So what is the RIGHT way to do restoration?

That is the exact question I was asking myself when it came time to restore my personal dream car. I had owned many Camaros, but I had always wanted a fully restored “numbers matching” 1969 Camaro Z/28. A real Z/28, not a tribute [look alike] car. The ultimate Camaro in my mind. And now I owned the best shop in America. Easy, right? Wrong. My shop was awesome, but we still did restorations just like everyone else, which meant we were limited to whatever skills our in-house technicians did or didn’t have. And just like 99% of shops in America we paid the bills by doing collision. Restoration was second fiddle if we got busy. And just like everyone else we used open-ended billing by the hour worked. Final bills were a surprise to us and the customer. How should it be done? Let me show you...

The following excerpts are from my book BEFORE & AFTER...


Step 1 - Find Car or Delivery

The first step in any restoration is having or finding the vehicle to be restored. If you already have your project vehicle good for you. I had to buy mine on eBay for $15,000. It was a good buy for a “basket case”, meaning it was in pieces. Most importantly to me, it was a real X77 Z/28 1969 Camaro and had the original DZ block 302 motor. If you don’t already have your dream project vehicle we will gladly find and purchase it for you, if you like. Or start with a new metal body, see the Brand New Muscle Car section on page 108. When purchasing a project car the number one thing is to begin with the end in mind. You see, I didn’t care how bad the rest of the car was because I planned to replace just about everything but the VIN number plate and the DZ engine block anyway. That was the plan. I wanted to do the maximum restoration possible to gain the maximum information possible for a book like this.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $15,000         CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 2 - Disassembly & Rotisserie

Here’s the first of a couple of secrets to doing auto restoration RIGHT. TAKE THE CAR APART!I don’t care if you’re doing a full frame-off,rotisserie restoration or just a complete paint job. Take the car apart, period, end of story.Unfortunately this is probably the most skipped step in the auto “restoration” world.The degree to which you take the car apart especially where sheet metal panels are concerned can vary. But taking the car apart, chrome trim off, glass out, interior out, etc. is crucial to getting the resulting paint job RIGHT! In my case the maximum restoration possible plan required I take the car apart and remove pretty much every sheet metal panel possible. This is almost never required on a restoration since very rarely does every panel have rust or other major damage requiring you to do so. Obviously, you want to replace as few original panels as possible unless you’re writing a book or some other crazy thing.

Estimated Labor Hours – 24 / Days – 3 / Cost – $1,800 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 3 - Suspension

Suspension is another area where many shops decide to skip an important step in the process. Again, take the car apart! Take the suspension off and put the car on a body cart or stands. These old classic cars are pretty simple, in all areas including the suspension. Look at the pictures on these two pages. That’s it, that’s the front suspension. There’s not much to it. You could do it yourself, if you like. I’ve told many a customer to take their car apart themselves and then bring it to us and we’ll do the metal, body and the paint. Then we can put it back together or they can, it makes no difference to us and that’s true to this day. If you have the time and the will, and a few tools, why not save yourself the additional labor cost. Be part of the process. Suspension is obviously an area where many parts can be upgraded but I went stock on my car. It’s your choice on improvements. There are many terrific “bolt on” options that aren’t expensive or hard to install. Again, it’s all about the results you want to achieve.

Estimated Labor Hours – 4 / Days – 0.5 / Cost – $300 CLICK FOR PICTURE

Step 4 - Media Blast

After taking the car apart, this is the next most important step to a complete restoration done RIGHT, on or off the frame. STRIP THE CAR! Somehow, some way, get the entire car down to bare metal, inside and out. This is crucial to being able to see all the rust and damage that needs to be repaired, making good metal repairs and replacements, and getting a good final paint job. As I used to tell customers all the time you can have it stripped or I can but we need a clean, bare metal car to get started on any restoration done RIGHT. The easiest way to strip the car is to have the entire car media blasted, what used to be “sand blasting” back in the day. No one uses sand any more, most use plastic media now. Once the car is apart this is easy and fairly inexpensive to do, usually costing around $1000 for an entire car and all the piece parts. Blasting also reveals any hidden factory information, which is very cool. Note the hidden partial VIN number on 69 Camaros.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $750 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 5 - Estimation & Design

And now we come to the most important step in the process, estimation. The key is to do this as Step 5 and NOT Step 2. Most shops will discuss the restoration “plan” with you as the first step in their process. That means the car hasn’t been taken apart or stripped yet. Meaning, you can’t see the hidden rust and damage that needs to be repaired or replaced. This is why 99% of shops in the country will tell you restorations can’t be estimated in advance and that they have to be open-ended billed for actual time worked after the fact. That’s the shops being lazy. Plus they know they’ll get more labor hours and therefore more money out of you in the end. They don’t want to agree to limit their labor hours (and profit). Giving a WRITTEN WARRANTY in advance is COMPLETELY POSSIBLE if the car has first been taken apart and stripped. Then you can see everything that needs to be repaired or replaced. But shops just don’t want to do it.

Estimated Labor Hours – 445 / Weeks – 15 / Cost – $93,833.99 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 6 - Parts, Parts, Parts

Of course part of the estimation process is creating a list of the parts needed and their cost. Assuming your project is one of the couple dozen cars for which most of the parts, especially sheet metal panels are available, see the reference on page 144. The majority of parts need to be ordered before work begins. These are the vehicles that can be done RIGHT per my restoration theory, which says all cars come apart, are stripped and all sheet metal panels, whole panels, are replaced not repaired along factory welds and connection points. If that is done then written estimates can be given, labor times are predictable, and the end result can be given a WRITTEN WARRANTY just like any other paint and body work. *Note – My personal restoration had all the sheet metal and almost everything else replaced so my parts cost was over $25,000 not counting the engine and drivetrain. Don’t let that scare you, this is an extreme example.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $25,568.56 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 7 - Engine

Obviously a key component or “part” of any automobile is the motor or engine. In the shop world we usually don’t include the engine in “parts” although there are almost always a lot of parts to buy to make the engine RIGHT. In a restoration you usually have an existing engine that needs to be removed, rebuilt and then reinstalled. Having the correct engine is crucial to most restorations. That was certainly true in my case. 1969 Camaro Z/28’s only came with one engine and that DZ block 302 V8 was only available in Z/28’s. Even more important was the numbers on the engine and car “matched” so it was the original motor that came with the car in 1969. During a restoration like this the customer usually has to choose one of three engine options; (1) rebuild the original engine if available, (2) buy and rebuild an original or desired engine, or (3) buy a brand new crate motor. Option 3 is almost always faster and cheaper plus you get an engine warranty, but again it’s all about your desired final result.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $12,567.44 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 8 - Transmission

After deciding how to deal with your project’s engine the next step for most customers is the “drivetrain” which delivers power from the motor out to the wheels, mainly the transmission and rear end. The transmission can be as important as the motor on some projects because many models have “numbers” on the transmission that “match” a particular car as well. This was not the case on my project. 1969 Camaro’s did not have VIN or car specific numbers on their transmissions. The transmissions and rear ends only had date codes which should be within a certain range of the car’s production week. Like engines, there are three options when dealing with project transmissions; (1) rebuild the original, not an option for my project thanks to drag racing, (2) buy and rebuild an original, what I ended up doing, and (3) buy a brand new crate transmission. Option 3 is the fastest, but usually more expensive depending on your choice. Many modern upgrades are available when it comes to transmissions.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost - $1,675 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 9 - Rear End & Wheels

Similar to the transmission the rear end on your project car may or may not have car specific numbers you want to match. In my case 69 Camaros only had date codes on rear ends. More often than not project cars will have the original rear end in place. Unfortunately, my car lost its original rear end to drag racing. So I took Option 2 and found a correct date code, original rear end, and had it rebuilt. Like transmissions there are three options for dealing with a project’s rear end; (1) rebuild the original, (2) buy and rebuild an original, or (3) order a new crate rear end of your choice. Of course, there are many upgrades available these days from power disc brakes to fully independent rear suspensions to every kind of wheel and tire imaginable. It all comes down to customer choice and budget. I went stock with original rally wheels and old school BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s for tires but the sky’s the limit on wheels and tires.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost - $2,500 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 10 - Metal

So now the restoration gets serious. This is the start of what we call “metal, body and paint” and it will take you all the way to step 21 of 32. Afterward all that’s left is to put the car back together also known as reassembly. This is also where 99% of restorations go drastically off course, at least from the customer’s perspective. This is where openended billing blows your budget up and destroys your bank account (and maybe your marriage). I’ve seen it happen, many times. The question is, can restorations be estimated and given FIXED PRICE WRITTEN QUOTES in advance and can shops stick to those budgetary limits and give you a quality result? YES! If the car is apart and stripped and estimated at Step 5 then YES! The book time to remove and install (R&I) a quarter panel on a 69 Camaro was 11.4 labor hours in 1969. Guess how long it takes today? 11.4 hours. Why would 99% of shops tell you it can’t be predicted in advance? Laziness and greed.

Estimated Labor Hours – 56.5 / Days – 7.06 / Cost – $4,237.5 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 11 - Seam Seal

In my many years in restoration one of the main questions I get over and over again from Hot Rodders and potential customers alike is, “How do I make my old car as quiet, comfortable and water tight as my new car? Simple. First, you use modern panel adhesive when installing replacement sheet metal and then weld, bolt or do whatever is normally done. Second, use modern seam sealer, basically painter’s caulk for cars, on all the panel connection points, unless it’s inappropriate for your particular restoration objective. This can cost you points on certain models at certain car shows. Third, install a sound deadening liner like Dynamat® between the sheet metal and the interior of the car. These three important but often over looked steps can make the inside of a classic car sound like a new car going down the road at 55 mph. Well, not exactly like a new car, but pretty darn close. Not to mention the project car will ride better, rattle and creak less, handle firmer, heat and air better, and be more water tight.

Estimated Labor Hours – 16 / Days – 2 / Cost – $1,200 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 12 - Test Fit

Ever been to a car show and seen an old classic car that looks pretty good, nice paint job, clean inside and out but the panels, doors, and gaps just didn’t look quite right? You couldn’t put your finger on it but something was just off? Now think about the best looking restored car you’ve ever seen, doesn’t matter the make and model, you know the one, picture it. Remember how straight all the lines on it were, the panels, the doors, the gaps. Looking at it was amazing. It was as if you had gone back in time and seen this old car when it was brand new, only with a much better paint job of modern urethane paint and clear coat on it. What’s the difference? This step in the process. Step 12, is Test Fit aka “dry fit” meaning putting the entire car together with all the new panels BEFORE going to the paint shop to triple check all the panel alignments and gaps. Many shops skip this step because it means putting the car together and taking it back apart again several times throughout the restoration process and they’re just too lazy to do it, RIGHT.

Estimated Labor Hours – 24 / Days – 3 / Cost – $1,800 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 13 - Body

Now you’re saying to yourself, body? What body work? I thought you guys replaced every bit of the sheet metal on your Camaro… We did, but to get the final result to look “RIGHT” there will always be a small amount of body work to be done. Even new sheet metal isn’t perfect and will need to be triple checked. Your new parts might even show up with small dents and dings on them from shipping or something. And some spots like where the top of the quarter panel is welded to the bottom of the roof require a little body work. The goal of any restoration should be to have as little body work on the car as possible. You never want more than a very thin layer of body filler anywhere on a car. Body filler wasn’t meant to be used in thick layers to begin with. When used properly and thinly modern body filler will last for as long as your paint job, probably longer. Also, most projects will have existing sheet metal panels that will obviously require at least some body work to look RIGHT.

Estimated Labor Hours – 24 / Days – 3 / Cost – $1,800 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 14 - Prime

Remember my theory of auto restoration has a couple of key required steps as its foundation: 1. Take the car apart. 2. Strip the car down to bare metal. 3. Replace any sheet metal panel that is rusted or damaged, the entire panel. 4. Always do everything along factory weld lines and connection points. 5. Keep any body work to a minimum. 6. Therefore everything is done on a foundation of clean, fresh sheet metal; whether existing or new panels or parts. 7. Test Fit all the panels on the car as whole. IF you do these seven things then the end result has a much higher likelihood of being really good and can be given a WRITTEN WARRANTY just like any other paint and body work. After all the body work is complete, and RIGHT, the vehicle should be primed as soon as possible to cover and protect everything. Primer is the base coat that helps the paint properly adhere to the body of the vehicle.

Estimated Labor Hours – 16  / Days – 2 / Cost – $1,200 CLICK FOR PICTURE

Step 15 - Undercoat

One of the frequently skipped steps in a good general restoration process is undercoating. And I don’t mean the bottom of the car. There are areas of the vehicle that can’t be accessed or easily accessed once it’s put back together. Now is your chance to coat, seal and sound-deaden them once and for all. Again, you may not want to do this based on your final restoration objectives. This can cost you points on some models at some car shows depending on what was or wasn’t “original”. At the very least these areas should be painted, not just over-sprayed while the main areas of the car are actually painted, which is all too common in the paint and body world. If you’re interested in making your vehicle more quiet, air tight and water proof (Step 11) then make sure you undercoat these areas. Most of them will be painted over or hidden from view in the end, but you’ll know they were done RIGHT. Undercoating is a cheap, easy way to improve your final result.

Estimated Labor Hours – 8 / Days – 1 / Cost – $600 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 16 - Block Sand

One of the key steps in preparing a primed vehicle for painting is block sanding. Primer helps the paint adhere to the body but it is not automatically a perfect surface upon which to apply a hopefully smooth-as-glass paint finish. And of course the panels and body work underneath need to be just RIGHT as well. Steps 16 and 17 are the part of the restoration process where every panel can be given a near perfect surface for the application of paint. These two steps take time, patience, and skill but their importance CANNOT be understated. Block sanding reveals any and all imperfections in the body work and the primed surface which can be reworked and repaired in spots as needed. A contrasting color of primer is dusted over the primary coat, say black over gray as in these pictures of my project, and then this “guide coat” is sanded off to reveal any uneven and/or imperfect areas requiring additional minor repair and sanding. Then the entire primed body surface is sanded down to ensure a solid foundation ready to accept paint.

Estimated Labor Hours – 32 / Days – 4 / Cost – $3,200 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 17 - Seal & Wet Sand

Now you are down to the last step before painting and this is definitely no time to cut any corners, especially Seal & Wet Sand. If a smooth-as-glass final paint finish is your goal (and why wouldn’t it be) then this is the other key step that makes that possible. Sealing is simply applying a final coat of primer over the block sanded and many times spot repaired body prior to painting. This ensures that the entire body is completely, evenly and smoothly “sealed” with primer. Sealing reduces the chance of anything under the paint creating problems with the final finish. After you have a good, uniform coat of primer sealing the entire body of your vehicle the final step to paint perfection is to very carefully “wet sand” the seal prime coat with very fine sandpaper. As you will note in the pictures on page 75, water is used to aid in this delicate sanding procedure and it produces an extremely smooth final surface when done correctly.

Estimated Labor Hours – 16 / Days – 2 / Cost – $1,200 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 18 - Jam & Detail

Once your project is fully prepared or “prepped” as we say in the business it’s finally time for painting. Don’t get too excited just yet, the first step is to paint everything BUT the fun part, the outside of the vehicle. This is what’s commonly referred to as “jamming” the car, meaning painting all the nooks and crannies that will be taped and covered up when the outside is painted in the next step. Interestingly enough the door “jams” aren’t usually painted until later, see the photos in Step 19. This includes areas of the interior, engine compartment, trunk, underside, wheel wells, suspension, and small piece parts such as covers, brackets, braces, hinges, bolts, etc. as needed. See pictures on page 77. These various areas and parts are painted, cleared, undercoated, bed-lined, spatter painted (see lower right picture on this page) or otherwise covered with whatever coating you desire per your final restoration objective.

Estimated Labor Hours – 24 / Days – 3 / Cost – $1,800 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 19 - Paint

And now for the really cool part of the process, get your camera ready. This is the first of the two coolest steps you’ll experience during restoration; one, painting the outside and two, driving your completed car for the first time. The reason it takes so long to get to this step is because just like painting anything the real trick is in the preparation. It may take months or years for you to get here and it might be over in a single day. Shooting the paint and clear coat on the car really doesn’t take that long. Of course taping it up right takes a while and there are many parts to the “painting process” so this step can take a good week or so to complete depending on the project. My car was painted black, which is the easiest color to match from panel to panel, jamming to painting, and paint session to paint session. Other colors require careful attention to exactly when, where, and in what order things are painted to ensure no color shading or matching issues. A great final paint job requires time, patience, and lots of cleanliness.

Estimated Labor Hours – 35.5 / Days – 4.4 / Cost – $2,662.50 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 20 - Stripe & Custom Paint

Painting the outside of your project can be a multi-step process depending on what you want the final result to look like. Whether it’s rally stripes, like my Z/28, some other kind of stripe or pinstripe, and/or custom paint work such as flames, true fire, images, lettering, etc. Many projects go back into the paint booth a couple of times before getting to Step 21. This step, Stripe and Custom Paint, almost always happens after Step 19, painting the outside of the car, but if you look closely at my photos you’ll notice my stripes went on first. This reversal of steps was at my specific request so that the white and black paint levels would be exactly the same before clear coat was applied. My desired final result was to have a 100% completely flat two-color paint finish without having to adjust with extra clear coat and lots of color sanding and buffing. This is NOT the normal or recommended process and is much harder to execute properly.

Estimated Labor Hours – 16 / Days – 2 / Cost – $1,200 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 21 - Color Sand & Buff

Step 17, Seal & Wet Sand is the first of the two most crucial steps allowing your project to have that smooth-as-glass final finish you desire. This step is the second in a two-part equation, one happens before painting and this step, Color Sand & Buff, happens after. After the paint has dried a certain amount, which varies by paint brand, type and conditions (surface dried, not fully cured, curing takes a good 30 days) the clear coat needs to be very carefully sanded to “flatten” or smooth it’s naturally wavy post-painting appearance and then buffed or polished to a smooth and clear glass-like shiny final finish. Minor imperfections and debris or “dirt” can also be removed during this process, provided there’s enough clear coat to sand down and buff out. There’s a trick to this step and certain technicians have a real talent for it. Color sand and buff can be the difference between a good looking paint job and a great one.

Estimated Labor Hours – 32 / Days – 4 / Cost – $2,400 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 22 - Interior & Wiring

At this point your project is two thirds of the way through the restoration process and you can now start to see your final result coming together. The first third was disassembly or taking the car apart, the second third was metal, body and paint or fixing the car, and the final third is assembly, putting it back together. The interior of your car is important because it’s the part of the car that you’ll spend the most time looking at once you start driving your car. Options here are endless. You can simply clean up your old original interior and put it back in, you can purchase mostly new “original” interior to install, or you can select a combination of old and new components to create something that never existed before. You can add things such as air conditioning, modern seats, audio/video, custom items, etc. The sky’s the limit depending on your budget. I spent over $7,000 going new “original.” I kept the old original speedometer and not much else.

Estimated Labor Hours – 44 / Days – 5.5 / Cost – $3,300 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 23 - Glass & Seals

One of the most frequently skipped steps in the “restoration” process is the removal of the glass and the replacement of the seals. Even if all you’re doing is painting the outside of an older vehicle the chrome trim, glass and seals should be removed first. This is one of those small and relatively inexpensive things that you can do to make sure your final result is better than average. Far too many customers and/or shops skip this very important step. New replacement glass and seals and usually chrome trim are available for a great many makes and models these days with more being added all the time. At the very least pull the trim, glass, and seals out, paint the car, replace the seals, and have a professional reinstall the glass, and then reinstall the original chrome. This will ensure that your paint job has good edges where it meets the trim and glass and that your car is water and air tight. In my case everything’s available for 69 Camaros so I went with new chrome, glass and seals all the way around.

Estimated Labor Hours – 4 / Days – 0.5 / Cost – $615.30 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 24 - Dyno Option

One of the best things about doing a full blown restoration is that you get to do things to and with your car that most people never get to do, even true “car nuts”. Like, have your motor out of your car, at the machine shop, completely rebuilt like new, and then drop by the dyno (dynamometer) shop on your way back to reinstall it in your car. You don’t have to do this, of course, but I highly recommend it. It’s just a cool experience, and affordable. On my project I had the original 302 cubic inch DZ block engine that had come standard in all 1969 Camaro Z/28’s. So while we were careful to rebuild and restore it without damaging this valuable piece of automobile history and my project, we did have some fun with it. We added aluminum heads and the dealer option dual 600 CFM Holley carburetor “cross-ram” intake manifold and matching factory recommended upgraded cam shaft, basically the ultimate Camaro small block engine. The result was 400.5 horsepower and 337.8 foot pounds of torque at 6700 RPM!

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $750 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 25 - Powertrain Installation

Now even if you’re not the son of a mechanic, and even though this entire process is pretty darn cool, when it comes time to reinstall the rebuilt or new motor and transmission back into your car it’s really exciting. Just look at these pictures and imagine that’s your powertrain. Look at how clean and beautiful it is. You can’t get detail like that on your car unless you take it apart and restore it RIGHT. Removing, rebuilding and reinstalling your powertrain might look daunting if you are a first timer but it’s really not that hard when you have the right people, tools, and knowledge on your side. And it helps that at this point in the restoration process all the sheet metal panels are off the front end. After lowering your powertrain in place all that is left is to reinstall and hook up the handful of necessary bolts, wires, cables and hoses - there really aren’t that many. That’s the beauty of old cars.

Estimated Labor Hours – 4 / Days – 0.5 / Cost – $300 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 26 - Assembly & Trim

Soon your project will start to look like a car again. It’s time to put it back together. This means reinstalling the suspension, front end sheet metal and “trim”. Trim in the body shop world means chrome trim, bumpers, emblems, lights, moldings, etc. Obviously this can vary a great deal from project to project, car to car, and model to model, and can take some time and patience since you now have to worry about scratching the final paint job. Attention to detail is paramount during this step in the process. This is where all your previous research, planning and preparation really pays off. You have to know your final restoration objectives. All the what’s and where’s for things like emblems and moldings, and desired options especially where suspension is concerned. There are a million ways to go on these issues and the choices are all yours. You have to make all these decisions in advance and have the required plans in place and parts on hand.

Estimated Labor Hours – 40 / Days – 5 / Cost – $3,000 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 27 - Testing & Tuning

Once the car’s back in one piece it’s time to find out if everything actually works. Testing and tuning can take several days depending on whether everything goes according to plan. It usually doesn’t take too much time to get the engine started and running and then tuned properly based on either factory specs or your own. It’s important to take some time to “break in” the engine properly especially if it’s the rebuilt original. This involves running the engine for a period of time at a certain RPM and without putting too much stress on it. Don’t worry you’ll get your first drive around the block at this point, and without the exhaust hooked up, which is always fun. Every car sounds like a dragster with no exhaust on it. Just don’t get pulled over during your first joy ride. I’m pretty sure driving without exhaust is illegal in all 50 states. Of course you’ll spend a lot of time checking for leaks during this step, which isn’t always fun. The most important thing is to get the engine tuned to roar RIGHT.

Estimated Labor Hours – 16 / Days – 2 / Cost – $1,200 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 28 - Exhaust & Alignment

Unlike most restoration customers I didn’t actually drive my rebuilt project for the first time during Step 27, Testing & Tuning. I drove my restoration for the first time on the way to the exhaust shop. That’s my first drive, without exhaust (awesome) in the grainy picture on the lower left of page 99. I was nervous, excited, and paranoid. Again, driving without exhaust is illegal, fun, but illegal and I had to go about 20 miles across town to my favorite exhaust shop. What a day, the weather was perfect, my car was roaring, wow, I loved it. It was well worth the wait, simply amazing. The car got a lot of looks even on that first drive, it felt great. After the exhaust shop I headed over to our alignment shop to double check all the manual settings on the front end, which were surprisingly close. Of course, the modern laser alignment gear had a few suggested adjustments to make. This was a great chance to get some photos of the underside of the car.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $951.10 CLICK FOR PICTURE

Step 29 - Audio/Video Options

When it comes to Audio/Video options, there are basically three ways to go; (1) stock original/reproduction gear, (2) new/modern gear and (3) some combination of the two. Meaning in reality there’s a million ways to go and the sky’s the limit on this step as well. As you can see from these pictures I went with a simple, new AM/FM cassette player that fit the factory space in the dash because I like a stock look and there was no way I was going to cut the dash or install a custom console. I love the factory Camaro interior; in fact we restored the original dash panel instead of replacing it. That was my personal preference. Believe me I love a flat screen head unit with separates in the doors and rear package tray and an amp and a couple of 12’ subwoofers in the trunk as much as the next guy, but not on my all-original 69 Camaro Z/28 classic baby. You may choose to do something different; it’s all about your restoration objectives.

Estimated Labor Hours – 1 / Days – 0.1 / Cost – $325 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 30 - Final Details

When the car’s basically all done with restoration it’s off to the detail shop for what I like to call “final details”. This isn’t just a wash, vac, and shine. This is where you as the customer and the shop should be double and triple checking all the things on your original restoration estimation and plan and of course your personal wish list, which sometimes changes as the process goes along. This does include washing, cleaning, and polishing the car within an inch of its life, just as if you were going to enter it in a car show the next day. It’s also the time to do anything that didn’t get done yet, buff out any surprise imperfections, especially since there’s no such thing as a “perfect” paint job, and anything you might want to add at the last minute. Note the reproduction factory stickers, tags, paint marks and grease pencil scribbles in the photos on these pages. These are the kinds of details that get added during this step. Obviously, attention to detail here is key. This is when you make sure everything is RIGHT.

Estimated Labor Hours – 8 / Days – 1 / Cost – $600 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 31 - Delivery Home

Oh the big day! Obviously, this is the best step in the entire process, the day your baby comes home. In my case it just happened to be my birthday. What a great birthday present, probably the best ever. It had been a long time coming. While it only took 6 months from the time I bought the car on eBay to its arrival at my house, which is fast in the restoration world, I had been dreaming of owning a real, fu ll y- re st or ed  69 Camaro Z/28 my whole life. And It had been over a decade since I sold my last 69 Camaro. It was well worth the wait, and the expense. Wow! Of course, for me the ride home was simply a $100 tow across town while for you the trip home will most likely be in an enclosed trailer behind a big rig over hundreds if not thousands of miles. Either way, the excitement, joy and reward will feel the same. You now own a one-of-a-kind fully restored classic and you chose every option on it. You designed it.

Estimated Labor Hours – 0 / Days – 0 / Cost – $100 CLICK FOR PICTURES

Step 32 - Receipts & Costs

So… How much does a restoration cost? That’s the number one question I get from folks. Followed by, “How long does it take?” Obviously, there is no simple answer to either of these questions up front. It depends on the make and model, condition, and final objectives of the project. The good news is unlike every other “restoration” shop in the country I’ll give you a WRITTEN ESTIMATE that estimates the answer to both those questions. Again, the example in this book is EXTREME. I purposefully replaced every single sheet metal panel and just about every other part to create the maximum restoration information possible. Your project is almost certain to take LESS work, time, and expense. See Page 49 estimate summary of $93,833.99 vs. Page 107 final bill totaling $98,176.68. As the customer I chose to go 5% over budget on engine and parts, but labor held to 445 hours.

Final Labor Hours – 445 / Weeks – 15 / Cost – $98,176.68 CLICK FOR PICTURES

The Truth About Auto Restoration

So here’s what I did on my project and here’s what I now do for restoration customers like you at my company, US Restoration… I only do restoration and Brand New Muscle Car. No more collision business. Restoration has always been my passion anyway. I only take restorations/builds one at a time so I can personally manage them, DAILY. Your project is my business. Your satisfaction my full-time job. I do this because I love it. You send me the car, we take it apart, we have it stripped down to bare metal, and then I give you a WRITTEN ESTIMATE with all the labor times and part prices and a final project cost estimate on it. I only say final cost “estimate” because parts prices and your requirements may change. We WILL hit our labor times and your final bill will usually be within 10% give or take. I only charge $75 per labor hour, which is low, and only 10% mark up on parts, supplies and sublet work. My personal time is FREE. I personally send you updates, invoices and photos WEEKLY.

When we are finished, because every car comes apart, is stripped down to the bare metal, and all the parts are replaced along factory lines, we will give you a WRITTEN WARRANTY on all our work. Unlike every other shop in the country we guarantee our restorations, in writing of course. You say you want a restoration? Contact us today. I’m happy to give you advice about using other shops, talk to you about getting on our waiting list, and/or answer your questions about auto restoration. Contact me FIRST! BTW, we also offer FREE pick up and shipping from anywhere in the U.S. Contact us for details. We offer FREE appraisals on every project we take, before and after. So we can insure your car and parts while we have it/them in storage or in the shop and so you can properly insure your dream car once it gets back home to you. We are certified, licensed and insured to handle all your restoration and build needs and always give you a written contract. That's how auto restoration should be done, RIGHT!