Vintage Customs: Customers Beware - Page 4 - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums
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post #46 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-09-2018, 05:20 PM
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PS: Sue him and don't settle. I had another situation like this after dealing with a well known Porsche race car builder in Phoenix. They eventually fold because they're dishonest and can't remember their own lies. Just make sure you keep all the documentation, emails texts, pictures etc., it makes it a lot easier.

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post #47 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-09-2018, 07:04 PM
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so where and who did you guys hear that vintage customs does great work? here on the BB? youtube?

ive been to his shop when he first moved from burien and saw about a dozen alfa's there being worked on. ive kept my mouth shut on what i saw.

you want great work, send it to fred who restores stunning vintage race alfas. he is about 10mins from darons old shop in bayview. no fred dosent have to make youtube vids or post his projects here on the bb to pitch himself.
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post #48 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 08:25 AM
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There's a huge difference in your and Daron's reputation. For me, this goes back to when one of our beloved and highly respected AlfaBB members sent his car to Vintage Customs. It was stolen and the way it was handled by Daron left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

I'd forgotten Peter had a bad experience there. I know of one other who chooses to remain anonymous. Now, there are two more, you and the OP.

I wonder how many more unhappy customers there are.
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post #49 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 10:23 AM
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I had pretty similar experiences. Fortunately, I read the tea leaves quickly and got my car out before anything too crazy (or overpriced) happened.

The first straw was when they replaced the ancient heater hoses. They skipped one (for no good reason) and it blew, dumping coolant all over my interior.

The final straw was when they used a dry paper shop towel to clean my freshly painted hood.

Ultimately, I had to redo much of the paint, upholstery and mechanical work. All-in-all, 3 times over estimate (I do realize add-on's happen as more is discovered), and half needed redoing. Daron did cut me a good deal on the last invoice, so credit there.

I will say that the work Daron personally did with the electricals was quite good, but some of the other folks in the shop were pretty amateur. As a basically one manager shop there is no way he can QC all the projects and it shows.
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post #50 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 02:56 PM
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... For me, this goes back to when one of our beloved and highly respected AlfaBB members sent his car to Vintage Customs. It was stolen and the way it was handled by Daron left a very bitter taste in my mouth...
Yeah, that was everyone's worst nightmare happening to one of the BB's most generous and thoughtful members. He never complained online - a class act all the way.

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post #51 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 05:27 PM
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He never complained online - a class act all the way.
Huh!! Class act?? If the member had any consideration for others he should have spoken out at the time and most probably saved someone down the line a lot of unnecessary pain and money. What’s the **** use of this forum if we all stick our head in the sand and keep these unreputable companies in business.
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post #52 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 07:57 PM
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In California we have BUREAU OF AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR. When we had a shop that restored exclusively Jaguar cars the state of California and our insurance carrier required us to provide written estimates for all repairs and restoration work we did.

In 2012 the state of Washington decided to exempt auto restoration shops that are working on vintage cars from providing written estimates for the work.

Many moons ago I was a supplier quality engineer at 3M. I was tasked with auditing companies as to their ability to supply the parts or services we needed. A supplier audit is intended to reveal if the company you are auditing has the equipment and processes in place, and the staff with the request knowledge and experience to provide the parts or services as required by a contract or statement of work.

While looking for a shop to finish one of my stalled projects I contacted and visited Daron's shop in 2011. As much out of habit as a need not to be disappointed by not getting the quality of work I was expecting, I audited Daron's operation. What I learned from talking to him for a few hours and touring his shop one Saturday is that he did not have the procedures or the processes in place to prevent the loss or misplacement of parts that were removed from a customer's car. He had poor control over the quality of the work done by those in his employ and by his subcontractors. His documentation of ongoing work done on customers' cars was poorand in one instance non-existent. While Daron is a nice guy and seems to know Alfas, I saw enough that one Saturday in 2011 to conclude that Daron would more than likely disappoint me. I decided not to entrust my Alfa to his shop.

Please note that I too wonder how Daron could stay in business, I assume that he must be pleasing at least some of his customers. I just feared that I won't be one of them.

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post #53 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 09:06 PM
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When we had a shop that restored exclusively Jaguar cars the state of California and our insurance carrier required us to provide written estimates for all repairs and restoration work we did.

Just out of curiosity, can you explain how you made accurate estimates on the vintage Jaguars you worked on? I mention this because my long ago mentor, Tony, would never give the kind of typical body-shop estimate that his customers (and apparently California bureaucrats) expected. Instead he would tell them how much it would cost to strip a vintage car to bare metal and, once the paint was off, only then would he talk about how much it was going to cost to repair the body and paint the car. He always contended, and I've always believed, that with old cars that have been around for awhile, you really can't know what's beneath the paint and---not knowing that--- accurate estimates are not possible or have to be substantially inflated. Therefore, his first step was to strip the car to bare metal. That he could give an estimate on.

Tony was quite a guy. He was decidedly old-school Italian. Preferring to do as much as possible by hand, there were very few power tools in the old pole-barn behind his house that he used as a shop. His shop may have been primitive, but he turned out 100 point national concourse-winning body restorations. Tony's been gone now for a number of years. He started doing bodywork when cars were still painted with brushes.

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post #54 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-10-2018, 10:45 PM
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Just out of curiosity, can you explain how you made accurate estimates on the vintage Jaguars you worked on? I mention this because my long ago mentor, Tony, would never give the kind of typical body-shop estimate that his customers (and apparently California bureaucrats) expected. Instead he would tell them how much it would cost to strip a vintage car to bare metal and, once the paint was off, only then would he talk about how much it was going to cost to repair the body and paint the car. He always contended, and I've always believed, that with old cars that have been around for awhile, you really can't know what's beneath the paint and---not knowing that--- accurate estimates are not possible or have to be substantially inflated. Therefore, his first step was to strip the car to bare metal. That he could give an estimate on.

Tony was quite a guy. He was decidedly old-school Italian. Preferring to do as much as possible by hand, there were very few power tools in the old pole-barn behind his house that he used as a shop. His shop may have been primitive, but he turned out 100 point national concourse-winning body restorations. Tony's been gone now for a number of years. He started doing bodywork when cars were still painted with brushes.
There is no such thing as an "accurate estimate". But it very easy to give a reasonable estimate. Particularly if you have both your own and other experts' experience to rely on and the proper tools to detect and measure defects. We had price guidelines and gave examples of the quality level a customer could expect at different price points. If a customer wanted it done cheaply then we'd tell them that we weren't the shop for them. On average it cost a customer circa $120,000 for a full resto to factory functionality but with better fit and finish. We did 3 full restos a year along with another half dozen of so partials. (The shop was only open for three years, We closed after my partner got sick and I got bored with it all. It was also at the time of the dot-com bubble of 2000 that left our customer base less able to splash out for restos.) Customers were charged for the documentation. This cost about $1k per car. For that they'd get maybe 2000 annotated photos and 500 or so pages of text. My two shop techs were ex-military aircraft mechanics so they knew how to document their work. As they say, it is all about managing a customer's expectation. I spent more time interacting with the customers' accounts than with the actual owner of the car.

BTW, I used a variation of a business model that I got from a friend named Reggie, He was an engineer who worked for Jaguar cars for 20 odd years. Reggie would take your E-type and $150,000 from you at the beginning of the year and 12 months later return to you a car that looks like it had just come off the line at Coventry. He completed two cars a year. It did not matter the state of the car when they arrived at his shop because they all were stripped to bare metal, and every component was either rebuilt or replaced. He did this for 9 years before retiring at age 83.

What is a California bureaucrat? Sorry, I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones.
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post #55 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-11-2018, 05:53 AM
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He never complained online - a class act all the way.
Huh!! Class act?? If the member had any consideration for others he should have spoken out at the time and most probably saved someone down the line a lot of unnecessary pain and money. What’s the **** use of this forum if we all stick our head in the sand and keep these unreputable companies in business.
That's a totally unfair comment. He did post that his car had been stolen. It took him a long time to get paid for his loss from VC insurance company. Daron never lifted a finger to help.

The story of the stolen car is on the BB, the settlement is not.

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/alfa...#/topics/40257

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post #56 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-11-2018, 11:22 AM
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As I stated in a previous post I spent well over $60000 with Vintage Customs to perform body work and paint only. The car was admittedly worse than what we expected once stripped so I can understand that the original $20000 estimate was blown. After getting the car back from Daron I had to have the car stripped and redone by another shop. Here are a couple of picture of what was going on. The car sat for over three months before these pictures were taken so the paint had time to cure and fail. It cost me another $15000 to have it done right. If you're like me it's hard to forget looking at a car after so much trouble and feel good about your investment or experience. The car was done right when I sold it.
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post #57 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-11-2018, 02:36 PM
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...If you're like me it's hard to forget looking at a car after so much trouble and feel good about your investment or experience The car was done right when I sold it.
Exactly what I did! It was a great car when we got done with it but it was like hanging out with the girl that dumped you. No joy - time to move on...

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post #58 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-11-2018, 02:52 PM
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There is no such thing as an "accurate estimate". But it very easy to give a reasonable estimate. Particularly if you have both your own and other experts' experience to rely on and the proper tools to detect and measure defects. We had price guidelines and gave examples of the quality level a customer could expect at different price points.
Thanks for this. I was curious about how you did it. I think the key difference is that you can give decent estimates if you're are centering your work on a single marque. Tony, in contrast, did work on cars (mostly vintage and exotics but also some domestics) who's owners wanted his level of work. It also helps to have a reasonably knowledgeable customer base. I remember one guy bringing in a Vignale Cadillac who was incensed because Tony wouldn't give him an estimate. I spent many happy hours at Tony's shop. A lot of that time was spent holding a torch while he was shrinking metal, but it was pure joy to know that kind of craftsman.

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What is a California bureaucrat? Sorry, I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones.
[/QUOTE]

"California bureaucrats" are crafty denizens of our most progressive state. They may well have successfully convinced many in their domestic population they they are good public servants, working for the greater good---but there's a reason it now costs many times more to rent a U-Haul truck to drive to Texas than it does to rent one to drive back to California. The truth has made us free. So there.

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post #59 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-12-2018, 06:49 AM
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Thanks for this. I was curious about how you did it. I think the key difference is that you can give decent estimates if you're are centering your work on a single marque. Tony, in contrast, did work on cars (mostly vintage and exotics but also some domestics) who's owners wanted his level of work. It also helps to have a reasonably knowledgeable customer base. I remember one guy bringing in a Vignale Cadillac who was incensed because Tony wouldn't give him an estimate. I spent many happy hours at Tony's shop. A lot of that time was spent holding a torch while he was shrinking metal, but it was pure joy to know that kind of craftsman.
With as many Alfas that have gone through VC's shop, you would think there is/was quite a bit of knowledge on what it takes to do rust repair, panel replacement, prep and paint. Panel beating and fabrication are probably a bit more challenging to estimate. I've been told there has been a lot of turn over in the shop. It's hard to keep the quality up when you lose skilled employees.

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post #60 of 178 (permalink) Old 02-12-2018, 07:54 AM Thread Starter
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I truly enjoy seeing all of the conversation this has started, a few replies to questions or comments:

1. Just to be clear, this car was not sent to Daron for a full restoration. The bodywork had been done by Andy Schank (can't recommend him enough) and the motor and transmission were built by Terry Tinney (also can't recommend him enough, though I did have one issue with the rebuild that delayed final completion). The car was mostly reassembled and rolling with the brakes, fuel system, interior, and electrical left to refit. I simply wanted the "right guy" to finish the assembly to catch any gremlins along the way.

2. While I have not yet seen it in person, I am EXTREMELY happy with the work done by Jacob on the interior. He has been communicative, friendly, timely, and the work quality looks amazing.

3. Ariel, Jacob, and one of the other guys have been great to me. They've seen Daron slacking off and have spent early morning or late nights working on my car...without charging.

4. I don't fully understand the business practice where it's on the customer to "stay on top of" the restoration. In any business I've ever worked in, the onus was on me to ensure timely completions, consistent communication, etc. Daron literally has told me to "keep calling, that way I keep your car front of mind." That's insane to me.

5. When I tried to come up and inspect, he said it would just get in the way. A big red flag.

6. I meant this post as a warning, not so much as a bashing. So I want to make a few points to give Daron his due:
• A few parts for my car were missing or hard to come by due to the interior swap. Daron found many of these parts for little or no money from donor cars.
• I am a tall guy so the remote shift linkage was a pivotal part of the build for me. Daron found a "display model" from someone on the east coast and got it for me for free...
• As I've already mentioned, after all of these headaches Daron has been doing what he can to take money off of the invoices.
• The work that he has done really is fantastic from what I've seen. The guy knows how to build cars (though it sounds like no one should go to them for bodywork)


I understand that things balloon out of control. Timelines are missed, budgets are blown, etc. And I built a lot of this into my plan before deciding to bring it to Daron. But 4 months and $15,000 is a lot different than 3 years and $25,000+ (I can't bring myself to count anymore).

Listen, I am not the typical Alfa owner...I got a steal on this car when I was 22 back in 2009 and scraped together money over the years to get each piece of work done. I thought long and hard about how to finish the car before landing on VC and it's been one of the most stressful, angering, painful experiences of my life. I don't have 10's of thousands (or even thousands) to throw around and waste so I took a big leap of faith by sending my car to them. My only hope is that by this time next year I am sitting next to my car at a Cars and Coffee and it will have all been worthwhile.

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