Q&A With Bill Crabtree of Classic Muscle Metal & The AMD Installation Center

We have spent countless hours in the garage over the years fixing, restoring and breaking stuff. Throughout all the busted knuckles and four letter words, we have learned that when experts offer up advice, take it. We have talked ourselves out of said advice and it never ends up in our favor. Each time we end up spending more time and money on the issue at hand. If we would have listened we would have been further along and closer to our budget. Replacing rust or body panels are one of those issues that everyone has an opinion and can go a million different paths. That’s why we choose to call on the experts at Classic Muscle Metal whenever we even think about replacing sheet metal.

Classic Muscle Metal (CMM) is not just your ordinary sheet metal parts supplier. Unlike other fly-by-night parts suppliers, CMM creates a relationship with all of their customers and wants to help everyone through their journey of replacing rusty body parts. They want to be there from the beginning till the end to see you get the best fitting parts for your car and help you stay within your budget.

There has been instances that the rust is overwhelming or, like the Come Back ‘Cuda, crunched so badly that you don’t know where to begin or if its possible to fix. Luckily, not only does CMM sell the sheet metal we needed to fix the ‘Cuda but they also own the AMD Installation Center. This is where they install sheet metal, straighten bodies and bring heaping piles of rust back to new. The AMD Installation Center only focuses on rebuilding bodies, no paint or other restoration work is done there.

There are many different reasons of why CMM and the AMD Installation Center (AMDIC) should be your first choice when it comes to sheet metal or body rebuilding. Instead of us telling you about all the different aspects of CMM and AMDIC, we thought the General Manager, Bill Crabtree would be better suited to explain. We recently sat down with Bill to learn more about how CMM can provide more than just parts and how the AMDIC can be of assistance too:

Mopar Connection Magazine (MCM): What makes CMM different from the rest of part suppliers?
Bill: We are the experts in aftermarket sheetmetal. Not only do we match or beat the prices of our competitors we also provide something rare in this day, a person on the phone that has installed the parts that you need and knows all the secrets necessary to make them fit properly. That’s right, we know that most aftermarket parts aren’t perfect but with our help you will be able to get it to look perfect. We help plan your project and work with you to completion.

MCM: We have had many articles showcasing the AMD Installation Center. What is the AMD Installation Center?
Bill: The AMD Installation Center is where we rebuild bodies. We do not do full restorations, we are dedicated to properly restoring rusted out bodies back to factory standards. We are pioneers in the body rebuild industry. No other facility in the US devotes 100-percent of their business to body rebuild. The equipment used in the body rebuild process is certified by both Mopar and GM, with a Ford certification in the near future.

MCM: How is Classic Muscle Metal associated with the AMD Installation Center?
Bill: When you call CMM you are calling the AMD Installation Center. It is the “shop” for CMM. The person answering the phone has spent a significant amount of time in the AMD Installation Center rebuilding muscle car bodies and from hands on knowledge knows what brands of sheet metal best fit your vehicle.

MCM: With a name like AMD Installation Center, you must be very expensive.
Bill: We have many people who assume just that but we feel that we are very competitive in our pricing. Since we focus on only rebuilding muscle car bodies, we are more efficient and have the correct tools for installing sheet metal. This results in better pricing and to keep vehicles moving through. We do not like vehicles sitting around the shop for any length of time. That doesn’t help our business or the customer.

MCM: Could you give us an example of cost and time involved in say a completely rotted-out 1971 ‘Cuda?
Bill: Typically the Mopars that require a total rebuild can get very expensive due to the large amount of hand fabrication required. When we rebuild these types of cars it usually takes 4 – 6 weeks and $20K plus in parts and labor. This may sound like a lot when all you get back is a car shell, but usually these cars can be worth close to 6 figures when they are done right. We do it right!

MCM: What is the best brand of sheet metal?
Bill: We only sell products from vendors that we trust, and each of them have their strengths and their weaknesses – it all depends on the application: Auto Metal Direct (the best for most Mopar and GM parts; Dynacorn (great for Challenger and interchangeable ‘Cuda parts); Goodmark (good quality across the board but are limited in the Mopar selections); and Golden Star (good quality across the board but are limited in the Mopar selections).

Now understand we have further knowledge of exactly what parts should and can be ordered dependent upon your specific car. Our goal is to never have any parts be returned due to quality. We have determined that the listed vendors are best to achieve that goal.

MCM: Is it only sheet metal that you sell?
Bill: The list of suppliers we mention do offer many other products for your restoration than just sheet metal. We discount everything offered from the listed vendors.

MCM: We noticed that you have a discount program for purchasing sheet metal and other products. How does your Discount Program work?
Bill: Your quote will start with a 15-percent discount from the vendors retail pricing. Shipping discounts start at $500. Split shipping on truck freight starts at $800 and unlimited Free Shipping starts at $1500. We will attempt match or beat quotes from our competition as long as the quality of the product is the same.

MCM: Earlier you had mentioned helping the customer plan their project. Can you tell us more?
Bill: It’s not unusual for a customer to call with just an idea of what they want to accomplish. We do our best to exchange information via pictures and help the customer develop a budget and help them stick to it. We feel responsible to the customer to not just give them what they want but to let them know when they at going off course. We would rather lose a sale than participate in the accumulation of incorrect parts which will lead to additional cost later in their project.

MCM: Shipping large sheet metal parts cant be easy for the shipping companies. We hear horror stories about these companies damaging packages. How safe is it really to ship fenders, hoods, etc., and what happens if they are damaged when the parts received?
Bill: Damage does occur from time to time with the shipping companies. Our policy is that you don’t own the parts till you have a chance to inspect and sign for them. We know for a fact that neither the customer or CMM had anything to do with shipping damage or manufacturing issues. Therefor, as long as you document the damage and take a few pictures we will send you the replacement parts on CMM’s dime and work with the vendor on the reimbursement process.

MCM: Although we might have a plan laid out, events occur and cause our projects to be put on hold. Since you never know when the project will get back on its feet, what is the best way to store brand new sheet metal?
Bill: After you have inspected your parts put them back in the in the packaging. All the sheet metal parts are shipped with an EDP coating or weld through primer. Therefor the parts have some protection from the elements but we recommend that you store your parts in a dry area. Be very careful with the large panels such as hoods and roof panels, these parts should not have anything stacked on them and be clear of areas where forklifts operate. Just use common sense when storing sheet metal and make sure that anyone you share a space with is aware of it.

MCM: What are your favorite Mopars projects you have had the pleasure of working on?
Bill: We really enjoy the tough ones; namely Graveyard Car’s Phantom ‘Cuda; Chop Cut Rebuild’s Daytona and Mopar Connection’s Come Back ‘Cuda. My personal favorite was the 69’ Barracuda Hemi drag car that the owner wanted to put back to stock. This required a rust free donor car and we carefully cut the back out of both to install the rear structure of the stock car into the old race car.

We talked with Bill for a little longer and it only proved more that he is very passionate about rebuilding muscle car bodies. Not only does Bill work in the industry but he also owns a few Mopars himself. Its always nice to see the guys behind the scenes passionate about the same cars that we cherish.

We are very thankful to have companies people like Bill and companies like CMM and AMDIC to help us along. Looking back we don’t know how we would have made it through a few of our projects without their help. They are doing great things for the muscle car industry and saving cars from the scrap yards everyday. If you are looking at needing sheet metal for your project or have a rotted out car that you think is too far gone, do us a favor and give Classic Muscle Metal a call first.

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Gavin Wollenburg

Gavin grew up around Mopars in his lakeside home in Ohio, his father showing him nearly everything he needed to know about haulin' some serious rear in his '72 Dart Swinger. Since then, he's made his little A-Body a serious autocross contender and regularly shows the modern boys how an old Dart does it!

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