January 2024

Tips for Buying a Restomod at Auction

Happy New Year 2024! 

The holiday season is over, which for car enthusiasts means is that auction season is here!  We know the instant gratification of buying a car at auction is compelling, but there is a certain amount of risk–particularly when buying a restomod.  To help people avoid a bad experience, we decided to put together a video featuring tips for buying a restomod at auction.  In the video, Tom will take you through our recommendations for things to look for while inspecting a restomod prior to bidding at an auction. 

Happy car hunting! 

Transcript +

Hi, I’m Tom Scarpello of Revology Cars. So, the holidays have come and gone and that can only mean one thing for car people. And that is, the auction season is here. So, you might have been thinking about placing an order for a Revology Mustang or Shelby GT but you just can’t wait the six months that it takes for the car to be built and delivered to you and you absolutely have to have something now so you’re going to go out to the auction. Well, we understand, and we’d like to help. So, we’ve created this public service video to give you some insight into the things that we would look for if we were going to buy a Restomod at auction.
Now, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to buying a used car or to buying a car at auction. We’re only going to talk about things that are unique to Restomods, what you should be looking for in a Restomod. So, let’s get started.
So, buying a Restomod at auction, the first thing you have to consider is there’s a certain amount of risk. Because at an auction typically you can’t drive the car. The test drive will tell you a lot about how a car is put together. If you can’t test drive it, that really puts you at a disadvantage but there are some things that you can do that will help to identify potential problems even without a test drive.
So, the first thing that you have to consider on a Restomod, absolutely critical, is clearances. Because on a Restomod you have a combination of components that was not designed to be used together. And it’s typically a larger modern component that has been adapted to this smaller vintage architecture and that can often create a clearance problem. When you consider the engine bay of a Restomod, we’ll use this Revology Shelby GT as an example. This car has a Coyote engine which is significantly larger than the original push rod engine, so there’s a lot of very, very tight clearances. You have to consider that the engine is going to torque slightly when it’s running. So, even though you have a little bit of a clearance to, say a break master cylinder, or some other component, that gap is going to be closed up when the engine torques over.
Now, on the body itself you’ll want to look at gap and flushness. And I would say it’s always a good idea to invest in a set of gap gauges. So, this is a set of gap gauges that we use here at Revology Cars. It’s actually a Volkswagen part. It’s part number 3371, you can find these online. They’re maybe 25 bucks a set. Each gauge is a different thickness, and they are color coded so that they’re easy to locate. But really, I think it’s worth investing in a gap gauge. You’re going to take, for example, your four-millimeter gap gauge, which would be standard that we would use for a door gap. You want to check it all the way down and just make sure you’ve got a consistent gap. The flushness is also important. You want to have a flush panel, or you want the leading panel to be slightly outward. You never want the trailing panel to be outward because that can create wind noise. So, leading panel slightly outward is good, or flush. And you want to check all your gaps throughout the car and just make sure that everything looks tight and it’s very consistent.
You’ll also want to consider weatherstrip, you know, window seals for example. Because if the windows don’t fit tightly to the weatherstrip, then that’ll create wind noise. So, one thing that a lot of people use is the dollar bill test. You should be able to pull the dollar bill out. It’s tight but it’s not super tight and you clearly don’t want it to be loose because then you don’t have a good seal.
If you can get underneath the car that would be really, really ideal. However, in an auction environment that might not be possible. But there, you can really get a good sense of the clearances and if you’ve got clearances that aren’t quite adequate, they’ll become really apparent.
You know, exhaust is one area that often creates problems. Thankfully, exhaust problems are generally not too difficult to fix. And by problems, I mean the exhaust expanding and contracting. When it expands it might make contact. Also, the engine torquing a little bit also causes the exhaust to move. So, you might have a certain condition that causes the engine to torque, and the exhaust might make contact, but again that’s generally fairly inexpensive to fix. You can often find marks on the underside of the car that show where the exhaust made contact. And I think, you know, just look generally at the tidiness of the installation. You know, if the welds are done nicely and if the fasteners are marked and it just shows an attention to detail, someone’s really being thoughtful about how they put together the car and they didn’t just kind of slap it together. But you know clearances really are going to be super critical.
Now, another area that Restomod builders often have problems with is tire clearance. Because normally they would like to get a much bigger wheel and tire package than was originally available on the vehicle. So, often you’ll find evidence of tire rubbing around the outside, and you can also see that on the inside of the fender or the quarter panel. Also, look at the inside of the wheel well because the tire could rub on the inside as well. And sometimes what you’ll get is when a car is going around a corner and you get a little bit of lateral G, your suspension is going to move side to side slightly and that could cause the inside of the tire to rub up against the inner wheelhouse and that’ll cause a mark. You don’t want tire contact ever in any condition, for any reason. So, that’s important.
Paint. Paint is an area that’s really important because it can be extremely expensive to repair. Now, what I would really recommend watching out for is any car that is recently repainted or recently restored or recently built because that could be a flipper. Someone is just doing some work to it, making it look good, just to sell it. And the auction is a great place to do that because the seller has no obligation, there’s no warranty, there’s nothing. So, it’s purely buyer beware. So, if you’re going into that kind of environment you have to be extremely careful of what you’re buying.
The paint is really tricky because 95 percent of the work and the paint, or maybe 90 percent of the work and the paint, is all the prep before you actually lay down the color and the clear coat. And if that prep is not done perfectly, you can have problems with the paint finish. So, one thing that I would recommend you check for very carefully is any evidence of off-gassing in the paint. And where you can see this often is on the horizontal surfaces because these are the surfaces that tend to get more heat, that get sunlight. That’ll cause that paint, that fresh paint, to start to off-gas and you might see little, tiny specks that don’t look like much but those can potentially get much bigger. But I would beware of that.
Another area to look for is on any edge because what happens is when people are doing bodywork and they’re sanding and they go on that edge, it’s really easy to go down through the filler, or through the primer and the filler and actually go to the metal. And then you have the potential for exposed metal to be there for some period of time. And that exposed metal, even if you don’t see it, is going to start to corrode. And then if you apply primer over that, then now you’ve got corrosion that’s already starting to happen and it’s got to go somewhere, and it’s going to go through the primer, and then through the paint, and the clear coat. So, it’s very, very important to look extremely carefully at the paint. Pay special attention to the edges, special attention to the horizontal surfaces. But those are really, kind of, the key things to look for. We hope this was helpful. Good luck, happy hunting!