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The Great Escape: A How-To Guide When Your Restoration Turns Into a Nightmare - Precision Car Restoration

The Great Escape: A How-To Guide When Your Restoration Turns Into a Nightmare

restorationClassic car restorations are like movies:  some can actually be compared to a love story while others might turn into a frightening horror show.  Even if the situation seems dire, there are always ways to get out of your nightmare…and avoid them in the future.

The Fast and The Furious

Take your time finding the perfect partner to handle your unique restoration (a big red flag: be cautious if you are immediately asked what your budget is.)  Seek out relevant information to ensure a job well done such as:

  • Background history and examples of quality craftsmanship
  • Client satisfaction rates (through testimonials and a BBB rating)
  • Solid structured approach to developing a work estimate
  • Clear production schedule to enable timely restoration
  • Commitment of anticipated production start and project delivery
  • Consistent updates that include project photos and progress

Pay Attention To The Reviews

“It’s taking forever, and it seems like nothing is getting done.”  “This costs too much for what they have completed.”  “The work is shoddy and substandard.”

First and foremost, avoid restorers who earn a countless amount of negative reviews.  While technology has made it easier for people to constantly complain via social media, there is usually a kernel of truth in these stories.  Seek out those restorers who offer quality service that generates positive testimonials.  Rely on industry experts and like-minded friends to steer you in the right direction before dropping off your beloved automobile with just anybody.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

There are two practical options to pursue if you get into an unfortunate predicament:

Stay just a little bit longer – If you are feeling good about the finished work (even if it’s taking way too long to complete), take a breath and review the situation.  Stay put if you feel the owner is making a good faith effort to finish your car within a reasonable timeframe.  Remain cautious in regard to the terms of the restoration’s balance…especially if you have paid a substantial amount for parts, labor and materials.  It’s up to the restorer to complete your project in a timely and quality manner.  Just be aware of the risk since you have seen the shop’s true colors in how the slow-motion restoration situation was handled.

Cut your losses as soon as possible – While this is difficult to do since you have already spent a considerable amount, it may be time to pull the car. Common sense tells you to try and salvage the funds but –– if sub-par work has already been completed –– it’s best to remove your car plus all associated parts before potentially threatening legal action to recover your investment.

P.S.  Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t do enough research the first time around.  For many, if not most individuals, a classic car restoration is likely the first (and only) time they will experience this process.  You may have gotten excited about a cool looking classic car and not delved into details about the restorer.  You simply accepted what you were looking at and reading about, and you trusted the shop’s integrity like most people would.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

If your gut tells you to move onward and upward, then listen…and remember which characteristics to look for in a restorer based upon the items listed at the beginning of this article.  Another tip:  don’t pass up a quality company that may be halfway across the country.  If the shop meets your requirements, a transport fee ranging from $800 to $1,200 is a small price to pay when it comes to a six-figure restoration.

The Terminator

Once you have ended your relationship with the less-than-stellar restorer, it’s time to make arrangements to retrieve your car.  Speak respectfully and transparently to the shop owner about your intentions, and be prepared to present invoices regarding purchased parts (they’re yours to keep) and picking up your car (try to be present when the transporter comes).  Take the approach that this is the best situation for both parties involved since you are less than satisfied with the completed work.


We’d like to give you an inside look as to why delivering a quality-restored car can be difficult.  Here’s what we know firsthand:  the financial aspect of a restoration business is very challenging with respect to appropriating funds correctly, as well as handling the peaks and valleys of the business cycle.

Managing production is the most important part of the restoration process.  Unlike a factory where specific time is allocated for a certain job, a restoration project has many variances.  There are no instruction manuals, such as with putting a piece of furniture together, so the technician performing the work must execute the task both correctly and efficiently.

Most restoration shops that face problems of not finishing projects in a reasonable timeframe…or even not at all…typically do not take the time upfront to estimate every task.  While this is extremely important to avoid delays, it is a very timely and arduous process.

This “runaway train” result is when a technician may try his best but – without a reasonable expectation of the time it takes to complete a task – labor costs far surpass what is charged to the client.  This trickle down example also means that funds which are expended now may be needed later in the restoration process in order to complete the work.

Unintentionally depleted funds mean that money earmarked for parts’ purchases may not be readily available, which stalls the project while continuing the cycle of lateness and mismanagement.  Successful restorers understand the many challenges they face and, in light of the varied situations, can manage each task plus the technician while avoiding a reduction in quality.

The Finale

Classic car restorations don’t have to be a nightmare.  The process can be a happily ever after experience from beginning to end with a little patience and a lot of planning. And if you’re ready to make the most of your next project, you can contact us toll free at 1-844-652-1966 today, or email me directly at We love talking about restoring classic cars!

This article has been reposted with permission. Click here for the original article.