by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
I thought I’d put pen to paper for your entertainment on a cold winters evening.
The following account is fictitious, it has never happened and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is totally coincidental!
I’m sure anyone who has ever owned or worked in a vehicle bodyshop will be able to relate to at least some part of my totally fictional account of why most car restorers/painters/mechanics, despite usually being happy, generous and helpful people, never seem to have many long term friends.....
‘Twas a crisp winter’s morning in deepest darkest South Yorkshire. The birds were singing and there was a distinct smell of pigs in the air. All was quiet and as the kettle clicked to the boil, I made a coffee and sat in the big leather chair my mother-in-law gave me, trying to decide whether to just go back home and crawl back into bed or add a fourth layer of clothing, in the hope to keep warm enough to actually start some work on my beloved classic cars. I don’t do work for “customers”, as a business, it’s just a “hobby” gone wrong. I only work on my own collection of classics, bought between myself, my much aggrieved wife and my brother but usually during the week I work alone.
At least this way, it doesn’t feel like work and we have no-one else to answer to, or anyone else’s time scale and budget to follow. So i’m sat there in the quiet, thinking about how lucky I am to be in this position, until the silence was broken by the skid of a handbrake being pulled slightly too hard to a stop and the slam of car’s front door, just outside my toybox.
“ Hey Tosh, not seen you for a while, how you doing, how’s the world of classic cars going?”
Hiya mate, good to see you. It’s going great thanks, not earning any money at it but it pays the bills and at least i’m doing what I enjoy and don’t have to sit in an office or work in a factory. How’s things with you, hope the family are well. It’s about time we went out for dinner again, not been out for a while. Do you want a coffee, kettle’s just boiled?
“ Yes please mate, one sugar. Yeah definitely mate, i’d love to, my missus keeps saying she doesn’t see enough you and your lass, we’ll sort something out before Christmas. I’ve been seeing some cracking jobs coming out of your place, you seem to do a great job pal, it must be brilliant having somewhere like this”.
It is mate, it’s ace. No pressure, no hassle and playing with my cars all day. What more would you want? Anyway, what you doing driving a “classic?” I didn’t know you had an old Austin A35, are you going for the rat look, like?
“No mate, that’s what i’ve come to see you about. I’ve just bought it, it’s your fault, you got me looking at classics! It’s a bit raggy round the edges but it’s solid enough. Just needs a couple of wings swapping but they are bolt on so no problem. I reckon you could make it look as good as new in no time mate”
Well I don’t really do other people’s cars, I only do my own. I don’t really have the time or the inclination to take work on, i’m busy enough as it is. I suppose seeing as it’s you, i’ll help you out all I can. What you got in mind?
“I haven’t got much cash to spend on it but it’s such a good car I think it’s worth doing up and i’d like to come along to some shows with you next year. It looks like you have a laugh. I’ve been after one for ages and when it came up I couldn’t resist. Our lass loves bright yellow, so I think it would be a lot better than the blue. I’ve found some front wings and it might just need the odd patch welding up cos I think there’s some filler in the bottom of the doors and sills.”
What about all the micro blisters on the roof and the filler in the rear wings and rear panel though mate? There’s only one way to get rid of that and that’s to completely strip all the paint off down to bare metal. The doors are dented too and all the seals and wing fillers need replacing. It’s a lot of work to do a decent job mate.
“I’m not bothered about it being a proper showroom job, I just want it to look nice. It can’t look much worse than it does now eh? Just straighten it up, get rid of the rusty bits and make it all one colour. As long as it’s nice and shiny and doesn’t have all that blistering on the top panels, it will be great once the new wings are on. They’re only second hand wings by the way. One’s green and one’s orange but the don’t look bad for the money.”
Mate, seriously, to do all that including changing the colour i’d probably have around 250 to 300 hours in it. The doors, bonnet and boot have to come off. The engine has to come out to do the engine bay. It’s tons of work mate.
“Well what do you charge per hour?”
I don’t mate. As I said don’t do customers work I only do my own so I don’t really have a hourly rate. If you went to a “proper” car restorer, they quote between £50 and £75 per hour labour! Obviously I wouldn’t be quoting you anywhere near that, you’re my mate. What if we said £10 per hour?
“What’s that work out at mate, as I said I haven’t got too much cash?”
Well to do an half decent colour change job with pretty much a bare metal preparation and swapping the wings you’re looking between 250 and 300 hours so even at proper mates rates you’re looking £2500 and £3000.
“Behave mate I paid less than that for the car!”
Fair enough mate, it does sound a lot. I tell you what. You have the next few weeks off work, come down here every day and help me strip and prep the car and we’ll get it done between us and it wont cost you half as much. Hopefully we’ll get it done in less than three weeks.
“I would do mate but i’ve got to work. I can’t afford to take the time off, my missus would go mad if I was off doing my car instead of earning. I’ve got a mortgage to pay and kids to feed you know”
Ha, ha, I know what you mean mate, so have I. Ok I suppose I could just do odd bits and bobs in between my other jobs and you could come down at weekends and give me a hand. I’d have to have some materials though. I can’t afford to use all my stuff on freebie jobs, it costs a fortune you know. So can you bring me this lot and i’ll crack on with your car whenever I can get on it.
80 grit sanding discs
240 grit sanding discs
Paint stripping pads
5 ltrs paint stripper
A couple of paint stripping scrapers
40 grit flappy grinding discs
60 grit flappy grinding discs
1mm slitting cutting discs
2” masking tape
1” masking tape
Tin sheet for patch welding repairs
Wet flatting Paper
Anti Silicone degreaser
General purpose cleaning wipes
Paper spraying over-alls
Spray mask filters
1200 wet colour sand flatting paper
1500 wet colour sand flatting paper
Farecla G3 polishing compound
Farecla fine finish compound
Machine polishing mop head
Machine compound mop head
Car wash and wax
Quality hand car wax
Vinyl Cleaner etc........
Then we’ll have a chat about the top coat colours
“Crikey mate, what’s that lot gonna cost, I bet you’re talking quite a few hundred quid there. I heard how much Mike Peake had to spend on his polishing kit, so I know for a fact that I can’t afford all that”
Oh right, sorry mate, it does sound rather a lot. Ok i’ll try and do it without using any materials.
Would you be ok to take care of the unit and electric costs though because my unit and electric costs around £150 week, and that’s before I even open the doors. Thank goodness i’ve got a decent landlord who doesn’t rip me off, or it would be a lot more. It also costs me at least a fiver a day in fuel just to get here. As long as you’ll take care of those expenses, lets say a grand or so for the duration of the job. I reckon i’d be able to sort you out.
“I’m not right happy about spending all that just on fee’s and you getting here mate. Is there any way we can get the costs down a bit?”
We can have a go later but we haven’t even talked about what you actually want to paint it in yet. You need to bear in mind that I don’t have any fancy heated or climate controlled spray booths here. I have a £50 plastic gazebo party tent in a dusty scruffy old farm barn and I use a cheap nasty spray gun and compressor that quite frankly a professional painter would refuse to use. The lighting is terrible and there is no heating at all.
“So how come all the cars that i’ve seen come out look great and have quite a professional looking finish?”
The only way I can get round that is by using really expensive top quality finishes like two pack or two pack clear coat over base coat. The gun finishes are by no means perfect. There are flies, spiders legs, dust, orange peel and runs due to the poor gun pattern, bad lighting and insufficient air pressure but I can usually get away with it because I spend hours wet flatting and polishing the finish later. I also spend a long time and a hell of a lot of money on preparation beforehand. There’s no way round it, it’s just hard graft.
“Yeah but that two pack stuff is a fortune. I was quoted £60 a litre at one place. What I haven’t told you yet is I managed to find some Synthetic enamel at just £9 a litre, so I saved a few quid there. It’s not quite the colour I wanted but it’s near enough. Just do it in this mate”
But mate the problem with that stuff is, once it comes out of the gun, there is nothing you can do with it. If there is a fly that lands on it or a spider walks across it, or I get any runs because it’s too cold or I can’t see, there is nothing I can do with it. You are stuck with what you get. I can’t flat it, I can’t polish it, I can’t even take it off and start again if it’s real bad and on top of that it takes days to dry off, especially in this weather before you can start to build the car back up again. It’s really not worth the saving on material cost.
“You worry too much mate. Just crack on as quick as you can. I’ll nip down and have a coffee and see how you are getting on when I can. If I don’t see you just give me a shout when it’s done. I could do with it for that show we talked about soon though, so don’t let me down. Here’s the paint, i’m sure it will be fine. Thanks for the coffee, i’ll see you soon”
SOME TIME LATER
“Eyup Tosh, you managed to get it sorted then”
Well it’s all one colour but I can’t say i’m happy with it.
“Why what’s up with it? It doesn’t look bad from down here”
Yeah it’s a good 10 yard away job, but as I thought, it’s full of dusty bits and a couple of dead flies from the spray tent. It’s a bit orange peely, as the compressor struggled to keep up with pressure and there a few runs on the lower panels where I couldn’t see in there. On the bright side you’ve got a clean looking car that didn’t cost you a fortune.
“Oh right, yeah I can see what you mean when you look close.” (uncomfortable silence) “Cheers, sorry I didn’t manage to get as much cash out as we talked about but i’ll try and see you right as soon as I can. Maybe i’ll see you at the show at weekend”
I can’t make that show mate, i’ve got to try and get this car finished as I need to get it on sale. Maybe i’ll see you at the next one. Sorry we didn’t get chance to go out for dinner. We must get together soon.
AT THE SHOW
“Eyup mate, I see you’ve had the A35 painted then, who did you that?”
“Tosh did it”
“Really?, I’ve seen a few of his jobs and they were great. To be honest this looks a bit ........”
“Yeah, to be honest i’m really disappointed with it, I expected it to be better than this”
“You were going to take it to the NEC show weren’t you? It’s going to look ten times worse under those lights”
“ I was hoping to, but obviously I can’t take it looking like this. To be honest I think I could have done better myself in my garage. What a waste of money”
“I thought about asking him to do one for me but I don’t think i’ll bother ha ha”
“No, I wont be taking him any more jobs either, i’ll take it to a proper garage next time”
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