With every build we do at Graveyard Run Restorations, we always get asked the million-dollar question, “Can you give me an estimate of what it will cost me to restore my car?”. If you are wanting a restoration to look as pristine as the day it rolled off the assembly line, then that estimate you are looking for is not going to happen.
It’s hard to give an estimate because you never know what you’re getting into with some of these cars. Especially the ones prior to the 1950’s. Even with a car that has been barn kept for its entire life, it can have rust, mold, dry rotted wires, or have had a small animal living in it. The outside body of a car can look great, but once you start tearing the car down you start getting into those areas that the eye never meets, and there lies the problem. You can have rust in your quarters, under the dash, under the windshield frame, and etc. that will cause more trouble for you in the long run if not fixed properly.
Also, in some cases, your headliner and seats may look good but there could be mold hiding beneath it. If that mold is not properly taken care of, you can have a nice car with a bad smell and the mold could even be spread. With small animals everywhere, you know a car sitting is a perfect place for them to nest. With them nesting, the small animals end up chewing on the wires which can only be fixed by a new wiring harness that was never in the discussion.
Another reason an estimate becomes hard to make for a restoration shop is the parts. At Graveyard Run Restorations, we have gotten some rare cars and with rare cars, come rare parts with heavy prices. The most recent restorations that we have done are a 1937 Chrysler Imperial and a 1954 Buick Roadmaster. The biggest issue we had with the Buick was the A/C parts and the R-12 that it uses for the A/C system. The Buick A/C parts are not manufactured anymore, which leaves us either making or restoring those parts or going on an extensive Internet hunt with lots of calls from one person to another. With parts or components not being manufactured, that drives up the price to the cost of the build. The Chrysler ran into its fair share of rare parts as well. From things such as dash panel controls, hubcaps, antenna, foot pedestal for the rumble seat, and many more things that made it the vehicle of its era. Another example that we ran into with parts is, pre-made parts for cars in the 1960’s and 1970’s. We have run into issues where we order a part that claims to be the exact fit of that car but then it isn’t. If parts don’t fit correctly that means we have to make modifications to make it look as it should.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.” With this being said, the people of the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s that have the knowledge of these old cars are dying out and not passing this information on. Reasons for this information to not be passed along is it’s no longer needed because of technology. Also, in the earlier days, a lot of information you needed was written in a book. With information available today at just your hands, why would someone depend on a book. That now leaves all those books with the information you needed on a 1937 Chrysler or 1939 Packard just sitting around and eventually just being trashed and lost to the next generation who may be interested in restoring their great grandfather’s 1925 Chrysler.
Rachel Richardson and the GYR gang