Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

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Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby jtheye » Sun Mar 31, 2019 8:37 pm

I have to start this thread. It is a must. It is common sense, but easily overlooked. My story is basic. One outstanding mistake that all of us have made over the years.
"GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING" !!!!!!!!!!!!

My mistakes with my Lincoln Continental have been made twice now. Twice I made deals with service centers that have turned out to be nothing but headaches. All might have been avoided by getting things in writing. Long story short, If you have to pay to get your car restored due to lack of time or what ever reasons you can't do it yourself, buy a Continental all ready restored. This will save you money. I have shelled out a total of $19000 cash to another local custom shop and 2 years later it has become obvious I am going to have to get my lawyer involved. The last advise I received from my lawyer was to get my vehicles out of the shop before we start the legal process. My lawyer has had situations like this in the past, and he says every shop he has had to sue for his clients, ended up doing some kind of sabotage to the car.

The sad deal is I am slowly starting to hate my car. A car I had wanted and loved for so long. Now, I just want out of it. If I had known then, what I know now.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby Steve K » Sun Mar 31, 2019 9:47 pm

I feel your pain as a victim myself on my 59 Ford retractable. The engine shop I hired to rebuild the engine took over of year of excuses AFTER pulling the engine. It was a well respected shop with a master engine builder who had a reputation for fantastic work. We made a deal and he required half down on the job. That has since become a first hint to me to look elsewhere. It then took over a year where every time I called there was some excuse for why it wasn't done. I was foolish enough to accept them despite disappointment. I had driven the car up there (about an hour away from me) so one day decided to drop in unannounced and see what was up. The car was parked along side the shop with the rear end damaged from what looked like it was backed into a telephone pole or something. The guy told me one of his guys did that and he hadn't been able to find a bumper. I found a bumper that had been restored and rechromed and had it drop shipped to him COD. Glad I did it that way as he did pay for it and install it upon arrival. But again, I was angry at the lack of communications and progress. I got more (what turned out to be empty) promises. But I made it a habit of driving up there every week or so figuring in person dealings were more effective. On the last trip up, I found a sign on the shop saying it was closed for bankruptcy. No further information. I contacted an attorney who found out about his bankruptcy proceedings and obtained the information needed for claimants. Again, I was sorta lucky. He had put the motor back in the car and taken the car to another business for the exhaust system work. However, they had not begun the work because he had told them the owner would pay them and they didn't even know who the owner was. Once I learned where the car was, I recovered it outside of the bankruptcy proceedings which only was possible because it was not on his premises. Other people's cars and parts got tangled up in the bankruptcy case. If only that had been the end. But although I had driven the car to him a year before, upon getting it trucked home, it would barely run, and when I could get it started it sounded like a worn out diesel. Long story short, I had a nice car with a worthless 352 FE in it. I took it to another shop which pulled the motor and started over. From appearances, there were all kinds of damage internal to the engine to new pistons and other hard parts. I ended up losing nearly 10K on that whole thing. There were insufficient funds from the bankruptcy settlement for me to recover anything. Even after it was up and running great, everytime I looked at it I felt sick, taken advantage of, and no joy of ownership. It was a car I had wanted to own a long time, but I sold it because I didn't want to even think about how an unscrupulous guy took me for a ride.

And yes, I did have everything in writing in advance right down to the penny and including the conditions and actions to be taken if there were unanticipated things found while the work was in progress and benchmark dates for completion. But nothing can save you when the person who signs such an agreement is not honest or you get caught up in a failed business.

In the end, all I could do was join a class action suit against a guy who ended up bankrupt and in prison with a totally ruined reputation in his world of engine building. The greatest irony to me was that his wife was pregnant and they were having trouble finding a doctor and hospital to enroll her in for the baby's delivery. I went out of my way in my professional role to get them squared away on that. In the end, both the doctor and hospital got stiffed in the bankruptcy proceedings too.

I don't think there is anything you can do to guarantee things will go right when you make a business arrangement, but never again will I pay anything in advance or not have a well established completion date for any work I outsource. That may make things harder for me at times, but you have to protect yourself and you can't bank on the inherent honesty or anyone unless you have already had positive experiences with them.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby jtheye » Sun Mar 31, 2019 10:06 pm

Really concretes 2 old sayings that are so true. "If you want it done right, do it yourself" which goes hand in hand with "As expectations go up, happiness goes down".

To show that I am not completely a downer, the retired interior/upholstery guy that I convinced to do my interior work did a great job. A pride in workmanship that seems to have retired with a lot of older retirees. The problem is, the shop who has not completed their work on the car requested that all the interior not be put in so that it did not get dirty/stained by their projects. So the shop made a deal with the upholstery guy that their shop would install all of the seats, door panels, carpet etc after they got done. So I have my pool table covered in seats and such being stored there for who knows how long.... Another thing I am very pleased with is the custom wheels that I had made by Isotope Wheels. They are beautiful. Unfortunately, they still have not seen the outside of the parking lot of the shop that I am going to have to sue.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby defrang » Mon Apr 01, 2019 12:13 am

I am feeling sorry for you guys. These cars soak up enough money on their own. No extra help needed.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby CaptainDave » Mon Apr 01, 2019 10:59 am

These are horrible stories. I feel lucky to have had mostly positive experiences (knock wood). One thing I would add is that positive or negative, it would help the whole community if more people posted reviews on Yelp or Google. I am frequently amazed by how few reviews even well-established shops have.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby TonyC » Mon Apr 01, 2019 1:05 pm

Man, Jason, that's sad. But I agree--get your car back before waging war on the shop.

And don't get discouraged; in the end you'll be glad you held on, especially when you engineer out all the design flaws in the mechanicals.

---Tony
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby JonW » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:11 pm

From both being in the car business and being an enthusiast, I have heard many horror stories over the years. They are more common than you might expect. Here are some tips I recommend before committing your car to a shop.

Ask around in the enthusiast community. Good and bad news travels, so that's a great place to start. If there's a Facebook page for the local car scene, inquire there. Go to car shows and ask the participants who did the work on their car.

Visit the shop in person. Talk to the owner. If he's not involved in the day-to-day operations and is not on-site, that's a red flag. Ask to look around. Does the shop appear to be organized? Are there signs of vehicles that have been there a long time or abandoned? Ask to see work in progress and ask what the shop is doing to those cars. Ask for a list of recent customers you can contact for referrals.

Check the Better Business Bureau.

Tearing down and rebuilding a car or repainting a car often involves hidden damage. For this reason, it may be difficult to get an exact estimate. But an experienced shop can give you an approximate figure based on what they see, and it will be subject to hidden damage. Get a clear plan in writing of what they will do (rebuild engine to factory specs, rebuild rear end and install 3.50 ratio gear set, etc.) This will serve as a blue print of what you expect and what they should deliver. Get a firm date of when the car is expected to be completed. Obviously, this could change if you change the game plan or if they find extensive hidden damage, but they're pros, they have a good idea of how long it will take.

Stop by and check on the car every other week or on some defined schedule. That is when they can give you updates, ask you questions, etc. Be concerned, be vigilant, but don't be a pest. Be respectful of their time.

Make it clear that if they have a reason to change the game plan, that they are to contact you without fail before proceeding. Communication can head off a lot of issues.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby action » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:22 pm

Collecting money upfront is an issue. Especially if they have your vehicle. This assumes the vehicle is worth more than the repair.

I have worked automotive service retail. If a customer is looking to get out of paying a bill or doesn't want to pick up their vehicle because it is cheaper to store at the repair shop, there are way around that too. However a shop that is in business that asks for funds up front, that is an issue!!!! They have your (engine, car or ??) which likely can be sold for more than the job if the customer does not pay.

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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby rick » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:57 am

Hi Gents,

So up this point, I have now owned my 1961 Lincoln for four and one half months.

I have been constantly attempting to fast-track it through the restoration process.

But, as expected - it's not easy because most shops don't want to work by the hour, on an old vehicle.

They can make more money than their "posted hourly labor rate" by beating the average time calculated in the Flat Rate Manual. For instance, if a Flat Rate for rear brake replacement is posted at one hour and a charge-out of $350, they can double their cash flow if they can get it done in thirty minutes.

I understand this and expect to be shunted to the end of the line for those "times" when business slows down. But it's still been damn frustrating.

I have new brakes, wheel bearings and new exhaust manifolds. New front end components and new filters and fluids all around. We put dealer plates on the car and I happily ran it out the road five miles and then five miles back in again. Drove like a dream. I paid the shop every Friday. The whole thing took two months.

Then, I simply couldn't get them to look at hooking up the vacuum lines they unhooked and blocked off with screws. They kept promising to, but heard only excuses (I'd furnished them with the manuals including the vacuum manual from Brewer's in Denver)

I found another shop that agreed to do the vacuum lines. I had the car towed to their location but after two weeks they hadn't touched it. It was then time to go to the upholstery shop so I had the car towed there next - where it now sits. Depressing.

The Upholstery shop is another story - I made an appointment for a completely new interior and waited three weeks for the start date. That was a month ago and the car is still sitting outside. The shop is reputable, large and yet taking the same approach to customer service we see everywhere, everyday. Bottom line, my money isn't good enough for them to really "need" my business.

Lucky, I have a couple of other hobbies or this would be even more annoying.

Rick
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby jtheye » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:33 pm

First started this thread in March of 2017. As you can see it is now October of 2019. The shop still has my car. The only difference is I have not pulled trigger on taking my car from the shop and suing. I know that it will be a minimum of $6k for the lawyer and that is just the start. So I just hang here..............4 years later.
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Re: Using a Mechanic/Custom Shop/Body Shop

Postby rick » Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:36 pm

Thought I'd better mention here too - although I already have done so in another post, that my upholstery has now been successfully replaced and a great job was done. Very pleased. Car has now been towed to yet a new garage where they are finishing off the damn safety check we have to comply with here in Canada. I have to get the rear window on the drivers side working smoothly (not intermittently) to pass the Provincial Safety Check. After the safety check and a carb adjustment or if necessary a carb kit....... it'll head one mile down the road for the paint job. Happy for the time being - fingers crossed - will wait and see.

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