Day 54:The Pickup!

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The car is finished! Here is a list of the work done by Los Panchos in Tijuana.

  1. Strip the old paint off
  2. Remove all windows, grills, trim and lights 
  3. Fill in holes in the front left from the Euro bumper conversion
  4. Repair dent in driver side front fender
  5. Repair rust on Drivers rear wheel well
  6. Fill holes in A pillar from antenna
  7. Fill holes from side reflectors front and rear
  8. Fill holes in rear from Euro bumper conversion
  9. Remove doors and repair rust on both doors
  10. Remove hood and repair hood support and rust on hood
  11. Repair rust behind passenger side fender
  12. Block sand and straighten every panel
  13. Install new black vinyl perforated headliner
  14. Respray in Fjord Blue
  15. Paint exposed areas of the engine bay
  16. Paint IE Motorsports Zender style air dam
  17. Spray Clear
  18. Reinstall doors and hood and align
  19. Color sand and polish
  20. Replace All window seals with new seals
  21. Reinstall grills, trim and lights

The price of all this work was $2,000.  

I was quoted 30 days for the work.  It took 54.  This isn't all their fault.  They fixed a lot more things than I asked.  They saw things and fixed them.  I also pushed it back about a week because they wanted me to see it and approve the bodywork as well as drop off the air dam to be painted.  I think the key to getting quality work is to be VERY honest with what you want.  Expect to pay a little more than quoted.  I was very specific in what I wanted done to the car.  I used the word perfect repeatedly.  I showed him the wavy 40 year old panels and told him I wanted them straight.  He said it would take an extra week of block sanding and I agreed to pay for the extra work.  Quotes I got for half of this work were between 4k-8k in the US.  So 2-4 times the cost.  This will be worth it IF the quality of the work is good.

Why Los Panchos?

I did lots of research and found a few places in California that would do it for 2-3k. They were cutting lots of corners and said it would be a decent paint job. Lots of people said that labor is labor and I would spend the majority of my budget on labor to straighten the panels. Once all was straight and the prep was done then the paint would be easy to do so look for the place that would do the most amount of prep work. With labor rates in the US for bodywork being $75-$100 per hour you can easily see a weeks worth of prep work can easily cost $4k alone!  In my searches on the Internet for "best places for a cheap paint job" one thing kept coming up. Mexico. It made perfect sense. They have been doing body and paintwork for decades so they are skilled and the labor rate is MUCH cheaper than here in the US. But is it safe?  Who has done it?  More google searches pointed to a number of forums and some of them were air. Oiled Porsche forums. Seems like a lot of these guys got paint jobs from one particular place, Los Panchos. I contacted a few of them and asked about how satisfied they were and if they would go back everyone said they would go back and some already have gone back.  That was promising information. I didn't get ONE negative review of Los Panchos. Wow. I decided to visit a few shops in Tijuana and get estimates. I could look around and see what kind of cars they had in the shop as well as inspect the quality of their work. Los Panchos had a number of law model European cars in for various repairs and all with California plates on them. I would say that 95% of their business is from the US and they have been there for 40 years. Again all good signs. After a few trips and speaking to Ramiro in the phone a number of times I was confident that the car would be safe there and they would do a good job.

The Interaction

We agreed on $1750 to do all the paint and bodywork as well as replace the headliner. He said he would send pictures of the process. I dropped the car off without bumpers and door panels and without the side reflectors or antenna. I knew they would be removing the doors for the rust repair and I wanted to make that easier plus less things there mean less can get damaged. I removed the speakers and door panels. I also wanted to holes from the antenna in the A pillar filled so I remived it and I wanted the reflector holes filled because I wanted to remove the side reflectors. The bumpers were removed as well so I could clean and polish them while the car was gone. It took a few weeks to get pictures and I was very anxious about the car. I spoke to Ramiro every few days and he would update me. He sent me pics a few times and I went and looked at the car a few times. The prep work and the body repair work they did was great. I also stressed how I wanted to the lines of the car to be perfect. They did their best to give me those perfect lines!  I was quoted 4 weeks.  It ended up being 7. I'd rather wait a little longer and get great work than rush it. It also meant that there was more work to do then they initially thought. I was confident that it wasn't just sitting there and they wanted to get it finished to get paid!

The Results

The bodywork is amazing. When I show people the pictures the first thing they comment on is how straight the panels are. All the lines and curves are in place and the wavy 40 year old panels with door dings and inferior bodywork now look like new panels. The rust repair was top notch. Welding in new metal and not just filling it with fiberglass or bondo. Im extremely pleased with the bodywork and prep work.

The Paint

Wow is what I said when I first saw it back together, color sanded and sitting there. Stunning. That's another word. Breathtaking.  The results are beyond my expectations. I thought they would be good. Better than average but this looks like a new car. This looks like a $10k paint job. Easily. The color is spot on. I was worried about the color at first. They did a great job on that. I saw the car before final sanding and polishing. There was just the right amount of metallic in the paint. Sometimes people go overboard and it looks like fingernail polish. Nope they got it just right!  There were a few runs in it and some orange peel but Ramiro assured me that those would all be fixed when then polished and wet sanded the car before I picked it up. He was correct.  The finish is smooth...the shine is brilliant and the depth is amazing.  In the daytime it just beams.  I used to get thumbs ups and smiles before, but now its just stared at and I can see people mouth "Wow".  

The Bad

Its not all perfect.  The bad in all this is as follows.  

They filled in a few too many holes...I'll have to redrill a few holes to mount the bumpers.  Not a big deal.

Glue everywhere.  I had to use goo gone on the seats, dash, windows, shift knob.  It all came off but it was still a bit of work.

Overspray. Yup there is some overspray.  On the interior panels and especially on the trunk lock.

Headliner. In one corner of the sunroof its ripped.  maybe it can be stitched, maybe it'll have to be redone.

Sunroof handle alignment.  This one was an easy fix, unscrew it and put it back on in the correct orientation.

2 Scratches on the rear quarter that will probably polish out.

Not smooth in a few places (A pillars), when it was wet sanded it wasn't done as well in a few spots, still shiny there but not as smooth as the rest of the car. 

Thats about it.  for the bad.  Nothing horrible at all, but like I said, not perfect but for $2,000 I expect to do some work.



I'm happier than a pig in slop!  Happier than a fat kid eating cake!  The car looks amazing.  2 months for a proper paint job with the doors, hood , trunk and windows removed as well as a few weeks worth of bodywork and rust repair is not bad.  The price ended up right at $2,000.  I probably could have haggled, but to me it was a fair price, a VERY fair price.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  I loved the adventure.  The fact that I traveled a number of times to another country was fun.  Would I recommend it for someone else?  Well thats another question.  You have to be comfortable leaving your car in another country.  Comfortable communicating wit someone where English is NOT their first language.  Comfortable walking around Mexico with lots of cash when you pick ups the car.  I was diligent.  I contacted them a few times a week, asked for pictures to be sent and visited the car a few times to monitor the progress.  In my opinion the car came out so good because I was so persistent.  Do I think that dropping the car off and waiting for a phone call would be good?  Probably not.  I also spent an additional $700 in seals so that when the car was put back together new rubber seals would be used.  The seals on the car were probably 40 years old and had been through at least 2 bad resprays.  While the car was gone I also polished the trim and chrome so they would look better when put back on the car.  


3 Replies to “Day 54:The Pickup!”

  1. Thank you for writing about this! I am the 2nd owner of a 1961 VW since 1989 & finally thought I was ready to look at a mod & build… A bit floored by prices & am wanting a freeway flyer daily driver, Not a Concurs de Elegance build, yet stll want to be grinning like a 16yr old at the drag strip :-). I dont have much spanish & am just getting started on research. Sounds like I will need to do the mechanics here & drive it across. Right now it is not running at all w a cracked core. Thanks again. Looking forward to a 2 yr follow up on how the paint is holding up…

    1. Hey Dawn, glad it helped. I’ll do a 2 year followup as the paint is holding up great. No issues at all.

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