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All About Car Restoration

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Car Restoration Costs Broken Down by TLC Restorations

By John Gunnell

The first question a typical restoration shop client asks is "How much is it going to cost to restore my car?" Most car owners want the shop to quote a flat price for the job. Most shops won't do so unless the price is extremely high.

Body work on GTO takes time and talent.

Body work on GTO takes time and talent.


Shops insist there is no "scientific" way to project restoration costs. They will quote an hourly rate for their time and tell the customer that they work on a "time and materials" basis. That means "X" many dollars per hour of time, plus the cost of parts and supplies. Most shops also charge for research time, shipping of parts, recycling, rags and so forth. Sales tax is also collected, too.

Chevelle floor pan needed rust work.

Chevelle floor pan needed rust work.


TLC Restorations of Milton, Wis., has tried to come up with a scientific way to explain restoration costs. TLC participated in the "Car Builders' Showcase" at the Race & Performance Expo, in St, Charles, Ill. Owner Robert G. Rippberger showed an almost finished Chevelle and a fully restored GTO. He dissected what a "rotisserie" restoration involves in terms of car disassembly, body work, paint, mechanical and electrical repairs and reeassemly.

TLC estimates body takes 120-150 hours.

TLC estimates body takes 120-150 hours.


According to Rippberger, the typical process and average time for a complete frame-off restoration of a mid-sized GM performance cars includes nine processes with a total typical time ranging between 395 and 550 labor hours. With average labor rates for all types of auto repair shops nationwide coming in around $77, that would mean a $30,415 restoration at the lower total hours or a $42,350 restoration at the higher number of hours.

Completed Chevelle.

Completed Chevelle.


Naturally, the cost would vary according to a shop's labor rate and parts costs. So it is virtually impossible to say a restoration costs "X" many dollars. Still, it is interesting to see how TLC studied the work involved and dissected what's involved in bringing an old car back to like-new condition. The following tables are based on the signs that TLC had on public display at the St. Charles show.

Table 1.
Typical Process & Average Time For A Complete Frame-Off Restoration
Process Hours
Body diassembly and install on a rotisserie 10-50
Frame/Suspension/Steering/Brakes disassembly 10-50
Frame/Suspension/Steering/ Brakes Clean Up & Paint 30-40
Frame/Suspension/Steering/Brakes assembly 30-40
Disassemble Drivetrain & Accessories 5-10
Drivetrain & Accessories Clean Up & Paint 20-30
Assemble Drivetrain & Accessories 30-40
Body/Trunk/Undercar, Interior & Underhood Clean & Paint 120-160
Total Process 395-550
Table 2.
Jobs That A Complete Frame Off Restoration Involves
Assemby Body Repair Brake Repair
Conversions Cooling System Upgrade Metal Fabrication
Electrical Repair Engine Building Tuning
Interior Work Rust Repair Metal Repair
Paint Booth Paint Refinishing Color Sanding
Buffing Detailing Services Suspension rebuild
Upgrades Sandblasting Chrome Plating
Zinc Plating A/C Repairs  
Table 3.
TLC Restoration Paint Process
Paint Stripping Options
Chemical Dip
Sand off
Sand Blast
Media Blast
Soda Blast
Paint Stripper
Seal the Steel
3 coats of epoxy
Repair Rust
Repair Dents
Fit Panels
Start the Body Work
Complete all body filler & block straight-finish
with 80-grit
Prime with spray poly
Block sand w/80 grit
Prime w/spray poly
Block sand w/180 grit
Prime w/spray poly
Block sand w/180 grit
Prime w/high build
Block sand w/220 grit
Prime w/high build
Block sand w/320 grit
Prime w/high build
Wet sand with w/400 grit
Paint the Car
Epoxy Seal the car
Apply 3 coats of base
Apply 3-4 coats of clear
Polish the car
Color sand w/800 grit
Color sand w/1500 grit
Color sand w/2500 grit
Buff w/compound wool pad
Buff w/glaze cotton pad
Polish w/glaze foam pad 1
Polish w/glaze cotton pad 2
Wax
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