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Old 04-24-2019, 12:55 PM
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What should I budget? Metal work / Rust Repair

Hello all! New member here, check out my introduction post for some background on myself and the story behind the car:

https://www.hotrodders.com/forum/sho...d.php?t=520849

The long and short of it is, my dad built a 1975 Firebird Formula 400 in the 80s and 90s, gave the car to me and I eventually sold it. Spent years tracking it down and by a miracle found and bought it a few months ago.

It’s in pretty rough shape, the salty Gulf of Mexico air took a toll on the 25+ year old DIY body work and paint job.

Over er the past few weeks, I have started tearing it down to assess it. I pulled the front clip, rear glass and tore out what was left of the carpet and padding.

On the rear, the good news is that the inner quarters, wheel houses and even the trunk drop outs are in remarkably good shape. However, as expected, it will need full quarters on both sides. As with most of these cars, the rear window channel is in bad shape. There is a small rust area at the rear of the trunk as well.

The floors are in okay shape, the passenger foot well and drivers side seat pan have some rot, but should only need some small patch panels.

Up front, both fenders are beyond salavage, but that’s an easy fix. Repros or even used ones are pretty easy to come by. Oddly enough, the cowl panel is pretty much gone-just rusted into thin air, but the firewall and area under and around the cowl is great. I expected the worst there.

Also, the driver side pillar has a small spot at the bottom that will need attention and the edge of the roof panel, where the driver side window meets it is rusted, but it appears to just be the skin, the roof structure is sound.

I have some experience with light body work, but nothing to this degree so it is likely I will need to find a shop to do the metal work. I have not used a welder in years, and even then, I was pretty terrible.

Addressing the rust is going to be the first bite of the elephant, but, to be honest I am not even sure where to look or what to expect money wise. My initial thought is in the $10k range, just to have a reputable shop address the known issues. But, I don’t even know if I am high or low on that number, or where to find a shop.

My questions to you all:

1. Based on the issues described above as well as the few photos below, what should I expect to pay to have a reputable shop handle it? Ballpark numbers are fine.

2. What timeline should I expect? Weeks,
Months? Not that I am in a hurry or want a rush job, from a planning aspect I just need to understand how long to expect the work to take.

3. For this type of work, would I pay upfront? Provide a deposit and remainder upon completion? Some type of draw as the work progress? What is typical?

4. How are cost overruns handled? I would expect a shop to contact me if any additional funds are required. I’d hate to be blindsided.

5. How do I go about getting bids? Of course I cannot just drive the car shop to shop and I would need to rent a trailer to get it anywhere. What should I look out for in this process?

6. Does anyone have a recommendation for a shop in the Houston, TX area? I am about 50 miles north of Houston in Willis, but would be willing to expand my search out 100-200 miles for a reputable shop.

7. How do I even find a shop that does this work? Googled and called a few shops, only 1 actually did this level of metal work and his suggestion just based on my description was to scrap it and buy a car in better condition... (not an option, see introduction)


Thanks in advance!

-Ryan
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Old 04-24-2019, 02:27 PM
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1. $15-35k for the body work and another $5-20k for the paint.
2. Most shops, many months
3. Deposit for parts only would be my recommendation.
4. Paying weekly for the work they are doing is a good way to go. But on the same respect what if they get out of hand and aren't getting it done going way over the original bid, that is a hard one.
5. There are going to be VERY few shops to do this, so you won't have much of a choice. But photos in an email should give them an idea.
6. Nothing.
7. That my friend is the hardest part! Not doing it is an option, or do it at home learning along the way. Get a better car, take stuff off this one and put it on that one and "make" that car this car. That is my recommendation.

A little write up on this subject.

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.
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Old 04-24-2019, 02:46 PM
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Brian,

when will your new shop be open in Boise, Our news here said 2 mountain Lions wandering around Boise schools.
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Old 04-24-2019, 05:11 PM
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By the way, my 48 Chevy pickup that I am building right now, it's my first car I bought with paper route money in 1973. It means a lot to me, one little problem with this, it's NOT that truck I bought, there are a few parts, the front fenders for instance ARE the ones I bought on my truck back in 1973. But those are the only parts, well those and the speedo and some switches, that is it! The rest of the truck, has been replaced! Heck, I am on the third frame, second cab and it didn't even have a metal bed when I got it!

But it's still the same truck to me, it IS the same truck to me. Get another car and put the good parts from that car on it, wham, "that" car is fixed.

Brian
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Old 04-24-2019, 07:52 PM
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The reply I'd like to try to write would not be any more brief than the other posts, and the answers you need most are ones like my boss could give. About dollars and times and expectations. I can't say that I have "done one" of those cars but I have been closely involved with the process on more than one.

It was honestly a bit heartbreaking to hear your enthusiasm and commitment level, and I didn't want to ignore your intro post or bomb it with a negative tone...

but my experience qualifies me as an educated opinion in older car body work matters and I think you probably should have resisted the urge to snag it despite the sentimental factor. Explaining that bit of free advice would not likely be fun for either of us, but it is based on the info you've given. I could surely help some if you were tackling this yourself and I do enjoy trying to "help", perhaps too much at times. But thats when I can support the decision to dive in. This time, I advise against it. Don't let that alter your course if your mind is made up, just know that I would try to assist if I could do so wholeheartedly. I would rather see you being encouraged, and I am better suited to technical bodywork advice anyway.

In any event, I hope you encounter the smallest amount of drama possible with the Pontiac and will keep my eyes peeled for build updates on it. Enjoy the project, most of all.
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Old 04-24-2019, 09:26 PM
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That car have a full, or real frame ? Deep pockets and lots of waiting should do it.. Interior is a killer lots of folks never give enough thought to.

It's sad to get so wrapped up in a hunk of steel, that never knows one owner from the next.

The only one benefiting from that attachment is the seller. Not throwing stones, just the way it is.
Pep
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Old 04-25-2019, 06:31 PM
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You need to get out some paper and be realistic with what your intent and goals are with this.



There is nothing wrong with a majority of that car as a driver.

Cosmetically it looks ugly in spots but those spots are areas which are covered or easily replaced. Your 3/4 behind the tire is not a structural part and you can cheat a bit there. Floors get covered and you can overlap a bit between the old to new to keeping the original shape. Then throw down some sound mat to even things before carpet.


The areas around the glass is a PAIN. You either need a new roof. Or you need to patch and patch and patch. Guess what the areas where you did not patch will probably rust through in a few years.

Or you can use synthetic lead to fill in the smaller areas and then patch the larger areas tacking them then fill the small areas around the patch with the synthetic lead. The synthetic lead is easy to work with and even sand once you get the hang of it.

Important thing when doing body work is to do one part at a time. This gives you a reference to attach the new to the old. If you remove say the 3/4 and the roof your going to have fun getting everything correct.

As a driver I would patch and add synthetic lead to the glass areas after I had the glass professionally removed. Hopefully this saves the glass. Sometimes you loose the glass and some cash taking the risk. But this is one area my cheap butt will pay a professional to do it to try and save a good piece of glass.

If your budget is in the 30k range drop it off at a shop and wait a year to get your body back. If your closer to the 3k range then do the work yourself making a few compromises to have a nice driver instead of a show car.
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Old 04-30-2019, 08:43 AM
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Move vehicle identification tags to a new body. It will be faster than moving a new body to the tags piece by piece and the end product will be the same level of "original."
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Old 04-30-2019, 12:26 PM
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All, thank you so much for the detailed responses thus far. I apologize for the delayed response, the past week has been pretty busy.

I am a bit taken back by the multiple responses to abandon hope on the car, it very well could be the rose colored glasses, but I just don't think the car is beyond saving. Sure, it needs more than I would be willing to put into a car without the sentimental value and I fully understand the car will never be 'valuable' from a resell perspective but I have no plans of selling.

Additionally, I do not expect a show car or delicate restoration- its going to be a driver.

The subrame, rockers, roof and inner structures are fine, so I think I am only needing quarters, cowl and some floor patches. My estimate of replacement panels and buying a half decent welder is well under $5k to do it myself.

I did get a quote from a shop at $2k a quarter panel, finished out and another $2k for the cowl and floor panel patches, so $6k in metal work. Which is well within budget.

I am saving money on the drivetrain, as I have a low mileage LS truck motor and 4L80 from a previous project that will likely be used in this car. I can easily swing 10-15k for the rest- Suspension, interior, etc.
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Old 04-30-2019, 01:50 PM
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The first thing you have to accept there is that all of us who have responded have built cars, some of us a LOT of cars. Some of us, for a living, every-single-day for years.....building cars.

I know I have been doing this stuff for a living and as a hobby for 45 years, full time as a job for 41. Not always building cars, just regular old collision work too, but you get the idea.

Back in the seventies in a Rod Action magazine there was an article on building a car and what to expect. It gave one of the most profound explanations on how to figure out the cost I have ever seen. Now after all the years I have been doing it I REALLY have a lot of respect for this hot rod cost calculation I they printed in their magazine (remember those?)


"Sit down and figure out what it is going to cost you in labor, and parts and supplies. Then double that, then triple that! You will still be wrong but not nearly as wrong as if you went with your original estimate."

What we know looking at those photos is we KNOW we see lots of damage, but the most important this is by seeing what we see we KNOW there is a bunch more we aren't seeing!

If this were a 2008 Chevy the rust can be local, rusted right through and inches away solid. Cars have been fully coated in Zinc now for a few decades so we know that rust can be localized.

Back when that Firebird was made there was nothing of the sort, and when you see rust like that you KNOW there is a BUNCH more.

The shop that gave you those prices aren't making much if that is all they charge you. And that my friend is one of the biggest scams is giving you a low number then getting it in there and telling you there is more needed.

I used to do those cars when they were only a few years old and here in sunny California and the window channels were rusted through all the way around and up into the roof. I will bet you, right now, in front of everyone I will bet you a 24 pack of beer that there is rust holes ALL THE WAY AROUND the windows front and back. That is just a tiny little bit of what you are going to find.

If you want to do it that bad, go for it. But as I said, get another car and take a bunch of parts off that one and put it in the other car and paint it the same color and all and that will be your Dad's car.

If not, if you want to do it, right on, you have a LOT of work, MUCH MUCH more than you understand. But that's cool, if that is what you are ready for and willing to do, right on.

Just don't think we are exaggerating, don't think we are being all evil and unrealistic and not understanding your emotions and love and human feelings, we know all that too. We have all done these things, I am keeping my Gran Sport I really don't give a crap about anymore because of my son who drove it to high school 20 years ago. I am building my truck because of my history with it, I get it. I have many many pieces of art I have made out of family memories, I get it.

But there is a line to draw, that is a MONSTROUS project filling your garage and house with rusty dust, if you are ready for that, go for it.

Brian
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Old 05-12-2019, 05:55 PM
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I have done several cars like yours. And it is a very slow process for a shop whose bread and butter is high production collision work. (most shops are that way) Expect to sit in a back corner for months with nothing being done, until insurance work slows down.

But on the other hand, there are a few shops around that do nothing but restoration work. (I was one of them) But they are not cheap. Their labor rates are double that of collision shops, and rightly so.
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Old 05-14-2019, 12:29 PM
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This car turned into this. Once you get into it and start cleaning up the metal you'll find more perforated metal to the point it's weak and will need replacement. These guys are giving you solid advice. if you don't get into it deep enough to get rid of the rust it will continue to rot from the inside out. With the way the widow channels have been leaking it wouldn't surprise me if it needed inner and outer wheelhouses, trunk extensions and a trunk pan.
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