Gateway 5 – Parts Purchasing
Who is buying vehicle parts?
For newer and more common vehicles, often there can be found a flourishing after-market, ranging from large firms to hobbyists, manufacturing replacement parts for components no longer produced or supported by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). These remanufactured parts can be of greatly varying quality.
Parts for older and rarer vehicles are becoming scarcer and scarcer. New Old Stock (NOS) for these marques and models may have been exhausted decades ago and there is a lack of demand to attract the after-market to produce replica components.
Needed replacement parts may require patience awaiting a garage clear-out or deceased estate, or may require intense detective-work through collector communities, or 'simply' require the decision to reverse-engineer and manufacture the needed part.
The direct costs involved in vehicle restorations can essentially be categorised as:
- Parts / Materials.
- Generic parts / materials (e.g. standard fasteners, leathers, timber, etc.).
- Sublet Services (e.g. subcontracted specialist machining, engineering signatory services, etc.).
- Consumables (e.g. grinding discs, welding consumables, adhesives, etc.)
Of these categories, vehicle-specific parts and materials typically incur the highest cumulative costs on a project after labour.
We offer you the option of sourcing and supplying your own vehicle-specific parts and materials in a timely manner. Otherwise, we are happy to use our extensive experience in seeking 'unobtainium' parts.
It is normally more appropriate and efficient in the other categories for the sourcing and supply to be undertaken by us.
OEMs and Professional Suppliers
When possible, as well as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), we use professional suppliers such as Repco, Bursons, Rare Spares, and Moss Motors (UK, Europe, and USA) and a plethora of specialist overseas suppliers. Those large suppliers generally have parts for popular makes and models of older vehicles manufactured for them.
While back in the 1960s an original part was manufactured in, say, the UK or USA it is more likely today that they are manufactured in places like China, Korea, India, and Columbia. Some owners are disappointed by the lack of, let us say, ‘emotional connection’ to the original supply chain. It is just a reality of modern global supply chains.
Those suppliers will sell auto-parts to you or us for a profit and provide a warranty on those parts. Due to the duration of a vehicle restoration project, those warranties can expire before the end of the project. We are unable to extend those warranty periods and are unable to cost in that risk. It would effectively mean our clients are paying double costs of the warranty risk.
Professional Supplier Rust Repair Panels
Invariably with replacement body panels and rust repair patches, they will not fit your car without modification. This does not mean that there is a potential warranty claim on the supplier.
With the original OEM production runs of vehicles produced in their tens of thousands, the original stamping dies in the factories would gradually wear away. When the wear on the stamping dies became too great, the OEM would swap out the worn die with a newly machine die.
Therefore, there can be major differences in the sizes and shapes of panels on sibling vehicles. Indeed, there can be great asymmetrical variation on the panels on the left and right sides of a vehicle.
This has two side effects:
- After purchasing a rust repair part or panel, it can become apparent with hindsight later that the choice to use the repair part was marginal. Clients need to expect that additional effort will be needed to fit those parts and panels.
- The notion of returning a vehicle back to ‘factory standard’ is very subjective and elusive. Most clients expect restoration standards to be better than factory.
“You are the resto experts we expect you to know where to get the parts.” This is a quote regularly heard from prospective clients.
The reality of obtaining supplies of auto-parts beyond the professional suppliers is that the marketplace is basically comprised of:
- Sellers on Gumtree, eBay (internationally), Craigs List and Facebook Marketplace
- cottage-industry suppliers
- backyard restorers who commission extra parts more than what they need, and put the extras up for sale
- car-club members
- deceased estates
The general nature of auto-parts from these non-professional suppliers is:
- Lack of warranties
- Lack of returns policies or no return address of contact
- Freight costs to return are more costly than the item.
- Returning a part is no guarantee that a replacement will be provided.
- Often the seller only has one item or a limited number they can supply, hence not repeatable in the future. Once the supply is exhausted, it cannot be repeated.
- Often they are ‘pick-up only’, particularly for larger items where the seller is unwilling to organise packaging and freight.
Unhinged Hinges – A Case Study
As a case study, we had a 1980s Mercedes Benz to repair and amongst the shopping list of parts was a need for a replacement bonnet hinge. We approached our trusted sources for Mercedes Benz parts and none were available. We then turned to the non-professional marketplace and found three sources worldwide:
- Victorian seller on Gumtree
- Queensland seller on Gumtree
- Latvian seller on eBay.
The Victorian seller was willing to freight and, overall, it was the least cost option. When received the hinge was less operational than the one that came on our client’s Mercedes. It was not cost-effective nor risk-effective to return the hinge to the Gumtree supplier whose advertisement would have long disappeared.
The Queensland seller was also willing to freight. When eventually received it was apparent that the seller had not bothered to even unbolt the hinge and instead had wrenched the hinge from the rusty bonnet damaging the hinge worse than the first Victorian hinge. To have returned the hinge and demand a refund to that seller was fraught with further risks and costs.
After losing this time, we bought the pair of hinges from the Latvian seller. They arrived in good condition and were used for repairing our client's car.
It is not possible for a restoration business to factor in the costs of such risks. If a business were to do so, then the mark-up costs would be uneconomic for clients.
If the client were to supply their own parts in this Mercedes Benz hinge case study, they would have had to bear the risks and the costs for the three hinge purchases and the freight. They would have been able to make their own decision as to whether to pay for the return freight costs and seek refunds from elusive online sellers.
We have little option but to charge for our research and procurement efforts as well as for the good and bad parts with a mark-up for stocking, storage, and handling costs.
After the Latvian hinges were received, and test-fitted, they were probably also paint-stripped, primed, and painted to match the colour of the client’s car.
The “To Buy or Not to Buy” Gateway
Subjectively, we estimate that more than 95% of our clients prefer us to source and procure their parts. Despite the horror example depicted above, we do think that we are pretty good at purchasing parts. We always endeavour make prudent make-buy decisions on the client’s behalf in good-faith.
If you wish to choose the route of purchasing the parts yourself, then we will add a storage fee for the time that your vehicle is with us. Workshop real-estate is a scarce and valuable commodity. A vehicle slowed due to non-availability of parts being purchased by our client is an unsuitable outcome.
If you elect for us to purchase parts on your behalf, then we will not charge you the storage fees unless you are overdue paying an invoice. We think that is fair as it would not be appropriate to charge you storage for a project slowed due to non-availability of parts being purchased by us.