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Barnfinding: Pick Well

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I'm Adam Wright, and my brother Matt and I scour the country for long-lost Porsches. Some of our adventures make great stories, which I will share with you starting with this article for I hope you enjoy it and future tales. And if you have any stories you want to share, please do — I enjoy writing about other people’s escapades far more than my own. Please email me

This story is a cautionary tale to always touch base with your restorer. Anyone who has ever had a Porsche restored knows that it can sometimes take years — and then a few more years.

There are two routes one may take to restore a car: The first is you can go to the big-time shop that has dozens of cars under restoration; the second option is to find a smaller shop with just a few cars at any given time. Both of these options have their pros and cons.

At a big shop, for instance, your car will probably be completed more quickly than at a small shop. However, it might not be a top priority if it isn't a super-high-dollar example. There is also more security in going with a higher-end and more established shop because it has more at stake due to years and years of reputation-building. At a smaller shop, the work might go more slowly but is also less expensive. You might get more attention to detail because you are a bigger fish in a smaller pond. However, a smaller shop could mean a “backyard mechanic” who may be semi-retired and might actually work out of his house. This can work better for lower-budget clientele because it’s less expensive over time.

The danger with option two is that the smaller shop likely doesn't have as large a reputation to uphold as a big shop, and it may not be as financially stable, which can bring a whole host of problems. There’s a better chance a small shop will go broke halfway through a restoration and may even resort to double-billing or selling off pieces of your car to make ends meet. Yes, this does happen and it can be a real nightmare for the client.

Such was the case of a retired teacher who brought his 1959 356 Convertible D to a backyard shop to have it restored. He bought the Porsche in the mid 1980s and didn't pay much for it because, at the time, they just weren't worth much. He dropped the car off and left it with the restorer, neglecting to follow up on its progress on a regular basis to the tune of about ten years. Further complicating the restoration, he agreed to give the restorer another Porsche as partial payment for working on the Convertible D. This type of deal is fine as long as the shop is financially stable, and in this case, it wasn't.

So over a ten-year period the shop restored the body of the Convertible D and actually did a pretty good job. But to make ends meet, the shop owner sold off most of the valuable parts. He probably told himself he would replace them later, but much like taking cookies from the cookie jar, it's a lot easier to take than to replace.

My friend, the retired teacher, finally got around to checking on his car. He liked the work that was done but then realized he was missing a large amount of his parts to finish the car. And the fight began! Lawyers got involved, accusations flew, and there were angry people everywhere. In the end, my friend ended up with his Convertible D, lost the other Porsche for work done, and never saw the missing parts again. In some ways he was lucky to get his 356 back at all, but that was a small consolation. His next phone call was to me to ask how much it would be to replace all of his missing parts. I gave him a rough estimate and he was floored.

Being a retired teacher on a fixed income, he did not have the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to make his car whole again. After some soul searching he decided to sell me the Convertible D as-is. At least the parts that were left are important, like the original engine, gearbox, and windshield frame. But other than those and the rolling body, that was about it. 

The good news is the car was worth about ten times what he paid for it, so there is a silver lining to the story. I sold the car to a reputable shop on the West Coast and the car will get the restoration it deserves. So overall, a happy ending. But let this be a cautionary tale to choose your restoration shop wisely and stay in continuous contact with it. so if a problem arises you can deal with it before it gets too big, as it did in this case.

On another note, this weekend on September 2, Unobtanium, Inc. is holding its open house. Come visit!

Unobtanium Open House
Adam's Project's on Display! 904 and 550 Spyder in Aluminum!

14 W Shore St. Ravena, NY 12143

Saturday Sept 2. 11 AM – 3 PM

In addition to all of the usual cool stuff to see at Unobtanium, this year you can also check out Adam's Personal Projects, the 904 and the 550 Spyder in Aluminum. Building dreams!

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