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Bench Build - The Cost Of Paint

April 2014

A couple of months ago, we walked through the process of getting our '71 Dodge Demon project car from Craigslist garbage to the paint stage. The final photo was the car in primer at Elite Restorations in Paramount, California. We dropped the car off in August 2013, and as of this writing in December 2013, it has been there for five months. The fact that it is ready to paint already is amazing. Here's why.

A restoration shop is different from what Danny Frechette at Elite calls a production shop. In a production shop, there will be many guys taking turns on several different cars usually performing the types of insurance work that just gets the car to look like a car again, not necessarily holding up to car show scrutiny. In a restoration shop, there are one or two specialists that stick with the car until the particular problem is solved. And when you are talking about an old car, there are going to be problems everywhere.

Let's look at the Mustang above. A base estimate for disassembly, stripping, priming, blocking, and painting is anywhere from $8,500–$10,000. That is for a car with no dents, rust, or hidden damage. It also doesn't include underhood paint because it is another job altogether to get the oil out of the engine compartment. Oil and paint do not mix.

When problems are discovered, the process adds billable hours for each repair. A hand-sized dent is five hours. Two hands next to each other are 10 hours. You can see how it works. If a quarter panel has rust down low, two or three dents filled with Bondo, and a crease or a rip in the metal, you're looking at about 24 hours at $45–$50 per hour to get the panel straight and ready to paint. Those are billing hours, so they don't count tools and cleaning, prep, moving the car, lunch, and all the other things that aren't billable, making the actual time spent on a 24-hour job take about four to five days. Fenders take 16 hours, the roof can take 20 to 25 hours, cowls full of rust and pine needles need 25 hours, the front and rear valences can be replaced with aftermarket parts that need six to seven hours each to get them to look right. It's easy to get 100 billable hours into repairs, just because your car is old.

And there's more. To actually get some color down, there is four hours of tape work, plus a coat of primer, and if the color is a metallic the car will need to be disassembled for jamb paint, and reassembled for the rest of the car to be painted as a whole so the colors match. Add to that 40 hours of block sanding, four hours of booth time per coat—including time for the paint to kick off—color sanding, buffing, and polishing, and you begin to see why five months from start to finish is an epic achievement.

So give your painter some slack; if you drive up in a mess, expect to spend some time and cash during the restoration process, make the commitment, and don't try to cut corners at the end. A good shop like Elite will be up front with you every step of the way, and if you listen you will get every penny out of the job in car-show cred and resale value. Then you can drive something you are proud of.

—Douglas R. Glad


CarCraft@CarCraft.com
Facebook.com/douglas.r.glad
Facebook.com/carcraftmag
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