Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012 Classic Chevy Event & Cool Raffle

by Andrea L. White
Motorheads Performance

I wrote about this in our sister blog, but wanted to be sure to reach as many of our friends, customers, and vendors as possible to share some news about a project with a very worthwhile cause.  Our friends at Central Texas Classic Chevy Club in Austin have been working on a club project, for a huge event they're planning and hosting this May. As we can attest from our own experience, organizing an event like this is no small task, and we're calling on our community to help CTCCC out and make this event a success!

Lone Star is the club's single largest annual show/event! Every year, one of several Texas based Classic Chevy Clubs hosts the car show in their city. Classic Chevy's from all over Texas and surrounding states participate. This year, the Central Texas Classic Chevy Club is hosting a Statewide Chevy Convention in San Marcos at the Embassy Suites on IH35. The event is called " Lone Star XXX". The event will take place May 4-6, 2012.

The club's project for this event was the construction of a 1955 Chevy Couch, complete with working lights, and stereo. The couch is completed and is currently on display at Dicks Classic Garage in San Marcos. Dick's Classic Garage is part of the Central Texas Museum of Automotive History. This couch was 100% constructed from a real car and was made from contributions for this effort. Check it out:

100 % of the sale of raffle tickets will be turned over to the Laity Lodge Free Camp for Children.  Central Texas Classic Chevy Club will not receive one cent from this raffle. It is our way of giving back to the community. Dan Bowen, President of CTCCC, says, "If you have time, please go see the couch at Dick's Garage in San Marcos and buy a raffle ticket for this well worth cause." The tickets are only $10 each or 5 for $40. All ticket sales are tax deductible.

For more information about the event please visit Central Texas Classic Chevy Club.  Guy Algar and Andrea White of Motorheads Performance are pleased to support the cause, and encourage others to as well.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Planning For Classic Car Repairs & Restorations

by Andrea L. White
Motorheads Performance

As owners of a classic car repair shop, Guy Algar and I receive all sorts of calls from owners wanting anything from simple repairs to performance upgrades and restoration services for their classic car or truck, street rod or muscle car. We might be looking at repairs or upgrades where costs are sometimes easy to establish.  Complex repairs and restorations are often much harder to pinpoint, but you can do a lot to ensure a good experience.

Before you even start making your way through finding a shop - one that offers the types of services you're looking for, and you feel comfortable with the shop's knowledge, experience, and policies - you need to take a hard look at your end of the project so that there are no obstacles or surprises later on.  Adding to the initial scope of any project will end up costing you more than you anticipated, and sometimes leaves you unfairly blaming the shop for your overspending. I offer these suggestions to customers looking for a "fair shake" at a classic car repair or restoration shop. 

First, carefully consider all your wishes for your ride. Everything should be thought out, especially if the project is going to be done in stages. Your bottom-line budget can be affected greatly by some of the choices you make. These are questions you should ask yourself:

Specifically what do I want?   More horsepower, better handling, need to correct a problem?

What is important to me?   Do you want a great looking ride to impress people?  Performance, horsepower or handling? A great sounding engine?

What am I going to use my ride for?   Do you have the need for speed and want to do some casual drag strip racing? Do you want a daily driver? Do you want to do short or long cruises?  Show your car?

What time frame am I looking for?   Do you have a specific deadline?  How flexible are you?

What can I afford to spend?   This is always a tough one, but please be honest with yourself, and the shop you eventually contract with. You want and expect the best from them, so put your best foot forward and be open and honest about how much you're willing to spend. 

What are things I should wait on?   This is anything that you feel cannot be accomplished within your budget! It doesn't mean you can't talk to your shop about it, but you should have realistic expectations about whether you can afford to do it.

The more specific you can be (and don't be afraid to be completely honest with the shops you talk to) the better your chance for complete satisfaction...within your budget. Once you've done your homework, and have given your project a lot of thought, you can now talk to shops and get an idea of what they recommend for your vehicle. This will give you an idea what type of emphasis the shop places on their work (i.e. do they favor traditional/stock restoration, custom fabrication, or the latest "bling" available?). Your choice should be one that is close to your own preferences, and also what you're trying to accomplish (custom work, repairs, performance, racing, classic restoration, etc.).

Be wary of shops which over-inflate the value of your vehicle so you'll feel better about the costs of your repair, upgrade or restoration! Guy Algar explains, "We tell all our customers that the first and fore-most reason for spending money on your ride should be for your love of the vehicle. With the crazy ups and downs in classic car values - recently more down than up - and the amount of money that it typically takes for a restoration or a major performance upgrade, you're usually lucky to break even on a project if you're restoring or upgrading it for resale. If you're doing it for the enjoyment of the ride, or the sentimental value of the vehicle, you're in it for all the right reasons." He states that he has had customers come to him with stories of how a shop told them that their car was worth two to three times it's actual worth! It's something we're all afraid of, but taking the time to prepare will help you avoid these pitfalls.

Shops simply don't "quote".  Many shops do not even provide "estimates" anymore, and may provide only a loose "ballpark figure". Please understand that there is a difference between a "quote" and an "estimate". Those that do provide "estimates" have pulled together a list of needed parts, and have a rough idea (or estimate!) of how long the project will take, but realize that there are unknowns which may cause the price to rise or fall above or below the estimate!  Using standardized repair time estimates do not work when dealing with classic cars.  Remember, you're repairing a vehicle that is over 25 years old. It is no longer a simple repair!

There's no such thing as a $2,000 paint job anymore (unless you're looking for something that'll most surely involve hiding Bondo... and paint that could slide off the car within 6 months). Costs of paint itself can be $1,000 and it usually takes a minimum of 100 hours to properly prep a car for paint. Most classic or antiques cost $6,000 and up for a decent paint job, and a show quality paint job can cost $15,000 or more. If body work is required, costs are certain to be more than the average modern car.

Labor is generally THE most difficult part of a repair or restoration to justify to customers. Such a large part of the total cost is labor. Most people have no idea just what is involved in completing the task. Sometimes engine restoration or upgrades are easier since a good chunk of the cost is the actual price of parts, and there are usually low-end and high-end alternatives which gives you much more flexibility when putting your "ideal" car or truck together.  As a general rule of thumb, expect to spend approximately the same amount in labor as you are spending for parts!

Going into your project with a realistic idea of cost is essential. You don't want your shop to cut corners at the end of the job because you've spent your limit. And you don't want to owe the shop fees you cannot pay for. Shops will not release a vehicle until all invoices are paid in full.  Labor is the time it takes to do the job. While a professional shop can generally get the job done a bit faster because they have the proper tools and equipment, it still takes time. Restorations can typically take a do-it-yourselfer 5-10 years to complete. Cutting the time to several months to a year is one of the big reasons why owners turn to a professional shops. Another reason is that, more times than not, you will come across something on your at-home project car that you don't have the experience or know-how to do yourself, don't have the equipment to do yourself, or it is something that you find you simply don't like doing.

Once you've decided on all the components of your restoration - engine work, induction system, exhaust system, interior, exterior, wheels, suspension, steering, brakes, heating & cooling, etc. - and have an idea what each will cost, form a final plan by cutting or modifying where needed so that everything fits your budget. It's always a good idea to add about 10-20% additional for unexpected surprises which always seem to crop up in any type of project. Remember - an estimate is just ESTIMATE.

Guy elaborates, "I try to give as accurate an estimate as possible, given unforeseen parts failures, or some evil lurking in the engine which we cannot possibly know about until we attempt to fire her up. The shop you've decided on will give you a timetable where they'll be able to take in your project, and also give you a rough idea of how long it will take to complete the job. Shops have different policies on how they handle payments, and it is a good idea to make sure you are very clear on how payments and/or billing is handled. At Motorheads, we get clear agreements at the start on whether this is a complete start-to-finish all-at-once restoration which usually requires a deposit and payment of the initial parts order, or one that is to be budgeted out over time (i.e. $1000 per month, etc).  As a matter of fact, you'll get a copy of our policies where everything is spelled out in detail, including what we expect from you and what you can expect from us! But policies vary from shop to shop, and some don't put it in writing. It's a wise idea to find out ahead of time."

Once you have these details worked out, stick with your plan! I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. One of the most difficult things for a shop to deal with is a change in direction when the job is already well underway. Second-guessing, or adding "what if we do this" to the project can stop a project in its track and derail much more than just your project. Projects are painstakingly planned out and the slightest delays (such as a part not arriving on schedule, coming in damaged, a hold by the customer, or a hold by the shop due to slow payment or non-payment when an invoice is sent) can mean throwing the schedule off for each and every vehicle. If the delay is more than a few days, it means that your project can get bumped off the schedule for weeks or even longer, since other jobs must stay on track so that they finish on schedule. "Delays can also cost you financially, since estimates are all based on cost of parts at time of estimate and labor is estimated based on things going as scheduled without change," says Guy. "At Motorheads Performance we do not mark up our parts, preferring instead to pass the savings on to our customers. We don't stock parts and everything is ordered specifically for your vehicle. If changes are made or things get delayed, we don't have any wiggle room because we're buying at current prices and must pass increases on to you."
You can help immensely by being well prepared, and by forming a concrete plan of action. Be as honest as you can about what you are trying to accomplish and what you intend to use your finished vehicle for. When it comes to final negotiations, be honest about your budget so that your classic car shop can help you with your choices and help you stay within your budget.

"I enjoy helping my customers with decisions by going over options, discussing the pros and cons of each, and trying to develop a plan which will deliver the exact type of performance they want," Guy Algar explains. "We want our customers to know we're comfortable working with you and really listening to your needs and wishes. We don't try to fit you into our mold of what we feel is right for you, what is currently 'hot', or what 'everyone else' is doing. We'll advise, give you the pro's and con's of different choices, give you options within a range of prices...ultimately the decisions are yours. If these qualities are important to you, look for a shop that shares them." Hard to add anything to that.

I know that I love working with people who are passionate about their old cars and trucks, regardless of your level of experience or knowledge because Guy and I have a real passion for what we do.

Andrea L. White is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her business partner Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Repairing Floor Pans

by Guy Algar
ASE Certified Technician

Repairing rotted out floor pans from an old car is often a job done incorrectly. As Shop Manager at Motorheads Performance, I've recently encountered yet another a set of replacement front floor pans that were installed incorrectly, resulting in a repair which I'm sure was much larger than the original damage. Unfortunately, it is something I see time after time in our work with classic cars and trucks.

The latest set of front floor pans I've encountered for repair are on a 1969 Pontiac Firebird a customer had recently purchased. The previously "repaired" floor pans had been spot welded in place using an acetylene torch or a mig welder. Unfortunately, the spot welds were over six inches apart, with gaps up to a quarter inch between the base metal and the floor pan. The gaps of the floor pan to floor were filled with silicone caulking. The pans were also modified in an attempt to repair the rotted foot pans by sliding the pans forward toward the fire wall, thus leaving misalignment and clearance issues with the transmission support. The other problem was not only the pans themselves, but the floor was not properly trimmed and prepped for the installation. The excess rusted floor metal was not removed properly from the support structures, which caused improper seating of the new floor pans. This caused large gaps during the spot welding, which allowed leakage to occur. Dirt, dead leaves and other debris filled areas of original sheet metal that overlapped the new floor pans. Over time, the leakage caused further rusting of the original floor, as well as damage to the new pans from corrosion.  The interior carpeting was destroyed as well.

Proper installation of new floor pans requires that ALL rusted metal be completely removed. This cannot be stressed enough, and it is a mistake that many do-it-yourselfers make. You may need to purchase additional floor sections to repair what the floor pan does not cover. All floor support structures and seat support structures need to be removed in some cases, but in all cases, all rusted floor metal needs to be removed completely.

Trial fit your new floor pans so that they drop into place with no gap or space between the new floor pan and the original floor sheet metal. There should be no overlap. Pans should be continuous welded all around the new seam. Do not spot weld, pop rivit or screw the new floor pans in place. Spot welding, pop riviting or screwing the pans into place will weaken the floor structure, especially on unibody vehicles. Normal driving will cause the floor pans to shift, tearing the spot welds, shearing the pop rivits and screws. Lastly, apply at least two coats of rust resistant primer and paint inside and on the underside. Lastly , a sealer is used to seal any gaps in the seams.

Correctly repairing floor pans may take a bit longer to do correctly, but will result in a repair job that will last a lot longer and not require further repairs chasing after yet more rust!.

Guy L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Guy is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years.