In January Woody Boater was contacted by a fellow who found a very original, post-war Chris-Craft runabout that he was interested in buying and having professionally restored. The subject boat was your typical unrestored Chris-Craft that was on it’s third or fourth owner, last used in the 1990’s in the north eastern United States and then put into storage awaiting the inevitable restoration which never happened.
The fellow was new to the antique & classic boating hobby, having never owned a wooden boat before. However like many of us, his connection to the old wooden boats came from when he was a young boy growing up with his family, who owned a Chris-Craft runabout. He always remembered the old family boat and was now at a point in his life when he was interested in owning his own classic Chris-Craft runabout.
A full inspection was completed on the boat by a qualified surveyor, and just like the old Century Resorter below, the Chris-Craft runabout that he had found was overdue for a full restoration, including bottom, hullsides, decks, transom, etc.
Although he remained very enthusiastic about his new project and wanted to move forward with the purchase as quickly as possible, he decided to hold off on the final purchase of the Chris-Craft until he could put together some accurate costs for the boats restoration. That’s where things turned ugly.
We communicated by phone and e-mail a few times during the process. Admitting that he didn’t have the knowledge or skills to restore the Chris-Craft himself, he spoke to and visited with a few professional restorers in order to get a better idea of what the restoration would cost. The cost estimates ranged from 40K to over 100K to complete the restoration work. But what bothered him more than anything, was the fact that most of the restorers he spoke to were not prepared to give him a firm price to complete the work, or commit to a specific time frame or schedule in terms of how long the project would take to completion.
Soon after receiving the information, commenting that he was not prepared to expose himself or his family to this level of financial or emotional risk, he decided to not go ahead with the project. I should mention that he was also concerned that if he decided to move forward with the project, based on his market research, once the Chris-Craft restoration was completed, there was a strong chance that the value of the restored boat would be a fraction of the estimated restoration cost – which was difficult for him to accept.
As Woody Boater continues to grow and reach a wider audience, so do the inquiries regarding wooden boat restoration services, restoration shops, suppliers, etc – usually on a weekly basis. We always try to respond to the inquiries on a professional unbiased basis so not to compromise our position in the hobby. But it’s clear that folks around the country are reaching out for information, and in some cases having difficulty finding accurate information on the subject of wooden boat restoration.
So we are reaching out to the community (both owners and restorers) to ask the question, “Was the fellow that was interested in purchasing & restoring the Chris-Craft on the right track, and what should he have done differently in order to reduce his risk, and to secure more accurate cost estimates for the proposed restoration project, which would have given him the confidence he needed to move forward with the project.”
1. Should he have prepared a detailed list of his restoration objectives and criteria for submission to the professional restorers?
2. Should he have requested a detailed list of estimated labor costs for each individual section of the restoration (bottom, hull sides, decks, stain, varnish, etc) for purposes of comparison and final cost evaluation?
3. Should he have requested an accuate breakdown of material costs (including wood, hardware, etc) for purposes of comparison and final cost evaluation?
4. In terms of a complete restoration by a professional restoration company, should he have asked for an accurate cost breakdown for outsource / mechanical work as required (such as engine, transmission, fuel tank, gauges, chrome/plating, trim, steering wheel, wiring, interior / upholstery, etc) for purposes of comparison & final cost evaluation?
5. Should he have requested a detailed time line / completion schedule for each section of work from the restoration company?
6. Should the financial / payment arrangements be agreed to based on the detailed cost estimates in the form of a contract between the owner and restoration company?
7. Should a contingency allowance on a percentage basis be agreed to and included in the contract for unforeseen / additional work?
8. Should the owner request a list of recent client references from the professional restoration company and contact the references?
9. Is there currently a guideline or some type of information available within the hobby which would provide some assistance to a newcomer in terms of how to work through this process? And if not, should some standard guidelines be developed by the ACBS for this purpose?
10. And possibly the most important item of the agreement between the owner and restoration company – Is it necessary to develop a definitive, clear understanding (in writing as an attachment to the contract) to confirm what the owners and restorers expectations are in terms of the overall project to completion?
11. Or is all of this unnecessary or unimportant for the future development of the hobby?
These are simply suggestions and comments that have been brought to our attention for consideration, which we thought should at least be published for discussion purposes.
The last time I communicated with the fellow who was considering the Chris-Craft purchase and restoration project, he asked me “I have talked to a number of people in the hobby, why do these professional restoration projects always seem to go over budget?”
When it comes to a wooden boat restoration, “How do you avoid the financial Tsunami?”
Let us know what you think, good or bad and don’t hold back.