I’ve been reflecting on the 356RESTORE philosophy lately. The reason – we have fourteen 356s that need restoration! When I started the shop I expected 2-3 356s a year. I hoped to instruct owners on how to do the metal repair on their 356s and do the more difficult work for them. In the interim I could finish shop cars and sell them at a reasonable profit. I could also buy, restore, and sell 356 parts. Life in early retirement would be relaxed and all would be right with the world. But with fourteen 356s in backlog I have to reflect on what is happening. One, there are a lot more project 356s out there then I ever would have imagined. Two, when 356 owners find a shop that does good work at a reasonable price they jump on it. Three, for most folks, their 356 is an extra car and they don’t mind having it in restoration at someone else’s garage for a long time.
356RESTORE’s problem is we are a home shop and don’t have room for storage. So we prefer to get the metal work done quickly and get the 356 back to the owner to finish. We now realize we can only do one full restoration at a time. (We presently have two!) So we are presently scheduling 356s but we are holding to our philosophy. The 356s that get priority are those that are going to get finished and driven by their owners. Show cars and investment cars get low priority. Hey! but we are still learning and having fun!
We finished the metal work on Tom’s ’54 Cabriolet and put it in storage awaiting Tom’s decision on the next step. Paint and full restoration? The Cab is stored in a barn in the Black Forest where all good 356s should be stored. Out of the barn came Joe’s Speedster for a little tuning of the metal work done by the owner (a priority 356, as the owner is involved!)
Ron and Marcia’s ’64 Coupe is just about done metal-wise but we have to get it ready for paint. Finish body work takes as long as metal repair and isn’t as much fun. Anybody out there enjoy filler, sanding, and primer – a subcontract is available.
Recognizing, the problem that filler dust and primer smell can cause in a home shop, we are building a paint booth in Ryan’s barn (Barb is very happy!)
Abby’s ’62 Coupe in its beautiful Slate Gray paint is going back together slowly. All the new chrome, rubber, and parts have arrived but you can’t imagine the time it takes to assemble a 356! One hour for the pedal cluster, one and a half hours for the rear quarter window, two hours for the door, etc. But this is the fun and learning part of 356 restoration and why I encourage owners to do the work themselves. Imagine yourself at West Fest and someone says, “Great car, who did the work?” And you say “356RESTORE did the body work but I restored it.”
We just started on Tom’s ’65 Coupe and this 356 matches the 356RESTORE philosophy. Tom and his father plan to do the finish welding, grinding, and paint prep. 356RESTORE will cut out the rust, create the repair, and tack it in place. We will also finish the difficult pieces like lockposts and closing panels. Tom will spend about $1,000 with 356RESTORE when he could have spent $10.000 at a full restoration shop.
This one has been a secret for years but you want tips, you get the best. Many times you can’t get the welding tip into an area i.e. back of tube in headlight bracket, top of longitudinal, top of closing panel, to lay down a good bead. The tip is to use two part plumbers putty to smooth in an attractive surface. The putty is available in any hardware store. It comes in a tube and you just cut a section off and work the two parts together. It dries as hard as metal but is sandable.
Make sure your surface is clean and shiny. You can also use this product to build up thin metal that you don’t want to cut out and replace. (I don’t do this, but you can until you bring your 356 to 356RESTORE for proper repair).