VALUE OUR CRAFTSMEN
he older the New Zealand import scene gets, the more value we are seeing given to what I’d like to call ‘survivor’ cars: the ones that slipped through the cracks and avoided being hacked up, caked in bog, and modified. RX-3s for $100K are a real thing, as are $200K GT-Rs, $70K Escorts, and so on. The prices of such classics are heading one way only, as finding survivors becomes harder by the day. This forces hunters wanting a slice of the action to consider restoring wrecks; shells once suitable for nothing more than scrap heaps. These unrestored wrecks are only going to continue to deteriorate — I shudder to think about the scale of resto jobs in another 10 or 20 years that will be carried out on the likes of what will be rust-bucket Datsun 1600s by then.
A lot of this work is not for the faint-hearted and requires some serious skill and knowledge to carry out. But, at the rate we’re currently going, will there be any true craftsmen left who are able to bring this metal back from the dead? There has been a real decline in young people being taken under the wing of grumpy old codgers and shown the ways of old, and those younger-generation shop owners and workers out there with the necessary skills are simply not paid what they should for the work.
It’s a funny thing about the hobby automotive industry, and something that is a constant struggle for anyone trying to run a shop profitably. People do not like paying the true value of this type of work, yet other tradies, whether they’re builders, electricians, drain layers, plumbers, and even A-to-B car service centres, are paid according to the time spent on the job, 99 per cent of the time without question. But, when it comes to someone carrying out a paint job, some custom fabrication, or those darn rust repairs, the customer always seems to have a case of the dreaded wallet shrinkage.
This means that many shops are simply not taking on the bigger resto jobs, or complete car builds, as any profits often disappear with jobs of this scale. Panel and paint shops are electing to swap over to things like insurance work, and fabrication experts are transferring into non-automotive work; it’s the brain drain that no one really talks about. And it’s something that will have many of us up shit creek when we want to carry out big builds in 10 or 20 years.
Will we be facing a five-year waiting list just to get a look in, or turning to a shop that’s not as trusted and getting bitten in the arse for it? My only hope is that as the price of these cars continues to rise — along with the incomes of those wanting to build them — such that more and more skilled craftsmen will come back to the flock and open up their doors once more. If not, we’re facing some dark times ahead, even if we’re willing to pay the real price.
On a side note, I really wanted to touch on the recent fire that destroyed one of the South Island’s biggest tuning shops. From the footage I have seen from inside the shop, it looks devastating to say the least, with countless melted cars good for nothing more than the scrap heap. My heart goes out to anyone who lost their pride and joy in the blaze, and I only hope that they had insurance.
I can’t stress this enough — get restoration or race car insurance, guys. It’s cheap, and if you get the right policy, you will be well covered in an event like this. You never know what can happen, and, just like these unfortunate folk, you could lose it all in the blink of an eye. If you don’t have your car covered then you should really put this mag down right now and get calling around. It’s a small price to pay in the scheme of what we sink into our cars.