's tough!
I'm certainly not in a situation like that

The guys doing my body and chassis keep changing their timescales and deadlines, and the price is now three times more than we'd originally planned, but it's definitely getting done

I think I've been too trusting and things have spiralled due to them not being great businessmen

I wish I'd have been able to foresee and control this from the outset

I hope your friend gets all his parts back safely

TucsonJay 06-19-2013 07:53 PM

Silly question. Did you say what kind of car... what color it is going into... and what year it is? That can be a clue as to the difficulty.

I do a wide range, but generally the older they are the more hours are needed. Cars from wet country are usually cancerous. Also something like an old truck can be the worst as they were all beaten badly by businesses, and now the owner wants a show vehicle.

timothale 06-19-2013 08:58 PM

The other side of the Coin
Shop owners have to deal with the Gold Chain Builders, " I " built this car, I had so and so do the chassis, someone else did the engine, this guy is going to do the paint, etc etc. My friend has a very good reputation and can afford to turn away customers. He had a guy call him about a car and bring it over to the Shop. His front door is locked so the Guy rings the bell, Chris stops what he is doing and unlocks the door and asks "can I help you." The guy said I am So and so. I called you about my car then imediately speed dials someone and makes a bunch of useless chatter. After about 20 seconds Chris yells get your *$#@* truck and trailer out of my driveway and don't come back. He teaches the street rod program at the College and said a lot of his students are artists and don't realize what it's like dealing with the big money customers.

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