This is Part 1 of a four-part series. Be sure to also watch:
Part 2: Classic Car Repair
Part 3: Selecting a Restoration Candidate
Part 4: Bumper Restoration
In this interview we meet Don Hawkins, the owner of Custom Automotive Restoration. With many years of experience performing concours-quality restorations, Don has assembled a top-shelf team of automotive craftsmen, ready to tackle any project. In this multipart video presentation we also meet some of his crew, and learn some top tips from the master himself.
Video dialog for this episode:
PR: First, Don, why not get us better acquainted with who you are and what you do? Tell us a little about your shop.
CAR: Really, we offer everything from minor repairs, even a taillight replacement, to complete restoration. Anything that has to do with body, paint, mechanical, electrical, we do it all. Repair work--anything wrong with your car, we can fix it.
PR: So what if someone brought you, say a Gremlin? Would you work on a car like that? Or do you just stick to the older classics?
CAR: Well, if someone did bring in a newer car, say someone brought in a Ď74 Gremlin, weíll be happy to work on it. Everyone here has their own personal preferences of what kind of cars they like to work on, but weíll work on anything that somebody brings us. We like classics, but a lot of our cars are from the Ď30ís, Ď40ís, Ď50ís, and as time changes, the year of the cars that people bring us changes. Right now, a lot of cars are muscle cars, Camaroís, Chevelleís, cars like that. Not so many Ď30ís and Ď40ís cars.
PR: What are your personal favorites to work on?
CAR: I like cars from the Ď50ís. Cars from the Ď50ís--itís when I grew up, Ď50ís and Ď60ís, 70ís--a lot of my memories are from that era.
PR: So how did you get involved with doing restorations?
CAR: I got started in cars and restorations just from my family. Four older brothers that liked cars and even my mother and father liked cars. It started then and Iíve been doing it for 35 years.
PR: So did any particular car influence you?
CAR: In 1967, one of my older brothers worked three jobs in high school just to purchase a brand new Ď67 GTO. I remember the day he brought it home. Itís was a beautiful car.
PR: And how many restorations have you personally been involved with?
CAR: Iíve been involved in over 25 restorations and many other small repairs, engine swaps, transmission changes, and suspension modifications.
PR: Was there any one particular restoration that stood out from all the others?
CAR: A 1940 Coca-Cola Sedan Delivery. This car was originally used by Coca-Cola as a delivery vehicle. It was built by Ford for the Coca-Cola Company. So the paint color had to be exact and just knowing that I was working on a piece of history made it fun to work on.
PR: So how long would you estimate for a complete restoration? What kind of timeline would someone be looking at?
CAR: That depends on the condition of the car that somebody brings us. A lot of people wonder how long it will take. If the car is in decent condition, say itís been in their family and hasnít had a lot of abuse, it may only take a year to restore. But again, thatís a frame-off restoration, completely disassembled and reassembled. If they have a car they found in Grandfatherís barn, just a rust heap, thatís going to take longer. It may take a year and a half or two years--also depending upon the kind of car and how available the parts are.
PR: Can you estimate a price for a typical frame-up restoration? And what kind of variables would you consider in pricing?
CAR: The quote is always hard to do and it does depend on the condition of the vehicle we start with. It also depends on how available parts are for that vehicle. For some cars, the parts are available locally, and the average cost would be $75.000-$85,000. But if it is a car that we have to fabricate parts for, it can approach $150,000, again $200,000.
PR: Did you notice how clean that shop was? The work floor could easily be confused for a show room. We found out that Don outsources media blasting and chroming, which helps keep his work areaís tidy and debris free.