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Hot Rods Just Curious... Will A Top Notch Show Car Make Money?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Fordor Ron, Feb 19, 2019.

  1. So... I’ve been reading on here and some other boards on the web about show cars and the show car circuits. Everything from the early 60’s all the way up to today. And it got me thinking... Why do these guys do it?

    Sure, there’s the bragging rights to be known as the guy that built the such and such car, which means a lot to all of us but financially how does it work out in the long term?

    Seems to me like in most, if not all, cases it’s a loosing deal money wise. Assuming you built a really unique show stopper which is what I’m talking about.

    By the time you build the car - equipment, parts, fabrication, body & paint, chrome, etc, etc, you’re going to have a ton in it. I’d say north of $100k is not unusual. How in the world would you recoup that kind of money?

    Steve Scott’s “Uncertain T” come to mind. Plowboy’s “Atomic Punk” is another.

    I know Moriarity built “The Futurian” bubble top and another car. He also restored a couple Roth cars as well from what I understand. He’s gotta be crazy... Ha!

    How do these guys come out? What am I missing?

    Thanks in advance.


    8CD1084E-BC4B-4095-81EC-B9E2F4A414E0.jpeg C4423175-90A0-44B5-8B4B-DDCAA0039047.jpeg A64BC3C0-98A3-4CF0-90E6-BB466277EEA2.jpeg
    loudbang and VANDENPLAS like this.
  2. Whatever floats your boat, I won't try to speak for Mark, he is just obsessed with cool custom cars, but the people that eat,sleep & breath show cars are trying to create cars that the average guy can't afford or build.

    I'm glad some people can do it, it gives guys like me ideas and we all know some of these cars turn into icons and on down the road make huge profit's for their owners, some disappear into obscurity never to be seen again.

    We as Hambers build real world drivers. many could very well be considered show worthy and some have competed on a grand scale but in the end they are built to enjoy not to become static art. JMHO. HRP
    OahuEli, trollst, clem and 10 others like this.
    Joined: Jun 15, 2006
    Posts: 3,415


    I think its NO and Hell NO ! Is the answer..... I can believe the Uncertain T hasnt been redone , actually dollar for dollar i think it could be done today cheaper that back then dollar for dollar.....?????
    Clay Belt, loudbang, Hombre and 3 others like this.
  4. KevKo
    Joined: Jun 25, 2009
    Posts: 794

    from Motown

    I think if you have to ask, it just isn't for you.
    Seriously, I think it's an ego thing. I'm glad there are guys that can afford it. I wish I had that kind of extra $.
    And BTW I really dig the Uncertain T. I loved the whole "show rod" era. Partly my age I guess.

  5. Dido what Hotroderprimer said

    Just my 3.5 cents

    Live Learn & Die a Fool
    Fordor Ron and jimgoetz like this.
  6. typo41
    Joined: Jul 8, 2011
    Posts: 2,572

    Member Emeritus

    I know of a builder, that many know of here, he built a coupe, it made the magazines (covers and inside) and at that moment he was offered in the excess of $50,000.00. This was a garage/home shop build, he had a bunch of 'help' from builders and suppliers for the ink it created, he passed on the deal. Three years later he put the coupe up for sale and now that the magazine 'buzz' had passed he had trouble getting half of the 50.
    The moral of the story is: If you want to make money on a show build. get a media manager that handles the social media, post on every site, get a following, find a magazine deal, sorry print is still needed, get bunch of buzz, talk to the auction houses for the best time slot,,,, then pray..... you might make your money back,,,, might
    weps, Dave Mc, Clay Belt and 4 others like this.
  7. denis4x4
    Joined: Apr 23, 2005
    Posts: 3,951

    from Colorado

    Before the internet, show cars were featured in magazines. In the 1960's HOT ROD had circulation numbers approached a million issues a month. If you're a car show promoter, paying to display a top notch show car with magazine exposure an appearance fee and expenses was money in the bank. The real jackpot came with a contract to reproduce that car as a model. Of course, once the model was out, then the demand by promoters added life to a custom car's value. Too, the costs to build show cars back in the day was no where near the cost it is today.
    egads, loudbang, Hombre and 2 others like this.
  8. ramblin dan
    Joined: Apr 16, 2018
    Posts: 3,020

    ramblin dan

    Many of the guys I know who have put 100k in a car don't recoup the money. I'm sure almost everyone on this site in every city they live in know of guys that have spent a lot of money on a car and its parked. I know of at least half a dozen guys or more in my area that have a car stashed in a garage or car trailer that is sitting and has for 20 plus years after the build in it's so-called hey day. I also know guys that after spending a pile of money are afraid to drive it on the road and it sits. It's a matter of choice and not my business but I often wonder if there isn't some regret later for money spent.
    samurai mike, weps, loudbang and 2 others like this.
  9. I also know of a guy tat built a 1929 Ford sedan delivery, not an over the top show car, just a very nice build. As soon as he finished the build, people wanted to buy it. He was offered good money, but he wanted to enjoy the car. A year or so later, he decided to sell the sedan delivery. He couldn't get half of what he was offered. He ended up parting the car out. The moral here is, strike while the iron is hot.
  10. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 24,126

    Staff Member

    8B061DFE-3042-4235-9F2F-2E5E4DCBB5CC.jpeg 0C22F8E4-E5E0-4EE7-8B83-E514AFF1B92C.jpeg 5260AD38-B116-4642-881D-EAE775298581.jpeg C473D6A0-B37E-4FEB-81DC-B2B102F4A0CF.jpeg 8B061DFE-3042-4235-9F2F-2E5E4DCBB5CC.jpeg When I built the futurian I did as much of it myself as I possibly could. I horse traded for parts. Did all of the pre plating polishing to save money on chrome etc.... you wouldn’t believe how little I have in that car. I can’t count the time invested because it is a hobby for me. Probably made the investment less because I didn’t have to buy a car to start with and it was almost 20 years ago now. When I was buying stromberg 97’s at the swap meets they were 20 bucks each
  11. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 16,125


    They're not doing it for the money. They're doing it for the love of the build. Think of almost every other hobby out there. It's money spent doing what you love. You can't resell your ski trips or your beach vacations, but that's not the point.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2019
  12. LAROKE
    Joined: Sep 5, 2007
    Posts: 2,040


    Question: How do you make a small fortune building cars?

    Answer: You start with a large fortune.
  13. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 20,675

    Staff Member

    Very few people make money actually building old cars... Hell, most of the hot rod shops you know don't make much if any money. Seriously.

    There's really only two ways to do it sustainably:

    1. Build to a formula... Think Brizio here... He's been building to the same formula for so long and has so much experience with it, that he can very accurately determine the cost of a project before starting it. Other shops think they can do this, but Brizio is the only guy that I know that can do it with such pin-point accuracy. And this is huge because scope creep is where a lot of shops loose their asses.

    This is why you see so many hot rod shops come and go.

    2. Retail. Think So Cal here. It's hard to make any real money through labor. It just costs so damn much to build a car to a high level that the market base is tiny. Not many folks can spend 6-figures on a simple hot rod... But lots of folks can afford a t-shirt or a license plate frame or... whatever...

    And that was Pete's genius. He bought a brand with history knowing he could market that. The builds were just marketing for his retail stuff...
    Just Gary, HEMI32, cartoon14 and 26 others like this.
  14. fuzzface
    Joined: Dec 7, 2006
    Posts: 1,470


    I agree with Squadblow that some do it for the love of the build not for the money.

    Others do it to advertise what their shop can do and hopefully make up for it there.

    Others do it just to get away from their wife. That is why guys have hobbies right? :)
  15. oliver westlund
    Joined: Dec 19, 2018
    Posts: 1,525

    oliver westlund

    you know how gas monkey makes money building cars? they dont, old fancy hair gets paid hundreds of thousands per episode. the secret of building cars for a huge profit is have a goofy tv show! that or open one of those shops doing the 100k builds... theres one here that routinely does 80-150k builds and they do everything in house
    trollst, clunker, zzford and 4 others like this.
  16. oldiron 440
    Joined: Dec 12, 2018
    Posts: 2,950

    oldiron 440

    It has to be like racing for a living, some can but for most it's a dream....
    loudbang and Fordor Ron like this.
  17. Fordors
    Joined: Sep 22, 2016
    Posts: 4,400


    There is a show on the MotorTrend channel that features a shop in California. I’m not a regular viewer of M/T but one episode stands out. The owner of ARP Fasteners was having a ‘57 Ford 2 door wagon built and one of the shop fabricators mentioned that he had 120 hours in reshaping the rear bumper. If the shop only bills $50/hour (doubtful) that’s a $6000 bumper before chrome. And that is just a bumper.
    I fail to see the logic in that type of thing, regardless if I had the money or not.
  18. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 6,502

    from Oregon

    Show cars are another part of our hobby. Sellers have to time it right and each person has her/his own value against the pedigree of a particular "famous " hot rod. I love the technical part of it and buying/searching for parts. I guess you build it for the enjoyment as I suspect most builders do . If you are building for money or ego than you should have the passion as a foundation or your not going to enjoy the build or creativity that pushes you forward.
    loudbang and Fordor Ron like this.
  19. H380
    Joined: Sep 20, 2015
    Posts: 473

    from Louisiana

    Well if that $$$ is wrote off on taxes as an advertising expense. Verses what it would cost to place a sticker on some race cars. That would explain it.
  20. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,221


    money has no real value until it is exchanged for something that actually has value to the purchaser.
    << My current avatar photo was taken in Europe in 1934...he looks pretty darn content. I assume he was not caring about the resale ''value" of his new fancy American convertible..or his nice clothes.
  21. kbgreen
    Joined: Jan 12, 2014
    Posts: 341


    A southern apologist (Lewis Grizzard) once wrote that he wasn't going to bother getting married again (4th or 5th time), he was just going to find a women he absolutely hated and buy her a house. The point is we all lose money, waste money or have money consuming hobbies to accompany our existence. My perspective has just changed on this in the last month or two with one parent passing and the other at death's door. They had "things" that meant something to them when they were alive and healthy and once they got near the end of their life they could give a rats ass for any of it. My lesson: Enjoy the hell out of life and leave only footprints and well loved kids.
    belair, trollst, Dusty roads and 20 others like this.
  22. I have to remember that one!
  23. jimgoetz
    Joined: Sep 6, 2013
    Posts: 490


    Me too but my opinion is only worth 2 cents.
    Fordor Ron and VANDENPLAS like this.
  24. s55mercury66
    Joined: Jul 6, 2009
    Posts: 3,980

    from SW Wyoming

    1960's vs today. Lower labor costs, lower chrome costs, lower paint and material costs, and IMO, lower construction standards, made a '60's show car a much more profitable endeavor than today.
  25. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 29,078


    LUCK. That is the number one ingredient you need, find a long lost or way under valued car, rebuild or restore it to 100% + correct, then have two guys in love with it at the same auction with real deep pockets.

    Shamus, loudbang and Fordor Ron like this.
  26. The37Kid
    Joined: Apr 30, 2004
    Posts: 29,078


    That was a great car some were around 1975, I bet the offer was way short of $50,000, and couldn't be shop built today under $100,000.
    Fordor Ron likes this.
  27. oliver westlund
    Joined: Dec 19, 2018
    Posts: 1,525

    oliver westlund

    how could someone have 120 hours into repairing a bumper? i mean cmon ive seen build threads on here where it seems the guy couldve built a bumper from scratch in less time...120 hours is what? 5 or 6 days straight nonstop, something like 15 full work days
  28. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 29,184

    Jalopy Joker

    that's why I don't any - life is a gamble - highs & lows - try to enjoy doing what you are doing, hopefully with few regrets - in racing "how fast do you want to go? how much money do you have to spend?" - as in racing, show car world is mostly about competition - don't try to figure it out, just go for it - very low buck or very high buck
    RidgeRunner, loudbang and Fordor Ron like this.
  29. ramblin dan
    Joined: Apr 16, 2018
    Posts: 3,020

    ramblin dan

    I find I dislike many of these shows that build cars. I find it gives people the idea that the car comes together in an hour. I'm a firm believer in the saying it's only worth what someone's gonna give you for it. When I look through the classic cars for sale online in my area it doesn't take very long before you see a car that someone put a lot of money towards and is trying to get every dollar they spent out of it.
  30. Hahaha 100K....that’s nothing...I know what some
    of the Riddler contenders have spent having cars built to win 10K and a trophy....that 100K is a good start...but lots more cash will change hands before that car is completed.

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