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Auto restorations on the rise
Owners trying to hold onto vehicles longer
122608 BIZ AUTO REPAIR 2W
Ronnie Philips , left, lends a hand to son Jason, owner of Philips' Custom Works, on a 1946 Ford pickup Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
     As sales of new automobiles plunge to historic lows nationwide, one industry seems to be reaping some benefit from the consumers' desire to hold on to their older model vehicles.
    The auto body repair industry is beginning to see an uptick in repair orders for cars that haven't been wrecked per se, but just need a little tender loving care to bring them back to top working order.
    "We are currently working on a pickup truck for a gentleman who wants to give it to his son for Christmas," said Ken Daniels, owner of Preferred Collision Center on Highway 80 east in Statesboro. "It had a few dings and dents, and he wanted it to be a 'new' truck for his son, so we are fixing it up so it will feel new to him."
    Daniels said he is seeing a real increase in the number of customers who just want to fix "up" what they are currently driving.
    "We didn't use to see this kind of business very often," Daniels said. "I opened this shop up two years ago after managing a body shop in Savannah for over 15 years. We have been very blessed and are grateful for this type of customer as well."
    Daniels said a great deal of the work done by shops such as his is generated from automobile accidents whereby insurance covers the cost of the repair. This type of repair is different.
    "The client has to pay for the full cost of whatever work is being done, and I sit down with them and help them decide if it is worth the money or not," he said. "We talk about what the vehicle is going to be used for, and what the client's expectations are as far the life of the vehicle is concerned. Sometimes, it just doesn't make sense, but many times it does."
    While Daniels has seen an increase in general auto body repair and maintenance, one local auto body shop is doing an ever increasing amount of high end restoration work. Jason Phillips, owner of Phillips Custom Works Paint & Collision Repair on Highway 301 North in Statesboro, said he is doing more restoration work than he ever imagined.
    "We are doing what is called a 'full-on' restoration of a number of vehicles," Phillips said. "We literally take the body off of the frame and restore it to its original condition. Our restoration work has really taken off in the last six to eight months."
    Phillips said two factors are driving the increase in this type of repair.
    "First, I think that people want an automobile that they can work on and maintain themselves, and you cannot do that with the newer cars because of the computer components and complicated wiring," he said. "Secondly, the value of land has really gone down, and people are investing in older, restored cars. I do a lot of these as an investment for their owners. You would be shocked at how much of that we do."
    Phillips said he is currently restoring a 1946 Ford pickup truck, a 1969 Oldsmobile, a 1974 Dodge Charger, and a 1968 Chevrolet pickup truck. He said he is expecting delivery of a 1936 Ford and a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air to recondition.
    "By the time the restoration is complete, most owners will have spent to restore the car what it will be worth, so there is no profit in the vehicle initially," Phillips said. "But, they are looking at this as an investment that will increase in value over time, and these cars have always gone up in value once restored."