By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Hobbies can be expensive, and when the hobby is restoring classic cars, the price may soar into the tens of thousands.
John Escobar, owner of Escobar’s Restoration, is restoring several vintage cars for people who crave the excitement associated with roadsters, muscle cars and exotic sports cars.
“The cars that come out these days lack imagination,” Escobar said. “They are practical and safe. But the cars they used to make, now they have style. The kids these days don’t appreciate cars the way we used to. I see them leaning on the hood, scraping them with their buttons, chipping the paint. Your car is your baby. You need to treat it like one.”
Escobar is bringing back a 1963 Red Corvette Roadster. When the automobile is restored to its original showroom condition, the owner will have spent around $60,000. Another sports car in Escobar’s shop is a 1965, 365C Porsche. A newly restored engine which matches the car’s VIN number was recently delivered to the shop and will soon be secured under the hood of the vintage car.
“I have restored a lot of really interesting cars,” Escobar said. “But I think the best one I did was a 1939, original, woody wagon. We take pictures of them from the first, when they first come in. And we follow the process so the owner can see what was done to the car. When we bring it back to a 10 grade, everything has to match the original. We match the VIN number in everything.”
Although the thrill of restoring old cars is what interests Escobar the most about his business, he does a good amount of body work for newer car owners.
“Tom is my restoration specialist,” Escobar said of his employee, Tom Hall. “He has been with me a long time.”
Escobar employs three full-time auto body mechanics, including the owner.
“The community is really important and you have to take care of your neighbors,” Escobar said. “I have helped some people out and it really wasn’t that big of a deal, so I didn’t charge them. When they have a real need, something big, or a family member hits a deer - that is when they need me. And I’ll be there.”
Escobar went through a BOCES auto mechanic program in high school, and worked on cars when he graduated. He went into the Marines and after serving, came back to Upstate New York, where he went back to working on cars.
He started his business working out of a friend’s garage. Building a clientele, he rented space until he had saved enough money to purchase land in Otego. He has a large body shop with a painting booth and several bays for repairing damaged automobiles on Millcreek Road.
Hall also graduated from a BOCES auto body program. He began working for Escobar after he graduated. He left Escobar’s Restoration and went into farming, but found he could earn a better living as an auto body mechanic. Hall still owns cows.
“I tried farming, but it didn’t work out, so I came back here,” Hall said. “I like working on the newer cars better. It doesn’t take as long as the vintage cars.”
Escobar’s Restoration is involved in most of the area cruise-ins, where people who have vintage cars come together in a designated parking lot for activities and prizes.