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Wed, July 17

Classic car restoration takes time and patience, but mostly money

A Shelby GT 500 valued at $175,000 is on display at Dunton Motors’ showroom of classic cars, a big attraction for tourists in Kingman. (Photo by Hubble Ray Smith/Daily Miner)

A Shelby GT 500 valued at $175,000 is on display at Dunton Motors’ showroom of classic cars, a big attraction for tourists in Kingman. (Photo by Hubble Ray Smith/Daily Miner)

KINGMAN – It’s an eye-opener when customers come into R&R Body Shop with a restoration project on a classic car or old truck they picked up somewhere and owner Rick Rice gives them an estimate on the body work and paint job.

They can generally add a couple zeroes to whatever they thought it might cost, Rice said in his cramped office, where he was on his computer hunting down a hood for a 1952 Triumph TR2.

He found what looks like a “bucket of rust” in Los Angeles for $495.

“People think that restoration is a paint job and it’s not,” Rice said. “There’s nuts, there’s bolts, there’s wires. You replace everything. They watch Barrett-Jackson and think, ‘I’ve got a car like that. I can get $35,000 or $40,000 with a paint job.’”

Everybody’s got their dream car, and for many, it dates back to the 1950s or ’60s, the era of classic America muscle cars. But keep in mind, it’s going to take a lot of time, money and ambition to bring an old car back to its original beauty.

You see reality TV shows like “Counting Cars” where Danny “The Count” Koker is given a $30,000 budget to restore someone’s car, and by the time he’s done, it’s over $50,000, Rice said.

That’s what you’re likely to pay for a fully restored classic at Dunton Motors’ Dream Machines showroom in downtown Kingman.

There’s a 1957 Thunderbird with a 428 Super Cobra Jet motor selling for $60,000. If that’s out of your budget, you might settle for a 1965 Thunderbird for $6,500. Owner Scott Dunton’s daughter displays her Shelby GT 500 there, worth about $175,000.

The colorful and shiny cars provide ample photo opportunities for hundreds of tourists, along with Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner and its 1950s Chevy pickup parked outside.

“It’s amazing how many tourists come in there and look at all the cars,” Dunton said. “They walk in timidly and ask if they can take pictures. We wave them in.”

Established as a Ford dealership in 1946, Dunton Motors transitioned into a full body shop and garage that builds and sells classic cars, trucks and hot rods. The shop also does custom work for private owners.

A frame-off restoration can take anywhere from 800 to 1,000 hours of labor, which runs $75 to $100 an hour at most shops. Most of the time, people want to finish off their own car, Dunton said.

He sends a few cars to Germany, France and Australia.

“All those people in Europe love Route 66 and they all love American cars. We sent a Mustang to France,” Dunton said.

The best deal for somebody who wants a classic car is to buy one that’s already restored, he noted.

“Guys are 70 years old, 80 years old. They pass away, or their wife passes away, and they don’t need the car. You get it at half the cost of what it costs to fix them,” the classic car dealer said.

Rice, the paint and body shop owner, gets most of his business from insurance claims, but he’s done work on ’57 Chevys and vintage Ford pickups and English sports cars like the Triumph.

“The problem is it takes so long to do them and nobody wants to spend the money,” he said. “There is money in this town and they don’t want to part with it.”

Chris Burkett makes his living as owner of Kingman Landscape and Maintenance, but he dabbles in old cars and trucks as a hobby, selling them from his lot atop El Trovatore Hill.

“Just because my first car was a ’57 Chevy pickup,” he said. “It’s just been in my blood, all those old cars. I keep a lot of them.”

He’s got a 1957 Chevy that came from Kansas, a ’36 Ford pickup that he bought in California from a guy who found it in Nebraska, and a 1956 Ford pickup he spotted on one of his landscaping jobs.

“All you could see was the top. There was stuff all around it,” Burkett said. “I offered him $5,000 and he called back a couple days later and said, ‘Okay.’ I gave him a good price, no haggling.”


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