Difference Between Frame Up and Body Off Restoration
Frame Up Restoration
Much confusion exists concerning restoration terms. To simplify, a frame up restoration begins above the frame. In a thorough frame up, the paint and bodywork, trunk, interior, and motor are completely redone. However, only the necessary mechanical replacements are done on the frame and suspension. In lieu of complete replacement, the restorer will only remove the worn out parts. Examples of this would be replacing one broken spring instead of redoing all four corners. Another example would be to inspect the brake lines and only remove the damaged ones. A car that has undergone a thorough frame up is capable of winning at "County Fairgrounds" type shows and could be the star of a cruise night, but will not pass Gold Spinner or ISCA judging standards. The car, more importantly, will also be safe to drive. These cars can have as much as 300 to 500 hours of labor involved in the restoration. Many in our hobby prefer this type of car for two reasons- 1)Affordable price 2) The car can be driven in inclement weather without worrying about extensive hours recleaning the undercarriage.
Body Off Restoration
Simply, every nut and bolt on the car has been either restored or replaced. The body of the car is physically removed from the frame so every crack and crevice of the automobile can be cleaned, prepped, and restored. These are easy to detect. Crawl under or slide a mirror under the car. All suspension parts will be new and freshly painted or powder coated. Exhaust systems will be all new and either aluminized or stainless steel. All body mounts and suspension bushings will be either new rubber or polyurethane. Some body off restorations feature floor pans painted the same color as the body. In addition to the undercarriage, the engine, interior, trunk, etc will all be restored to highest quality. These cars may represent as much as 1,000 to 2,000 hours of labor. These cars can have as much as $40,000 to $80,000 and more in labor alone. These cars are capable of winning in the majority of shows. They are also much harder to maintain- the frame and undercarriage can demand hours of cleaning each week. Also, they are not new- restored but not new- things can happen. The best restoration can throw a belt or have a water pump go out- remember they are not perfect and need care.
Cosmetic Frame Up Restoration
This is the most dangerous restoration out there, and unfortunately for uninformed customers, the most plentiful. Within the car collecting hobby these cars are referred to as "piles", "cave and paves", "five and fifties"' and "bondo buggies". These cars look wonderful from five feet away or if you see them going down the highway at 50 miles per hour. The reasonable price also draws the people to them. They are shiny, make a nice rumbling sound, and seem to be such a good deal they are hard to pass up. Remember this-YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. The rare car that has been sitting in a barn in Kentucky for 20 years and the guy is just trying to get rid of it is a dream. They are few and far between, and unless you know what you are looking for you will get burned. Everyone in the world knows what these cars are worth, and unless there is a financial crisis in the family or a death, you could wait forever for that dream deal. So if you see one of these cosmetic restorations, beware. There are body men that can work wonders with fillers-a car filled with bondo can look straight as an arrow. By the time the bondo starts popping out, the buyer will never be able to find the seller again. Fresh paint on an engine does not mean it is rebuilt. Check for freshness of plugs, gaskets,look below the exhaust manifolds and see if there is fresh paint. Most quicky details stop detailing at the point where you cant see it-below sight line in the engine compartment. Check the trunk and undercarriage for thick fresh undercoating. If a seller has a nice clean car, he will not disguise it with undercoating. Undercoating has only one use- hiding rust or patch panels. And most of all, the cosmetic frame up is probably not safe. The seller will paint everything thick fresh black underneath, disguising worn or broken parts. A half inch of tire glaze can make worn, dry rotted tires look new. Loud mufflers or open headers sound cool, but can also disguise a valve ticking or rod slapping. BEWARE!
Many cars of the muscle era were "unibody" cars- they did not have full frames, only subframes and rear differentials attached to the unibody. In a body off restoration on a unibody car, there is no frame to seperate the body from. Therefore the restorer removes the front subframe and the rear differential, along with all glass, body panels, etc. He then mounts the unibody on a rotisserie, which is exactly what you picture. Similar to what you cook a roast on in your grill, except much larger. He can then rotate the body around and work on any part with the turn of the machine.