Friday, April 27, 2012

Picking Your Knows

What’s going on? I see you’re restoring a mighty fine TR. And it looks like you’re ready to get that body fixed up and painted, right?

If you’re going to do the bodywork yourself, get to work and wait for the next post. Go on, git!

For the rest of us, we’ll need someone else to do the grunt work. If you already know where your car is headed, you can leave too. See ya.

Now, for those who need to find a shop: You should be able to find a good compromise between quality and price if you narrow your decision making process down to just a few aspects; things that you know are important to you. Make a list, prioritize that list, and revise that list as you interview would-be bodymen (or bodywomen. Bodypersons?). Revise that list as you interview would-be body shops.

I didn’t really have a tight timeline and price was more of a differentiator than a budgeted number because I really wasn’t sure what ballpark to expect. Call me a greenhorn on that front – I’ve worked on just about everything except bodywork and paint (professional quality that is). So my going-in list was:
  - Ability for soda blasting
  - Quality of past work
  - Nearby-ness

After some investigation and talking to a few shops, my final list wound up to be:
  - Ability for soda blasting
  - Quality of past work
  - Quality of materials used
  - Metalworking expertise
  - Nearby-ness

Soda blasting
There are many ways to skin this cat, but I wanted something that would take off all the paint quickly and easily. I read about chemical dipping, which sounded nice, but I didn’t like the idea of removing paint/primer everywhere. I wanted to keep 40+ year old gunk (not rust) inside frame rails and in the crevices that would otherwise remain undisturbed. I didn’t want to remove anything that would encourage new rust in places I knew would be neglected by the new paint job. So the idea of blasting seemed more promising, but with another set of options. Al-oxides, glass beads, walnut shells, plastics, baking soda – lots of different media for lots of different uses. Out of the many, one rang supreme: Baking Soda. Apparently, the uses for this stuff just keep adding up. The weight, texture, hardness, and low heat transfer all add up to a high quality abrasive when you blast painted metal with large quantities at high velocities. Who would have figured?

Quality of past work
Judged primarily from websites and secondarily in person at the prospective shops. If you’re getting this deep into a restoration yourself, you should already possess the keen eye it takes to judge good work from bad just by lookin’ at it. Trust the peepers.

Quality of materials
When it comes to paint, most of the costs are associated with number of coats and time it takes the painter to lay it on. (I’m only talking about the actual painting, not prepping, etc.) So, using higher-quality paints is not going to be the bank breaker in this equation, but a candy coat would due to layering and skill it takes to do so. So I think I’m just saying not to skimp on materials here and that a shop that uses the best paint is likely to know how to use it very well.

Metalworking expertise
Although I had limited experience with bodypersons’ body shops, I did know that replacement panels weren’t readily available nor were they cheap. So a cut-and-replace-with-panel-pieces situation was not a highly desirable option for me. I was looking for expertise to hand-craft a few bruised panels – with metal.

I targeted shops that were up to 30 miles away so I could regularly pop in for a visit and check up on things.

So you have what you know (your list), now let’s delve into what you don’t: Who’s going to do the work.

First, you should constantly remind yourself that it’s your money, your car. If you’re not pleased with the work being done, you have every right to let them know and you have every right to issue a halt work order and take your car elsewhere (assuming fiduciary responsibilities have been addressed). Luckily, I didn’t need to invoke my Braveheart speech, but there were definitely some decisions I made solely to ensure my shop knew that I had no problems packing up the circus, if needed.

Now unpuff your chest, tuck you balls back in, and proceed civilly…

Here’s a good method to choose your shop:
0. Know your preferences, as above.
1. Compile a list of potential shops. Just make a list. Use the Internet, drive around, ask friends, inquire at club events. Do what you need to get a good list of potential shops that somewhat adhere to your some of your wants.
2. Interview candidates. Contact the shops and ask some basic questions about the top 1-2 interests you have. Some you can cross off the list immediately after the first minute of a phone call; others you can inquire further and go meet the guys personally. Have them sell themselves to you, not the other way.
3. Narrow down your list. Have no more than 2-3 shops in mind before you make you final decision.
4. Weigh and choose. Don’t feel bashful about calling back or dropping in if you need further information. You may need to re-align your needs and adjust budgets or expectations. If a few shops are neck-and-neck, let them know about the competition and ask for competitive pricing.

The shop I chose, Resurrection Rods in Orange, CA actually came to my house to look at the car. I wrote them a check for a downpayment that day. As for my punch list, they scored well:
  - Ability for soda blasting (Check)
  - Quality of past work (Nice work, mostly woodies and custom fab)
  - Quality of materials used (House of Kolor reseller)
  - Metalworking expertise (Spin is the man)
  - Nearby-ness (Yep)

Another consideration that I didn't include above is willingness to work with your timeline. I had limited space in my garage and I didn't want a shiny new body delivered when I had 2 more months of dirty work to get done on my roller. Strike a balance between lower priority and higher quality with the shop early if you require added time. I also asked if they charged for storage time - they didn't. They picked up my TR on 4/25/2009 and gave it back on 10/19/2009.

As for costs, I will keep that info to myself. I will say that I’m happy with what I got for what I paid.

We'll get into breaking that rolling chassis down to a pile of parts next, so get some 2x4s, jack stands, and a floor jack ready.