IN THE BEGINNING
Hi, I'm Steve Samuels, and along with my wife, Jana, we founded Realistic Auto Restorations 31 years ago. When we started in 1978 about all we had was a love for automobiles and 6 years of hands on experience in a large restoration shop.
We Started Small, ... But My, How We've Grown
Back in '78 we had only a slim 1200 square foot of space. Today, we've grown ten-fold to over 12,000 square feet. We did it the good old-fashioned American way ... with hard work, fair prices, and an unrelenting insistence on quality, safety and authenticity. With more than 3,000 restorations on our resume, our focus hasn't changed.
Our Focus Hasn't Changed... But Our Business Has
Back in the beginning our main projects were the great classics... Auburns, Cords, Packards and Lincolns. The majority of these restorations were frame off, including complete body, paint, mechanical and upholstery. But times and tastes have changed. Instead of a stock 36 Ford or 41 Buick, the new emphasis is turning toward muscle cars and street rods. That's not to say that classics and foreign cars have fallen by the wayside. Our expertise in Jaguar, Rolls, Bentley and Aston Martin as well as the Classics is nationally recognized and you'll usually find several examples of the great marques in our shop.
The End Results
Today, a lot of businesses measure results by the bottom line. (How many dollars are made at the end of the year). We measure results in two very different ways. First, in terms of customer satisfaction; have we made every customer as happy as possible? Secondly, for those of our customers who enjoy displaying their vehicles in national competition, our restorations win regularly at AACA, Classic Car Club of America, Concours Jaguar and Rolls Royce shows, National Buick and Oldsmobile meets, Super Chevy and Southern Streetcar Nationals to name a few. We also receive invitations to some of the more prestigious shows like Amelia Island and World of Wheels. We'd need a very large room to house the thousands of trophies our cars have won. This is success as rated by a jury of our peers.
Not Everybody Wants (or can afford) A Show Car
We realize that quite often our customers don't want an all-out show car. Many just want a cosmetically pleasing driver--a car that they can use and have fun with. Others may just need a little of this or a little of that... an upholstery repair... a bit of paint touch up... or a mechanical problem repaired. We welcome those challenges. The old cliche, "No job too small... no job too big" really does hold true at Realistic.
Our People Make The Difference
They are dedicated, committed, diligent, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and loyal. They have that very special mind-set that's required to become a true restoration expert. They are long term people. Jim, our General Manager, and Charlie our Master Mechanic, have both been with us for more than 20 years. Our son Sage started while he was still in high-school and has been here for more than 18 years. These people are master craftsmen... and multi-talented as well. Jim, in addition to running the shop, can weld, paint, do woodwork, upholstery, straighten both body work and stainless steel trim and handle major mechanical repairs. Most importantly, he can solve problems. Charlie, our Master Mechanic is more than just a mechanic. In the old days, a mechanic fixed things. Today, in many cases the term "mechanic" translates to "parts replacer". Charlie can diagnose a problem and repair, rather than replace the part--an invaluable talent when you consider the last new part to fit that particular situation might have been produced 70 years ago. It's been said that if it has pistons, chains, gears or pulleys, Charlie can fix it.
Our Library Helps, Too
Much of the success of a restoration depends on correct information concerning how it was manufactured when it was new. That's why we maintain a library of paint color chips, parts and shop manuals that in many cases go back to the twenties This combined with a "library of the mind" that goes back to the 40's insures that our restorations are as period correct as is humanly possible to make them.
Looking for Parts... We Put "Sherlock" On The Trail
"Sherlock" is a name given my wife, Jana, because of her unerring ability to track-down obscure parts. Almost thirty years of studying hobby related periodicals, combined with a nearly photographic memory means that she can "reach out" to find the needed part. Over the last 26 years Jana has established an international network of suppliers. She knows who to call to locate that rare part needed to complete the job. Many of the people she contacts either don't advertise in Hemmings or on the internet or advertise very infrequently.
Obviously, a business has to provide an income to its owners and employees, of course, Realistic has done that. But, just as importantly, it has allowed us to meet, work for, and become friends with a truly outstanding group of people. Friends who have allowed us the privilege of restoring multiple cars for them, friends who have been willing to recommend us to their friends. One of the nicest compliments we've ever received was from one of our Rolls-Bentley-Aston Martin customers. He has had cars restored by some of the most well known shops in the country. We have done several cars for him in the past 5 years and he recently told us we are the most professional shop he has ever dealt with.
A Few Important Details
We're security conscious. That's why our customer's cars are always stored inside and protected by a sophisticated security system. We want you well informed. Statements are fully detailed with parts, labor and material itemized on a daily basis. A complete photographic record is kept of every car.
A Brief Outline of Our Services
Because we're a full-service restoration shop, we'd be happy to assist you in any of the following areas.
Complete or Partial Restoration
Street Rod Fabrication and Assembly
Show Quality Paint Work
Expert Body Work and Fabrication
Woodwork, Both Structural, and Appearance Refinishing
Complete Mechanical Repairs
Stainless Steel Restoration
Research and Photography
We do both complete and partial restoration and would be happy to assist you with repairs and refinishing on any scale.
A Customer, and a Friend
We invite you to visit John and Gail Handel's website "Years of Wheels". We've known John for a while, and sometime back, John called Jana looking for a 50's convertible. Jana remembered an ad for a '55 Pontiac Convertible that we had done extensive restoration work on years ago. It was advertised in Hemmings and was still in pristine condition, having been kept in climate controlled storage. John's purchase of the Pontiac he named "Chief" was the real beginning of his collection and the beginning of our friendship/business relationship. John's a great guy...particular...but that's exactly the kind of guy we like to work for. Take a look at his website, get John and Gail's slant on the hobby and take a look at some of the cars Realistic Auto Restoration has done for him.
For More Information
We are: REALISTIC AUTO RESTORATIONS INC.
2519 6th AVE. SOUTH
ST. PETERSBURG, FL. 33712