“What Is Taking So Long, And Why Does It Cost So Much?”

One of the things that is revealed early on to a professional car builder is the number of ways that a project can be done incorrectly; whether it is due to trial and error or to seeing first-hand how someone else screwed something up before the project got to you.  In my last article I wrote about where I have seen this hobby come from and where it is going.  One of the most obvious changes to the hobby is the amount of work that is actually still done to a project by its owner.  Recent surveys show that 85% of the work performed today is performed by a shop.  Fortunately for me this means that there is an unlimited amount of work that a shop like mine can attract.  Unfortunately, a good number of jobs that come down the pike have been through several individuals, if not shops, before they end up at ours.  What does this mean?  It means someone else couldn’t figure out how to do something or how to make something work before they or the project’s owner threw up their hands and said, “That’s enough!” 

There is a big difference in doing a job for someone and finishing a job someone else started.  The biggest differences is COST!  I can’t tell you how many times we get approached about finishing a project that has been started by someone else.  Sometimes it is started by the owner, sometimes by the previous owner that sold the project “as is”, sometimes by a shop that gave up or was told to stop working on the project.  Regardless of how the project was started, finishing someone else’s mess is always more in depth than if you started it yourself.  This means that it will cost more than it should in the long run.

Why?  Well for starters, the easiest way to put something back together is if you took it apart.  Many times customers believe that they are saving us work and them money by doing their own disassembly.  Wrong!  Yes, it appears that it would save time, but in reality a full-time hot rod shop should be able to disassemble most any car to its bare chassis in no more than two days.  When a shop disassembles a car most often they know how to remove things without damaging them and in what order disassembly should happen.  They also should know to what degree the disassembly needs to be taken and how to organize and label the items that will have to be used in reassembly.  If only just for reference, nothing should be discarded that the person responsible for the reassembly may need.  Because of the speed and accuracy that shops should have in the teardown phase, good shops should be able to make up the time that the customer paid them to do disassembly by not having issues with reassembly.  Issues, you might ask, what kind of issues? 

Every time we have gotten into one of these type projects several things are a given.  First, everything that you will need for assembly will not be with the project.  Regardless of who took the vehicle apart, pieces will be missing when the shop responsible tries to reassemble it.  This creates stress between the customer and the shop because more often than not the customer will say something like, “I know everything was there when I brought it to you.”  Well, I have yet to see that be true.  Secondly, the customer at some point will ask, “what is taking so long and why does it cost so much?”  Now most shops bill on a time plus materials basis because of the unpredictable nature of the work that they do.  But when they are faced with a project they did not start, not only do they have to do what they would to any other job, they have to figure out what someone else did and why.  This adds time, and time costs money. 

The reality is simple, the best projects have clear plans from the get-go of what the customer wants when the job is complete.  Big or small, for my staff and I here at Woody’s (www.woodyshotrodz.com) all projects fall into this reality.  From a disc-brake conversion to a complete build, planning is the difference between a successful job and a botched one.  This is sometimes not as easy as it sounds.  There are literally thousands of factors that go into a big job and they need to be discussed and planned for before starting a project.  The quality of the end result, the budget, the time-frame allowed….all need to be discussed.  When multiple people, let alone shops, are involved these plans are extremely hard to coordinate, if not impossible.  Now I am not saying not to buy the “as is” project car or to not want to perform certain aspects of your vehicle’s build yourself.  What I am saying is, before you begin have a plan, discuss it with the shop that you have investigated and that you feel will serve your needs best and be sure to budget a “little” extra for what I call the “confusion factor!”  


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