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Question for Professional Builders: How Much Money do You Put into Your Cars?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by BOHICA, Mar 20, 2013.

  1. Invest in your future,,buy the equipment you need and learn how to use them if you ever hope to make a profit flipping cars. HRP
    Joined: May 1, 2006
    Posts: 345


    Right, but that's exactly what I'm trying to do.

    Ok, here's where I'm coming from:

    I attended Wyotech in 2006. Learned a lot, but you guys know as well as I do that I'm still on the opposite end of the spectrum from an expert. Worked at CarMax as a mechanic for the first half of '07, but left for various reasons. From then through 2011, I was in college, and up until now, I've been creating an inventory system for the yard I work at and handling internet sales.

    So, I learned a lot and did well at Wyotech, but it's been almost 6 1/2 years since I graduated and nearly 6 since I turned a wrench professionally. I've got a pretty well-equipped tool box, but still need to get bigger things like a Quincy air compressor and Miller welder. By the time I quit my job after Thanksgiving this year, I should have about $14k saved up - half I had earmarked for the truck and half for tools. Then, after selling the truck, I had planned on turning around and putting the money back into more tools.

    Here's my conundrum, and why I bought the truck over just buying tools: what good does it do at my experience level to have a shop full of tools, but no money for projects? With my experience level, I can't see people wanting to give me a shot at something without at least having some idea of the work I can do. Which, I'm also rusty, but I think I have enough of my own projects I can work on to get back in the rhythm. And, maybe that's the way I should go instead of building the F-100, but the way I saw it, at least at the time, was put some money into the truck, get some experience, try to at least break even on it, and have both experience and money, versus having money tied up in my own projects that I need to put towards tools. Does that make any sense?
    Joined: May 1, 2006
    Posts: 345


    That’s fine. You’re not going to hurt my feelings by telling me like it is.

    Seeing your ’54, I’m at a loss for words. In this area, that would be at least a $5000 truck as it sits, probably more. Even way before Barrett-Jackson, people here were the worst for over-valuing their old cars, so there’s no way I could afford one that nice to start on. And, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s better to pay more and start with a better vehicle.

    What would you guys suggest that I do with the truck? If I’m able to get a half decent paint job, would that make it worthwhile? If not, here’s how I see my options:

    1) Sell the truck as-is.

    Not going to happen. I bought it from my boss under the premise of building a hot rod out of it to sell. If I sell it in its current state, ipso facto I'm a liar. It’s a small town and he’d find out, but even if he didn’t it would weigh too much on my conscience for not doing what I said I would.

    2) Sell it back to him.

    Take a small hit on it, but I can live with that better than option 1.

    3) Try and get it running, then sell it.

    The most preferable to me, but you guys saw how screwed up the wiring is. I don’t even know whether or not it’s a good engine. Six cylinder, BTW.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2013
  4. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,404

    Rusty O'Toole

    Tell your boss of the change of plans. Ask if he would give you your money back or if that is not possible, if it is OK with him for you to sell it as is.

    If he sold it to you cheap he should be willing to give you all of your money back. If he would rather keep the money he can hardly kick if you sell it to someone else.

    Best way to sell this or any vehicle is to get it looking as well as possible but don't put more into it than you can get out. A few hours cleaning, bolting on parts, tidying up and if possible get it running (even hot wired) is justified, if you don't have anything better to do. Spending money is not. The rule is you should get $2 back for every dollar you spend, plus your hourly rate for shop time. If you figure it out, doing anything more than the bar minimum is seldom justified.
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,117


    What a tough thread. The most expensive measure in a build of any kind is labor to the end user. If you can do it and use the time you spend sitting on your fat ass watching TV (that's how I describe MY time), then it's free. The 2nd most expensive measure is plating. You can be smart and learn to prep yourself, or it's going to cost you up the ying yang. 3rd element is professional upholstery. Anyone can slap up or even do a quick stitch seat cover, and it looks like that when you're done. You can buy J.C. Whitney seat covers, and it looks like that too.

    Now many can believe that many won't know the difference in good vs great, and that's true based on who you want to attract as a buyer or a customer. You want bargain hunters? Do bargain work. You want perfectionists who know what they want but also know they can't do it? You better the best fuckin craftsman they can find within a reasonable distance. And last but not least, you ain't shit until you've got lots of years and a list of winners under your belt. Nobody that has a great client base and enviable reputation got it in a year or more. It took a lifetime. It takes a lifetime to able to spend $30K+ just on stuff to build a megabucks car on spec. The labor is still yours, just like the talent. Or lack of...

    And no, I didn't read all of it. I read enough though.
  6. chrisp
    Joined: Jan 27, 2007
    Posts: 848


    If you plan on reselling it after rebuilding it, it has to be shinny. I see cars I wouldn't want for free selling for big bucks because the paint, interior and chrome are shinny, unfortunately most of the time they require a ton of work on the mechanic, have rusted out floors/rockers and cracked chassis... On the other hand real solid cars with little mechanic work but that needs a paint job and light interior repair going for real cheap, all this because 99% of the potential buyers have no clue of what to look for when buying a car, they're just like night bugs attracted to a light.
    Your truck needs a ton of work to bring good money, most likely it will cost more than what it can bring especially if it's going to carry your name for future customer, I don't think it's feasible unless you value your work at $1/h.
    I got a 58 car for free with a sound body, good interior, paint and tires but with all the mechanics fucked up (engine, trans, rear end and brakes) to restore everything with some almost impossible parts to find it's gona have cost me almost the price of a good restored one, if I have to sell it I could probably make 200 bucks over what I spent without counting my time and the car was free...
  7. PKap
    Joined: Jan 5, 2011
    Posts: 593

    from Alberta

    With what you need to do in that truck, I would figure on doing the bodywork. Mechanical is easy(relatively) on old trucks. I would limit the mechanical work to the v8 and ifs with wiring etc but invest the money you were going to spend for the rear into the body. The materials in bodywork is not that high, but labour is. If you don' know how, learn on that truck (there is lots of info here to help). If you put your time into fixing that body into one that everything fits perfect, is metal finished,(with pictures to prove it) and runs and drives awesome, you will get noticed and learn the most. You are short on cash, that means spending more time.

    Every "top quality" car builder has earned his reputation on fit and finish. That takes patience, determination, and an unwillingness to accept less than perfection, especially on your calling card. Prove it on this truck, and you will be on your way. If you leave it looking the way it does, what did you really build? You just made it run? That's not all that hard, and your quality workmanship is largely hidden. Spend the time to polish a turd, and it will be noticed, don't bother and that will be noticed too. Good luck.

    Posted from the TJJ App for iPhone & iPad
  8. falconsprint63
    Joined: May 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,359

    from Mayberry

    after reading your last comments I'd say

    1) buy the tools--you'll never regret having a well equiped shop with the tools you need to do the job.

    2) don't quit your current job. it's just not smart to leave a job that's paying the bills with money to spare to start a shop when you've got little or no expereince. Especially when you're starting out this business if feast or famine. keep the day job and work on the truck or your personal projects nights and weekends and spend the extra money as you save up enough to invest in the flip project. this is also a good time to start trying to earn some side money and getting your name out there doing smaller jobs--there's always a market for people who can/will do panel work. it will require some effort networking in the local car circles, and you might even need to do the work for an absurdly CHEAP hourly rate for a little while until you establish a reputation for good work. then start bringing your prices on up.

    FWIW, I don't run a shop full-time anymore. I do primarily panel work and paint (if I have too) on the side for a straight $35/hour plus parts and materials and I stay as busy as I want to. could I/should I charge more--probably, but for now this number works for me.
  9. jcapps
    Joined: Dec 30, 2008
    Posts: 473

    from SoCal

    I never build a car to sell or flip. I build "keepers" that is till I get bored or need space. I never cheap out or cut corners so when I do sell I do not know if I made or lost money. If I added up the total cost I would probably stop doing it. I do it because I enjoy it. Just like I enjoy working on customers cars
  10. metalman
    Joined: Dec 30, 2006
    Posts: 3,279


    I see this thread popped back up. Lot of good advice but I reading all this I think falconsprint has the best advice.
    Yeah, maybe you should build the truck after all but build it the best you can, body and all. You would for sure gain a ton of valuable experiance. Don't worry about making money on it, just write it off as "tuition".
    The reason I say this and really liked what falcon said is a degree from Wyotech and 6 month wrenching on used cars is no where near enough experiance to even think about opening a shop, sorry but that's MHO. An apprentainship in another shop is ideal but if not doable then buy tools, keep your day job, work night and weekends building stuff for yourself. Maybe as said you can start doing simple side jobs as your experiance grows. Keep doing the best you can, do each one better then the last because your learning and someday you'll be ready. I did this, I worked 9 years of night and weekends slowly building experaince and a reputation before I felt I could quit my day job and open my own shop and that was just custom paint and body. I spent another few years working nights for free learning chassis fabrication at a local racers shop.
    FWIW from my experiance working with Wyotech graduates they teach some good basic skills but they don't turn out "pros" and teach nothing about making money in this buisness. You got to learn this on your own.

    Jumping in before your ready is a sure recipe for failure.
  11. I learned something a long time ago. When I am doing a project the only reason I look to see what something cost, is so I know how much I have to save. Most people that build cars to sell, loss. Thats why so many have learned to buy one done and let the owner take the loss. I had a friend who built and sold . Now he scours the country for finished cars for good deals and resells
  12. BOHICA
    Joined: May 1, 2006
    Posts: 345


    I wholeheartedly agree. However, I was leaving this job before I bought the truck. I'm actually staying on a few months longer now because of it so I have some extra money. It's been a good job for getting money saved up, but there's no way I'm staying here another winter breathing in second hand smoke (which is actually illegal in Tennessee), paint fumes, thick metal dust, etc. in an unventilated area. It's usually tolerable in the summer with the garage doors open, but this past winter SUCKED. The idea was to quit, build the truck in between jobs, take lots of pictures for resume purposes, and move the heck away from here. I don't know yet if I'll [be able to] find a job at a hot rod shop in another state or part of Tennessee or if I'll take an unrelated job and build things on the side initially.

    I'd sell my firstborn to get a job working for Stacey David, but I don't see that happening unless I'm really, really blessed. I haven't checked with Bobby Alloway's shop in a couple of years, but I doubt they're hiring, either. Aside from those two places, I don't know of anyone reputable in East or Middle Tennessee who have hiring at all in the last few years. That's why I'm not holding my breath about an apprenticeship and am planning for the worst case scenario of starting out on my own.
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,117


    In your 1st paragraph, welcome to the world of kustoms and hot rods and restoration. Illegal? Fumes? Dust? Be dental hygienist if that shit bothers you. Get an office job. Run for public office. Folks don't view us as "hoodlums" for nuthin. We earned it over decades of diggin in and putting up with the shit you find so repugnant. Sure you can make adjustments, wear protective gear, all the right "OSHA" type stuff, but in the end there's a rule you can NEVER forget. SOMEBODY HAS TO DO THE WORK. That's true in the office as well. I guess an apprenticeship with Winfield or Hines is outta the question...
  14. This truck is rough. Maybe not for your area, but that's also why builders usually seek out projects in certain geographic areas. It needs a lot replaced or repaired.

    Let's go out on a limb here and say that all the mechanicals (brakes, engine, trans, frame, suspension, exhaust, fuel, brake and fuel lines, good linkages, good bushings, etc, etc) are all good.

    This is all based on new parts pricing, but if by just going on your comments of nice wheels and tires, new glass, restored interior (new bezels, steering wheel, horn, horn parts, switches, knobs, visors, etc), and any obvious patch panels plus things that need to be replaced your already at or over your budget.

    I haven't even included paint, a new seat, bumpers, cab corners, cowl patches, bedwood if needed...

    Wheels, Caps, Rings 800
    Tires 800
    Steering Wheel 200
    Horn Button 50
    Horn Kit 30
    Stering Column Seals 10
    Sterering Column Bracket Bumper 4
    Dash Knobs 50
    Dash Bezels 40
    Gas Pedal 17
    Clutch & Brake Pedal 14
    Firewall Insulator 190
    Rubber Floor Mat 120
    Sunvisors 50
    Sunvisor Bracket 40
    Interrior Screw Kit 25
    Kick Panels 30
    Rearview Mirror 40
    Interior Door Handles 30
    Window Cranks 40
    Escutcheon Plates 32
    Glass 350
    Windshield Seal 45
    Rear Window Seal 30
    Floor Sections 250
    Cab Mounts 180

    Hood Lock Panel 150
    Wiring Kit 300
    Taillights 150
    Headlight Trim Rings 50
    Running Boards 500

    TOTAL 4617
  15. Also if you're just going to restore an interior how does that show (or improve) your skills as a body man, fabricator, builder?
  16. Oh, and F600 fenders are different than F100.
  17. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,404

    Rusty O'Toole

    Short answer: less than you can sell it for. if you put more into it than you can get out, you aren't a professional.
  18. Veach
    Joined: Jun 1, 2012
    Posts: 1,081


    My two cents and it ain't worth half that.Do like most of us did find a shop start washing parts if you have to it don't matter get your foot in the door then start working your ass off.If someone ask you if you mind giving them a hand doing something don't give a damn what it is say you bet.Each person has to start somewhere if your half the Man I think you are in just a few years you can have your dream Don't never let anybody tell you that you can't as they say just do it and that Truck can Waite it ain't going no where.Old Fart
  19. Stormin' Norman1
    Joined: Jan 15, 2009
    Posts: 134

    Stormin' Norman1

    The Hamb rocks. Unbelievably honest and sincere advice from differing views but all essentially saying the same thing and for free.
    In the end you have to have a passion for the business and an eye for the scope of a project. The passion comes from within and the eye from experience.

    So like others have said don't quit your day job, use your evenings and weekends and put in the time and either you'll learn how to make a living or you'll move on to something else and cars can just be a hobby.
  20. SakowskiMotors
    Joined: Nov 18, 2006
    Posts: 1,240


    My sincere advice is that you need to learn to walk before you run.
    Buy a nice inexpensive clean car that runs.
    Do just a little and flip it.
    It sounds like you have a lot to do to learn to walk.
    Don't put a noose around your neck with that truck etc
    You will hang yourself.
    Have patience. If you take small easy steps, you will eventually arrive.
    If you want to do this for a living. Forget classic cars.
    Get a job in a real mechanic or body shop that is a good place.
    Once you become a leader of the crew, and know how to do it for money.
    Then apply those practices working on classic cars.
    Once you are master of that, take lots of business classes and study busines as a hobby, then open a shop.
    The above should take 10 to 20 years if you are smart and motivated.

    I don't know why people think there are shortcuts in life.
    You have to pay the piper one way or another.

    Best luck to everything.

    Make small steady goals you can achieve; and achieve them one at a time.
  21. Tinbasher
    Joined: Feb 13, 2007
    Posts: 274


    I've rebuilt over 130 cars. little projects to full rebuilds. The average works out to around $80,000 to $100,000. or more. Only 3 of the cars I've worked on where worth more and the cost of the build. I'm restoring a 1930 Model "A" Coupe for a customer right now and the cost is around $80,000. and We still have to finish putting the doors together and the upholstery. Finish and detail. I've got close to 900 hours in this car and will have over a 1000 when it's done.

    The Old Tinbasher

    Attached Files:

  22. the metalsurgeon
    Joined: Apr 19, 2009
    Posts: 1,238

    the metalsurgeon
    from Denver

    There is enough people in this business just winging it,most if not all fail.Think hard if this is the route you would like to join.
  23. Veach
    Joined: Jun 1, 2012
    Posts: 1,081


    Go look at SakowskiMotors and look at His Shop and Rides then ask yourself Does He know what He is talking about and if You say Yes then do like He says.If You say No then your not living in the Real World :)
  24. M56
    Joined: Apr 11, 2006
    Posts: 8

    from Minnesota

    Ya know, I can't follow this thread any longer. Either this guy who's looking for adivce is an idiot or he's pulling everyone's leg and leading everyone on for a big laugh at the end. I can't take it anymore. I'm going on to something that makes a little sense to me.
  25. Veach
    Joined: Jun 1, 2012
    Posts: 1,081


    M56 is right time to put this one to rest.RIP
  26. IRISH13
    Joined: Oct 19, 2010
    Posts: 71

    from SoCal

    Dont quit your day job just yet. Build your truck or car, starting from the ground up. I always do suspension, brakes, motor/trans, then body. That way its safe and comfortable to drive while you are doing body work when you have time. Quality fab work attracts alot of potential customers. Keep it a hobby for a while and get a few builds under your belt before jumping into trying a shop. Take lots of pictures of the work you do also. Just my 2 cents. Good luck.
  27. calvinh
    Joined: Aug 31, 2009
    Posts: 176


    There is no way my advice even compares to what has already been said but here it is. Late 90s and early 2000s I made a pretty decent name for myself building Fox body Mustangs. While a professional mechanic, this was my side gig and hobby. I started building and working on (yes, there is a difference between building a car and working on one) other's cars to fund a race car. It eventually got to a point where I had no time to work on my own and was quickly outgrowing my little 2 car home garage. During this time I had left mechanicing for a better paying job in a completely unrelated field. With the new job I was working evenings and had all day free. Since I had the new found time I rented a small 1000 sq ft shop in a business park. While still working on customer's cars I started building cars to flip. NEVER once did I make the profit off a flip that I did a customer pay. I had a guy come in one day to look at a car I had for sale and after a lengthy discussion he decided he wanted to start from scratch and have a car built. We found a body, built him a car, and I made a hell of a lot more off of it than I ever would have the car he originally looked at and the 2 cars were almost identical when finished with the exception of intake, wheels, and tires. Same color and all. But in his mind the car I built was HIS car. Where I am going with this is not only do you have to fund the build but you have to find a buyer that has the same vision as you when you're flipping a car. I ultimately closed the shop to pursue other ventures including flipping houses. Same thing, I quickly found that people were willing to pay a lot more if they even felt like they had a say in what went in to the house. But all the time of doing this, I always kept a full time job for the security. I have reached a point in business that I am self employed and self sufficient in a non automotive related field, in the middle of a customer build in my little 2 car garage, and have 3 more cars and 2 bikes in line. I have never bit off more than I could handle, never made a promise I knew I couldn't keep, and never said I could do something that I didn't know how to do. I have good friends who have been spinning wrenches longer than I have been alive and even after 20+ years of doing this, I shut up and listen when they are talking and handing out the free advice. Because I have learned more from that than the tens of thousands of dollars I have spent on my education.
  28. OneBad56
    Joined: Dec 22, 2008
    Posts: 535


    If you're looking at making this a business, then you have to establish "door rates" (just like new car dealerships or mechanical shops) for the types of work you can do.

    The basic formulae is 2.8 to 3.2 times your labour rates paid.
    This covers employee labour costs and benefits, training costs, equipment and all overhead such as heat, light, lease costs, etc. and includes a profit margin.

    Around this part of the country, one rod shop charges the following hourly rates:
    Disassembly: $70.00
    fabricating: $92.50 plus materials
    interior work: $92.50 plus materials
    bodywork: $85.00 plus material costs (sandpaper, disks, filler, etc.)
    painting: $85.00 plus paint, primers, masking tape, etc.
    Wet sanding, cut and polishing: $92.50 plus materials
    Assembly: $92.50 plus materials (nuts, bolts, screws,etc)
    General mechanical repairs: $92.50
    Internally, keep track by job number and by category and bill in 15 minute intervals or portion thereof.
    One 15 minute interval equals to 1 unit of time.

    And that's inexpensive compared to another shop that charges a flat $105 per hour for any kind of work.

    One independent fabricator/metal-shaper that I know has a $70 per hour charge out rate., and his shop is in a rural location.

    New car dealerships are up at the $135 + per hour mark. They push the envelope.

    The other aspect of a rod shop business is the parts. One negotiates "dealer" pricing as much as you can then charge the customer full retail price. The difference is your mark up/profit. Depending where you hang your shingle, freight may be free or you charge freight as the extra. Where the dealer price is minimal or non-existent, then you should be marking up the prices anywhere from 20 to 35%.

    And lets not forget the shop supplies. Amazing how this adds up over time and how it disappears. This includes shop rags, misc nuts/bolts, etc.
    Some shops charge 5% of the total labour bill, others I've noted are up to 9% of total invoice less taxes.

    Some portions of a job might have to be farmed out ( i.e. body stripping), customers are usually charged a 10% mark-up on this work. (keep in mind that you may have to pay the invoice before you can bill, hence the 10% is for financing, and paperwork.)

    As to the cost of a build. This is the big variable as it depends on the condition of vehicle.
    All the hidden stuff you don't see until its stripped to bare metal.
    Metal fabrication hours can add up to a big bill.

    When working out a budget for a customer, what ever figure you come up with, double it and add 10%. You will be close to the actual cost....maybe.

    A lot of customers who don't know what it costs to build over-dream their budget.
    And this where a lot of problems develop. You have to explain the costs. For example, an no-frills MII is $2000 and installation could cost another $3000 - $4000. And that may not include taking out the old stuff.
    SS fasteners (every nut, bolt, washer, lock-washer, ny-loc, screw, except on suspension components) can add up to an easy $6000 - $8000 on a total rebuild.
    Another example: Saw a '69 Camaro being wet-sanded only, took two guys six days to do that. That's 96 man-hours or $9,000, plus materials.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2013
  29. the metalsurgeon
    Joined: Apr 19, 2009
    Posts: 1,238

    the metalsurgeon
    from Denver

    makes total sense
  30. chrisp
    Joined: Jan 27, 2007
    Posts: 848


    The worst are "customer" who want to build a car and not loose money on the resale, or the one that comes up with a magazine to show you a $250 000 built car and want the same for $15 000, they don't understand when you show them the door...

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