Scoping and Defining the Restoration
Key issues to consider in planning and executing a restoration
- When and over what overall timescale do I want this restoration to take place – is this a long term project or do we have an end date in mind, say a holiday or show date.
- Do I want to embark on a restoration to achieve a desired overall quality or am I going to set a budget and we define what we can best do within that budget?
- How do I achieve best value for the money? A point often overlooked in the enthusiasm of the project.
This doesn’t mean that we would ever contemplate undertaking a restorations assuming there is no financial control, but equally, setting a hard ceiling on the size of the required budget upfront without a detailed assessment being complete can introduce significant risk.
As always a balanced approach is best, recognising that an upper ceiling may need to be imposed at the appropriate time.
Stage 1 – the strip
- Access – better to err on the cautious side, otherwise unwise assumptions may result and cause major faults go undetected.
- Condition assessment, essential for estimating the scope and cost of repair or reconstruction
- Provenance and the Maintenance of originality, which may impose certain constraints on the way the strip takes place. Always a constant factor to consider.
- Achieving a base from which overhaul and re-manufacture can commence
- Parts storage – requiring dedicated stowage to prevent loss and avoid unnecessary damage
- Assessment of alignment and indicators of past damage particularly crash damage and repairs, which may indicate other aspects of the assembly needing more careful examination. Also a major indicator on the complexity and hence cost of any reconstruction or repair.
Estimating the Budget
Either set a budget to achieve a desired outcome for the restoration or to scope the restoration to fit the budget available. It is impossible to do both at the same time.
Assessing and scoping the required rectification
Once a body or mechanical assembly has been stripped, we can make an informed choice as to whether the part is to be scrapped and replaced, or whether we should repair. See later section
Setting a realistic budget is key to a successful restoration. Many restorations have gone forward on the basis of “heroic” assumptions, but inevitably with the real risk of major disappointment and poor value for the money spent. It pays to be brutally realistic and ensure decisions are as well informed as possible.
The better informed is the estimate, the less a contingency will be required. If the customer requires a fixed cost, then the inevitable risk will be reflected in the quoted cost or minimised scope of work. A major factor in keeping the required contingency budget low is our experience and skill base.
Costs and Timescales
Allowing a restoration to proceed on the basis of no definitive end date will never reduce cost. Equally, setting an unrealistically ambitious target date rarely works either. Timescales therefore should be sensitive to the scope of work involved.
Achieving value for money
A factor not to be overlooked is the assessment of inherent value of the restored car. Restored DB5s in recent years have appreciated in value to the point that any car, no matter how far gone is still a realistic base from which to launch a restoration. Other cars, such as Aston Martin V8s, are not so valuable and hence place limits on what is frankly cost effective. As a general rule, it is rare that the full cost of a restoration can be fully recouped in a subsequent sale; DB5’s being an exception, and other values, such as the car’s intrinsic value to the owner, therefore come into play. As always an overriding factor is whether the owner wishes to keep the car for the long term, or whether it is just a means to enhance re-sale value. The inherent cost of restoring a V8 or DBS is just as high as restoring a DB5.
Upgrades and Enhancements
Living with the Restored car
For genuinely rare and historic models with a well-established provenance, it is important to place a high value on maintaining originality. In such cases, the scope for any mechanical or cosmetic enhancements is very limited and usually confined to use of better materials as a means of improving intrinsic reliability and durability. In most cases however, sensible and sympathetic enhancements will better fit the car to modern traffic conditions and in doing so, enhance ultimate value. The choice is entirely the owner’s.
Reliability and obsolescence
Sensible enhancements, of which electric cooling fans and electronic ignition are prime examples, can be major factors in improving reliability. Many pattern parts bought in when the car was first produced are quite often unobtainable, or if they are, cost significantly more than other suitable replacements. Our experience in these cases can be a valuable guide in avoiding wrong choices and ensuring that the restored car can be safely used in the long term.
Value of deciding at the planning stages
Deciding early on the desired choice of major enhancements saves time and money. An excellent example of just such an enhancement could be the choice of a modern 4 speed electronic controlled auto transmission. Fitting this not only requires significant mechanical modification of flywheel and bell housing, but also chassis mountings. Clearly, it is much easier and hence quicker to do any necessary modifications before assembly starts, but it also gives time to source the new components.
Factors in deciding the enhancements list
- Safety – we are all much more safety conscientious. Current and potentially forthcoming legislation depending on the ultimate destination of the car may require certain compulsory equipment to be fitted. Some sensible options could include headrests, dual circuit brakes and safety belts.
- Drivability – there are no modern cars that lack power assisted steering. Modern standards of ride quality and handling are streets ahead of what was acceptable in the fifties and sixties. Many who are coming to enjoy Aston Martin today have had no practical experience of how they steered and handled when new, good at the time though they were. Consequently they can be a major source of disappointment. We can provide a sensible menu of options, from power steering, modified suspension, alternative dampers and modern tyres, which can transform these cars into something very akin to the modern car but with the character, style and panache of the old. The choice as always depends on how the car will be used.
- Reliability and longevity – we have learnt a great deal of where the inherent sources of unreliability in Aston Martin cars lie and how to rectify them. These we can advise and recommend.
- Habitability and living with the car in modern traffic – Traffic hold-ups, warm temperatures, unleaded fuel, etc are features of modern traffic and use not often encountered at the time many early Aston Martins were manufactured. Improved cooling, modifying the engine to suit unleaded fuel are high priority unless use is to be restricted. Other improvements to consider include up rated generators or higher gearing for prolonged high speed cruising on the auto routes, the latter also useful for improving economy.
- Performance and economy – there are substantial improvements to both the economy and performance that are available. Engine modifications include increases in engine capacity, for improved flexibility and performance, new camshafts for improved top end power, and changes to gearing depending on the use that the car is to be put. We have as yet, no plans to fit fuel injection and catalysts, but in the longer term no modification is necessarily ruled out. It becomes essentially a question of what is practicable, cost effective and necessary having regard to the intended use.
- Style and Comfort – In keeping with all new modestly priced cars, the use of air conditioning has become an accepted feature. A novelty rarely fitted when DB5s and DB6s were made, most restorations today include this option, making the car in summer conditions exceptionally pleasant. The use of in car communication and entertainment systems can also be readily accommodated, while leaving the interior still looking essentially as original. The seating in Aston Martins, particularly those of the DB4 and later have always been very comfortable, but bespoke modifications to improve comfort can be readily made. Finally but importantly, new materials introduce an improved level of sound and heat insulation not available when these cars were manufactured. These we introduce as a standard feature in all of our restorations.