Posted by: Mark Polk | 2014

71 Dodge Power Wagon – All I Wanted was a Good Paint Job!

Cab in paint

This post is about getting the truck’s cab in paint, but it’s also about not getting taken advantage of by a business. I am doing 99% of the restoration work on the 71 Power Wagon myself. The 1% I was not planning on doing was painting the truck. I have done body work off and on since I was 17 years-old, but I do not have a spray booth or other equipment needed to do a quality paint job.  So, I took the Power Wagon cab and doors to a Mill Creek Aut Body in Harrells NC to be prepped and painted over 13 weeks ago. I did not expect it to take 13 weeks and I did not expect it to cost almost $4,000. To add insult to injury after waiting 13 weeks and doing almost all of the sanding on the truck myself the paint job had a couple dozen runs in the clear-coat and possiblly in the paint itself.

How it all unfolded:

The body shop is close to where I live and I was impressed with the guy’s paint work. One day I stopped by and asked him to come over to my shop and give me a price on the bodywork and paint for the truck cab and doors. I needed to get the cab sprayed so I could get the engine and transmission installed in the truck, and so I could put the wiring and interior back together.

10 hours or 100 hours plus, that’s the question

The initial assessment from the Mill Creek Auto Body shop owner was the truck cab could be ready for primer in 10 hours. Now I thought that was a bit unrealistic, but I liked what I heard. He also said he could get it in his  shop right now since he was between jobs.  I stopped what I was doing on the truck and took it to him the next day thinking it would be in and out. When I dropped the truck off at his shop I had it completely disassembled to make the job easier. He told me he would discount his normal rate if I would pay in cash as the progress on the truck moved along. I agreed to pay in cash for his so called discount. I told him I would like to come over on the days I could and do some of the work myself to keep costs down, and keep an eye on what was happening with my truck. He agreed.

I was not prepared for what would transpire over the next 13 plus weeks . He knew my budget for getting the cab in paint was between $1,500 and $2,000.  The truck was pretty straight with the exception of some dents in the roof and a large dent in the passenger side door. My thoughts were, a couple days of actual body  work on the panels, lots of sanding and it would be ready for primer. The biggest lesson I learned through this entire ordeal was to never pay anybody by the hour for a job like this.  I noticed that he was  meticulous about his work, and that he was very slow. I never saw anybody work so slow or drag something out the way he did, but then again he was getting paid by the hour right. I did the majority of the grunt work like sanding areas no one else wants to sand, and like I said earlier, I thought with all my help the truck would be done sooner and cost less.

Dodge Sweptline Cab in Primer

Dodge Sweptline Cab in Primer

After I paid for 45 hours of labor the cab and doors were still not in primer. I began to get nervous, a few more hours of labor would put me close to my total budget for the job. Needless to say it ended up doubling my budget, and sat at his shop for over 13 weeks.

While it was there he stopped working on my truck to work on a mini van, a Ford F-150 and a tractor trailer hood, taking ridiculous amounts of time to finish these small jobs too. Adding insult to injury again he left my truck outside in the rain on two occassions when much of the paint was sanded down to bare metal.

I was beyond  angry, but stayed composed, I just wanted my truck back and I wanted the quality paint job I took it there for in the first place. After the most time consuming work was finished, and the cab was in primer, it still took him weeks to simply block sand the primer and spray the basecoat and clearcoat.

Runs, Runs and more Runs ( here’s just a couple examples)

Runs in Paint JobRun on cab corner

What really irritated me was previous to this I saw four or five paint jobs he did and never saw a single run in any of them. When he finally did spray my truck there were a couple dozen runs in the clearcoat. I understand that you get runs in the paint every now and then, but come on 20 plus runs and sags all over the cab! I could have done a better job with what I had to work with at my shop!

If I ran my business the way he runs his business I would be out of business. Needless to say I will not be taking the rest of the truck to Mill Creek Auto Body in Harrells NC to be worked on or painted, and as I mentioned earlier I will never agree to pay anybody by the hour again. (10 hours turned into 100 hours plus)

13 weeks, $3,700 and a below average paint job!

$3700 plus $200 for the paint = $3900. I’m a level headed person, but things got pretty heated when I picked the truck up, with good reason. The dash isn’t painted and now I’m stuck fixing the runs in the clear coat after paying enough money to have the entire truck painted. He told me he would fix the runs but after sitting there several more days he never touched the truck. The morning I was supposed to pick the truck up he made a haphazard attempt to fix one of the many runs and told me that was the best he could do.  If there is one thing I  learned it’s that he won’t work on the truck after the money is paid, and my truck would be sitting outside his shop for weeks on end waiting on him to fix his mistakes.

I am pretty savvy when it comes to working with people, but I never saw this coming.  In my opinion he scams people by taking twice the normal time required for the job and by overcharging. I have talked to other body shop owners in the area who told me they would have done the entire truck for less than I paid for the cab. Now that I have the truck back in my shop I can get back to work and chalk this fiasco up to a bad experience. Hopefully this post will keep something like this from happening to you.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101

71 Dodge Power Wagon – A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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