After the great time Barb and I had driving the ’62 Roadster to the 356 Holiday in Houston, we were looking forward to the 356 get together at Yosemite. We didn’t have time to drive so decided to fly and rent a car. But Barb had some back problems, so I invited Rich and we had a great time. However, we really missed driving a 356. Whatever you may have heard, they have some great 356 roads around Yosemite valley and the views are spectacular! I only sold a few hundred dollars worth of parts at the swap meet (it was as if I was fresh meat, they were all over the parts at 6:00 in the dark morning). However, they did have a Continental breakfast so the swap meet in the cold was tolerable. There were about 100 356s; a few more than Houston, so with both events, we almost overdosed on 356’s. I had trouble deciding how to select the best 356 for people’s choice, so for the B cars, I decided to just look at door fit. Out of 38 356 B’s I only found one car that had perfect door fit. Either they don’t know how to fit 356 doors in California or the smog affects the fit.
I promised a report on our first year in business and here it is! 356RESTORE opened its door on October 1, 1992. Our expenses through September 1993 were $41,861.52. Our revenue was $35,799.64. So, for our first year in business, we lost only $6,061.88. However, we have a promissory note for $3,715.85 from a customer who was short when his car was finished on time. So the probable loss was only $2,346.03. Am I upset? No! I expected to lose money in the first year and I knew our shop rate of $22.50/hour was set to create business and would probably cause a loss. We still have three long term restorations in progress and expect a positive cash flow for the next six months. The idea with 356RESTORE was to see if we could assist 356 owners in getting these great cars back on the road and have fun doing it. I know we have!
The following folks trusted 356RESTORE to work on their cars in the past year. Our thanks to all!
Guy’s 356C Cab
Guy had his car in perfect paint and discovered rust in the underbody! We did quite a bit of cutting and welding but Guy did all the cleaning, grinding, and undercoating. Together we got his beautiful 356 Cab back on the road.
Lauren’s ’61 Sunroof Coupe
Lauren needed a front floor pan and repairs to front struts, pedal areas and front longitudinal. The work was of average difficulty and we learned from it i.e. how tough it is to work on a 356 bottom without a rotisserie.
Bob’s ’64 Coupe
Bob had his 356 restored at a local shop, but when the price got over twice the estimate, he pulled the car and called 356RESTORE. With our coaching, he prepared the remaining rust and dent areas and we did the welding at his garage. Bob did the final prep; the 356 is now painted and will soon be back on the road.
Dick’s ’56 Coupe
Dick also put a lot of sweat equity into scraping and cleaning the underside of his Coupe so 356RESTORE could do the metal repair. There were some surprises, especially in the rear strut area, but we got it done and Dick drove it home!
Jim’s ’61 Sunroof Coupe
Jim had this 356 for years and stored it outside. It needed a bottom everything plus lots of exterior work. It was the first 356 on the rotisserie and showed us the value of a rotisserie for bottom work.
Norm’s Project #1
This B Coupe had some very poor panel replacement and we volunteered to drive to Fort Collins to do the work. It was very difficult as we couldn’t take the whole shop and the car needed a whole shop. It taught us that some 356’s can’t be done properly at a remote location.
George’s ’64 Coupe
George bought this 356 from a club member and may have been misled as to the extent of repair needed. Tom Conway did some major repair at a reasonable cost and 356RESTORE did the finish welding. George did a lot of prep work and we did the car at his garage. (George, you really need more than one electrical outlet in your garage to do a 356!)
Cleve’s ’59 Coupe
We got faked out on this one. Cleve has had his ’59 Coupe for twenty some years and now only drives it in the winter. He has put over 350,000 miles on the car. What fooled our evaluation was the undercoat sprayed over the cardboard back of the interior panel (no metal!) and the pop riveted floor pan over and under the rusted original pan. However, we fixed it within our estimate and even made a house call to adjust a sticking door.
Mark’s ’59 Sunroof Clip
This was our first Sunroof clip and we thank Kurt Rommel for his coaching. We bought special tools for this job and did a good job even though the clip was rough and pitted. We did screw up when we were adjusting the sunroof and leaned an elbow on the opening, causing the sliding roof to scrape. It took another house call to make it right.
(Note: Sunroof clips and bottom door skins are the most difficult 356 fabrications. We have done both and are confident we can only get better).
Tom’s ’54 Cab
This was one of our first long term restorations. At first, we only signed up to do the metal work but now Tom wants us to finish his rare car. We have completed the bottom work and have lots to do on the exterior but the 356 sort of waits while Tom, now in Hawaii, collects some funds. This is a neat car. Tom bought it when he was eighteen after crashing his MG. Now he would like to drive it for his fortieth birthday next year. Tom, delivery to Hawaii is extra but negotiable!
Abby’s ’62 Coupe
Those of you that have been by the shop have seen “Abby’s car” since it has been our major project. Every panel, including the roof and rust damage. The bottom was completely gone; almost as bad as my Twin Grille Roadster project. However, Abby’s car is now in primer and as soon as we get the suspension cleaned and painted it will be off to the painter and then ready for reassembly. Abby, a recent college graduate is restoring this 356 in memory of her father who died last year. This was the 356 that her father drove her mother to the hospital in when Abby was born. This was the first car Abby learned to drive. It will be a great car!
John & Lynn’s ’59 S/R Coupe
This was our first shop car when 356RESTORE began. It needed very little metal work as the original pan longitudinals, battery box were in good shape. We did some work on the doors and engine compartment (it previously had a Corvair engine) but it was basically a straight original car. We had six people interested in this rare 356 but John and Lynn bought it after seeing it in it’s beautiful silver metallic paint. We will finish the restoration for them under the guidance of John Jenkins who wants first right of refusal if John and Lynn ever want to sell.
Steve’s ’59 Coupe
While Steve’s 356 isn’t finished, it deserves mention as like Guy’s 356, it was in perfect paint when Steve discovered rust in the engine compartment. We have since chased the rust out down to the rear struts and hopefully it is not into the longitudinals. This was a previously restored car but we found tin cans, bondo, and tar were the restoration technique.
Norm’s Project #2
This is a ’64 Coupe presently in the shop and since the 356 had been media blasted, we were able to give a fixed price estimate on the repairs. Front pan, battery box, engine tray, longitudinals, thresholds, rockers, front/back of door, hood repair and nose dents. Nothing we haven’t seen before. We hope to have it done in the next month so I can get one of the family cars in the garage for winter!
Jim’s ’55 Speedster
We haven’t started work on this early Speedster yet as we are not quite sure how to be proceed. The fenders are flared because the front end is pushed back and the front floor pan is too low. We thought the car had opened up when the pan was installed but we compared it to another Speedster and the top and door measurements are close to original. Jim won’t be back from Italy for a while so we may store this one till next year.
We have quite a few 356’s to be scheduled in over the next six months but as you can tell, we are busy and don’t want to take short cuts (believe me, I know the short cuts, I’ve cut them out of many 356’s). So for you future customers, please understand if we can’t get to your 356 right away.
What Have I Learned
With a year of full time 356 Porsche restoration under my belt, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned that I really enjoy doing a proper repair to 356 sheetmetal. I can study a rusty area or a poor previous repair and figure out what happened. I’ve learned how a 356 was designed and how it evolved from Pre A through C. Little things like the number of welds and lead work tell me about the manufacturing process and how stampings, jigs and procedures improved over time. I’ve learned that the 356 was truly made by hand. Measurements aren’t always exact from the left to right side of a car or even between the same model 356!
I’ve learned how important proper door fit is to 356 restoration. The door is the most important jig for getting all your repairs and sheetmetal replacement to fit properly. The first thing we do when starting a restoration is to fit the doors as perfect as possible and then make sure the hinge pins are straight, clean and oiled. I would guess when doing the typical 356 repairs, the doors are off and on over 100 times.
I’ve also learned how much time it takes to restore a 356 Porsche and how you can save time. If you can take a box of dirty, rusty parts to a blast shop and get them back clean and ready for primer for a reasonable price, you can save hours at the parts cleaner, blasting cabinet and bench grinder. If you are restoring cars as a hobby you can afford the time but when you have customers the idea is to save time.
Time management is also critical to the small business person. If I have to go to Boulder to pick up a part, I also plan to stop at the autobody supply house, the chromers, the hardware store, the bank and maybe get a haircut. I figure one half day a week is spent out of the shop errands. When I started 356RESTORE I pledged not to work evenings or Sundays. This was a smart decision as the off time allows problems to find solutions and good work to receive credit in your mind.
I’ve also learned a lot about customers and suppliers.
They are all unique individuals. My goal for the second year of 356RESTORE is to be more attentive to the needs of my customers and suppliers. It is too easy to fall into the trap of concentrating on the car and its problems and forgetting that a business requires customers and good support services.
My public thanks to my wife Barb who has supported this crazy adventure for the last year, she was married to a professional in the computer industry. Now she is putting up with smells and noise from the basement and garage and has her husband home every day, in addition to doing the typing for this newsletter (with coaching from #2 son) and keeping the books. Number 1 son is helping out in the shop on Saturday mornings, so we are all in this together. Are we having fun? Hell yes!