Monday, July 21, 2014

Restoration Lesson #1: Do not believe in magical pixie dust

With our restoration mainly behind us we decided it would be a good idea to share some of the lessons we learned when restoring our Dino. While these lessons can be transferred to a number of different projects, they are the product of our observations and experiences in dealing with a multitude of vendors and workers in the restoration and automotive service field. Our experiences have been diverse but certain constants seem to continue to pop up over and over again and it is these patterns that will serve as the basis for a series of posts aimed at helping fellow classic car owners. With that said I shall introduce our first lesson:

Do not believe in magical pixie dust

I can already sense the looks of confusion but allow me to explain. The classic car service and restoration industry is inundated with mainly self-proclaimed experts who tout their services as being special and not available anywhere else. Spend any time at a car show and you will hear stories of a mythical mechanic who is 'the only person I trust my car to'. This is normally followed by some tale of an iconic mechanic he trained under, or some special connection he has to the factory, or how he only tunes engines at dawn, etc., etc., etc.

We have come to call this indulgent self-promotion 'magical pixie dust' where owners very much believe that supernatural occurrences take place while their car is being serviced or restored at the hands of their perceived vehicular savior. Of course I am glorifying things a little here but we have met a countless number of vintage car owners that speak of their chosen service facility with a reverence normally reserved for a magician or sorcerer.

The reality is that a vintage car was built by human beings and will be repaired by human beings with the goal of this lesson being that it is most important to judge ACTUAL RESULTS rather than be blinded by the reputation that a particular person or shop has. Reputation has some value but it is the result YOU get and the quality of service YOU receive that truly judges how competent a particular technician is.

We fell foul to this on a number of occasions during our project falsely believing tales that ended up being as founded as a handful of magical beans. In the end we learned to not get wrapped up in elaborate stories but to coldly and methodically judge results in a vacuum devoid of over hyped emotion. As soon as we started doing this the quality of our results really increased as we began working with REAL professionals who would tackle problems methodically and would reference proper technical texts to ensure the correct results.

In the end a car is nothing more than a machine with a large number of numerical specifications to its many parts. Assembling to these specifications using good mechanical practices is where the real experts shine and there is no magic about it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Our Goals Exceeded: FCA National Meet Judging Sheet Received

Ferrari Club of America judging rules dictate that your judging sheet showing your deductions is sent to you a few weeks after the show. Up to this point all we knew is that we had scored 95 points or better to achieve a Platinum Award but did not know how close to 100 we did.

As previously stated 100 points hardly ever happens as judges get infinitely more picky as a car approaches a perfect score. On our end we were never arrogant enough to think we would score 100 either. After all we are just some newbie restorers doing our first Ferrari so we felt that we were bound to make a mistake somewhere along the lines that would be cause for deduction. In addition judging errors do happen so you must also take into account the human fallibility of the volunteers who evaluate the cars. With all this in mind we had set a goal of 98 points or better and worked hard towards that outcome.

Today the judging sheets came in and with it came a pleasant surprise. In the end we scored 99.5 points out of 100. With a half point being the smallest deduction possible we came as close to perfect as the rules allow which is better than we hoped for.

The obvious next question is: Why not 100? and What was the half point deduction for?

The answer to the second question is easier than the first so we will start with the low hanging fruit.

The leading edge of the doors on the Dino have a soft rubber trim on them that tucks under the rear edge of the front fender. When the trim is 100% brand new it takes a while for it to take its final set so from time to time it catches on the fender and sticks up a little. In our case we had our trim fitting well however when it was being loaded onto the truck for delivery it somehow got caught and spent 2 days bent backwards in the hot truck. When we unloaded for our final prep we saw the molding was deformed and did our best to get it set back into its correct position for the show. The extreme heat and humidity did not help our cause but we were able to get it to the point where 8 times out of 10 it would work well with time being the only proper remedy. Come show time the molding stuck ever so slightly when closing the door and we were deducted the half point because of it. With nothing more than a few days to heal itself the molding is now working perfectly again so all we can do is shrug our shoulders and call it one of those things that happen.

That said, we are realistic and believe that had it not been for the sticky molding at that moment  'something' would likely have been found (no car is perfect) as 100 scores are as rare as a 'hole in one' in golf.

99.5 Points at the Ferrari Club National Meet for a Dad and two brothers working in their spare time as total amateurs. We'll take it :)