$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.