You’re mechanically inclined. You might even be a mechanic yourself (either present or ex). However, chances are good that you dont have the space at your home to conduct a full restoration of your dream car. You probably lack essential equipment as well – a vehicle lift is a big expense, and not something that most home garages have. So, you may find that you need to partner with a restoration shop for at least part of the project. Your choice here is very important, and it can be harder than you think.
Know What You Want
Long before you start considering the various restoration shops available to you, it’s important to know what you want. What level of restoration is needed? Will it be a weekend driver? Will you take it to car shows? Do you need Concours-level restoration? This will have a significant impact on your decision, as not all shops are capable of high-level restoration, while many more are very capable of turning a deteriorating car into a decent daily driver, or even a street show car.
Those You Know
If you’re currently a mechanic, then there’s the possibility that the shop owner may let you work on your restoration project at your place of employment. However, don’t expect this, as it can come with a lot of potential problems, including the question of what happens if you have an accident while working on a personal car during your off hours.
If you’re an ex-mechanic, then you probably have resources available – chances are good that you know someone whom does restoration work, or that you know someone who knows someone. Use those connections to your advantage.
Talk to People at Car Shows
Car shows are wonderful events, giving you an up close, personal look at some of those lovingly restored classic cars. If you attend a car show, you’ll have the opportunity to speak with owners who worked with restoration shops to transform their own vehicles from decaying skeletons to beautiful pieces of machinery. Consider speaking with owners of the same type of vehicle you’re restoring (or the same segment, at least). This will give you the chance to learn about shops that specialize in general restoration, as well as brand-specific specialists (MBG, Land Rover, Mini, Triumph, etc.).
Saying that, a brand-specific shop may or may not be the right option. Sure, they may know more about your particular make and model, but that does you little good if their work is rushed. Once you’ve found a few options, you’ll need to do several other things. The first of those is to speak with the mechanic who will be doing your restoration work. How long has he been in the business? What results has he achieved for previous customers? Speaking of those previous customers, you should contact them and find out what they thought of the experience – would they repeat it? While you might want to complete the entire restoration on your own, you’ll most likely need help along the way. A trusted restoration shop can be an invaluable benefit.