Restoring My 1965 MKI Tiger
- A Guide to a Project

An Article by Larry Paulick
August, 2002

First, you start with an AMT Tiger Kit

In 1973, I sold my 1965 Tiger from Pittsburgh, with Lots of Rust to a 16-year-old kid, and 2 weeks later purchased a 1965 Tiger for restoration. Well, it sat until 1996, and without my knowledge, in the interim, my Wife almost had it towed away several times, but no one would take it, without her paying them $500.

The car was complete, with lots of options, and looked fairly good with rust in the usual places, a bad paint job, a 289 HiPo motor, or at least that is what I thought.

I started the resto in earnest in 1996, stripping the car to the shell, and the story started to unfold like an onion. There was more rust and body damage than I realized, and I knew I had to have a plan or scrap the project.

  • A Plan

    The first thing was a budget, including new rubber and interior, new chrome or repro parts, windshield, stripping the car to bare metal, rebuild suspensions, a lists of mods I wanted, and or course the body work and painting. The replacement parts costs came from Classic Sunbeam and Sunbeam Specialties catalogs. Put a real lists of parts and costs together, and don't kid yourself now, to be disappointed later.

    With all of the horror stories on restoration, I talked to other restorers, visited body shops in a 75 mile radius, as I wanted to look in on the car, talked to 10 shops, looked at their work, past and present, and talked to previous clients.

  • Contract, In Writing

    Most of the shops wanted to charge by the hour, with no time limit, and No Way. I found several shops that would give an estimate on time and costs. I liked one shop, got excellent recommendations on him, and I wrote a contract, listing the items and quality of work, time and dollars, with a series of pictures of the bare car to show the work that was required. I went over the pictures, car, time, dollars, and quality of work with the shop, We both agreed, and We signed a contract.

    After 7 months, they did an excellent job, just what I wanted, and near the end, I asked for extra work based on the quality of what had been done to date.

  • It's A Business

    It is Important to remember that a body shop is in business to make money, and if you aren't fair, it's a 2 way street. I gave them a car, media blasted, and primed, paid 20% down, and progress payments. But, I was the one who brought up progress payments, before the shop even asked. When you see all those other cars just sitting there, you will understand, why this is important. Work with the shop, and pay them. Don't be cheap, be fair, and if something is not right, correct it now, or you will see the work slide again and again.

  • Be Flexible

    Along the way, We, that is the body shop and I are now We, found some work that was very time consuming, and with my donor Alpine, We saved time and money. There were some panels that really would take too much time to fabricate from new metal, and I paid for the new panels. It cost me about $500, but the good will and final results were worth it. Be flexible, and it will work to your Final Best Interest.

    If you see what it takes in time, labor, tools, experience, you have to put yourself in the position of asking yourself, Would I work for that pay, do a good job, or just do a so-so job. A good job is dependent on You, the customer, holding up your end, as well as doing your homework on finding that rare shop that can do the work the right way.

  • Then you find competent talent

  • It's What Hidden, That Is Worrisome

    While I was able to find a shop with a fixed price for the work, don't expect all shops to do this, because, when the paint comes off, the bondo starts to show the problems hiding underneath. Shops know this and have to cover their business, i.e. time and money. If you strip a car, and you both can see both sides of the panel, you are in a better position to negotiate a fixed price. If they are iffy on all of this, walk away, if you don't feel good about it. Too many horror stories, and you want this to be what it's support to be, Fun.

    Of course, it's nice to have a recommendation from another Tiger owner who has been through this recently, but that may not happen. So be realistic, as people look at the body and paint first, engine next, and interior last. You have to decide how much you want to pay for the body work, and what you are going to do with the car. Macco still paints for $195, and bodywork is charged by the square foot.

  • Material Costs

    BTW, quality paint and associated thinners, primers, etc. will run about $800 plus. I was astonished to find it costs so much just for the materials Expect a paint job to run $4,000 to $10,000 depending on the quality of the finished product, and how much you are painting. If it is the whole car inside and out on a rotisseries, outside only, door jams, engine and trunk, wheel wells, interior, well you get the message. To do doors, trunk and hood correctly, you take them off the car, and then put them back on. If someone tells you they can do the door jams, without taking the doors off, walk away.

  • Work That Was Done

    Replaced front clip, front and rear inner fender wells rusted areas, drivers floor, trunk, rear fender clips, replaced frame rails from donor Alpine, front and rear apron, rust in the usual places, reinforced front and rear suspension, positioned 5.0L w/ T-5 trans and new support, fender air vents in metal, 2 hoods w/ 1 reverse cold air reverse scope in metal, reworked trunk and hood from MKIa to round MKI shape, new larger oval exhaust pass thoughts with welded pipe, repair rusts on HT, and Lots more on the body with dings and dents and rust.

  • So What Did I Learn:

    Be realistic on costs, do a real estimate, read books on restoration, talk to other restorers, look for recommendations, get as firm a price on the specific body work as possible and in writing, on time and dollars, work with the body shop, pay them on time, if it is not right, have them fix it now, not later, visit them often without being a pest, be flexible on the work, especially if there is something neither of you knew about, and expect to pay more that you thought for a quality a restoration.

    Finally, IF YOU Have Done Your Homework, visits the shop often, take lots of pictures, and like the Proud Papa that you are, have Fun with your new Toy.

  • Eventually, you get your Road Rocket

Keep'm Rolling,
Larry Paulick

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