Can Someone Give An HONEST Restoration Price??

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Hi All,
I am wondering if someone could give me some information? Could someone please give me a rough/ballpark figure on how much it would cost to do a
complete rebuild/restore of a 1981 Chevy Camaro coupe?
I have a 81' Camaro which has been garaged for 13 years, and probably now needs a complete restore/rebuild. The car does NOT run, and has both engine and body problems.
The engine problem is that the "rear main seal" is bad, and the car leaks about 4 quarts of oil while the engine is running. The major body problem is that the floorboards are rotted out. The car needs new rotors and brakes, as well as other mechanical stuff. Mice have gotten into the garage, and have made nests in the engine, interior ( under the seats ), and trunk of the car. The mice have chewed through electrical wires and the brake lights don't work.
My son is turning 17 soon, and he wants the car for himself.
Giving me a "rough" estimate, what is a "ballpark" figure of what it would cost to restore this car with all GM/Chevy parts, to make it look like it's brand new like it just rolled out of the factory?
I have 2 "restoration" places in my town. I talked to a guy at one of them, over the phone, and he told me that for a complete restoration of this car, I am looking at $25,000+!!!!!!! He told me that I would be better off buying a brand new "2010 or 2011 Comaro" right out of the showroom from a car dealer.
WTF!? $25,000+ to restore a freakin 81' camaro? It's not like I want to restore a prized 67, 68, or 69 Camaro!!!
So you are telling me that on the show "Overhaulin", they spend $30.000 everytime they restore someones car!? On the show "Pawn Stars" on the History Channel, they did a complete restore of a 1967 Ford F-150 pickup truck, for $4,000. And this guy is telling me it will be $25,000+ to restore an 81' Camaro Coupe!?
Is this guys quote for real, or is he just a HUGE ripoff artist.
Please let me know ASAP.
Thanks.
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I own a half dozen collector cars and I can assure you that guy was WAY off! A total off frame restoration will cost closer to $75,000 and then only if you can find plenty of NOS parts. A fellow collector of mine spent a million and a half to restore a Duisenberg.
If you need anything custom made, you will pay an arm and a leg. I recently paid $600 for the hydraulic pump at Hershey for my '41 Continental convertible and it cost me another $300 to have it rebuilt.
The most difficult parts to find are the trim and rubber parts. The guys out there that own NOS parts know how rare they can be and will charge you a fortune, take it or leave it.
One reason one sees few old Japanese cars, at the old cars shows around the county, is the availability of replacement part to keep them running.
Collectors will tell you that it is ALWAYS better to buy a car that someone has restored, you will have many fewer headaches and spend far less money in the long run

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I clipped the last part of your post, but if you could get a complete restore for $25,000, that could be a GIFT.
Figure labor at $100 per hour or more, just for grins.
Nowadays, a custom paint job can easily cost you $15-50 thousand dollars, depending upon how custom you really want to go. ( A "good" paint job could be a couple thousand or even less)
The engine is relatively cheap. You can buy a brand new crate engine for a few thousand bux. You can probably get a good junkyard engine for a grand or less.
To dismantle the car to the point you can cut out the old floorboards, and weld in new aftermarket floorboards, can run several hours labor (plus the parts). If the car is not a "rustbucket", then you might be able to get somebody to cut out the lacey floor panels and weld in patches. You have to do this right, or you will end up with a rustbucket.
Bottom line, it takes an enormous amount of labor to really RESTORE an old car, and parts, labor, etc are all expensive. These people who do this sort of work should be experts, not just greasy oil change monkeys, and they charge big money.
I saw that truck on Pawn Stars, and it had already had a lot of money dumped into it. The engine, tranny, basic body, etc were all sound, if I remember correctly. If you start with a sound chassis and engine, then you can get everything re-upholstered and an "okay" paint job for maybe $4000. (That truck didnt look like a lot to me, by the way)
So, what can you do? First, stop talking in terms of a car that looks and runs like it did when it rolled out of the factory. No way you can do that for a few bux. But if you set your sights a little lower, you might get out for $5-10 thousand.
If the boy wants it, he could perhaps take a night course at a community college in bodywork and general auto mechanics. Then he could do a lot of this work himself, in class, and he would learn a ton about the other side of owning a car. His cost would be considerably less. (My daughter did this, repaired the body of her Mitsubishi and painted it..)
Because these things cost big money doesnt necessarily mean that the restoration places are crooks.
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Thanks for all of the great info, I really do appreciate it!!! Yeah something like $5,000 seems more reasonable, to AT LEAST get the thing on the road and driveable.
The big question is, how much damage did the stupid mice do??? Like I said, they built their nests inside the engine, under the seats of the interior, in the glove compartment box, and in the trunk. When we had it running a few years ago, the brake lights didn't work, so they probably chewed up electrical wires as well.
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Old wiring used a resin in the covering that mice love.

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You never know until you get into it how much damage is done.. I would be more concerned about the rust, I think, than mouse damage, although these little beggars can cause a lot of problems.
I dont know if you can get it running and more or less roadworth for $5K or not. Depends..
But you wont do it at a restoration garage. Remember what I said about labor.
If your son cant or wont do any of the labor, you need to find a good local mechanic (not necessarily a master mechanic) who might give you an estimate and work on this thing in stages. This guy must be somebody trustworthy, or he can run up more unnecessary bills than my exwife ever dreamed of doing.
What part of the country do you live in?
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Unfortunately I am in the New England area where YES, the roads get salted like crazy in the winter!!!! And unfortunately yes, the car has been driven in the snow, and on the salt covered roads on occasion, before it was garaged 13 years ago.
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On Fri, 10 Sep 2010 18:29:51 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (MICHELLE H.) wrote:

I'm in New England (Southwest NH to be exact), are you near me?
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MICHELLE H. wrote:

Where in the New England area, State closest city is fine. I'm in NY myself near Cooperstown.
Rust on a Camaro can be VERY nasty due to the lack of a real frame. The bodies structure is made up of layers of formed steel welded together to form the various parts. Then a front subframe is bolted to this and that carries the engine and transmission. In the rear there are formed sheet metal sections that hold the rear suspension to the vehicle. Rust in those areas is a very bad thing and can be very hard to kill.
I have scrapped out cars that looked just fine from the outside but the uni-body was rotted so bad that it would cost more than the car would ever be worth to fix.
You say mice got into it. That is a bad thing, they like to chew into wiring, seats, carpet padding, they will even crawl into the intake if they get the chance. Nasty little critters.
--
Steve W.

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That fact that it had not been driven for that long does not bode well for the vehicle. Collectors have something called the 30/30 rule. To keep everything in good condition the vehicle and all of it components should be run every thirty day for at least thirty miles. If not you will have problem after problem, seals dry out and stick, bearings run dry, switches corrode, tires oxidize from not ever being hot etc..

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hls,
Are you in the New England area? Unfortunately, my digital camera is broken, so I can't post photos online, but if you want give me an e-mail address to contact you at, so that you can give me your mailing address, and I will buy one of those cheap disposable cameras and take numerous pics of the car, and you can give me your rough assessment, if that works? I don't know?
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In your opinion, what would it cost to at least make the car drivable and roadworthy?? Also, besides the floorboards, what other stuff would have to be done to the car after sitting in a garage for 13 years.
I know that the brakes and rotors need to be done. The rear main seal is shot, and the car leaks 4 quarts of oil while the engine is running ( THIS IS THE REASON WHY THE CAR WAS TAKEN OFF THE ROAD 13 YEARS AGO! BECAUSE IT WAS LEAKING 4 QUARTS OF OIL A DAY! ).
Obviously the battery, tires, ALL the fluids, and gasoline has to be changed ( 13 year old battery, tires, gas and oil ).
What else? Bushings? Wheel bearings? Steering components? Gaskets? Seals?
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Rear main seal can sometimes be replaced, BUT if you have a lot of mileage on the car, and the symptoms correlate with the mileage, then there is little use to hope for an engine to be in better condition than it obviously is. 4 quarts per day is very large. Now to decide what to do about it.....

Sure, tires are rotten, battery is history. Forget the oil. That will be added to whatever you are going to swap in. Gas and fuel tank are separate issues. You may have to drop the tank and steam it out or replace it.

Forget bushings and wheel bearings right now. Gaskets would likely be replaced with the engine. Steering components....maybe not needed.
I live in Texas.., If you were within a few hours of me, I would gladly drive up and see what I could do. The picture darkens since you live in New England.
Rust is like cancer. I have dealt with a couple of cars with rust problems, and they will work you to death, and still come back with rust after you paint them UNLESS you make all the repairs very professionally.
This is beginning to sound like a situation that may not be economically feasible. You can do ANYTHING, practically, if you do it right. But this car may be rotten to the core.
Why not just find a running car that is in reasonable shape, and put your money into that?
Here in the South, we dont use salt, and some areas seldom get rain or snow. You can find good cars here much cheaper than what you are trying to do.
My best wishes and most caring regards
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THANKS for all of the GREAT info!!! Yes, after doing a search on Craigslist alone, there are lots of older vintage Camaros, Firebirds, Trans Ams, etc., that are running, rust free, and driveable for less than $5,000!!!!!
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On Fri, 10 Sep 2010 19:52:11 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (MICHELLE H.) wrote:

Also realize that a vintage ANYTHING is not going to be a safe vehicle for a young driver. Lack of safety devices (air-bags, for example) and often times substandard componets such as brakes make a car that could easily be a serious hazard to a young inexperienced driver.
Again, I'd recommend a late model, good used car for him.
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Yeah, lots of 1981 Camaro's available just on Craigslist alone, some for under $5,000 even, that are rust free, running, and driveable.
And this was just an advanced "1 week" search that brought up 49 results!!! A "1 month" search would probably have about 150-200 results!?
"1981 camaro" site:craigslist.org - Google Search
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&as_q=&as_epq 81+camaro&as_oq=&as_eq=&num&lr=&as_filetype=&ft=i&as_sitesearch=craigslist.org&as_qdr=w&as_rights=&as_occt=any&cr=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&safe=images
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Actually a "1 month" advanced search brought up 69 results for "1981 Camaro". Still, I guess it shows that 81' Camaro's are still out there to be found.
I thought that the 81' was a rare/collector Camaro, because it was the last year of the 2nd generation "big body" style, before they went to the shorter body in 1982??
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No, 81 is the first year of that body style, whatever they called it, I don't recall.
Unless it is an original Z28 it is just an old Camaro, sorry.
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On Fri, 10 Sep 2010 18:53:10 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (MICHELLE H.) wrote:

Probably everthing else, all fluids, you need an engine rebuild if it is leaking as much as you say, brakes, tires, clutch if it is manual, bet it smells rank at this point, so a pine tree air freshener too...
IMHO, there is no way you can do this for $5K. There are way too many good cars out there, that will be MUCH safer, and much cheaper.
Sell it.
(No, I don't want it, and no I won't restore it for you, but I'd be willing to look at it for you if you are nearby...)
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On Fri, 10 Sep 2010 14:12:30 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (MICHELLE H.) wrote:

For $5K you might get a basic paint job, and get the motor running and tuned up. You won't get a factory look, or a car that is dependable.

Mice? I missed that in my other post. OK, add as much as $5K for rodent damage to wiring. Perhaps even more.

If that guy who gave you the $25K quote has not seen the car, then it is not a valid quote. I now think based on the above, that it is likely to cost between $35 and $50K to get a full restore.
IMHO, go buy a recent, or new, car or truck. Sell the '81 for whatever you can get for it and you may get enough to make a small downpayment on the new car.
Restoration is not for you... Trust me, I've a several thousand square foot shop (private, I don't do commercial restorations, only my own stuff) and you are headed for disaster!
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