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Starting a shop in this day and age??

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Vintage Muscle, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. Vintage Muscle
    Joined: Mar 25, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Vintage Muscle
    from New York

    Looking for a TON of input on the PRO's and CON's of Starting up a custom/hotrod/speed/machine shop in this day and age.

    I've just been hit by the recession with restructoring taking place at my "former" employer...and now I'm out the door.

    With 30+ years experience with working/wrenching on "non-production" vehicles such as race cars, hotrods, muscle cars....ect..
    as well as multitude of years as a machinest in a engineering shop making prototype equipment...I feel the
    time has come to control my own future instead of someone else pulling me around like a puppet.

    I fully understand "business" and what needs to be done in the "office" as well as the hours in the "office" that are required.

    My main concern right now is NOT the economy..that will come back around in a few years...can tighten my belt...but wondering if
    there is need for a "traditional" custom/hotrod/speed/machine shop?

    Would there be better means of success with a shop that deals with more modern muscle?? (like the new MUSTANGS, CHALLENGER, VETTES, CAMARO...ect)

    My gut feeling would be to go with a more MODERN MUSCLE type shop...but my HEART is in the vintage tin.

    Do you go into business with what is near and dear to your heart or bite your tounge and go where you feel more $$ can be made?

    This decision has been tearing me left and right...while I enjoy older era cars the most..I do like the reintroduction of some old muscle.

    I could always go both ways and that has also been in the back of my mind..but have always like to specialize and not be so widespread.

    Any input good or bad is appreciated! Thanks for your time.
  2. Tman
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 34,154


    Remember that more self made millionaires came out of the Great Depression than any other time in US History.
  3. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 29,180


    If you have the skills and equipment I think that there is always a market for one off custom machined or fabricated pieces be it for automotive or non automotive use.

    One of my friends since childhood is a world class welder/fabricator who has built everything from airtight wood stoves to complete ss piping jobs on fruit juice processing plants. He stays busier than he wants to be with a sideline of fabricating pieces for the local juice and wine industry. Need something that no one else can make, he can usually do it in his shop at home. It's finding that nitch these days.
  4. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 16,877


    You do realize that instead of having just one boss, every customer off the street is gonna be your boss?

    Now, if you DO want to have lots of bosses, I'd recommend having a lot of different kind of bosses til you can afford to specialize. It couldn't hurt to be known as the guy who can handle vintage hot rods, muscle cars, and race cars as well.

  5. To Tall
    Joined: Jan 14, 2009
    Posts: 222

    To Tall

    Sparky build it and they will come .o the always going both ways thing you should probably talk to your wife about that
  6. jangleguy
    Joined: Dec 26, 2004
    Posts: 2,668


    Here, here. I'm attempting to try my luck in an O/T field right now.
    But only because I feel very passionate about it. So of course, I'd advise you to lean that way. Follow your heart and you can't really go wrong. For example, I worked in the hot rod field for the last 12 years, then had to fold up shop last year. But I have NO regrets and in fact, am very glad for the experience! I'll be back when the dust settles. Meanwhile, I'll continue to follow my dreams...
  7. Rich Rogers
    Joined: Apr 8, 2006
    Posts: 2,018

    Rich Rogers

    I don't know where in NY you are but locally there was a guy that did it all til he passed away recently. Even did the glass bodied Willys and 32s from frame up. You could do all aspects AND offer the cars in any stage of completion from rolling only to done cars.My take is if you're gonna do it, do it all til you get where you want
  8. 55Thunderboy
    Joined: Mar 27, 2009
    Posts: 358

    from NYC

    Vintage Muscle send me a PM or email we should talk I am in NY and have had a shop over the years. I am looking to get into another venture of such as well maybe in Brooklyn NY.

    The entire auto industry is not secure now. My daily grind deals with luxury and exotic cars and its dead. All my friends restoring cars are booming with work right now in NY and CT.
  9. HotRod33
    Joined: Oct 5, 2008
    Posts: 2,437


    If you are just going to be starting up a shop you may have to take in everything until you get on your feet.. then when you can and business is goog enough go with what you like..... if you can pay the bills doing it....
  10. Midnight 50
    Joined: Jul 27, 2008
    Posts: 568

    Midnight 50

    I think "in this day and age" we NEED more classic speed shops that do custom builds. A lot of people are fed up with todays technology and are very attracted to the idea of having a rod or custom to "look cool in". It doesn't matter how many gold chainers walk through the door, your job is to make money and enjoy doing it. This is for a living doing something you enjoy. What they do with it is their business long as you get paid.

    The hardcore DIY guys will always do their own builds, but what if you happened to be a source of parts for them as well? Then you'd have the best of both worlds. While we are an increasingly technology driven society, the number of people on the internet V/S off the internet is dramatic. There's plenty of business locally that needs to depend on YOU to be their connection to the world.

    You just need to be in the right spot for your area. What is going to be most popular "there"? I'd like to see a speed shop on every corner, but unless you are one of the Jesse James, Boyd Cottington customers you are likely doing it yourself. This severe lack of availability of custom work on older rods is a niche market, but one that can be tapped in your favor if you do it right.
  11. burl
    Joined: Nov 28, 2007
    Posts: 742

    from Minnesota

    I just know from what we do.It would be hard for us to still be in buisness unless we were not diversfied and able to do different things.They way things are now i dont think you can only supply one market and still be around.Its tougher because you will need to be well versed in differant areas of expertise.We were always being told to go after nitch markets be be the best at it.I am glad we didnt.I dont think we would still be in buisness.Burl.
  12. bobscogin
    Joined: Feb 8, 2007
    Posts: 1,761


    The latter.

  13. 39 sledge
    Joined: Aug 6, 2007
    Posts: 346

    39 sledge
    from p.a.

    been on my own for 5 years now it,s cool as long as your used to not making any money.
    Joined: Mar 22, 2009
    Posts: 120


    Do what you love, and the money will follow. Honesty, Integrity, and Friendly Attitude will build a client base that is loyal in a hurry. I drive many miles to a wrench guy that I know I can trust, in all aspects of the business.
  15. 55Thunderboy
    Joined: Mar 27, 2009
    Posts: 358

    from NYC

    I NY there are no real good shops that i ever heard off. Its like nobody wants to get into this down here. I luckily found a resto shop 3 hours up in CT/MA border and they do killer work at great prices. Any idea how I wish I had that source local and one that also can build custom cars and do metalforming.

    all it takes is $$$$$$ and the right clientele. Both of those are not that easy to come by.
  16. efh
    Joined: Mar 12, 2007
    Posts: 7


    If you decide to go with it I wish you all the best , it definately isn't easy .
    I've worked in engine shops my entire life and about 5 yrs ago decided to do it on my own , it's been a tough haul at times but it's finally getting to where I want it to be .
    There are shops that luck out , catch the trend or something like that and manage to stick to one type of car , engine , era but I think you'll find that they are few and far between and that you'll have to [in the begining anyway ] take what ever comes thought the door . It's more fun that way anyway :D
  17. Road Runner
    Joined: Feb 7, 2007
    Posts: 1,257

    Road Runner

    Can't recommend what line of business someone should get into, but times like these are actually the best for starting a business, in theory at least.

    I have been my own boss (one man shop without employees or hired help) my entire adult life and can assure you it's not for everybody.
    I wonder if somebody who was an employee most of his life would be able to make the switch as easily as it appears at first.

    Never the less, I would still always say go for it and make a thorough effort and just don't give up during the first hard years, regardless.
    If you are really serious about it and have the stamina and will to make sacrifices, you will learn along the way all that's required to make it work.
    Takes years before you can honestly say if it was worth it and you should continue.

    Also think hard before hiring friends or relatives.
    Not everybody was born with a healthy dose of the kind of discipline required to start a biz and you just can't buy that.
    As every biz owner I ever talked to agrees: Dealing with customers and employees is THE hardest part of your job.
    And even if one isn't really a people person - you will have to become one.

    All the very best of luck.
  18. CrazyUncleJack
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 140

    from OK

    "Do one thing and do it well"

    Or at least a group of things within a small category. A mistake I see many self employed make is they take any kind of work they can get, spread themselves too thin, and do it for too little because they're so stressed about getting business at all. They charge less than anybody else, thinking that will get people in, when in fact all the get are the deadbeats. In reality, the paying customer wants a fair deal, and if you're the cheapest they wonder what's wrong with your work, and they move on to somebody that charges a little more because they expect they'll get better results.
  19. loburban
    Joined: Mar 24, 2008
    Posts: 154


    Find something you love to do and you will never have to work another day.
  20. Vintage Muscle
    Joined: Mar 25, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Vintage Muscle
    from New York

    Thank you to all who have responded! Great info and direction!
    Let me throw another question at ya!
    If you and your buddies were heading over to see a new shop for the first time....

    What would you WANT to see?
    What would you EXPECT to see?
    What would make you want to to come back???

    Again....all these little questions that get answered mean a LOT to me and thank you!
  21. Shaggy
    Joined: Mar 6, 2003
    Posts: 5,208

    from Sultan, WA

    Some guys have good fab skills but cant deal with people, some have poor skills and can sell bullshit, but if you have both skill and can deal with people then good luck!
  22. evilone0528
    Joined: Jul 26, 2006
    Posts: 539


    I started my shop just to work on hot rods.I work on quite a few hot rods,but I have found I go where the money is.Meaning,we will work on any thing that pays well.Be diversified is my vote.
  23. hillbilly4008
    Joined: Feb 13, 2009
    Posts: 2,917

    from Rome NY

    My father and i have a fabrication shop in Upstate NY. He's been on his own since 1978, i started working for him when i turned 16. I know its been said but, be prepaired to be broke. No customers means no dough.

    We've been dealing with the same client for 15+ years, and have built over 3000 units for his company. For me this shit is getting old fast. Lately we have been getting back to our roots, which is building truck bodies.(flatbeds, rollbacks.....) I have built numerous cars from the ground up, and I would love to get into building custom cars for people, thats what i love to do, but there just isnt a market where i am. I know of two shops in my area that seem to have found the nitch. Tucci Engineering, Utica NY. And Rolling Bones, Binghamton NY.

    My advice would be in this day and age you have to DIVERSIFY! And whatever you do, dont build ricers!

    Ps: the new Fast & the furious comes out soon, i hear its chock full of muscle. That should help business' out. Everytime one of those movies comes out the aftermarket booms.

    Attached Files:

  24. LUX BLUE
    Joined: May 23, 2005
    Posts: 4,407

    Alliance Vendor
    from AUSTIN,TX

    basic suggestions.

    #1. You can retire building Muscle cars.
    #2. new car performance opens up Your horizons even more.
    #3. the ability to merge one with the other is a feild that has nothing but horizons in the future.

    At my shop, we don't work on ANYTHING newer than 73. (except for the errant Hot Dog Truck...but favoritism in the line at Sonny's goes a long way around here.) I can assure You the idea of moving into modern stuff has tempted me more than once...but I am in a sweet spot.

    How does the climate of cars in Your area look? I limit our intake by choice-Do you have to? is the marketplace untapped, or tapped out?

    use Your skillset-all of it.

    the first couple of years WILL suck. but if You are worth a damn (and I am not saying You're not) they will come to You. not might, not may, they will come.

    and remember this- The other local shops are Your friends. The relationships we have with our other local shops is mint. one hand washes the other,always.

    You can do it. all it takes is Balls, skills, and determination. and the willingness to work 100 hour weeks.
  25. zman
    Joined: Apr 2, 2001
    Posts: 16,595

    from Garner, NC

    '72 here except for the odd '74 Trans Am or such.
    Lol, it's an ice cream truck here... :D

    After 2 years in a real commercial location, we're doing ok business, I haven't been paying myself, I've been putting it back in the business and doing some consulting on the side, the consulting has died out and it looks like I'll need to pay myself from the shop now. But we've got a few builds in that will help and more on the way. It's a lot of work, but it seems to be worth it, I still get offered jobs in IT and sometimes I want to take them. But I know I like working for myself better.
  26. HighSpeed LowDrag
    Joined: Mar 2, 2005
    Posts: 968

    HighSpeed LowDrag
    from Houston

    Everyone in our shop would rather be building hot rods everyday but the truth is that the guys who want LS engines, 5 speeds, and big brakes installed on the Camaro they just bought, are the ones who keep the doors open.

    Real hot rodders can do more of the fab work themselves whereas it seems to me that the resto-muscle car guys are better at writing the checks.

  27. srdart67
    Joined: Feb 3, 2008
    Posts: 357

    from Sharon, Wi

    do them both. no sense in batting money out the door that you could be stuffing in your pocket
  28. joel torres
    Joined: Mar 22, 2009
    Posts: 824

    joel torres

    i have been so busy these past two years that now that i have time to work on my car and such i figured id drive to the only hotrod shop i know of in suffolk county to ask if they needed an extra hand on weekends i would work for free to learn but he's gone anyone no the shop on route 110 north
    my dream is to go to wyotech and open my own shop maybe when i refinance my house what part of n.y. are you in ?
  29. movingviolation
    Joined: Feb 19, 2005
    Posts: 1,177


    I think if you have talent and a honest work ethic, you can easily ride out this shitty ecomomy and reap the rewards of ownership. When $$$$ is short you have to offer the best they can find for a fair price (the ecomomy hammered all of us). If you got the skills and the nuts, give it a shot! In this ecomomy im sure the Govt has programs to start new business and stimulate the ecomomy...

    Oh yea, a business name that is catchy and easy to remember and a phone number that rolls off your tongue.


    ohhhhhhhh yea. We started a construction company 18 yrs ago when it was shitty here. He learned to operate in tough times and then when it got better it was easier to survive...there has been ups and downs but were still kicking.
  30. bibb86
    Joined: Mar 23, 2009
    Posts: 65


    I am wanting to do the same as you but what i have run into is do what makes the money along with what you love. I basically running a body shop with performance mods on the side and building custom cars and bikes as well. my passion is hot rod and bikes but i found that to pay the day to day build i have to take that scratch and dent work or that guy who blew up his motor in his honda. My grandfather told me something that i have taken to heart and that was "Do what you love and the money will follow" I made a whole lot of money really fast as a Contractor at a young age and i got burnt out. so my wife and I took a huge pay decrease to do what I love and I am happier my wife happier and we enjoy life more. So i would say do what you love.

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