“Cars is Cars.” – Paul Simon
“Oh no they aren’t.” – Randy Booden, B&B Collision
One’s a songwriter. The other takes the approach of many famous sculptures who said the statue was already done; he merely had to remove the marble around it to reveal it to the world.
“You look at that and see so many boxes of parts, dinged up pieces of metal, torn sheet metal. I look at is, and so does the owner, as the 1968 Camaro is once was, and will be again, in about nine months.”
“I have a rule,” Randy said, “And don’t get me wrong, I’m not being a snob or anything. But restoring a car is a labor of love. People bring them in here in milk crates, literally, and we put it together.
“But if someone asks me three times in the very first conversation how much it’s going to cost, I politely send them packing. It may take us nine months to restore a car; it may take us 18. Real car buffs know that, and they help us out by shopping for the hard-to-find parts. They’re out there, but spending an afternoon on the phone doesn’t get the car done.”
“Restoration has always been high on Randy’s list of favorite things to do,” said Wendy Tomassi, Randy’s sister and B&B’s accounting manager. “The regular day-to-day is our bread and butter, but this is what these guys live for,” she said.
Andrew sands down part the left rear quarter panel that came into B&B Collision in a box.
“It may not look like it to you, but that came out of the bunch of milk cartons,” Wendy said, walking back to the paint area where Andrew was lovingly, there just isn’t any other word for it, sanding down a gentle curve on what was taking shape as a ’68 Camaro.
“You have to have an eye for it,” Wendy said. “People just can’t come in off the street and do this kind of work. You’ll notice Andrew isn’t wearing any gloves,” and indeed he wasn’t. His hands were calloused from doing prep work like this before, although he’d only been and B&B for about a year and a half.
“You have to feel it,” Andrew said. “It’s almost – not quite – but almost a job where you have to feel the curve of the car, and then it’s like your hands
have memories. When I get over to the other side, I’ll remember what that side felt like, and I’ll be able to duplicate it. This isn’t a job where you can ‘eye it in.’ You have to feel your way. No too many people can do that.’
The team’s finished product: From a several boxes to a perfectly smooth Camaro. Some of these restorations can take up to 18 months.
Wendy said between jobs, the workers vie for time on the restorations. “It isn’t often you literally get the experience of building a car from the ground up with your own two hands,” she said. “Every now and again they’ll come in here on a Saturday morning if Randy is going to work on a customer’s car. It’s like a workshop for them. They’re all into it.”
If you’re waiting for a ride someday, take a look at the pictures on the walls. The GTX belongs, or belonged, to Randy; the Mustang is John’s; the ’41 Coupe and the ’65 GTO belong to Rob; and the 1960 Continental you see parked out front that’s half as long as a city block, and in near perfect condition, is the proud property of Bill Booden, who started the business 27 years ago and has won a truckload of awards with that car.
If you take a look at it, you’ll have to admit it’s pretty cool, and must feel like you’re driving your living room around (the hood alone measures 16 feet), but those aren’t the award-winning factors.
Open your eyes. It only has two doors for a car you could play touch football in without disturbing the driver. If you stop by one day when it’s parked outside, Bill will let you look at it and might, no guarantees, let you sit in it. Bill Booden stands about 6’17” – if he says “no,” don’t push it.
Another team restoration project well on its way to completion: a ‘64 Plymouth Savoy. All it needs now is an engine.
Wendy says they have eight or nine cars on the list to be restored, because they like the meticulous way Randy, Nick, his co-manager, and his team go about it. “They might find a grill that’s close. Really close. Chances are the owner wouldn’t know the difference. But Randy would. To him, there is no substitute. It’s got to be THE right part, and he’ll spend hours, days on the phone, checking his email, heck, my dad just got out of the hospital and Randy’s already got him flipping through a copy of Hemmings Motor News – that’s the Bible of car restoration.”
She went over and pulled if off Bill’s desk. It was already yellowed, corners bent, with torn sheets of magazines and newspapers marking spots for further investigation. “And this copy was white when he got it,” Wendy said, smiling. “But that’s what he lives for.”