$20,000 Paint Job

I was in the muffler shop trying to get the down pipes for my Shankle headers straightened. The shop is a one-man operation, and over the years, Robert, the owner, had been working on a Cobra replica. The last time I was there, the car hadn’t been painted. Now it had a beautiful deep, dark metallic silver paint job. He told me he got it painted across the street. I didn’t ask him how much it cost.

1972 BMW Bavaria
1972 BMW Bavaria

Since acquiring it 3 years ago, the paint on our 1972 BMW Bavaria was starting to go.

I bought a Makita 9227C 7-inch polisher, went to the local paint shop, bought a bunch of Meguiars’ medium and fine cut cleaners, glazes, etc. It was labor intensive. I don’t really have it in me. It looked pretty good after I finished but it lasted for about 2 weeks. The paint starts to look dull, like there are cloudy patches in it. I decided to drive over to the restoration shop and see how much it would cost to get it painted.

I guess I should have known as soon as I walked in, being one of the non-moneyed subscribers to Sports Car Market and watching the Barrett-Jackson auctions on Speedvision. I’ve seen the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. I had become inured to seeing a $324,000 1968 Hemi Dodge Dart or a $621,000 1956 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing.

I parked in the driveway and walked over to the garage doors. There must have been 10 or 15 cars in various states of disassembly. Some guys were working on an XK-120. There was a pontoon Mercedes Benz 220S convertible, the pale yellow color of my ’59 190 that I had in high school. There was silver 300 SL Gullwing up on jack stands. Further back there was something that looked like a ’30’s Rolls-Royce Phantom III.

I told the shop owner that I wanted to see how much it would cost to paint the car. He walked around the car looking at everything – opening the doors, feeling the drip rails, rockers, the spot welds under the hood. He was doing the math in his head, fabricating metal here and there for rusty panels, describing the process of stripping it to bare metal (it already had a respray), the masking process, primer, paint and everything. The bottom line was $20,000. When he said it, I had to ask him again, twice. What an ignoramus I was.

He went on to explain the work involved in this paint job but showing me an example made it clear. I didn?t even notice what kind of car it was. It was up on a lift covered in paint masking, so the bottom of the rear quarter panel was above my head. All I saw was a deep red fender, an immaculate wheel well and suspension parts that looked brand new.

He complimented me on the job that I had done on the seats; I didn’t say I’d done it with $99 leather World Upholstery covers I bought on eBay. He also said I did a good job on the engine compartment.

Weber 32/36 DGAV Carburetors - Carter 4070 Fuel pump
Weber 32/36 DGAV Carburetors – Carter 4070 Fuel pump

I asked him about the paint that was on the car. He said that kind of repaint lasts two years. I told him I used Meguiars Medium Cut, glaze, wax, etc. He said you could do that and it was last for about three hours, given the condition of the paint.

He went in to his office and looked up the value of a Bavaria in the Sports Car Market price guide. I told him that even if they were perfect, they weren’t worth that much. He said the coupes were more desirable. I thought KooPe.

His advice was to sell my car and get another one at an estate sale with decent paint. He had just spent 45 minutes with me, giving me an evaluation and advice. I mumbled about having to ask the missus. I thanked him.

While he was finishing up with me, an immaculate black ’53 Corvette drove in. The owner looked like one of those old rich guys. He lifted the hood and I did a double take and walked over and asked him, “Is that an LS1?” He nodded. The manager said they had built the car; some guy down south had done the chassis, basically ’97 Corvette running gear with the ’53 body. He told me that every year when the guy parks at the Pebble Beach Concours, he gets $500,000 offers for the car. They can build them, but rich guys don’t want to wait for them.

9 Replies to “$20,000 Paint Job”

  1. I would be willing to pay $20,000 for paint on a $450,000 car if I had that kind of money and I was doing a concours restoration. There is a lot of work to go from 97 points to 100 points.

    The costs just keep adding up for painting an old car that you like: panel straightening, rust repair, bare metal preparation, etc.

    I could probably be happy with an Earl Scheib paint job if I did the prep work myself and let them shoot the paint.

  2. Yeah, I would say the 6k sounds more like it. The original guy charges
    20k, because “he can”. He has that kind of clientele, and that’s fine.
    From what I’ve seen, a paint job for 4 or 5 looks really nice.
    (like I’m an expert). I was having some work done on my car at a shop
    in the early nineties, in New Orleans, and they were doing a late 80,s
    mercedes sedan for 3000, with clearcoat, etc. So I guess 6000 isn’t
    that much of a stretch nowadays. A Bavaria is worth every cent you
    can afford to put into it.

  3. The estimate was for a bare metal respray and involved some partial panel fabrication for rust repair. I don’t doubt this shop’s ability to do concours quality work, but that wasn’t what I was looking for.

    I went to another shop and had a very good bare metal paint job for about US$ 6000.

  4. Regarding that $20,000 paint job, are they going to strip the car down completely so the car has the same color through out?

    Unless you want to paint a Vanhool bus in complete piano lacqure otherwise that price seem a little rediculous..

  5. Even although I know NOTHING about cars, I think these are very interesting “tales”! I think I’d go with the Earl Scheib solution! But, whadda I know?!


  6. Scottie,

    I knew it was the wrong shop as soon as I looked inside. I’m looking for something about a quarter of the way to $20,000 that might last 5 or 10 years.

    At the rate I’m going, I’m more headed toward a 1600.


  7. Hey I love Bavs as much as the next guy. However you took your old BMW to the wrong shop. That shop works on valuable cars, as opposed to your E3, which could be traded on the open market for a double handful of Susan B. Anthony’s.

    An Earl Scheib shop will paint your car for $359.95. Once you pay for the envrionmental impact fees, taxes and “extras” (you’ll see), you’ll be at less than $500.00. Do your own prep work (strip and sand) and the job will look quite good.

    Yes, it will last for about 2 years. After which time – nearly to the week – the shine on the paint will magically disappear.

    What do you do then? REPAINT IT.

    At that rate your $20,000 will last about 80 years worth of Earl Scheib specials.

    By then, you’ll have probably upgraded to an e12 or, if you are a rich sonofagun, an e28.


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