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What to look for in a shop that rebuilds engines, automatic transmissions and rear ends now days?

TorRed

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6:44 PM
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Dec 12, 2023
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Location
The Villages, Florida
Growing up I knew lots of shops that did all kinds of work on these cars but now days there's really only a few that actually rebuild anything preferring instead to put in crate or remanufactured drivetrain components. Like one promising 'do all' shop told me, "we mostly do crate engine swaps" which doesn't work with my numbers matching Roadrunner. I'd like to drop my car off at one place and have them redo the drivetrain front to back to get the car solidly back on the road where I would then as funds permit turn my attention to aesthetics. I have one place I think would do that, he rebuilds motors himself, sends transmissions out to another shop and told me he could put together my 8 3/4 himself with all of my heavy duty parts. I don't think he does anything special with motors, pretty much just puts them together after getting parts back from the machine shop which he says is very good. This shop does $200k resto- mods and every finished old car & pickup I've see at shows that he has done are drop dead gorgeous. If you were putting together a 500 HP stroker motored B Body does this sound like the shop you'd trust to do yours? My only issue is he seems to do more 'show' cars than 'go' cars because at one point in our discussion I asked about 2 1/2" exhaust vs 3", and whether his exhaust guy does mandrel bending of the exhaust pipes and he said "It's not required because you're not doing a 500HP car or anything like that" to which I replied, "actually I am" Opinions are appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
Jim
 
I think I would have one very reputable shop do the motor, and have A&A transmission do up the transmission. As far as suspension call up Dr. Diff and see if he knows any good shops in the area. He can build you a strong 3rd member and supply you with axles and brakes. Good luck on your search.
 
Our forums here have a lot of Florida members,try and ask some of them. Any local car clubs or racers you can hang out with and ask?

Look online and see if there is any feedback for whomever you are considering. Call the better business bureau and see if there are any complaints against said business.

A reputable shop will most likely be clean and organized as well as take the time to listen to what YOU want. One stop shopping is nice but get the best guy for the job if you have to take it to three different shops.

As far as exhaust goes just buy a Tti kit and you don't have to worry about who can bend it.
 
Any one that has Mopars sitting around, Any one that has a lot of Chevys or Fords around-RUN.
 
As these old hotrods get older so do the guys that specialize in them. Good shops are getting rare and thats not going to change. I'm fortunate enough to know how to work on them so I do my own builds. If you plan to stay in the hobby for a long time I would suggest learning how to rebuild stuff yourself. I found that wrenching on old cars is just as fun as driving them along with the satisfaction of building it yourself. I realize not everybody has the time for it but with good shops disappearing nation wide it leaves us hobbyist with no choice but to do it ourselves. Good luck on your search, don't leave out the "shade tree types", some of the best mechanics I know don't work out of a fancy resto shop.
 
In my younger years we always had guys and shops we could go to for help on our cars. I went to school with the son of our local Chrysler dealer. They let the mechanics and friends work on their cars after hours. It was really helpful. Not so today. After a lot of time and money spent on so called experts our Bee still has numerous gremlins that are not right. Electrical, suspension, and rear end to name a few. All under the guise you can't participate because of insurance. Frustrating.
 
Recent dilemma for most.
Craftsmanship is disappearing, around here at least.

Some just send stuff out and bolt it together.
I'd stick with individual places/people for each item, and order parts and put together what you can.

I could list experiences, good and bad, but even after getting recommendations from those you trust, it seems you don't know who is truly capable until after the fact.
 
Since The Villages is a massive retirement community, you may hit the jackpot through one of your neighbors on your quest.
 
I think I would have one very reputable shop do the motor, and have A&A transmission do up the transmission. As far as suspension call up Dr. Diff and see if he knows any good shops in the area. He can build you a strong 3rd member and supply you with axles and brakes. Good luck on your search.
Actually I already have all the parts to do a completely new 3rd member and HD axles with 'Green' bearings and I got all of that from Dr. Diff. He's way up north so I'm not sure he'd know of anyone in Central Florida. Plus, my problem is I'm not set up to get this car up on jacks or a lift here and with my bad back even if I was I probably couldn't do the work. I also have the problem where I need one shop to do or subcontract out the work while they have the car because I'm not set up to haul the engine one place, the transmission another, the rear end a third place while my car is taking up space in the shop that pulled it apart. It's as much a logistics problem as anything else!

Thanks,
Jim
 
As these old hotrods get older so do the guys that specialize in them. Good shops are getting rare and thats not going to change. I'm fortunate enough to know how to work on them so I do my own builds. If you plan to stay in the hobby for a long time I would suggest learning how to rebuild stuff yourself. I found that wrenching on old cars is just as fun as driving them along with the satisfaction of building it yourself. I realize not everybody has the time for it but with good shops disappearing nation wide it leaves us hobbyist with no choice but to do it ourselves. Good luck on your search, don't leave out the "shade tree types", some of the best mechanics I know don't work out of a fancy resto shop.
I actually 'helped' rebuild all of this on the car back in the 70's and wrenched on a lot of cars since, right now it's more a case of my back not allowing me to lift the weight and logistics of trying to do this in a 2 car garage with an 8' ceiling and not a lot of room around the cars.

Thanks,
Jim
 
In my younger years we always had guys and shops we could go to for help on our cars. I went to school with the son of our local Chrysler dealer. They let the mechanics and friends work on their cars after hours. It was really helpful. Not so today. After a lot of time and money spent on so called experts our Bee still has numerous gremlins that are not right. Electrical, suspension, and rear end to name a few. All under the guise you can't participate because of insurance. Frustrating.
Exactly right, we're both in the same situation for sure. Hope you find that one 'right' shop/mechanic who can iron out all of your gremlins, I did back in Georgia, not so much now.

Thanks,
Jim
 
Recent dilemma for most.
Craftsmanship is disappearing, around here at least.

Some just send stuff out and bolt it together.
I'd stick with individual places/people for each item, and order parts and put together what you can.

I could list experiences, good and bad, but even after getting recommendations from those you trust, it seems you don't know who is truly capable until after the fact.
My worries exactly, I trust the shop in question would get it running, but with them not being performance oriented may not build it capable of a few passes at the drag strip, etc.

Thanks,
Jim
Since The Villages is a massive retirement community, you may hit the jackpot through one of your neighbors on your quest.
You're right about it being massive, but these houses are not built to do the kinds of work this car needs. The other issues, if I could even find a shop in or around The Villages, they would charge the big bucks because most / not all residence are fairly wealthy where "moneys not object". We're comfortable but money is definitely an object so businesses used to catering to the wealthy tend to charge rates I wouldn't pay if I could afford it. Example: they just built garage space to park and work on your own cars. I was like 'awesome, can't wait until they're built!'. The smallest space about the size of a two car garage is like $1500 / month! So much for that!

Thanks,
Jim
 
Our forums here have a lot of Florida members,try and ask some of them. Any local car clubs or racers you can hang out with and ask?

Look online and see if there is any feedback for whomever you are considering. Call the better business bureau and see if there are any complaints against said business.

A reputable shop will most likely be clean and organized as well as take the time to listen to what YOU want. One stop shopping is nice but get the best guy for the job if you have to take it to three different shops.

As far as exhaust goes just buy a Tti kit and you don't have to worry about who can bend it.
That's a good idea. I just joined a Mopar Club in nearby Ocala, I need to go to one of their restaurant nights and ask around who's a good shop. The shop I mentioned above is in Ocala. I know there's a well rated engine builder outside of Tampa, and a good machine shop for the rear diff build in Orlando. I also have found a well rated performance transmission shop in Gainesville. Trouble is the engine shop doesn't pull and re-install engines, nor the machine shop rear diffs, transmission shop probably does but haven't talked to them yet so I need assistance pulling and reinstalling all of these while my car sits waiting for the rebuilt parts. It's really all about logistics as much as anything else.

Thanks,
Jim
 
Actually I already have all the parts to do a completely new 3rd member and HD axles with 'Green' bearings and I got all of that from Dr. Diff. He's way up north so I'm not sure he'd know of anyone in Central Florida. Plus, my problem is I'm not set up to get this car up on jacks or a lift here and with my bad back even if I was I probably couldn't do the work. I also have the problem where I need one shop to do or subcontract out the work while they have the car because I'm not set up to haul the engine one place, the transmission another, the rear end a third place while my car is taking up space in the shop that pulled it apart. It's as much a logistics problem as anything else!

Thanks,
Jim
I totally understand that.
 
I have been in the bearing industry for 50 years. the green bearings are ok but they are a ball bearing. the original bearings are a tapered roller Timken and are much stronger than the Green style. I would not use Green in my rig which is 67Dodge 440 with a warmed 440. The timken brgs are original and still great. they are readily available.
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