It is a necessary fact of the times that we live in that you need to plan ahead for certain restoration activities and purchases. Just like you probably don’t stop at a restaurant with few cars in the parking lot, if you obtain the services of a restoration specialist, the good ones will probably be busy and booked out into the future. If that is the route you plan to take, it is good to obtain some recommendations and “get in line” with the one you choose to utilize, as the line may be lengthy. That said, efficient restoration shops try to have multiple cars underway, which allows them to utilize their staff efficiently and thus hold their costs down. This means that the larger firms may be able to get your car going sooner than a small shop with limited slots. I also believe a larger shop helps to mitigate risk. If a small shop has issues with a key person (probably medical but who knows), then things could grind to a stop quickly. On the flip side, you may feel that you’ll get a more personal experience working with a small shop. Either choice has its pros and cons. As an aside, I read an article about a well known Ferrari restorer in Los Angeles that works out of a 2 car garage. He noted that he is surrounded by specialists and felt there was no need to duplicate their skill sets in his own facility. He is thus a facilitator. It apparently works for him, as he has a very good reputation.
Which leads me to discuss the world of specialty sub-contractors. Although my personality leads me to try and do as much work myself as I can, there are plenty of areas where handing off a task to a sub can work wonders with your personal workload. I will discuss this further in future articles but here is my real Covid life experience with backlogs with the subs.
On my 63 FHC, the engine and transmission had been sitting on a pallet for several decades. Not knowing what to expect, I decided to send the engine and transmission to Coventry West for a full refurb. Coventry West has a stellar reputation for this type of work and the aforementioned “line” has proven to be quite lengthy. Greater than 12 months. I’m sure the wait will be worth it and fortunately body and paint work are still the “long pole in the tent”.
Early on in the restoration, I was looking at my body shell upside down on the rotisserie, where I had the crazy idea that it would be so easy to install the felt headliner with the roof upside down. This idea (which I have since discarded), led me to look into suppliers of upholstery kits. I found that the original color of my interior, Light Tan, which sounds innocuous, has actually been difficult to source in the correct materials and colors. I wound up going with a specialist in the UK, GBClassic Trim. We had a verbal agreement in just a few weeks but I just received the large box with all the pieces a few weeks ago, almost a year after making a commitment to the order.
Then there were my instruments for the dash. I decided to get them fully restored, which includes reprinting the gauge faces with new screen printed “artwork”. The shop I selected, West Valley Instruments, said they had one artist who did this work. He reportedly did very good work but had one pace. Slow. It has been 10 months since I sent my gauges away and I just received them recently. The work is outstanding but I am really glad I was not in a hurry.
How about tires you may ask? Sounds pretty straight forward. Uh, if you want any old tire that “fits” regardless of the manufacturer, then even Costco can probably come up with something. In my case, a 1963 car only came with bias ply tires in a 6.40×15 size. Only available from very few sources such as Coker and Universal Vintage Tires. I placed a backorder for the tires I wanted from Universal. Although they could make no commitment, in this case I was pleasantly surprised to get my order in about 4 months. Light speed compared to my other situations!
And finally there is the general “crap shoot” of replacement parts. I utilize SNG Barratt almost exclusively. There are many items that they have in their US warehouse that they can get to you as soon as the next day, if you are willing to pay for the expedited shipping. Then there are items that they attempt to keep in stock but they are temporarily out of. Ship dates in this category can vary. Then there are parts shown on their website as Special Order. This is usually code for something that exists somewhere in their supply chain (doesn’t that phrase have a new meaning for all of us!) but has to be brought in. Wait times on these items can be lengthy. Finally, there is the example of items under development. My personal example is a reproduction of the OEM shock absorbers that was mentioned to me by a salesperson over two years ago. I just got my set recently. They are beautiful and frankly there were previously no alternative options in the market if you wanted a true OEM look. So worth the wait but again, I’m glad I wasn’t in a hurry.
I think I have made the case that if you are restoring a car, it never hurts to get started early on the purchase of goods and services. This may also help you understand why a restoration can take so long. Imagine is you are trying to run a restoration business and are faced with these types of delays. It must be maddening for both the shop owner and the customer. But try and be patient. It seems to be fact of life.