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Thread: Paint & Bodywork - by Carl Beck

  1. #1
    Admin Mike's Avatar
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    Default Paint & Bodywork - by Carl Beck

    The following was posted to our email mailing list by Carl Beck:

    DISCLAIMER: I fully realize that many people will not, can not,
    don't want too - spend $3K to $5K to have paint and body work done on
    their 240-Z. The following suggestions are aimed at people who want
    a good job done, who plan to keep and enjoy their Z's for years, or
    who want to put their 240-Z in a condition that facilitates it's
    future value and it's future resale.

    The following applies to a good paint job - it's a different ball
    game if you want the undercarrage stripped and painted or if you want
    the interior of the car stripped and painted. Most of the time the
    interior simply needs to be cleaned and re-sprayed.

    Depending on where you live - there are body shops that specialize in
    custom cars and street rod work... they usually do very little
    collision work for insurance companies. When it comes to getting an
    older car prep'ed and painted they are usually your best bet. Attend
    a few Street Rod Car Shows in your local area and talk to the owners
    of the cars - find out who is doing that type of work and get
    recommendations - write down both the recommend shops and the
    name/car of the person that recommended them. It's amazing how much
    nicer shop owners are when they know you were sent by an existing
    customer or someone they know personally.

    There are a couple of reasons that most shops will shoot you a
    ridiculously high "estimate" for what it will cost to prep and paint
    your car. As Wayne points out - too many of the times they are just
    trying to blow you out of the shop....;-(

    The First is: - about 1 out of 100 people who ask them for an
    estimate - are actually ready to have the work done right then (or
    within the next year for that matter - they are just "dreamers" and
    "tire kickers" wasting the time of the body shop). Then only about 1
    out of 10 of them actually have the cash right then. The shop owners
    hear the question so many times from so many people - that they
    harden over time and get an attitude - so they just throw out some
    high estimate to blow the people that are "jacking them around" out
    the door.

    The Second is: - too many people expect a body shop to give them "an
    estimate" for a complete repair/repaint - based on looking at a 30
    year old car that's already been repainted one or more times. They
    have no way of knowing what is under that paint.. nor what all they
    will get into once they start removing it. So there is huge risk for
    them - and even though it's "an estimate" - the customer somehow
    always gets it in their mind that it was a "firm fixed price" quote.
    So as the costs go up when unexpected damage is found, when shoddy
    body work that was previously done is found - the customer is
    unhappy and he's complaining to everyone in town about how that shop
    screwed him or tried to screw him... So most of the shops just
    double what they really think it will take - and quote that as the
    "estimate".... It's better to cover their own risk and/or blow you
    out the door right at the beginning.

    So what's a guy to do???
    First - Line up two or three shops that can do the type of work you
    want done - and shops that like doing that type of work.... Visit the
    shop and meet the owner. Tell him you are getting a car ready to for
    paint/bodywork - and just wanted to meet him and see the shop - to
    see what type of work they are doing - and to see if he is interested
    in doing your job. You also want to check ahead to see what his
    schedule looks like. Do NOT take your Z to the shop at time... Later
    you will make arrangements for them to look at your car. At this
    point you are not talking price, not asking for estimates etc - you
    are there to see the quality of work being done - and to look at

    Second - strip your 240-Z to a bare shell that's rolling on it's
    suspension/wheels...Do NOT drive the car in - don't show it to them
    in any other condition. When it shows up disassembled to a bare
    shell - they will know you are serious, they will know you are ready
    to have the work done - at that point you are not just another "tire
    kicker"... you become a potential customer - and one that just might
    have a clue as to what he is doing and what he expects them to do.

    Third - When the car is disassembled to a bare rolling shell - Set
    appointments with the shops - tell them you are having a wrecker
    bring the car down for them to look at - but that the wrecker driver
    won't wait long so they have to be there... Shop 1 at 9:00AM - shop
    2 at 11:00AM and shop 3 at 1:00PM.... It might cost you a couple of
    hundred dollars to truck the shell around - it's well worth it. That
    shows the shop owner that you are READY, and that you are SHOPPING,
    and that you HAVE the money to spend, and that you are willing to
    spend it with whoever treats you right.

    Be at the shops ahead of the car showing up, round up the shop owner
    - tell the shop owner that you will "pay him" to strip the car to
    bare metal - and put a good base coat of etching epoxy primer on it.
    You want a price for that work at this point. Then after it's primed
    - you want the shop owner to give you a price to fix whatever is
    needed, prep and paint the car.

    This way the shop owner has no risk - your paying to have the car
    stripped and primed. (it has to be done anyway and you'll pay for it
    anyway). He gets to base his estimate for the needed repairs and
    paint job on what is really there - no hidden surprises. Once it's
    stripped to bare metal - both of you will know FOR SURE if it's worth
    fixing or not... If the repairs and paint job cost too much - your
    ready to truck it around again for that phase of the work.... or your
    ready to truck it home until you save some more money..

    You tell the shop owner he can have the car any week within the next
    two months and that you will have it to his shop within 24 hours of
    him letting you know he is READY TO WORK ON IT - but that in "ten
    days" you expect it to be stripped and put in primer - tell him you
    will stop by ever day or so to see the progress, shoot photos for
    your album etc... If you stop by and don't see any progress for two
    or three days - on the third day ask to use his phone to call the
    wrecker to come pick it up.

    Make it clear to every shop owner you talk to that schedule is
    important to you - - your willing to have the car delivered when they
    are ready to work on it - but you are not willing to park it there to
    sit for a week, two weeks etc - before they start.. nor to leave it
    there for months waiting for them to get it done...

    There is nothing cheap about this process any longer. To strip a Z
    shell to bare metal and shot it with an etching epoxy primer should
    not take more than 24 hours of labor. Shops around here charge $25.00
    to $45.00 per hour for labor... Stripped and primed - ready to start
    the body work - it shouldn't cost you more than $900. to $1200. (far
    less in many shops).

    If you have a good rust free body to start with - and you should
    start with nothing else unless the collect-ability of the car
    warrants it - Minor body work, surface prep hours and the actual
    paint job shouldn't cost much more than an additional $2000.00 to
    $3000.00. (depend on how straight you want every panel and how much
    work is needed).

    Shops that are shooting you $6,000.00 dollar quotes for a simple
    repaint - are building in the cost of hidden damage - if you go for
    the $6000.00 estimate - that is what they will charge you even if
    they don't run into any problems... You are far better off going one
    step at a time and paying for each step as you go... Most shop
    owners that I know are willing to do the body work and paint on older
    Z's on the basis described above. They do not want to spend the time
    to disassemble the car, take the interior out, pull the engine etc -
    that's not what they do - they do body work and paint work....

    When getting the estimate for the body /paint work - you have to make
    the shop owner understand clearly what you expect - what type of work
    your looking for.. and you have to put it in detail and in writing
    for him to read before you start. They will never do this for you -
    but they will sign it if written clearly and in accordance with what
    they have "TOLD" you, and what the two of you have TALKED about...
    When it's in writing in front of them - they will correct any BS that
    passed as conversation;-)...

    1. You want any needed repairs "metal patched" - NO Body Fillers
    Used To Fill Voids/holes etc. Rust repairs are to be made by cutting
    bad metal out and welding in good metal.

    2. No body fillers of any kind are to be applied to bare metal - all
    body work requiring any type of body filler is to be done over metal
    that has been first sealed with an etching epoxy primer. No
    Exceptions no matter how small... (many of them will say that it
    isn't really necessary - tell them they are right - but it's your car
    and you want it that way - and your paying for it;-)....

    If you want the car really nice - for a really long time. Tell them
    you will pick the car up when the body work is done and the car is in
    full prime. You will store it safely in our garage for four months -
    then return it for final paint work. That will give any body fillers
    time to shrink if they are going to - and it will provide time for
    any hairline cracks, sanding marks, rust spots etc. to show up ahead
    of putting the final paint on the car. Many of the guys I know that
    put $12,000.000 + in custom paint jobs on their street rods wait four
    to six months after the body work has been done - to start the final
    painting process.

  2. #2
    Must be the torque curve kmack's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
    San Antonio, Tx

    Exclamation Body shop truths...

    The all-knowing, all-wonderful Carl speaks again! Thanks, Carl.

    What he says here is true. Walk into a true-restoration shop and start asking "general" questions, and you'll be lucky to get the time of day.

    When I was looking for someone the straighten the front end of my Z (frame machine work), I asked members of my Z-club and hit all the local hot spots for hot-rodders on Friday nights. Just ask people and they're more than happy to divulge info about where they got they're work done. After 4 weeks of asking questions, I settled on checking into 3 shops.

    2 of the shops looked like no more than someone's garage, but the 3rd (and my choice) was a clean, professionally run body shop with 5 restorations in progress. The shop owner even had a restoration album showing pictures of all his "works of art." I talked to him about what I had wrong with my car and what I wanted done. And told him that I would bring the car by for him to give me an estimate of hours needed to complete the repair.

    I brought the car in on a trailer (completely stripped) the next day, he gave me an estimate and told me when he could start. 2 weeks later I dropped off the car. There was only one time that he called and said he couldn't do any work to the car that day, but that he would get back on it the next day. It still only took 3 days for 10 hours of frame machine time. But as promised, the car was perfectly straight. In this case, I had no problems shelling out $350 for a now straight front end. The guy was even happy to answer my questions about paint products.

    FWIW: I after I had the frame work done, I asked him what he'd charge to paint the car, given that the car had already been stripped of all paint and had nothing but a light coat of primer to avoid rust. He quoted me $4000 for a base coat-clear coat system. Which included 4 coats of base and 3 coats of clear, each sanded and buffed. Total paint time would be 4-6 weeks. If I'd had the money, I'd have jumped on it! The Mustangs he had in the shop that were being painted looked like glass! Anyway...

    Bottom line: Nothing good comes cheap and don't expect it to. Be prepared and go in knowing exactly what you want and what you expect. If you don't know, then research it and find out. In the long run, you'll both be much happier and you'll both come out ahead.
    "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
    Then find someone who's life gave them Vodka and have a party!"

    '71 240Z (Series I) - SOLD
    San Antonio, Tx

  3. #3
    Admin Mike's Avatar
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    I would add one comment to what Kenneth had to say. Don't necessarily write off the little guy who doesn't have a big fancy shop with all the latest fancy tools. All of that costs money and I've found that the key to any body, fender and paint guy is his feelings for the work he does (honesty) and how he feels about cars. Look at the cars he has done and talk to his customers. It doesn't take long to figure out who is who in the classic/street rod business. Most of the smaller shops aren't going to have frame machines and such but they can do excellent body repair and paint. Normally they won't have the higher overhead and their hourly rates will show it. I have used both and both have worked for me.


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    Very good info here. I do want to correct one thing here that was mention; so you are fully knowledgable when you decide to have the work done. Etching primer and Epoxy primer are two different indenties. Etching primer contains an acid that actually eats into the metal for adhesion; sounds good. However, etching primer is not waterproof. It is porous and will allow moisture to gain entry if left long, especially in weather. Epoxy primer however, is competely waterproof. It should be the choice for any storing or waiting when it comes to leaving it in primer. It has such good adhesion properties, that etch is not needed. You are familiar with epoxy glues? Well, epoxy priemer is superior to others when it comes to adhesion. Now, what I like to do is use a phosphoric acid to etch the metal first. This way you get to eat away all signs of rust, even microscopic rust that you cannot see, but begins immediately on bare metal. After the etch application, epoxy primer should be applied. You will have a great base for either paint or fillers. Make sure your car is done this way and you will have no problems.
    Pete's Ponies
    Mustang RUSToration & Performance

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