Finding a Restoration Shop

Q.

I live in the Austin, TX area, and I am desperately looking for a good shop to get my ‘67 Firebird restored. My grandfather bought it brand new, traded it to my dad, and it’s been mine ever since. This was my first car in high school. I really want to fix it up right. It won’t be for sale! I’m 52 now and would really like to get it done. Any suggestions would be great.

A.

Fellow enthusiasts ask me this question in various forms across the country, and there is no simple answer. My best advice is to ask the people that know. Reach out to fellow car enthusiasts in your area and ask for their recommendations based on actual experience sending their car to a restoration shop and having work done.

You are fortunate that Austin, TX has a robust car culture, and there are many options for choosing the right shop. Knowing which one is best to work with comes from first-hand experience. From my experience, there are always shops that do beautiful work, but they may be painfully slow to work with or overpriced for the value of the car. Likewise, there are always shops that will perform the work cheaper than the rest, but you’re left with shoddy workmanship or a car that will not hold up over time.

If I were in your shoes, I would begin by getting involved in the local car scene. Many car clubs don’t require you to have a running car to be a member, and the enthusiasts you meet can certainly give you the first-hand knowledge you need. Also attend local car shows and car events, as I’ve rarely met a car guy that didn’t want to talk about his car and experiences building it.

The bottom line is that it’s not about simply finding a shop, but finding the right shop. Don’t rush the process. Approach it in a methodical manner. Once you get a handful of recommendations, visit a few of them, look at the condition of the shop, the equipment they are using, and the projects they have in. Ask for contact information on past customers who have had work done in the last year and give them a call. You’ll want to discuss detailed budgets, timelines, and quality expectations with the owner to ensure everyone is on the same page before starting any work.

Here is a link that may help locate clubs and events in the Austin Area:
http://www.austinmotorscene.com/car-clubs/

Wrench safe,
Mark

Discussion
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13 Responses to “Finding a Restoration Shop”
  1. Tim Wolfe
    Tim Wolfe

    Contact your local chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) they will be able to help you. Better yet, sign up.

    Reply
  2. Kin
    Kin

    I have 12 cars and most all have been restored. I have tried several shops but I live in Tucson Arizona. One thing for certain is that like they said it is very very expressive. Be very careful and MAKE SURE you get EVERYTHING in WRITING up front. Price won’t be know for sure till the car is taken apart then sand blasted. Then they can give a firm price. Also date it will be finished. I have had them done in 8 months to almost 3 years. Also be prepared for them to go over there price some by 25% and more. I got took as they pretended to become my best friend and went from 1 year and $65,000 to 2 1/2 yrs and little over $100,000.. Didn’t get it in writing. My fault. Be very careful and check them out. They will only give you customers names that are very happy. Never the ones they took advantage of. Good luck. If you find a great shop please spread the word.

    Reply
  3. Diesel Dan
    Diesel Dan

    Well like the others have already said , Get it in writing !!! resto’ shops make there profits on the extra’s !!! hey but a neet alternative to having it done !! do it like building a home , contract it out , you of course be the general contractor , Hey im a mechanic but I don’t know diddly about body and paint on my projects , so I farm them out !! then I know what it looked like before and after (after isn’t allways perfect) but then you can “work” with your “contractors” to make it right , to me this is a great alternative than throwing money at the problem and way cost effective too ! you and you alone determine what you alone can handle and what needs to be farmed out , about the only hidden costs to doing it this way is all the roll back rides it takes to go from shop to shop to get all these things done , but hey plan ahead and set up something with the tow company (like four rides for the cost of three ) some of them actually like to have scheduled work and will accept this

    Reply
  4. Len Mendoza
    Len Mendoza

    I need to find a shop for car restoration close to my location Daly City, CA Tel: 650 892 7070

    Reply
  5. bjacwoo460
    bjacwoo460

    What about shops in the Fort Worth market area? I have a 1968 olds cnv 4-4-2 clone almost completely restored that needs body adjustments like hood alignment, fenderwell chrome replacement, etc.

    Reply
  6. Stuart
    Stuart

    Since i’ve gone through the ‘bad’ experience, and i’m not sure there is a good experience, Expect the time on it taking 4x what they quote and 3-4x the price. and then you’ll probably find out there’s still a lot of stuff wrong with it. so you’ll take it to the next mechanic/shop and slowly but surely give them another $20k.
    The good part is that this car has been in your family, so you and Dad should know everything about it, if the frame is good, i don’t understand why you would do a frame off restoration. If you like laying on the ground looking at the underbody, then go for it. Pull the engine and tranny and sent to reputable rebuilder(s); find the rust and repair the sheet metal, look at replacing front end with aftermarket,
    Don’t go there looking to make a friend, they will be friendly, that’s cool, i’d be friendly to you to if you bought me a new house this year. and stay on them like a tick, anytime you’re not bugging them about your car, 10 other guys are, and their car is getting worked on. your best bet is either learning to do it all your self. or maybe you can find a firebird expert, put them in charge of the whole adventure, pay them a scheduled fee, for managing the repair shop and double checking their work. you can help by sourcing parts, i’ve found most real mechanics don’t spend a lot of time on the internet, they’ll buy the first most expensive part that napa can find, or whatever paper catalog they use, you can find the part much less expensive. Good Luck!

    Reply
  7. J. D.
    J. D.

    Check out Aaron’s Paint & Upholstery, located in Taylor, not far from Austin. Aaron’s a graduate of the auto restoration program at McPherson College and does really nice work. His website is wwww.aaronspaintupholstery.com.

    Reply
  8. Christopher Delligatti
    Christopher Delligatti

    66 Thunderbird looking to restore I’m on a limited budget. Engine issues and oil leak.

    Reply
  9. Mike P.
    Mike P.

    Martin Brothers Customs in Johnson City, TX near Austin. Watch them on Iron Resurrection, Motor Trend channel. Beautiful quality work.

    Reply