Restoration Process

12 Steps to Classic Car Restoration Success 

 

City Classic Cars offers a process of restoration you can trust will achieve the car of your dreams.  At City Classic Cars, we divide your restoration build into the following 12 phases which collectively result in the restored automobile of your dreams.

Our Process of Building  Dreams

Step 1 - The Project Profile

This is where the design and style genius of Sabra begins to shape your vision in real and tangible ways.

 

Sabra uses the Who-What-When-Where exegete method on cars. Sabra Johnson and his team will find out the full story on your car. Carol, the GM, will start by authorizing the lead restoration technicians in each department to access various systems of the car. Once that 8-12 hour pre-restoration report is completed by the technicians, Sabra and his GM often meet together with prospective clients to discuss more of what he terms the exegeting of the car story.  The initial consultation is a laid back atmosphere where the report is discussed, the client’s budget highlighted and most importantly the vision for the project. Very few final decisions are made in this phase. We purposefully make an attempt to pick paint colors, tires/rims, upholstery, and even powertrain choices. This is a vision casting session where the experts of City Classic Cars listens and documents your vision for your project. City Classic Cars has built a reputation for creating graphics drawings and sketch illustrations to showcase the dream on paper. If we hear it wrong, we make edits until we get the vision right. This profile phase which may be one 20 minute meeting or consume multiple gatherings over a few weeks is where the direction of the build is decided. Some clients arrive with all the ready details while others do not make final decisions until we get into phase 2 or 3. Once we are all agreed, the second project begins. 

 

  • Print, Scale and/or Graphic Illustration of the project along with a personality "nickname"

  • Vision-Driven Development strategy for The Project in light of visionary budget

  • Project overview featuring specs and products list of the build plan

  • Style Selection Chart with paint code, interior fabrics, and other cosmetic details. 

  • Design blueprints of Chassis and/or performance engines.

 

The project profile happens over the course of the first 45-60 days and consists of 40-60 hours of design, research, diagnostics, admin and client consultation hours on major performance fabrications and full restorations to produce the project profile along with any related supply cost. Below you will find a print profile of Mr. Earl Campbell's consultation complete with a print vision for the project, artistic theme renderings and one-on-one quality time with Sabra and key staff. Moreover, you can observe project profiles of other client projects, 

Step 2 - Professional Process of Disassembly, Documentation, & Delayering

Sabra Johnson has an internal standard of having the three D’s of phase 2 (the teardown, media blast, and primer phase) completed within the first 45 days after the project profile phase has been accepted and complete. of your classic car’s arrival. Project 2 is a job- this process is the definition of drudgery but we love it! This is where the car is separated into smaller pieces for review and restoration- even in restomods, much of the old parts are reused. The Disassembly itself will take anywhere from 4 to 8 full working days depending on the scope and condition of the car and the cooperation of its parts. Every bolt is removed. Every panel is removed. Every piece of glass is removed... This is the nuts and bolts of restoration. One of the key steps in the disassembly phase is constant pausing to “tag and bag and label” which is common industry-wide- at City Classic Cars we add photo taking to help in the later reassembly phase. During this phase, Sabra and his team intentionally look for damaged or suspect parts and note them as well as check for authenticity of parts. Every piece is separated from one another whether that be the frame, a large fender, the coach or the smallest of bolts and then documented, bagged up and organized in containers for your project prior to storage. 

 

Once the car is tagged, bagged, labeled and stored, the car moves immediately to the media blasting stage. This is the process where stripping of the body surface happens. As Mr. Johnson shares, “everything that glitters ain’t gold, so through media blasting, we are able to determine the true condition of the body… truth is found in the bare metal”.  The City Classic Cars team uses a multiplicity of methods and media to get the best outcome- some of their favorites are black diamond, green diamond and in some special cases chemical dipping. Remember, budget and scope of work are a guiding factor throughout every phase of the project. During the delayering phase (stripping of paint phase), the Restoration Technicians at City Classic Cars are able to view previous repairs and obtain a better insight to assess full body damage. Photos are taken along the way for further documentation.

 

Step two is the first milestone in this joyous journey of restoration. Often Carol, the GM, will coordinate a consultation in person or through modern technology to discuss the team’s findings. We also begin the interior and rolling chassis in phase 2, so we are on schedule when project arrives at steps 4-7.

 

  • Full Restorations: Every bolt is removed, rubbers, glass, body panels, and the chassis is stripped to a bare frame... 

  • Partial Restorations: The phase to be developed first is removed; often this engines removing of the powertrain for rebuild and interior for upholstery while the remainder of the project will go to paint and body...

  • Photos document the removal process for future keepsakes and emotional connection

  • The process includes accessing all systems, labeling and storing all items for future usage. 

 

Step 2 often requires 40-80 man hours to complete for full restorations while partial removals are as little as a few hours or multiple dozens of man-hours.

 

 

“The initial intake and first assessments are more of a restorative X-Ray

while the delayering (media blasting) is more of a Restoration MRI”

- Sabra Johnson, owner City Classic Cars

Step 3 - The Proactive "Product Procurement" Process

In this phase, we start the rebuilding of major engine systems, transmission, and antique differentials. We also make special orders with partners such as Art Morrison Chassis, Custom Chrome columns from Ididit, Classic Instruments Retrofit Dash or steering wheel restoration through Pearl craft long with ordering some of the hard to find parts and custom leathers. We like to get the time-consuming systems started to avoid later delays. The cost, details and time vary from project to project. Some of the more common details involve: ordering crate engines and transmission, ordering retrofit gauges, exotic leathers and fabrics, metal panels and replacement body parts, specialty glass, specialty subcontracting, custom columns, vintage air system, air ride suspension components, performance steering and suspension, specialty chassis products and often even tires and rims, 

 

Step 4 - Raw Production of the Chassis  & Initial Performance Fbarication

This is the core foundation of the build plan... The above steps from phase 1 will determine whether this process is subcontracted to one of the major chassis mass producers or whether the chassis is modified or custom design in-house at City Classic Cars. This is where the "chassis process". This includes suspension, rack, and pinion or gearboxes, coils, 4 links, motor mounts front cross member, and fresh metal to design the chassis.  

Step 5 - Metal Work and Performance  

This is the phase of rust repair. “The previous phase of media blasting eradicates most of the cancer so this phase can be the healing process.”- Sabra Johnson

 

If you are building a custom, purist restoration or cool restomod, this is the stage where one-off panels are designed for the vehicle. Often a cab comes out of media blasting looking like Swiss cheese. This phase of the build allows us to make those holes disappear. We are running a cost analysis of replacement cost versus fabrication cost through this phase- the office and administrative team is very active in this phase of the build. Again the correct strategy will go back to that initial vision to determine the right step as well as the availability of aftermarket parts. For example, on a classic chevy truck a client may determine it is more advantageous to purchase new panels, yet on a 37 Hudson there are little to nothing available in the form of aftermarket parts… 

 

How long does this take and how much does it cost? “It takes as long as it takes and cost what it cost" because one classic vehicle may have as little as 50+ hours of metal work and fabrication while another antique or vintage restoration project may require 300+ hours of metal work. Again, that initial intake on vision, quality of car and budget will prove to be a guiding factor throughout this phase of the build. This is another huge mile marker in the journey where clients are encouraged to visit to view the work in progress. 

Step 6 - Body Work & Body Mocking

The most critical stage for the custom paint job application is the preparation of the vehicle’s body.  This phase must be planned and finished properly in order to achieve excellence.  It makes all the difference! Restorative body work is a highly specialized craft, which includes classic techniques of hammer and dolly, "mud work" and addressing fit and gap concerns. 

Some cars may spend as little as a few weeks in this phase, whole some SEMA or Riddler projects may spend a few months in this phase. Some shops treat metal work and body work as one phase which causes confusion to the consumer. Sabra thinks like a consumer not simply like a “car guy”. A casual classic car hobbyist can easily notice and appreciate the elimination of large holes in the body, but may not as easily recognize and therefore appreciate the intricacies of body. Anyone can "spray a car", but it takes special talent and skill too reshape, mold and highlight body lines of the vintage, classic or antique project.  

 

“Many projects experience problems with gap and fit because ego causes one to say its right - no need to check…

then when the car is painted and assembled there is an oops, so we go the extra mile in phase

6 with mockings and advanced body work, not after paint”

- Sabra Johnson  

Step 7 - Final Performance Fabrication & "Pre-Assembly" Mechanical  

It is not desirable to weld or drill into a painted body or frame; therefore, we make every effort to address final assembly blueprints so we can perform mock fittings. We do all final fitments of chassis then dissemble for powder coating.  This phase is a big assembly and disassembly. We want to make sure all things are correct. We consider details such as chrome fitting, side mirrors, firewall to distributor, confirming door gaps one more time, mocking fuse boxes and vintage air boxes, pre running windshield wipers... and many other final assembly details are considered.

 

"During the end of phase two the frame, the power train, and the drive train are either ordered or rebuilt so all will be ready for phase 7 of the restoration process. We either build the frame, engine, transmission, or rear end in-house or outsource to trusted brand developers such as Art Morrison, Roush, Moser, or Strange to name a few."

- Sabra Johnson  

Step 8 - Power-Train, Mechanical and Complete Rolling Chassis  

Once the frame returns from powder coating, the chassis components receive a final install. This phase is after all the pre-staging is complete. The final install of the engine and transmission are completed in this phase. It is imperative that the products are on-site and/or all rebuilds have been completed months in advance so the assembly is as easy as 1,2,3

 

It is not desirable to weld or drill into a painted body or frame; therefore, we make every effort to address final assembly blueprints so we can perform mock fittings. In this phase we   The frame is the metal section upon with the chassis components are attached. Power Coating Kicks this phase off. Once the frame returns from powder coating, the chassis components receive a final install. 

 

"The Complete Rolling Chassis is the foundation of any restomod. The Chassis is often the most expensive portion of the build process and certainly 70% of parts cost, so to have this phase complete is a major mile stone."

- Sabra Johnson 

Step 9 Block Sanding & Rotisserie Assembly

One of the steps involved in body work preparation before a car is painted is a system called "block sanding". Block sanding takes place after any body damage has been restored and fillers have been applied, such as bondo or glazing compounds, and the classic is in primer. "Block Sanding" This is an all important step which allows the restored project to obtain a very flat smooth surface before the paint is applied. All high end paint jobs go through the block sanding process which insures that excellent flat finish! 

Blocking sanding is also a quality control step as there still remains the opportunity to perform some minor body work and filling if the block sanding uncovers flaws through the guide coat process. "Guide Coating" or tiger stripping is a classic technique where the technician sprays a dark colored primer over the gray. This darker coat of primer is called the "guide coat" and when you sand the dark primer off, any low spots will be determined by the gray primer below it that is not effected by the flat surface sanding. A low spot will show the light primer below and a high spot will generally show bare metal as you sand over the area. Then the restorative process involves the filling of low spots with filling compounds such as final putty or glazing compounds. High spots will have to be either sanded down, grounded or pounded back to get flat to get the high spot to become a low spot, which would then be easier to fill. After any filling compounds are dry, we sand the repair area with a coarser grit paper wrapped on the proper block, possibly as coarse as 120 grit and follow up with 220 or 320 afterwards. Then spray new primer in the appropriate color and repeat the block sanding process until the surface is very flat and smooth.Once the surface is flat and the block sanding has not unveiled any low or high spots we employ a finer grit paper of 320 and then finally 600 grit which will leave a nice finish for final primers and sealers. Then onward to the Paint Phase.

Step 10 - The "Color and Clear" Phase of Paint Phase Paint 
This is where things start to get pretty. The paint department starts the raw body work while the car is assembled in the vicinity of phase 5 and 6. In phase 9, the paint and body department does the blocking and finishing work on each panel to ensure the highest standards. The color and clear phase begins with what we term a "Painter's Block". The painter will do another quality control "block" to ensure the work of the body technicians are ready to receive color.

 

When the panels are blocked to the agreed standard, the panels and the coach are scheduled for paint booth time. City Classic Cars stocks premium top of the line PPG DBC in its mixing system as its house line of paint. City Classic Cars also regularly uses House of Kolor paints and PPG Vibrance Collection paints for more one of a kind finishes. After blocking, the painter will degrease and clean the surface, then the taping and masking process begins followed by sealer then color then clear. 

 

Booth time may be as little as a day or as much as 2 weeks. The real magic is pre booth time and post booth time. The paint pogre After all the components are painted, the vehicle and/or its parts are removed from the booth for wet sanding. Carol, the general manager, probably has one of the best “paint eyes” in Houston. Carol leads the quality control team in inspecting the overall finish and quality of the work. Wet Sanding, Buffing and Quality Control Inspections are the assurance imperfections, such as orange peel or texture, are removed to ensure an award winning finish.

Step 11- Fit Garage- Finishing, Interior, Technology  

Although the fabric and materials were ordered in previous steps and some interior designs are completed. In this phase, we work to bring the interior design to a closure. The goal is to have the interior 95% complete once the car comes out of paint. Interior assembly is one of the major finishing details. 

Step 11- Fit Garage- Finishing, Interior, Technology  

Although the fabric and materials were ordered in previous steps and some interior designs are completed. In this phase, we work to bring the interior design to a closure. The goal is to have the interior 95% complete once the car comes out of paint. Interior assembly is one of the major finishing details. 

Step 11- Fit Garage- Finishing, Interior, Technology  

Although the fabric and materials were ordered in previous steps and some interior designs are completed. In this phase, we work to bring the interior design to a closure. The goal is to have the interior 95% complete once the car comes out of paint. Interior assembly is one of the major finishing details. 

Step 11- Fit Garage- Finishing, Interior, Technology  

Although the fabric and materials were ordered in previous steps and some interior designs are completed. In this phase, we work to bring the interior design to a closure. The goal is to have the interior 95% complete once the car comes out of paint. Interior assembly is one of the major finishing details. 

Step 12- Assembly, Interior & Finishing Phase
This marks the final leg of the restoration relay race. After body and paint we move on to the reassembly phase. The car and frame are married again, then the mechanic finishes running the wiring systems and assembles basic interior and exterior components related to the harness. Then the trim department takes center stage.  Technically, the upholstery department has had your product since the end of phase 2. At the end of phase 3, the interior color schemes are finalized so the Trim department can begin the laborious process to recreate your interior product. By the time we get to phase 7, the trim department is finished with your upholstery and is ready for reassembly and finishing. This is the phase where 2-3 persons are on the car almost daily working in different systems to ensure a finished project.

The boss man becomes the customer and he critiques and aggressively tests every system on the car according to its intended usage. Naturally, road testing on show, track or competition is limited due to the nature of scope and intended usage.

 

Sabra and his team are committed to building the car of your dreams- our joy is in manifesting your automotive dreams in the earth! Call Carol Sosa today at 832-717-0774 to schedule a complimentary consultation. 

City Classic Cars Repair Shop
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