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cavilry 09-08-2016 08:17 AM

Vintage Customs: Customers Beware
I've been waiting to get my car back before posting this for fear of some sort of retribution on their part, but since I don't think I will ever get it back...might as well.

My experience with Vintage Customs in Tacoma, Washington has been the absolute most stressful and distressing interaction, of any kind, in my life. After seeing their projects on AlfaBB I dreamed about someday getting work done by them, and now I would give anything to have not done so. I recognize that any business interaction will have a few speed bumps so I do not EVER post negative reviews, but I just have to in this case.

Below is a brief description of a few of the many pain points I have faced with them over the last 17 months. It's mostly a chance for me to vent so I don't explode, but hopefully someone will have some suggestions on how to proceed, and hopefully others will avoid the issues I have faced. If anyone has questions on the below or wants more info on the issues, happy to provide it. I have email documentation of all of this...

In March of 2015 I decided to reach out to Vintage Customs to get my car across the finish line. It had been an ongoing 5-year project with a combination of work between my father and I, Andy Schank on the body, and Terry Tinney on the Engine/Transmission. I needed some help with the final assembly (primarily trim), interior, wiring, and plumbing to get the car done.

After a number of calls and e-mails with Daron at Vintage Customs, I was exceedingly excited to get going. I arranged to borrow a trailer and by the start of April of 2015 it was in his hands in Tacoma. We had a great conversation and walked around the car going over everything we wanted done. Since he wasn't writing it down, I took the time to send a follow-up email that evening that covered everything I needed done.

I was quoted a "top end" of $15,000 and a promise that "we don't like to have cars around here too long, so we can try to get it back to you before the end of summer(4-5 months)." I am now at over $20,000 and over 17 months, $5,000 over budget and over a year over schedule, with ZERO update as to when I will have my car back and how much more I will have to pay.

The first month was a flurry of work with regular photo updates. I was so pumped! After about 2 months, the photos stopped streaming in with such regularity and I started getting worried. I contacted Vintage Customs MANY times with no response or with a cagey "we will have to get back to you."

They bill weekly for work done, and I always payed within 2-3 days. As we crossed the $10,000 threshhold, I asked "I am okay if we have to go a bit over, but I need to know by how much I should budget extra." They took this as an opportunity to say that they slowed work to "give my wallet a rest" even though I never asked for that.

Through the holidays and Spring I got zero updates as no work was done. Frankly, I gave up for a few months. I had just decided to leave one job for another and was focused on that. Work resumed on my car in late spring and I was excited to see progress.

Until...they started losing things. Because they had sat on my car for so long, they lost my brand new brake rotors I had bought to put on there, they lost my brake lines, they lost my Master Cylinder, and they lost my calipers. All the while claiming that I must not have sent them up...Luckily I had photos to the contrary, at which time they miraculously found them.

They also forgot what work they were doing. I had to dig up my original email outlining the work to be done. Daron said he would tape it to the car, which he evidently did not as he still has to ask me questions of the work to be done.

In June, I was promised I would get the car in time for this year's Concorso...obviously that did not happen.

In June I was also told on two separate occasions that the engine would be running by the following week and I would get a video. It is now September and I haven't received one. It is clear that Daron doesn't know my car as there were no headers on the car. The day AFTER he was supposed to have it running I called for an update and he said "oh, which headers do we need for you?" How was he supposed to have it running with no headers? Also:

We spoke many times about the fact that the engine had not been run since being rebuilt by Tinney. Despite this, Daron forgot on multiple occasions that the engine had to be broken in. The last time, he said "oh, good thing I asked!" I had even taped a "NO OIL" note to the engine...

Based off of Daron's recommendation, we decided to go with a '69 dash, grille, and center console. Despite that, the other month I received a photo of my original center console that had been recovered. I received a bill for the work done and asked if they had mistakenly done the wrong console, and asking for an answer before I could pay the bill. It's been almost a month with no response from Daron.

My last conversation with Daron I thanked him for his hard work (I have been extremely cordial this whole time) and said I would try not to call him too much, but to please let me know how the work was going. He had the nerve to tell me "Oh no, please call. If you don't we might get distracted with other projects." It should not be my job to keep you on track.

Daron has now essentially disappeared. I get no email replies except the one reply asking me to "forward the email to Ariel (his shop guy) as he would be out of office until September 5th." I called on the 5th only to hear from Ariel that he wasn't going to be in until the 6th now and that he would give me a call. Yesterday, at 4:30 I still had no call so I called in. Ariel answered again and told me that Daron had not come in after all, but that I would get a call today...we'll see.

Listen...the work they do is amazing. And I know that everyone says "oh, things always take longer and cost more," but FREAKING COMMUNICATE WITH ME. And don't make false promises! I had promised my girlfriend a tour this summer my mythical Alfa, that she doesn't think really exists. Now I have to go back on that promise.

I pray that in a few more weeks this will all be a nightmare I can forget. I will have my beautiful car back, I will tuck it away for the winter (thanks for missing another driving season) and then I will pull it out and enjoy my 7 year dream.

Patillack1961 09-08-2016 08:52 AM

Man, what a horrible experience. I like to occasionally surf their vids on youtube. Sounds like he needs to keep better records as he has too much work to keep track of just mentally. On the videos the cars seemed to stay around for a long time to me, but I just thought it was a shop for people with deep pocketts. ( their work does appear to be top of the line.) I pray your car will be done soon to standards above what you expected and all will be well( and soon).Remember, brother" This is only a test."Seems like you're passing.

Scalino1300 09-08-2016 08:59 AM

I feel sorry for you, what a nightmare. I hope it will all turn out well in the end (apart from the massive amount of extra time), but it doesn't look like it. I really enjoy watching their videos, top work they can deliver. It's a shame that's not the way they communicate.
Regarding communication, I think that is the single most important thing while working on someone else's belonging. Sadly that lacks quite often. As you say, things almost never go to plan with classic cars, but at least be open about it and work it out together with the customer. My father recently had a similar experience (with what should have been regular maintenance), a lot of money and time down the drain, as well as a lot of frustration. Hopefully my fathers car will be on the road tomorrow or the day after. I hope your car will soon be too.

101/105guy 09-08-2016 09:05 AM

this is a common trend with car painters / rebuilders / restorers.....
They start small, do remarkable work, and recieve many kudos.

Then the flood of customers come.....

Quality falls down, schedules go out the window, and little lies turn into major subversions.....

Parts disappear as they are needed to get other customer cars done.

All you can do is get your car out of there.

velocedoc 09-08-2016 09:45 AM

If you are that concerned, I would hop a plane, go to the shop and at worst, rent a truck/trailer to take it home. If you are standing right there, all the BS goes out the proverbial window.

cavilry 09-08-2016 09:52 AM

Thank you all for validating my fury. Haha. Good to know I am not crazy.

Just got off the phone with Daron and it will be running today apparently (though he "doesn't know how your battery got so dead."...maybe because you've had it sitting for 17 months?)

My fear of picking it up is that A) they've already been paid, so why would they care? and B) I have no idea where they are at with a lot of things and I don't know that I could finish any of their incomplete work.

Alfar7 09-08-2016 10:06 AM

I bet you could find a member of AOC in Tacoma that might be, or know an attorney that could be paid to drop by the shop and have a serious discussion with your contractor. And give him a completion date.

That or go get your car on a trailer and then break his knee caps.

I`m surprised you sat on your hands while this has gone on so long!
You should have done monthly visits after the 5 months past....

Shame on you!

101/105guy 09-08-2016 10:11 AM

"That or go get your car on a trailer and then break his knee caps."

A little uncalled for.......

paulie123 09-08-2016 10:34 AM


Originally Posted by 101/105guy (Post 7195529)
"That or go get your car on a trailer and then break his knee caps."

A little uncalled for.......

Sometimes that's all people understand. I always state that if there's a problem with a contractor it will be more than a business problem. Lots of scumbags out there.

ossodiseppia 09-08-2016 10:43 AM

I've heard great things about Daron and his shop. However, I will never do business with that man. In 2007, my dear friend Papajam shipped his car to Vintage Customs. Somehow, the trailer his car was in and his car disappeared. The trailer an the contents were reported stolen. Daron, handled this very poorly and it became a battle between Jim and Daron's insurance company.

If I were you, I'd cut my loses and get the car.

mygtveloce 09-08-2016 11:14 AM


cavilry 09-08-2016 11:28 AM


Originally Posted by mygtveloce (Post 7195625)
I would expect weekly/daily increases in expenses, delays and complications. I would plan to smile and throw money at it each and every time in order to stay on the good side of your provider.

Sorry, and obviously not directed at you, but I think that is just a big crock of sh*t. No other industry underbids their work, both on time and money, to such an extent. And then says with a smile "welp, that's the nature of the work!" I understand unplanned issues and the costs, but not 400% longer on time and 50% higher on cost (so far).

I worked hard on this car to get it within 80% of finished, this is not a full restoration.

And ultimately, what really pisses me off is the lack of communication, the lack of transparency, and the obvious inability to track my project. I know this is a far cry from Canepa, but when I walk into their garage everything is perfectly organized with lists of EVERYTHING to do, including polishing the key fob. How difficult is it to produce, and follow, a build list and properly catalog parts (which, btw, they invoice me for everytime they do work).

ossodiseppia 09-08-2016 11:39 AM

It's not uncommon for things to be uncovered while a car is undergoing restoration. I had quite a few surprises on mine while it was in the body shop.

cavilry 09-08-2016 11:45 AM


Originally Posted by ossodiseppia (Post 7195689)
It's not uncommon for things to be uncovered while a car is undergoing restoration. I had quite a few surprises on mine while it was in the body shop.

Totally, I am not arguing that. With the two other people I worked with that happened. But again, the body had already been restored. The engine, transmission, and diff had already been finished. With a few exceptions, every piece of work Daron has done was outlined before I ever even brought up the car.

ossodiseppia 09-08-2016 12:11 PM


Originally Posted by cavilry (Post 7195705)
Totally, I am not arguing that. With the two other people I worked with that happened. But again, the body had already been restored. The engine, transmission, and diff had already been finished. With a few exceptions, every piece of work Daron has done was outlined before I ever even brought up the car.

My comment wasn't aimed at you.

I hope you get things resolved and get your car.

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