The triumph spent most of the Winter at a local garage. I had met a local “Classic Car Rebuilder” named Todd Brannon, last fall and he seemed like a good possible to take the Triumph and repair some of the problems that I was having with it. I had told him that I would like to have it repainted, because the paint was chipped and cracked in several places on it. I took the car over there and spent at least an hour talking to him about what I wanted to happen. I made sure to tell him that important things to me were not only just the paint job, but also that I wanted the front end corrected from a wobble that the wheels had in them. I also wanted a gas leak fixed. Since he was going to have to take the windshield off to paint the car I ask him to put a new one of those in there as well. I told him that with parts and everything I didn't want to spend more than $3000 on it. The car sat over there for two or three months while he finished another car that he had, and then he called me saying he was going to start working on it. I again went over there and spent at least an hour telling him what I wanted to happen with it.
A month later he calls me and tells me that he would like me to pay the bill for the first month of work and that I should start thinking about wrapping the project up. When I get there he hands me a bill for $2500 and only has the car painted, and not even back together. He also mentions that he has $500 in parts ordered and on the way. So right there he is over my limit of $3000 and he doesn't have the parts on or the car back together. I looked over the paint and noticed several runs in it. I ask if those were going to be taken out and he said that he would. I didn't realize that he meant that he would charge me for the time to take them out too. The paint has all kinds of dirt in it as well, but his story was that things like that would buff and wet sand out and that he thought he could fix that for another $800 or so dollars. I was not happy. I told him to send some of the parts back and to get the car back together.
The next day Mom and dad were over here and I told them about it. We decided to go over and look at it. At first blush the car looks great when you walk in and see it. Once, you start to look at it though, you notice all the problems with it. Mom and Dad both noticed the problems as well and mentioned them to him. He stuck with the “buff and wet sand” mantra and continued with the $800 to fix the paint story. I again told him to get the car together as fast as possible and he said he would. He thought I would only have about $600 more to pay. I just wanted the car back at this point and since he also acts as the mascot for one of the schools I was trying to avoid an “incident”.
Two days later he called to say that the car was done except for the Windshield which was cracked in shipping. He has called Moss Motors and gotten another one sent. Two days after that he called and said that it was ready. He said that he felt we weren't happy with his work and that he had decided to half his hourly rate on this bill. He then told me that the bill was $900+ dollars. Which means that even after he reduced his rate he STILL came in over $300 more than what he said and around $500 more than what I told him I wanted to spend on the car. Both times that I paid him he tried to get me to not pay him with a check, but each time I made sure to brush off those arguments. This second time he even went so far as to say that he was scared that my check wouldn't clear, and this is after the first check for $2500 cleared the bank.
When we got there he was again wanting to talk about how we could have the paint fixed and such, and I was just eager to get the car out of there. When I got in it and tried to start it the clutch would not disengage the drive train. Funny since I had no problem with it when I drove it over there. He said that he had not messed with the clutch in anyway and I ask him for some brake fluid which is what the clutch uses. He poured some in there and I took off. By the time I got home the clutch was no longer working and all the fluid had drained out. I noticed in the box of stuff that he gave me there was a half used bottle of brake fluid, so that makes me think that he had trouble with the clutch in some manner too.
I was glad to have the car back, even though I was disappointed with the work and the paint. He hadn't fixed any mechanical problem with the car at all. He had instead concentrated on painting it. Mom and Dad were again over and we rolled the car out into the sunlight to really look at the paint. The dirt in it was obvious, but we also noticed that he hadn't painted the door jams, or the inside edges of the truck lid, hood, or spare tire compartment. He had also over sprayed inside the wheel wells all over the wheel hubs, calipers and A arms. Most of that was covered in dirt and grease, so when I later cleaned that off, a lot of the red overspray went away. He did do a good job polishing the chrome on the car, which lead to mom having the best line out of the whole deal to me: “Wow, he is just glorified knob polisher, huh?” It made me chuckle.
To say that we were unhappy with his work, is an understatement. I won't be taking any of my cars back to him to work on, and I wouldn't advise anyone else to take theirs there either.
I have done some more work on it and I will move that to another post called Part II.