A blunt article on restoration costs

I rarely do this, but I stumbled across this article titled,” Brutal Honesty about Restoration Costs, Things most restoration shops don’t want you to know! ”  by Macy’s Garage Ltd. I like brutal honesty and the article was well written so here ya go!!

Brutal Honesty About Restoration Costs

Enjoy exploring their website as well.

Meet Mabel

I love barn finds, I think most car buffs do.  Nowadays we see alot of garage and self storage finds.  We rarely get to breathe in that musty air and hay and brush dust off a vehicle that has sat for twenty or more years.


A fellow, Brian, contacted me a while back in search of a Willys truck.  He and I looked at an array of trucks posted on ewillys.com. There was a variety available around the country.  Eventually we found a nice restored truck and he decided to buy it.  However he decided that it was not the right time for a truck and we decided to keep looking.  The key phrase was that we,” wait for something closer to the shop.” Insert Mabel.


I kept an eye online for trucks more local, but honestly these vehicles show up when they want to be found, especially the right ones.  A friend and neighbor took a copy of my card one day and mentioned that a friend of his had a Willys truck he wanted to sell and that it was sitting in a barn.

A week or so later I heard from Mr. Gross, we set a time for me to go and see the truck.  Mr. Gross happens to live about two miles from my house, how much closer could we ask for?


When we met up I found that Mr. Gross and I had alot to talk about.  I teach and he is a retired teacher.  We both love to teach kids and adults to work with their hands.  As we chatted I looked over the truck (Mabel is a ’57 Willys) and began to realize that this was the one for my customer.  I took photos and immediately went home to email Brian about what I hoped was his new truck.


Brian agreed that this was the one, and as you can see by the above photo, we moved forward with the purchase.  Mabel was in the Gross family since the 1970s.  The truck worked on their farm in Taneytown, then moved down closer to Westminster.  Mabel sat for years as a father/son project that never fully moved on.  With Mr. Gross’s son now having a master’s degree, he decided it was time to move the truck on.

IMAG0764Mabel is now at our shop awaiting her restoration and then a move to the midwest.  A true barnfind, and another Willys truck to bring back to the road.

Another Trip to Steam Mecca

Every year we venture up to route 30 in PA heading to the Rough and Tumble to see what the antique vehicles and ancient steam engines are up to at their Annual Thresher’s Reunion (which has been going on for over 65 years!)


Scattered among the steam and kerosene tractors was an eclectic array of rare antique vehicles.  I am trying to figure out if this Mack truck was actually produced or if it is a custom build.


Another rarity in the mix was this Diamond T truck done up as a Rumley dealer’s runabout.  It was tucked in between the Rumley Oil Pull tractors.


DSC_0064~2When you attend this gathering even the most focused adult can become “ADHD” as exciting odd machines go strolling past from all directions.


There is an extensive flea market at this show, and if you are looking for signs, tools, or bits of machinery prior to the 1940’s it is the place to go.  Whole families attend with their tractors and old equipment.  This young Amish boy put himself to work on the miniature hay baler.  He was putting in a quite an effort!!


There are too many wonderful photos for one post.  Next I will post some shots of the military vehicle display as well as the largest ratrod I have ever seen. Until then have fun!



(Photos in this post by Brittany “Nicci” Biscoe)

Porsche 356 on the road again

I believe the main reason I am into antique cars is because I grew up with a Porsche 356.  For most of my life it sat in a garage or a barn and then in the 1980s my father brought it home and we worked on it a bit at a time.  Dad bought the car for $500 in 1966 after driving a newer one.  Below is a shot of him with the car around 1971. The car is battered but is all matching numbers including the original engine.


When my parents moved from Illinois back to our home state of Massachusetts a few years back he sent the car to me.  I asked why and he said he thought I would fix it if it was sitting in my garage.  It took a few years but he was right. The first step was getting it running around the yard.


Then it sat for a while longer.  Dad came down to Maryland and taught me the leading and brazing techniques that were my first foray into metalwork on antique cars.


And finally I really got rolling on the project with the help of former students.



It was all worth it to see Dad with the car that I grew up hearing legends of. And with it all fixed up I heard even more stories that were new to me! One of my favorite stories is of a time he was pulled over for speeding.  The trooper started yelling at my father and Dad was very confused because he was driving the speed limit.  Well it turned out Dad had been speeding (120mph) an hour or two before and the trooper gave up chasing him!

Why suddenly talk about the Porsche now when I mostly talk Jeeps? Well after a year of sitting I finally took a couple days for my Dad and I, fixed some electrical issues, and put the Porsche back on the road again.



I feel guilty for not working on Jeeps for two days….. but it’s worth it to be able to call up my father and talk about the Porsche and having it on the road again.  As Harry Pellow, Der Maestro, used to say, “Keep the 356 Faith!”

Back to Jeeps now, but I will drive the Porsche to the shop.


Jeeps at the Oaks Gun show

We were invited a while back to display my ’41 Willys MB at the big gun and militaria show at the Oaks Expo Center near Philly.  It seemd like a good marketing opportunity and a chance to hang out with some old friends so I jumped at it.


There were four WW2 vehicles on display.  Three WW2 Jeeps and Gary with his Dodge Weapons Carrier.


Jim Cherry was setup with the Willys MB that he and his father immaculately restored.  I originally procured this for them and the job they did on it is one to be proud of.


Jim’s grandfather was a pigeon man in WW2.  They were still using pigeons to deliver messages and JIm has pulled together quite a collection to display what was done and how the pigeons were cared for.  It is one of many little known aspects of WW2.


Using photos and other information they had Jim and his father built a copy of the portable pigeon coop that was mounted in trailers.  Also note the large sign for Graeme park next to the trailer.  This is a wonderful WW2 event in Horsham, PA.  I will be there and I recommend it for anyone who can attend.


The medical display set up by Kurt Eberling Jr and his fellows was quite impressive.



I really liked the color of his Jeep and Kurt told me that he bought his GPW from the Philippines.  Apparently when the Philippine military realized there was a market for these Jeeps they repainted them and put them up for sale.  Oddly the only “olive drab” paint they could find was leftover Japanese WW2 paint, thus the color of Kurt’s Jeep.


Towards the end of the show I spoke for a while with a WW2 veteran who was stationed in the Philippines. he said they had problems with the locals stealing the Jeeps.  Their first solution was to drill the hood number into the rear fenders of the Jeeps.  Then the locals started filling the holes with soap and drilling new holes.  After that what the GI’s started doing was tipping their Jeeps up on their sides at night.  He said the locals were too small to topple them back over so that ended up being their solution of the rest of their time stationed in the Philippines.   A new jeep story that I had not heard!


This was the first show of its kind at the Oaks.  They plan to do it again next year.  Around 30,000 people came through over the weekend and there was a wide array of items for sale.  They plan to have more vehicle and reenactor displays next year and I definitely plan to attend.

My three P’s of restoration

I really believe there are right and wrong reasons to do a vehicle restoration.  The first two P’s encompass the right reasons, the last one covers the wrong reasons.

First and foremost a personal connection is a solid reason to do a restoration.  One customer of mine has his grandmother’s VW beetle, another has us working on his uncle’s CJ2A.  Even more have memories of their grandparents talking about Jeeps, or having an old WW2 Jeep on the farm. Some even remember driving a Jeep during the war.


I grew up with my father’s 1956 Porsche always in the garage waiting for us to work on it.  In 2010 I finally was able to bring it back to life with some of my former students.  Dad always told stories of that car so for me this was a very personal connection.  Seeing him with it in one piece again meant everything to me.


He also spoke alot about his Bultaco motorcycle.  He sold it to buy the Porsche.  When I stumbled into a Bultaco I grabbed it.  Once again seeing him ride off on the Bultaco was an amazing personal experience for me and I think him.  Dad had not seen another Bultaco since he sold his in 1966.


If you have a personal connection to a vehicle then the price, pain, blood sweat and tears of a restoration is all worth it.  A personal connection is in my opinion the best driving reason for a restoration of a vintage vehicle.

Passion is the next best reason.  If you have a deep passion for something then you will see through a project to bring it to life.  Whether it be a tractor, a Jeep or any other vehicle.


WW2 attracts a huge amount of interest.  People become very passionate about the war.  Their connection to that history comes through collecting artifacts, and for many the ultimate is to own and drive a WW2 Jeep. When I sense someone has a real passion I want to work with them just as much as with someone who has a personal connection.

People are also just plain passionate about Jeeps.  Something about Jeeps and VW Beetles inspires a wonderful following of people who care for, drive and pass on their love of these vehicles to their families.  If you have a deep passion for a vehicle it will guide you through a restoration.


Profit is a major reason NOT to do a restoration.  I am going to bunch a few things under here too.  I will include in this the strange belief that restoring a vehicle will be a much cheaper way to obtain the vehicle you want.  That does not work…. Unless you are Scott Roberts, the man is a genius with vehicles.

The cost of restoring a vehicle is usually far above the cost of just going out and buying a restored version of the same vehicle.  The parts involved in a WW2 Jeep can make restoring one on your own cost more than just buying a restored one outright. I have seen people even try to save money by buying rusty battered versions of the parts they need in hopes that this will save them money.


That does not work at all.  And unless you really know what you are doing and have alot of spare time, restoring a vehicle to re-sell is not going to work either.  If you can do all the mechanical work, welding, painting etc.. then you may be fine.  If you cannot then it just is not going to work out for you.  You will end up trying to sell for $30,000 a vehicle worth $9,500.  

Here is the key: Just because you put money into a vehicle does not make it worth what you put in!  There are alot of people smoking crack out there trying to sell late WW2 Jeeps that might bring  $16,000 for over $30,000.  All I can think is that in their drug addled haze they maybe hallucinated the value they came up with. (I assume they took to drugs after their wife threw them out of the house when she saw the restoration bills.)


And yes the Jeep in these pictures was from someone involved in the third P of this lecture.

So to review: Personal connection = Good  

Passion for the vehicle = Good

Profit/ saving money = Baaaaad (don’t do it!!)

If you are in it for the right reasons, then enjoy the trip, the experience of restoration and the end results are very rewarding.


An odd military vehicle

As I was going through files this morning I stumbled into pictures of the oddest military vehicle I ever owned, a 1962 Corvair Panelvan.  Sadly I cannot find too many good shots, these were the days before my digital camera.



I am sure looking at this you might wonder,”how is that a military vehicle?”  Well it came with its original paperwork from the Pentagon and barely had over 32,000 miles on it.  The Corvan delivered lightbulbs of all things on the underground road network below the Pentagon.  I stumbled into it talking to a fellow at a car show and thought it might be a good replacement for my battered VW bus (a whole other set of stories there!)

I kept the Corvan for a couple years.  During that time I replaced the transmission, redid the wiring when it caught on fire, upgraded to an alternator, and experienced the wonder of the seals overheating and the van leaving a trail of oil behind it wherever it went.

The Corvair could have been a good vehicle had it not been for the accountants at GM.  The engineers knew what they were doing when they designed the air cooled 6 cylinder engine.  However the accountants said that to save a few pennies in production the engines should be fitted with a cheap set of seals.  These seals did not last on a high temperature air cooled engine and were prone to bake and then leak. What a mess!

I finally moved on and decided I needed a truck.  So the day came when I sold the Corvan to a great group of fellows from Ohio.


They were  quite fun to deal with.  If they still have the van I hope it is treating them well.  I moved from the van to a 1964 Chevrolet C10 which I also no longer have.  I miss that truck!

I keep wondering how this van is doing and have found nothing online.  So if you ever hear about a Corvair Van that belonged to the Pentagon, let me know.  I hope it is doing well.