Why isn’t restoring a Classic or Vintage car like it is on TV?

Like everyone else, I love watching TV shows about restoring/rebuilding cars, and at the moment there’s a lot of them to watch! However… They very rarely show the reality of restoring a car.

Due to the magic of TV it seems to only be a 45min job or at most a couple of days to do a full restoration. What you don’t see is the team of people behind the scenes doing all the time consuming/boring work off camera. Slick editing then makes months and months of work fit into a 45 min show. Despite how they make it look it’s just not possible to give a car a quick rub down and then a complete respray in a day!

It appears to me that quality is not necessarily the highest priority in a lot of these shows. A lot of the finished cars are really quite rough and very flattered by the camera. Flaws are easy to hide on TV. Ever notice how the camera never lingers on the cars? They’re always moving quickly around the car, there’s never any stationary shots down the side of the car so that you can see how truly straight (or not!) it is. If you look closely you’ll see all kinds of ill fitting panels, paint flaws, poor chrome work etc. Details such as internal rust protection and weld finishing always seem to be glossed over or left out. I guess longevity doesn’t make for exciting TV. I want to be clear that this isn’t always the case, some of those shows are building very very high quality cars.

My biggest bugbear is the shows that give an unrealistic view of the financial side of things. Especially where they buy cars, “restore” them and sell them for “profit” It seems that they always forget to count the labour costs. In addition to the absurdly low prices paid for work done and parts bought (I quite often see prices quoted for resprays that wouldn’t even buy the materials…) the hundreds and hundreds of man hours never seem to be counted. The so called profits they make wouldn’t even pay the electricity bill much less the rent.

Everyone’s least favourite part of these shows is the fake drama and made up deadlines. Why do they do this?? It drives me nuts! I don’t want to see people having pretend arguments or “accidentally” damaging the car and then having to fix it to meet some stupid fake deadline. I long for the day when this ends. But then, I guess it wouldn’t be very exciting to have a TV show where I spend all day quietly sanding a nice radius on the edge of a door…

Despite the above, we should be grateful for these shows, it’s fantastic to be able to watch people building things with their hands. And, as I said, some of them really do build extraordinarily high quality cars. Just don’t think of it as reality, it’s purely entertainment!