ONTARIO — Bill Kilpatrick’s guiding motto for his business is “making your dream a reality.”
However, Kilpatrick, owner of B&C Auto Restoration and Paint (also known as Bitchen Customs Auto Restoration and Paint), knows fulfilling dreams for vintage car lovers can be an expensive proposition. He’s upfront about the costs involved because he doesn’t like to take shortcuts; he says his business reputation lives or dies by the finished product.
“The guys who come to me have money and know what they want, and that’s the key,” said Kilpatrick, 62.
Kilpatrick, who grew up in Webster, had four older sisters — three with boyfriends who were “gearheads.” That was the seed of his future career.
“They were nice enough to let me hang out with them, and it got underneath my blood,” he said.
Kilpatrick gravitated toward choppers, but when he was 15 his father bought him an air compressor, spray gun, tape and sander and told him how he wanted his older Chevy pickup painted.
“I read the books on how to do it,” Kilpatrick said, “and that’s where the infection started.”
For 23 years Kilpatrick ran a bakery with his wife, Tricia, a car buff herself who does B&C’s books and serves as the office manager and customer service representative.
When the couple closed the bakery Kilpatrick did collision and estimating work but eventually realized he wanted to run his own vintage car repair and restoration business.
In 2005 he opened B&C Auto Restoration & Paint, occupying about 1,000 square feet at the end of a warehouse. The shop grew and transitioned to 2,500 square feet in the same building, then to a 7,500-square-foot space elsewhere. In 2014, due to continued growth, Kilpatrick purchased his current, 10,000-square-foot shop at 6360 Dean Parkway. Just last year, he had an adjacent 5,000-square-foot building constructed for additional car storage space and a living area. Out-of-area customers, in fact, are welcome to stay in the building’s loft area while in town to check on their car’s progress.
The main building features an office area and four immaculately clean garages where different aspects of the restoration work — body shop, reassembly and a paint booth, to name three — are performed.
Although B&C has done repairs on vintage cars in the past, Kilpatrick’s current focus is on complete restoration. He has six employees and plenty of work from customers across the country. He recently shipped a completed car to an owner in British Columbia, and in his shop currently are cars from Texas, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The cars on his restoration work list include a 1969 Hemi Dart, 1954 Austin Healey, 1957 and 1965 Corvettes, a 1968 Mustang, 1971 Chevy C-10 and 1968 Firebird, among others. He has 17 cars in progress and nine car projects waiting to be started.
Most complete restoration projects take 1-2 years “because every nut and bolt is changed in it,” he said.
Kilpatrick said his customers are going for “an upper-scale job” and are looking for new-age motors in their older model cars. The trend has been away from exact replica restorations to performance.
“We’re finding out in this industry that people want drive-ability,” he said. “They want to drive fast, turn nice, stop fast and have something that’s sweet-looking.”
Painting is his expertise, but he and his crew are versatile when it comes to all facets of car restoration — mechanical as well as aesthetic. If he’s unhappy with the way a paint job turns out, Kilpatrick said he’s been known to redo it at no cost to the customer.
“The way the fit and finish is, it has to be on the money,” he said. “I’m trying to build a brand.”
It’s a brand that gets good reviews. One online reviewer called B&C “one of the best automotive restoration shops in town. Bill has an eye for perfection in his projects.” Another said “This place is awesome. The owners are great people. The work they do is on par with the best in the country.”
The shop’s work has been noticed nationally.
The restoration of a 1971 Chevy C-10 was featured in the October 2016 issues of Street Trucks and Goodguys Goodtimes Gazette, both of which are framed and displayed in the shop’s office area.
And next month, Kilpatrick is heading to Saudi Arabia for the Riyadh Car Show and Global Auto Salon. In fact, he’s already shipped a copper orange 1952 Chevy truck over that he hopes to sell and is excited his booth will be between auto designer and “Overhaulin’” reality TV star Chip Foose and custom car fabrication guru Kindigit Design.
One of Kilpatrick’s favorite jobs over the years has been the restoration of a 1965 Mustang in a butternut yellow color.
“It was restored to the T just the way it came out of the factory. [The owner] knew what he wanted and he was willing to pay for it. The look on his face when he was driving it away ...” he mused.
It’s that satisfaction that comes with a happy customer that Kilpatrick relishes. He is a personable man whose love for what he does is clear.
“I stay in touch and my customers become part of my family. It’s pretty cool,” he said.