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Hagerty Employee

Leno: Appreciation for hard work is fading, and old cars aren't easy | Hagerty Media

Once I had a gentleman on The Tonight Show who had climbed Mount Everest, which is an amazing feat that is nearly impossible for most people under the best of circumstances. But this guy was also blind.
101 REPLIES 101
Intermediate Driver

Restoring old cars has been one of the real joys in my life. I knew from the get-go I wasn't going to get rich doing it, and so it remained recreational. The sad part to me is that we have become an "instant gratification" society. We are not willing to wait for something we want. So the hobby has trended away from enthusiasts doing the work themselves, to farming it out to a shop to do it. They agonize about the job taking months to do, but have no idea the work involved. They have never had to do it. And maybe the shop will do a better job of it, although I have become pretty good at it. But they will never know the rush of knowing they actually did it.
Pit Crew

100% agree with all of this. Thank you Mr. Leno! I also don't love it when people find fault with my cars.....I love 100 point cars at car shows to view. However, for me I am happy to have driver quality cars that I can drive without fear or regret. Why do we have so many judgmental people in our hobby now? I don't remember it being like this when I was a kid (40+ years ago).
New Driver
Advanced Driver

This should be required reading for all "car folks", common sense, so eloquently written. When I grow up I want to be Jay Leno.
Thank You Jay!!
New Driver

Hi Jay

Your reputation precedes you as a highly respected car guy.
Maybe, just maybe, your opinion will get through the thick heads of some people.
I thought it was just me and grumpy old age that was getting me frustrated with customers unrealistic expectations.
Thanks for nailing it.
I want to send this to all my customers.
Pit Crew

It's nice to hear others agree with Jay. It gets me pissed off when I watch these restoration shows when they trash the bondo repairs. Hey I'm sorry. I don't have a MiG welder sitting in my small garage to weld every bit of cut out rust. I have to work with just jack stands on the cold floor. I worked on Marine/Navy aircraft for 20 years that have been built from 1935 on and most of the patch work was forming metal and riveting. A little dev-con (JB weld today) sanding, prime and paint and out the hanger she goes. I still perform that work today using formed metal, rivets, JB weld and bondo. Looks good last a long time. I used to belong to a few car clubs. They would have a tech session a few times a year. At these sessions the serious car guy would attend to get some knowledge to bring home. But 60% of the others that have somebody else do the work on their cars stand in the back and shoot the bull and having to be ask to take their conversation outside. I agree with Jay, finding somebody who now-a-days that get their hands dirty is far and few between.
Advanced Driver

Happily since I am in my 60s, my son has inherited my love of old cars and working on same. And his job at a car dealership gives him access to a lift. Which means he does the heavy stuff for me, although I still work on the dash, wiring and assorted 'lighter' jobs for fun. Just rebuilding the engine in my Jag recently took nearly 2 years. It almost cost a friendship with the guy doing it with me, but all's well now, once I understood the simple concept that Jay talks about here!

A lift makes everything much easier.
Intermediate Driver

So, I’m 64 years old. I have to admit, a lot of these comments sound like the same things my Dad said about my generation. After telling me to get a haircut. Anyway, editing a 12 month restoration into a one hour show will tempt some people to jump in over their head. They will learn about the real work. Some will persevere, some will write big checks, and some will post their “projects” on Craigslist or BAT. All will be much better informed at the next Cars & Coffee.

And conversely, that's why it is so rewarding doing your own work, I love it. Very happy to see Mr. Leno adding his opinions to this forum, very welcome and respected. Thanks.
Intermediate Driver

Growing up in the 1960's ( yes I am over 75 years old), we built our cars, both street and drag racing, in our garages, sometimes building the engine with the block in the car because we didn't have an engine stand! Taught us a lot about mechanics and how things worked! Most people today want the instant car build that so many of these "Reality " shows seem to make it believable that you can buld a car in a week, while those of us older ones remember it taking months to years to get a car together! I know some of the people that buy cars already built are of the older generations that now have the money to buy the car of their dreams/childhood, but just wish the TV shows would be truley realistic.
Intermediate Driver

I get it BUT Jay as you have said many times on your U Tube channel there are a lot of folks who want a lot of recognition for a job not well done (mediocre)! Their rational is the 80 /20 rule. That irritates me, since I take pride and do my own work to the best of my ability regardless of the time it takes (probably never satisfied) and I know I could have spent just a little more time and got a better result. Not so for many car folks, in fact in all facets of their life. And that's my rant😊
New Driver

My skin is thin at 72, and my meds cause every bit of car work to cost me blood. However, I can run diagnostic tests on my MGB and order parts. I may have to get a mechanic to install them, but I like to think I've been part of the repair process. I took on a restoration project ten years ago, and I quickly gained a lot of respect for the complexity of the process. Luckily, I was able to find someone to buy all the stuff I'd accumulated.
Intermediate Driver

Customer: "Why are you charging me an hours labor? You only worked on the car for fifteen minutes."
Mechanic & shop owner (my dad): "I have thirty years of experience fixing that problem. Do you want to pay me or should I keep the keys for the rest of the hour?"
If you are here, you love cars. When others see how we show respect and appreciation for those who work passionately to perfect their craft, we will be part of the solution.
New Driver

Thanks for the article it was spot on !! I just spent 4 months on body work alone, not to mention all the other work that goes into restoration projects.
Intermediate Driver

My pet peeve on this topic: Often when I bring one of the cars I restored myself to a show or gathering, a non-car person will walk up and say "Wow, you sure were lucky to find one in such good condition!". I guess they mean it as a compliment, but again, they just have no concept what it takes to restore, let alone maintain, a vintage car.

Now if they had said: "you sure are lucky to have had the time, and the means, to complete a restoration" they would have been more on the right track.
New Driver

Having done paint and body work all of my adult life, both personally and professionally, I couldn't agree more. Restoring cars is a true labor of love. I think it was Chip Foose that said if you restore a car and make money you're doing it wrong.
New Driver

This article is so spot on! As an owner of a family business where we restore, service and sell parts for classic British cars, most of our customers are understanding of the skill and knowledge that it takes to keep these cars on the road. But there are always those folks who seem to think you can fully restore a car for under $10k...and are offended when you have to tell them that no, we're sorry, we can't do that amount of work for that figure.
Having the skill set and knowledge required to do this type of work just is not always appreciated and is under-valued for sure. We're certainly not getting rich doing what we do, but we love it and take great pride in producing award-winning restorations. Helping to keep these beautiful cars on the roads is icing on the cake!
Pit Crew

Wonderful story Jay and VERY true! We bought a 2000 BMW Z3 a couple years ago. We did so with our eyes open. It's got quite a story that we have put into it and it's not done yet, (suspension, new top etc) BUT it's certainly a labor of love and YES we have a local car guru ("Mechanic" doesn't do him justice). We've done some of the work, because we want to, but a lot has been done by our "Guru." We've put as much money and then some in the Z3 as we paid for it. BUT "Hello" that Z3 cost in the mid 30's when it was new. The next major job? Liam, that's his name, gets a partial repaint. Between now and then? He gets a new throttle cable (the old let go on Tail of the Dragon) and reupholster of the seats and then... well you get it. Maybe he'll get finished, one day!
New Driver

Not to mention the expense of tools. As a young guy working in a shop I spent a big chunk of my paycheck every week buying tools.
New Driver

I would so love to send this to a few of the not so good customers I have had over the years. But unfortunately they would likely know where it came from and it's not worth the problems it may cause. Maybe Mr. Leno would volunteer to do so for me ? LOL. That would definitely put a smile on my face. On the other hand I've been fortunate to only have a few in the 25 years of being in classic car restoration and repair business.
It's ironic that they think nothing of spending $50+ on a 15 minute haircut but expect the repair or restoration to be done for 10.00 an hour. Great article sir.
New Driver

after 40 years of restoring cars,alpines,tigers,tvr,etypes,Brough superiors,jensens and a plethora of other makes,i can tell you its not easy but nobody can tell you the satisfaction of the car coming back from paint ready to fit all of its new parts and starting it for the first time all that grief/oil/scraped knuckles/etc are soon forgotten,and to me i have never earned the money i should have deserved when i see some spotted face erk put a motherboard in a PC and charged you an astronomical amount,but i will say this most of those cars i restored all through the years are still in existence and i saved a lot of resources of the planet and given pleasure to a lot of people,so as long as i got breath in my body i will save our precious History!!!
New Driver

Thank you Jay for everything you do. My favorite show is your garage and I know you're a true gear head like me as I recall running into you at a automobile literature fair. You and I have the same person--Tim Dick, in our lives. I graduated with him from Seaholm in 1971. I went into the Army in the second to last draft call and he ended up in jail. I'm not sure which of us had it worse but I suspect he topped me in initial bad luck. But life got a whole lot better for me as the GI Bill put me through college and allowed me to become a CPA, accumulate a couple of bucks over time and not to mention allowed me to have the coolest family a man could ever dream off! Life can be good.
New Driver

After decades in the car hobby, I decided it was time to wind things down a tad...until I heard about a '65 Sunroof VW in a basement of a house that was coming up for sale a mere 3 blocks from my house! After contacting the original owners family, pulled it out of it's resting place since 1974 and towed it home. Now 1 yr. later, after long days, nights, parts runs, and lots of band aids it's back on the street. I'm amazed that not only was my 77 yr. old body was still up for the task, but the complete satisfaction of still being able to see the project thru.
New Driver

I have worked and created with my hands nearly all my life.

As a kid, I was always told this was somehow “less than.”

At some point a few years ago, a contemporary objected to some “Vacuum cleaner repair guy” wanting $110 to get her vacuum up and running again. That really frosted my nose.

I’m not saying we should all be millionaires. (Doesn’t everyone think that deep down?!)

But, today, I pick and choose those whom I help. It’s 100% about doing work at a fair price, for someone who appreciates what I do. If you can’t respect me...we’re going to have a very short conversation ending with you not getting what you wanted. Sorry...not sorry.
New Driver

Wow, spot on! I wish I had the knowledge and skills to do a restoration myself. So many times I think “how fun would that be” then when I realize the knowledge skills, years of experience and thousands of hours required to do the work with any hope of a quality outcome reason and sanity return.

Intermediate Driver

Well said. I just spent 3 days installing an updated sound system in my Mercedes CLK500. It took me a week to pull an engine out of 1972 Lincoln Mark IV for rebuild. People act like doing this kind of work is easy. I find most people have no idea what goes into fixing a car or remodel a house.
New Driver

Craftsmanship - It wasn't a boat sold by Sears.

Jay you are correct in many ways.

But also while restorers have made gains in some areas we have been saddled with more challenges too.

We used to be able to go to junk yards and find what we needed for good parts. Today if the car is at a recycler several months the crush it.

While paints have gotten better in some cases it has become more difficult to apply at home like we all used to do.

Even buying a car to restore was something we did as high school kids today it has become a challenge as collector prices went up. We could buy some really good cool cars for $2k on a part time gas stations salary.

Then we have the instant gratification society. Many people just have no stomach for a job to restore a car over several years. They want it now not later and forget that the rebuilding is a journey they will treasure.

Finally the last nail here is the fact many cars are cheaper to buy restored vs doing it yourself. Even myself gets temped to buy a finished cars done well vs one I would do myself. I can find a finished 64 GTO for $15k to $20 k less than I can restore it myself. Yes I will miss the fun but I also have budget limits (wife) that also will apply limits.

So Jay I fully agree with what you are saying but I also see many other challenges to the hobby and those who are participating.

When I got started I learned much from the old timers that let me hang out and not only watch but get my hands dirty on a stock car at the age 11. I am now that guy who is willing to let someone get their hands dirty. No one is there. They are not lazy but often no interest.

My son has a passing interest but I have to nag him to check his oil. I used to do it on family members cars just to be able to do it.

I have had one car play car for near 40 years and I hope now that many family obligations are coming to an end raising my son I can get my 59-60 Corvette. I have dreamed for decades after riding in a neighbors 59 as a kid. I have the garage and just need to free up the funds to buy and restore. A couple more years of collage to pay for I hope to be able to start a project of my own. I hold no regrets what so ever but sometimes there are things you just have to put first and they always don’t have a wheel.


Restoring ANYTHING properly rarely breaks even when sold. Do it for the love of it, and if you REALLY love it you'll do it yourself and learn what you need to along the way. There are precious few things in life more satisfying. The masses who think everything's fast and easy (and should be cheap) will continue to act like arm chair experts from watching their unreality TV shows.
Pit Crew

Jay, I agree completely! I have a small workshop ( where I do repairs & restoration work and I can tell you that more often than not I end up not charging for all of the time I put in on my customers' projects. My hourly rate is very reasonable, but it still adds up quickly when taking the time to get a vapor honed part looking just right. I also spend a lot of time researching and sourcing parts for old bikes, and the 10% markup I put on parts never covers the time I spend.

Anyone who's done this type of work knows that it takes way longer than most people expect if you're going to do it right. Most of my customers understand that and are pleased that I want to take the time to produce a quality result. But I've scared a number of them away by being blunt and honest about an estimate on the true cost of no-kidding restoration work. Probably the best outcome for both of us!
Intermediate Driver

Hear hear! Took me 2 weeks, WITH a LIFT, to get the old transmission out, and the new transmission into my '07 Silverado 1500 4x4. This is the most poorly engineered vehicle from a mechanics standpoint that I have EVER seen in my life! Sadly, everything being built these days is built the same way - with ZERO consideration for the poor folks who have to fight with this crap!
New Driver

The true auto mechanic that can trouble shoot and repair a problem is a dying breed, so is the true art of a restoration. Today if the computer doesn't tell the mechanic which part to swap out he/she is lost. The love I have for metal fabricators ..... how they shape metal into complex curves and weld it into place is a work of art.

My neighbor is convinced that aliens built the pyramids because he can't fathom that people did it by hand

...and I take offense to the Rustoleum comment - you can lay down a pretty good finish with Rustoleum if you do it right. one of my longer term projects is part way through a Rustoleum finish because i know all of the bodywork is going to take a while, i want a finish on it in the mean time, and i can go anywhere and get a quart of Royal Blue - or a rattle can or two for the hard to reach spots
Pit Crew

We’ve been fortunate in 30+yrs of restoring vintage cars to have had fantastic clients who trust us to do what we do. 25yrs ago, restoring a ‘56 Caddy, the client was unsure of the time it was taking to do his car...felt that it could be knocked off quicker. Good guy but with no experience doing it himself, so we suggested he help out for a bit - cut some time and gain some understanding. We set him up polishing the stainless trim at the buffing wheel, and after shooting several pieces across the shop while sweating in coveralls and not making any real progress he took the coveralls off, said ‘I get it’ and never questioned an invoice after that. He really was a great client, but just didn’t have a grasp of the work it takes.
Today’s ridiculous shows make of mockery of the skill and time involved.

I couldn’t agree more! The cost of new vehicles is astronomical yet machine work in the old school manner never really went up in cost! I had a Sprite engine rebuilt, (bored, heads done with hardened seats, cleaned with all new pistons, etc.) for about $1000! Thirty years ago I rebuilt a 4 cyl. Mustang engine for $4000.
Really the only thing that drives this business is passion and most people will never understand, so too bad for them.
In contrast I needed a battery cable for a newer vehicle and the price was $600!
What is easy to forget is that it is just so right to build something spectacular and there are so many talented people ready to assist who deserve the chance to make a decent living at least for helping to build a dream. But dreams can never come true without a bit of agony and frustration.

I agree 1000%. Gotta give more and more props for those that sacrifice their valuable time(Auto builders mechanics) putting hours and hours of hard work labor to create the machine of our dreams to ride in, plus, most mechanic auto builders sacrifice seeing their families only to satisfy us all. 

Pit Crew

I have always ascribed to the philosophy that if you want craftsmanship and can't, or won't, do it yourself, then don't crap talk the craftperson. They have taken the time and energy to develop their craft not to mention investing in the proper tools. Run down to the hardware store and buy a case of rattle can paint and spray your car. Then park it next to a professionally restored car. I doubt, seriously, that you'll have the same level of pride that the craftsman does.

Advanced Driver

Very well said! That appreciation of hard work is in nearly very field. I do home repairs, mostly smaller jobs that my helper and I can easily accomplish -- lots of "punch lists" from realtors because we can do just about anything, including minor plumbing and electric repairs (mostly swapping fixtures and under sink leaks). Occasionally I give a "ball park" estimate and someone balks. I'm not the cheapest nor most expensive -- sort of in the middle. Some, however, do appreciate the hard work and make sure the y tell you! Those are the people I love working for. Those that balk I just encourage to get another estimate. A few call back, most don't, even though I'm sure they get higher estimates from others. Maybe a few get lucky and find someone who needs the work and will do it lower, but I don't cut corners to make a job cheaper -- it's not in the long run. I do my old "restomod" car the same way.

Very well said Mr. Leno ;

As a Journeyman Mechanic who's entire career has been oriented around older vehicles I can attest to this .

Sadly too many don't appreciate the hard physical effort and bloody gouges endemic to the job .

As I age out I find I get skin breaks more and more easily .

New Driver

I own left coast Datsun in long beach cal. Iam sick of being the bad guy.
New Driver

A great article that is absolutely on point.

As a restoration workshop owner, I can tell you the automotive trades generally are really underappreciated. For all the work, effort, exams, practical assessments, time and money to be qualified, tooled up and competent: you end up getting very little respect either via remuneration or appreciation/recognition for the effort. The amount of narcissistic DIY Youtube unqualified, and often secretly farmed out, disasters are testament to this sad point.

Thanks Jay for the appreciation of the labour of love job we professionals do.

Great article. My company does mechanical restorations on european vehicles. When we get a client or perspective client that disparages our trade or skillset they are FIRED never to be let in the door again. Old saying but still relevant today "If you think a good german vehicle mechanic is expensive try a bad one".
New Driver

I've been wrenching professionally for 35 years. I truly enjoyed this piece by jay. I can never understand those that disparage our industry and the hard working men and women. People in the trades know the value of your effort. They do it as well. Never gouge. Never lowball.
Intermediate Driver

I didn't know Jay did all the work on his cars by himself! Wow, what a guy. How the hell does he find time to mow the lawn, clean the pool, pick up the dog crap, paint the house, fix the washer and dryer, write sage articles and everything else he must do by himself?
I guess it takes a billion dollars in the bank to be as productive as he is.
New Driver

Thank you Mr. Leno. I restore WW2 vehicles, most people think that we got them from the Army post here. Most of these where found in fields with a ton of parts removed. The half-tracks where stripped of their rear armor to make hay haulers out of them, so either you find originals parts or you go in and fabricate parts. Mostly you hunt for years before you find what you need and want, sometimes even having to buy parts from around the world. All the research that goes into a project is time consuming, finding everything then trying to figure out how it all goes together, and some parts become small restoration project in them self's taking weeks and sometimes months to complete. It is truly a art that is fading away. The idea you can restore something in a hour program is outrageous, we never see the wrench flying across the yard, or the 15min of swearing that goes on because you snapped a bolt or lost the screw on the ground because you are working in a gravel driveway. I have 15 vehicles with a store of parts for them.. Nothing is easy but send the time and you have something that you yourself can be proud of! .
Intermediate Driver

You will find people at car shows or even parking lots who will want to buy your
ride and just throw money at you. You ask them if they have a tech background, a garage or tools. Three nos follow. I state the car really isn't for you. They say they still want it.
I have to develop a more larcenous heart.
New Driver

Wow its nice to see one guy that gets it. Id say its not about the car show or how many points the car has. Its about the love of our automobiles. I restored a 73 GTO that my wife dragged home and it was a labor of love. And i liked the car. And let mye tell you i had $16000 in actual payed labor and parts. And i got nothing for the ten yrs it took to complete. There was the issue with money, time to do without interuption, and knowledge that i learned from my father and building race cars all my life. So i had it appraised and the car was perfect in my eyes and i was proud to give it to my wife as our car. She was proud as a peacock to go and spend all day at the car shows with friends. And i couldnt get excited about them when judges just past us by. And i had a friend that had bought his way to glory when he bought a 64 impala and had a builder billed it for him because he didnt have the talent to do his own work. I never begrunged him as he had spent his money wisely. But the morale of my story is for all of my hard work the apprasel for the car was valued at $25000 when i was done. And wwins countless best of show trpohies.e have recieved a few participation trophies while my friend!
New Driver

'Driving' me crazy! What's the car? a Sunbeam? Datsun? Love you, Jay, for all the obvious reasons, cut can't help a twinge of jealousy. Particularly over the Ford GT!
New Driver

So true! Great article