Calculating Car Workshop Labour Efficiency

The clock is ticking

‘Time is money’ in bodyshops and service workshops. Essentially, these operations buy and sell the time of panel beaters, painters and technicians. A service workshop, for example, might buy one hour from a technician for £10 and sell it to a customer for £40, and make a profit of £30. (These figures are, of course, notional).

Buying and selling the time of productives is, or should be, the major source of revenue and profit in bodyshops and service workshops. Profits from the sale of spare parts; oils and lubricants; paint and materials; and sublet and sundry are all subsidiary to the buying and selling of productives’ time. If you don’t sell time, you don’t sell any of these other things.

Just as you would take great care when buying and selling a spare part, you have to pay equal attention to buying and selling productives’ time – or even more so, because you cannot ‘stock’ productives’ time. In other words, if you don’t sell their time today, you cannot sell it tomorrow.

Time for sale

So once time is gone it’s gone, whereas a spare part will still be in stock. So it is a good idea to know how much time you have for sale. This would seem pretty simple. If you have six productives, and they are there eight hours every day, surely you have 48 hours for sale? Well, no, you don’t.

For a start, productives might be in the workshop for eight hours every day, but they don’t work on paying jobs for eight solid hours. For example, a customer could come back with a car that you serviced yesterday and complain that it keeps stalling. It will then be necessary for a productive to rectify the problem, and of course you cannot charge the customer for that. If it takes two hours, then you only have 46 hours left to sell, in our example.

Time sold

To complicate things further, you can actually end up selling more than 48 hours. Imagine, for instance, that a vehicle manufacturer’s standard time for a major service is two hours and you quote the customer on this basis. If your technician completes the service in one hour (unlikely, we know) then you will still charge the customer for two hours.

If this happened all day long, you could sell 96 hours less the four hours you could have sold if one of your technicians hadn’t spent two hours spent rectifying the engine stalling problem. (It’s four hours because you are selling two hours for every hour worked in this example.) So if your productives could halve the standard times all day, that’s 92 hours sold rather than 48 hours.

Three measures of time

What we are talking about here is the three kinds of time available in a bodyshop or service workshop:

Attended time – this is the time that panel beaters, painters or technicians are in the workplace available to work.

Work time – this is the time they spend actually working on jobs that, at the end of the day, a customer pays for. Clearly ‘work time’ does not include any time spent rectifying problems, or anything else they do that does not have a paying customer at the end.

Sold time – this is the time that you charge customers for. It could be the time quoted on an estimate for an insurance company, or a menu-priced service.

You could say that ‘attended time’ and ‘work time’ are both ‘real’, because you can almost see them. You can see when a productive is in the workshop, and you can see a productive working on paying jobs. What’s more, you can measure ‘attended time’ and ‘work time’ using a clock.

On the other hand, ‘sold time’ is not ‘real’. You can’t see it, and you can’t measure it using a clock. But at the end of every day you can add up all the time you have sold to customers from your job cards or invoices.

How fast and how long

If you measure attended time and work time, and add up sold time at the end of the day, you can then see how fast and how long your productives have worked during the day.

How fast they have worked is sold hours divided by work hours. In our example, that’s 92 hours sold compared to 46 hours worked, or 200% expressed as a percentage. That is, your productives are working twice as fast as the standard time.

How long they have worked is work hours divided by attended hours. In our example that’s 46 hours compared to 48 hours, or 95.8% expressed as a percentage. That is, your productives were working on paying jobs for 95.8% of the time.

Labour efficiency

What we have just worked out as percentages are two ‘labour efficiencies’:

Productive efficiency tells you how fast productives are working compared to standard times, or the estimate in the case of a body repair job – how many sold hours they produced compared to the work time it took them to produce these sold hours.

Labour utilisation (sometimes called ‘selling efficiency’) tells you how long productives worked on paying jobs compared to the time they attended the workplace.

As formulae, productive efficiency and labour utilisation are calculated like this:

Productive efficiency = (Sold Hours/ Work Hours) x 100%

Labour utilisation = (Work Hours/Attended Hours) x 100%

Overall labour efficiency

There is one other measure of labour efficiency and that’s called overall efficiency. This is a simple combination of productive efficiency and labour utilisation, and comes from multiplying them together:

Overall Efficiency = Productive Efficiency x Labour Utilisation

Or, another way of looking at overall efficiency is as sold hours divided by attended hours:

Overall efficiency = (Sold Hours/Attended Hours) x 100%

How labour efficiency affects profit

Obviously you will make more profit if you can squeeze more sold hours from the hours your productives attend. We have already said that if you buy one hour from a service workshop technician for £10 and sell it to a customer for £40 you will make a profit of £30. But if you bought one hour from the technician and then sold two hours, you will make much more profit – £70.

It is equally obvious that if you buy one hour from a service workshop technician for £10, and then the whole hour is expended rectifying a come-back job for which you can make no charge, you have lost £10. Less obvious is that you have lost the opportunity to sell two hours (in our example), and thus lost the opportunity to make a profit of £70.

So the reason for measuring time in a workshop, and then calculating the labour efficiencies, is very clear. It’s all about profit. And if you don’t measure time and calculate the labour efficiencies, it is absolutely certain you will not maximise profitability because you will not know:

How fast your productives are working as a team and individually, and whether they could work faster if they were better trained or had better equipment

How long your productives are working as a team and individually, and how much time they are wasting on work that customers aren’t paying for.

How time is measured

The most basic way of measuring time in a workshop is by using a ‘clock’ which stamps time on a ‘clock card’ for attended time and on the job card for work time. The times are then correlated manually on a ‘daily operating control’ sheet, and the labour efficiencies calculated.

However, computers have largely superseded this basic method, with the ‘clocking’ carried out using barcodes or magnetic swipe cards. The computer then completes all the correlations and calculations instantly.

Typical labour efficiencies for the Top 25%

In recent years, the labour efficiencies achieved by bodyshops and service workshops have fallen from what would have been considered the ‘norm’ a decade ago. The reasons for this are complex. However the top 25% of franchised dealer bodyshops and service workshops are still achieving reasonable levels of performance, typically:

For a bodyshop, productive efficiency averages 106%, utilisation 88% and therefore overall efficiency is 93.3% (106% x 88%)

For a service workshop, productive efficiency averages 115%, utilisation 92% and therefore overall efficiency is 105.8% (115% x 92%)

For 40-hour attended by a productive in a week, these translate as:

For a bodyshop – 40 hours attended, 35.2 hours working on paying jobs, and 37.3 hours sold or invoiced to customers

For a service workshop – 40 hours attended, 36.8 hours working on paying jobs, and 42.3 hours sold or invoiced to customers.

Why service workshops are usually more labour-efficient than bodyshops

bodyshops are clearly less efficient, but why? Firstly, jobs move between productives in a bodyshop – starting with strip, then panel, then preparation, paint, refit and valeting. Usually this means moving the vehicle physically around the bodyshop, which is far less efficient than the straight in a bay, job done and straight out situation of a service workshop. The result for bodyshops is a lower labour utilisation than for a service workshop.

Productive efficiency in bodyshops used to be higher than for service workshops, because sold hours were negotiated with insurance assessors – so-called ‘opinion times’. A bodyshop might get 20 hours for a job and the productives would finish it in 15 work hours, achieving a productive efficiency of 133%. Nowadays, the times in a bodyshop are set by computerised estimating systems with virtually no room for negotiation or ‘opinion times’.

service workshops, like bodyshops, have seen standard times fall, too. But their customer base is millions of motorists rather than a dozen insurance companies, so service managers can set whatever times they want – within reason, and of course, subject to competition.

Lost time

Obviously it would be great if you could get away with just paying technicians when they are working on paying jobs, but you can’t. What you actually pay them for is attendance, or ‘attended time’, and they don’t ‘work’ on paying jobs all the time they are attending.

The difference between attended time and work time is ‘lost time’, which is also called non-productive time – the few hours every week that technicians are paid for when they are not working on paying jobs. Three common things that make up lost time are rectification of faulty work (‘come-backs’), collection and delivery of cars, and cleaning and maintenance.

In addition to paying for lost time, you might pay bonus and overtime, and you pay for technicians’ holidays, sick leave and training. Then there is the employer’s contribution to National Insurance, and the cost of any perks technicians receive such as pension or health insurance contributions.

It’s tempting to throw all of these payments into the cost of buying the technician’s time in our example and calculate what you might see as the ‘real’ profit. If you did, the cost of buying the hour would probably be around £13, and therefore the profit falls to £27.

Accounting for time

The facts presented so far would seem to make calculating the profit when buying and selling technicians’ time quite simple. Apparently all you have to do for any period – a day, a week, a month or a year – is add up all your labour sales and subtract all your technicians’ costs (including basic, bonus, overtime, holidays, sick, training, perks and National Insurance) to arrive at your profit on labour.

You can, but it is far better to identify all your technicians’ costs separately in your management accounts, because you can then see how much you are paying them for not working. And by separating these payments to technicians, you can look more closely at the effects of labour efficiency on your operation, whether it is mechanical servicing and repair or body repairs.

The following example shows the traditional format for the management accounts of a service workshop or bodyshop. Here we have taken the results for one technician over 12 months, assuming basic pay of £12 per hour and hours sold out at an average of £60 per hour. Additionally, we have assumed that the technician attends 44 weeks per annum and 40 hours per week, working 37 of those hours with lost time of 3 hours. As a result of the technician’s efforts, the workshop sells 42 hours per week (or 1,848 sold hours per annum from 44 weeks x 42 hours), and this is achieved without any overtime or bonus pay.

Management accounts

Labour sales 1,848 hours sold @ £60 = £110,880

Less Technician’s pay for 1,628 work hours @ £12 = £19,536

Technician’s bonus pay (all bonus pay entered if earned) = NIL

Technician’s overtime pay (all overtime entered if earned) = NIL

Gross profit on labour sales (Labour gross profit) = £91,344

Direct expenses

Technician’s pay for 132 hours of lost time @ £12 = £1,584

Technician’s pay for hols, sick & training (40 days of 8 hours) @ £12 = £3,840

Technician’s National Insurance and perks = £3,744

Direct profit on labour sales = £82,176

Labour gross profit

In this traditional form of management accounts, then, the cost of the technician is divided up into no less than six lines. The first three lines appear straight after labour sales, and consist of all pay made to the technician for actually producing work that is then sold to a customer. This includes pay for ‘work time’, and all bonus and overtime pay. Accountants call these the ‘cost of sales’.

By subtracting these three lines from sales, you end up with the gross profit made from buying and selling the technician’s time – usually called the ‘labour gross profit’. The labour gross profit is often expressed as a percentage of labour sales, which in this example comes to 82% (£91,344 divided by £110,880 expressed as a percentage).

The remaining three lines appear in the direct expenses section of management accounts along with the cost of non-productive salaries, apprentices, consumables, courtesy cars, advertising, etc. The idea, as we have said, is to identify what you pay technicians for not working. In this example, the total cost of the technician is £28,704 per annum, and £9,168 is for not working. That is nearly one-third, and a far from unusual proportion!

Dividing up the technician’s pay

The way some of the technician’s pay is divided up is self-evident – bonus, overtime, holidays etc, and National Insurance and perks. That just leaves the technician’s basic pay, which is divided up according to ‘work time’ and ‘lost time’:

In our example we know the technician attends 40 hours each week and works 37 of these hours, which means that the technician works for 1,628 hours in a year (37 hours x 44 weeks), which at £12 per hour is £19,536.

That leaves three hours of lost time each week, or 132 hours per annum (3 hours x 44 weeks), or £1,584 at £12 per hour.

In fact, this split corresponds to one of the measures of efficiency we discussed earlier – labour utilisation. Labour utilisation is ‘work hours’ divided by ‘attended hours’ expressed as a percentage, or 92.5% in this case (37 hours divided by 40 hours). The split in the management accounts allocates 92.5% of basic pay as the cost of doing the work. The remainder (7.5% of basic pay) – corresponding to the technician’s pay for lost time – is allocated as an expense.

It should now be clear that labour utilisation has a direct bearing on how much gross profit is effectively produced from selling the technician’s time, and what is paid to the technician for not working.

Calculating labour sales

In our example, the workshop sells 42 hours per week as a result of the 37 hours the technician actually works out of the 40 hours attended. We have already seen that the labour utilisation here is 92.5% (37 hours divided by 40 hours). The productive efficiency can also be calculated as 113.5% (42 sold hours divided by 37 work hours), and the overall efficiency is 105% (42 sold hours divided by 40 attended hours). All these formulae were covered earlier.

The labour sales in our example are calculated by multiplying the sold hours in a year (1,848 hours) by the labour rate of £60 per hour. In full, this calculation is as follows:

Annual labour sales = 1 technician x 40 attended hours per week x 44 weeks attended per year x 105% overall efficiency x £60 per hour labour rate = £110,880

Increased productive efficiency

Now we can have a look at what happens to the profit on labour sales if labour efficiency increases. Let’s say our technician still works 37 hours out of 40 hours attended, but works faster (i.e. is more productive) and achieves 43 sold hours. The utilisation is still 92.5% (37 work hours divided by 40 attended hours), but the productive efficiency has increased to 116.2% (43 sold hours divided by 37 work hours) and the overall efficiency has also increased to 107.5% (43 sold hours divided by 40 attended hours). The effect is as follows (and we have assumed again that bonus and overtime are ‘nil’):

Labour sales

1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 107.5% overall efficiency x £60 per hour = £113,520


1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 92.5% utilisation x £12 per hour = £19,536

Gross profit on labour sales (Labour gross profit) £93,984

Direct expenses

1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 7.5% lost time x £12 per hour = £1,584

Technician’s pay for hols, sick & training (40 days of 8 hours) @ £12 = £3,840

Technician’s National Insurance and perks = £3,744

Direct profit on labour sales £84,816

A small increase in productive efficiency – just about three percentage points – has resulted in an extra annual profit on labour of £2,640.

Improving labour utilisation and productive efficiency

So far, we have explained how to measure time in a service or body repair workshop, how labour efficiency is calculated, and how management accounts are designed to highlight the sources of labour profit. We have shown how productive efficiency affects profitability. Next, we look at the effects on profit of improving labour utilisation, and then both productive efficiency and labour utilisation at the same time.

Increased labour utilisation

Taking the same example discussed earlier, let’s improve labour utilisation by assuming that our technician manages to work 38 hours out of 40 hours attended instead of 37, while leaving the productive efficiency the same (113.5%) as in the original example. This means that utilisation goes up to 95% (38 work hours divided by 40 attended hours), and even if the productive efficiency is the same at 113.5%, then our technician will produce 43.1 sold hours (38 hours worked x 113.5%). That is, the technician’s overall efficiency has increased to 107.8% (43.1 sold hours divided by 40 attended hours).

The effect on labour profits is then:

Labour sales

1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 107.8% overall efficiency x £60 per hour = £113,520


1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 95% utilisation x £12 per hour = £20,064 Gross profit on labour sales (Labour gross profit) = £93,456

Direct expenses

1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 5% lost time x £12 per hour = £1,056

Technician’s pay for hols, sick & training (40 days of 8 hours) @ £12 = £3,840

Technician’s National Insurance and perks = £3,744

Direct profit on labour sales = £84,816

The improvement, from one extra hour worked per week, is £2,640 in a year.

Do both!

But what would happen if both utilisation and productive efficiency improved at the same time? That is, the technician still attends 40 hours, but works 38 hours at the improved productive efficiency of 116.2% (from Part 2) thereby producing 44.2 sold hours (38 work hours x 116.2%) and hence an overall efficiency of 110.5% (44.2 sold hours divided by 40 attended hours). The calculation looks like this:

Labour sales

1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 110.5% overall efficiency x £60 per hour = £116,688


1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 95% utilisation x £12 per hour = £20,064

Gross profit on labour sales (Labour gross profit) = £96,624

Direct expenses

1 tech x 40 att. hours x 44 weeks x 5% lost time x £12 per hour = £1,056

Technician’s pay for hols, sick & training (40 days of 8 hours) @ £12 = £3,840

Technician’s National Insurance and perks = £3,744

Direct profit on labour sales = £87,984

The improvement is £5,808, multiplied by (say) seven technicians is a sizeable £40,656 extra profit per annum.

This shows how significant for profitability only relatively small increases in labour efficiency can be. However, labour profits can also fall just as significantly if labour efficiency falls by an equally small amount.

Hidden lost time

If small improvements in labour efficiency translate into big improvements in labour profits, but any slight reduction means big falls in profit, then you need to know what levers to pull to make sure you are on the side of big profits. So what’s the secret? Or is it about managing the minutiae?

There’s no secret. The trick is managing every aspect of a workshop. Managers have to do everything they can to make sure technicians, panel beaters or painters are working as fast as possible for as long as possible. In other words, you must do everything to minimise lost time, and provide your productive staff with every means to support faster working like training, power tools… and even placing certain jobs with productives who are the most experienced. If you have a clutch job, then give it to the clutch expert.

But there is one secret worth knowing, and that’s ‘hidden lost time’.

As we have shown, lost time is a killer. But then lost time, if it’s measured at all, is usually about the most obvious elements such as rectification of faulty work, collection and delivery of cars, and cleaning and maintenance. However, there is a lot more lost time hidden away within jobs. Technicians may seem to be working hard, but too often they may be waiting for spare parts at the back counter of the stores. Or a technician may be waiting in line to use a piece of equipment like a wheel alignment rig.

The outcome of ‘hidden lost time’ is a fall in productive efficiency, but labour utilisation is unaffected because you haven’t measured the losses. But, as you have seen, the effect on profits can be huge. So apart from attending to the obvious and direct influences on labour efficiency, which affect how fast technicians work (productive efficiency) and how long (utilisation), workshop managers must also attend to anything that can slow them down when they are supposed to be working.

Automotive Equipment and Tools For The Automotive Industry

The automotive equipment industry deals with the production of every kind of tool and machinery that is needed for the manufacture, maintenance and repair of vehicles including cars and car parts. As such, the industry produces several different varieties of equipment starting from basic hand tools to more complex machinery.

Different Kinds of Automotive Equipment

Automotive workshops and garages will be unable to function without automotive equipment. Shop furniture, lifts, exhaust hoses, air compressors, lubrication equipment, electric and light reels, jacks, vehicle servicing equipment, fluid storage tanks and trans-air piping are some of the many different types of automotive equipment that are used by automotive manufacturing and automotive repair businesses.

Common Types Of Automotive Equipment

* Hand Tools: Automotive repair shops use several different types of hand tools for their repair and maintenance projects. Some of the commonest items include ratchet sets and wrench sets, crowbars (also known as pry bars), socket sets, screwdrivers, star and clutch-head drivers, hammers, pliers and wire cutters, electric drills, hacksaws and torque wrenches.

* Pneumatic Tools: Most automotive workshops now use pneumatic tools as an alternative to electricity powered motors because the latter is more prone to fire hazards. Such tools are powered by compressed air and are high powered versions of the more traditional hand tools. Common examples of pneumatic automotive equipment include air compressors that can be used to power a variety of tools including hammers, drills, ratchets and spraying tools.

* Availability of pneumatic equipment makes it easier for mechanics and technicians to undertake repair and maintenance work because they are powerful and easy to use. For example, a set of pneumatic shears can cut through sheet metal at a faster rate and leave behind a smoother edge when compared to traditional tin snips. Similarly, air hammers outfitted with chisel or punch bits have multiple uses. They can they be used for straightening dents. The chisel feature can be used to break rusted parts loose and the punch bits can be used to remove old rivets and bolts that are too difficult to take out by hand.

* Lifts: several different kinds of lifting equipment are used to lift and secure cars so that mechanics and repair persons can easily work under the vehicle. These lifting tools include both low-tech tools such as basic floor jacks, car ramps and jack stands as well as hydraulic lifts and floor jacks for better efficiency and performance.

* Vehicle Exhaust Removal Systems: vehicle exhaust removal systems are used to capture and remove harmful exhaust fumes to insure optimal air quality in automotive maintenance and repair facilities. These are mandatory equipment as per OSHA Standards in order to limit exposure to harmful vehicular emissions. Common vehicle exhaust removal systems include hose drops as well as reels.

* Lubrication Systems: Automotive lubrication systems include several different types of oil meters, ATF meters, gear lube meters, dispense valves and grease dispenses valves.

The Automotive equipment business is a very large and competitive business. Automotive repair businesses must buy equipment from reputable dealers for the best deals and performance levels.

VIN Number Decoding For Classic Muscle Cars

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given in regards to buying a classic muscle car was to invest in high quality resource materials so I could crack the code on Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) to make sure that I was not getting scammed.

The best way to find a high quality book is to find what the experts are using. With the internet, you can type a subject like Camaro restoration book into the Amazon search box. You can also Google it and follow the links, which will take you to various forums and websites. Chevrolet by the Numbers, by Alvin Colvin, is the best book I have ever found for Chevrolet part numbers, Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), trim tags, and model ID. The book is an easy read, with chapters designated to the different components. Again, I used this process in my quest to purchase a rare Camaro. Just Google the car you are looking for and follow the links. The best resources will be obvious.

Here is a list of objects you will need when decoding your car.

Small flashlight, notebook, resource or reference book, mechanics mirror, pen or pencil, cordless or corded droplight, floor jack and jack-stands, coveralls, rags, brass wire brush, brake cleaner, yellow or white colored grease pencil, digital camera or camcorder.

If you are continuing to read this information, I can only surmise that buying a classic muscle car with the proper numbers and matching parts is important to you! Good! It should be! If this is true, I will walk you through an example of decoding a car. This will give you an idea of what it takes to properly decode a car.

Be prepared to take your time. I also discovered a sure fire way to determine who your true friends are. Ask them to go along to help you decode a car! Having an extra body can sometimes cut your time in half. I also recommend finding an expert or consultant on your car, and buying a couple of hours their time, especially if you are looking to purchase a special model classic car. It’s been my experience that an extra set of eyes can only help the cause. I found an expert through one of my reference books. Prior to me going to look at my current car, I spent about an hour talking with him, and making a list of things I should be looking for. (Of course, if you want someone to handle the process from A to Z, services are available. This is a great option if you are buying the car from remote.)

The Process

Before I arrived the owner told me the car was basically a roller project, meaning the engine and transmission were removed from the car. The engine, transmission and other components were placed in a pile where it would be easy to look at the numbers. The owner also claimed it was a limited edition Camaro, yet he didn’t have any paperwork like an original order invoice, or a protect o plate (a special metal plate shaped like a credit card that is used for warranty and repair services). This type of paperwork trail eliminates the need for further documentation. If you do not have this type of paperwork, then follow along. When I arrived at the location where the car was stored, the first thing I did was to check the VIN number. The VIN number is probably the most important number on a car. If you do not know how to decode a VIN on a particular Chevrolet, you will be unable to verify other components or numbers. What is nice about the book is it actually walks you through the whole decoding process, including providing the specific numbers location. As a sidebar, any good resource book on your particular make and model car will outline the way to decode your car, including number locations and decoding info. On 1968 and 1969 Camaros, the VIN number is located on the top of the dash board, on the drivers side. The number is visible through the windshield. I wiped the dirt and dust off of the VIN tag, and copied the numbers into my notebook.

VIN number

I was able to determine that my car was originally a V8, it was a 2 door sport coupe, made in 1969, assembled in Norwood Ohio, and it was the 662,8XXrd car built at that plant in that year.

Trim tag.

In 1969, all Camaro trim tags were located in the engine compartment, riveted on the upper left hand corner of the firewall. I took my rag and cleaned all of the dust and gunk off of the trim tag. Since the numbers were not that clear, I recleaned the trim tag, and removed the rest of the gunk. I used my flashlight to illuminate the numbers, and then copied the numbers into my notebook. Some of the trim tag numbers matched up with the VIN tag numbers, which was a good sign. The remaining numbers indicated that my car body was number 353,XXX to come down this plant’s assembly line. The interior was originally a standard black interior, and the car was built in the first week of June, 1969. The car was originally painted dusk blue and it was equipped with a spoiler package and a chrome trim package. So far everything was lining up. The reason for all of this detail is to illustrate how you can confirm that what you think you are buying is exactly what you are getting.

Before I move on, I want to share how this is relevant. A husband and wife from my car club went to look at a Chevelle. The car was advertised as a Super Sport. During the inspection process, and referencing the above book, they uncovered a number of inconsistencies. According to the numbers, the car had originally started out as a plain Jane 6 cylinder car. The car was now painted a different color, had a different color interior and a different engine. You get the picture. Over the years, one (or more) of the previous owners modified the car and tried to make it into a Super Sport. The point is it may have not been done maliciously, but the car still did not start out as a true Super Sport. And having the Super Sport option obviously raises the value of the car.

Engine code identification.

The engine is stamped in (2) places on a 69 Camaro. One is on the right front engine pad. The other location is on the rough casting portion on the rear of the engine, just above the oil filter. Again I wiped off the areas I just described with brake cleaner sprayed on a rag. You need to have a clean surface, and normally brake cleaner will do the trick. The front engine pad numbers appeared to have been restamped at one time, maybe after the engine block was decked (Decking in a machine process to check the flatness of the block deck for irregularities that cause compression and water leaks.) The tricky part is reading the numbers on the area above the oil filter. I recommend a really bright light and a magnifying glass. If that doesn’t do it, then I suggest taking a little muriatic acid an applying it to the numbers. This should make the numbers readable. The reason this number is sometimes hard to decipher is because these engines were hand stamped, and punched onto a rough surface. According to the numbers, I determined the engine was a 425 horsepower high performance engine, with a 4 speed manual transmission. The last numbers also corresponded with the last numbers in my VIN, which meant this was the original engine to this car. The numbers told me the engine was assembled June 14, which fell in line with the build date. The engine block part number that is cast into the rear of the block was cleaned with a rag and brake cleaner as well. The block part number indicated ahigh performance block used for Camaros. Another piece of the puzzle confirmed.

Rear axle identification.

The numbers on a Camaro rear axle are stamped on the top of the right axle tube. My experience has been that this area is normally pretty crusty and rusty. And this rear axle was no exception. After considerable wire brushing, I wiped the area clean with brake cleaner. Laying on my back, I shone the light on the area, while holding a mirror. It still wasn’t clear enough for me to read accurately. I then took my grease pencil, and ran it over the numbers. The purpose of the grease pencil is to provide contrast with the metal of the axle tube. When I put the mirror back over the area, I was rewarded with a very sharp image of the part numbers, which I copied into my notebook. According to the numbers, this rear axle assembly had a 4.10:1 gear ratio, limited slip. The axle was assembled June 16, 1969. Are you seeing a pattern starting to appear here? The axle numbers also indicated the axle to be original to the car based on the dates codes referencing June 1969 build date. I took the same approach with the other parts.

Here are my findings. The cylinder heads, intake manifold, carburetor, and transmission were the correct part numbers for the car. However none of these parts were date coded to the car. One of the heads was manufactured in April 1968, the other head was manufactured in February of 1969. The transmission was manufactured Jan 24th 1969. The reason I know all of these parts are not correctly date coded to the car is I decoded each one, by researching the part numbers, and date codes. All of this information is important, because not only did it verify what the owner had told me, and it also showed that the other parts were in line with the build date. Thereby providing further confirmation of what I was looking at. During my investigating, I took pictures with a digital camera of all of the parts and part numbers, as best as i could. I spent about 30 minutes walking around the car with a video camera and editorializing what I was taking footage of. I also took the list of things the Camaro expert had told me about and checked them off one by one. Later in the week I called the Camaro expert and shared my findings. I reviewed all of my research, including going over the individual part numbers, and the “things to look for” checklist. By the end of the phone call, I was 99 percent positive that this Camaro was what it was being advertised as.

The last thing I did was to have the car documented and certified by a Certified Camaro appraiser.

GM also stamped hidden VIN numbers in (2) different places on the car. The reason for the hidden VIN numbers was to add another step in preventing and identifying a stolen car. Because it is fairly easy to remove and swap out the VIN tag on the dash, the hidden VIN’s provided a back-up system of check and balances. For example, someone could possibly swap out a VIN tag, but if they didn’t know about the Hidden VIN numbers, a person in the know could easily identify the numbers not matching up. Because the car was bought a roller project, it was easy to check these hidden VIN’s, against the VIN tag on the dash. I wanted the appraiser to check them personally, and he confirmed the numbers as matching and authentic. In other words the certificate authenticates the car. Many appraisers will also supply you with a report on their findings. The nice thing about having a car certified is this type of paperwork is normally viewed as iron clad documentation. It normally raises the value of the car, because of the authenticity certificate. And if you ever go to sell the car, now you have documentation to provide the seller that the car is a real (Super Sport, Rally Sport, Z/28, etc. You fill in the blank)

Some people may wonder why would anyone go through all of this work.

However, keep in mind that many of these muscle cars are 20 plus years old and have gone through numerous owners and modifications. All of that history is prior to it being restored back to showroom original condition. In other words, many parts are bolt on and interchangeable from other models and different years. So just because the parts look ok, doesn’t mean that they even belong on the car. In the above example about the couple and the Chevelle, the car was priced as a Super Sport, yet the trim tag and other numbers reflected a totally different story. Even though the car was beautifully restored, it was really nothing more than a modified 6 cylinder, base model Chevelle that someone converted over to a V-8 at some time in it’s life. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with modifying a car to an individual owners taste. The issue is when the car is sold and the seller forgets to mention (consciously or unconsciously) and inform the new owner of the modifications. Our Chevelle couple would have gladly paid the asking price if the car was a true Super Sport. But, because they knew how to decode the car, they were able to save themselves a lot of time, money and aggravation. At the time the difference between a plain Jane Chevelle and a real Super Sport was over $10,000. Just to throw some numbers out there, let’s be conservative and say it takes 6 hours of research to decode a car. Using our $10,000 figure, that equates to approximately $1,600 an hour. Not a bad return on your time investment. As muscle and classic cars have become more popular, I have seen many cases where just for the fun of it, an owner will start to do research on a car he or she owns.

Discovering your car isn’t really what you thought you purchased can really knock the wind out of you. By investing a small amount of money, and time, in researching and decoding your prospective muscle car purchase you can sleep at night knowing that you received the value you paid for. Anyone else interested in investing a couple of hours for peace of mind when purchasing a classic or muscle car???

What Is an AGO Oil Product or Automatic Gas Oil? Finding Authentic AGO Petroleum Supply/Supplier

A recent survey conducted by this writer on the Internet for a quick, snap shot sense of the subject matter, immediately revealed that there’s a state of relatively scanty knowledge of, or information about, this particular refined petroleum product called the AGO, among international oil dealers and suppliers. In deed, in one rather remarkable instance involving a popular ‘Ask for Answers’ online discussion portal, one reader expressly posited the question, soliciting information from the readers as to what is/was ‘the meaning’ of the petroleum term AGO, among three other refined petroleum products, which he went on to list – DPK, PMS, JET A1. There was just one response – a response that has stood the same for 5 years since. Oddly enough, however, of the 4 oil products that the answerer named, the answerer was exactly accurate in the definition he proffered on three of those. But, on ONLY one of them, the AGO product, the answer given by the answerer was somewhat slightly off, as he gave the definition of the product as meaning ‘Automotive Gas & Oils.’

So, first, we start with this basic question: What is AGO Oil Product, or the Automotive Gas Oil?

What the AGO Oil Product Is

The term AGO, which specifically stands for the Automotive Gas Oil, is the name given to the fuel type that’s used by road vehicles (cars, trucks, buses, vans, and the like) that are powered by DIESEL engines. That is, in a word, it is the diesel vehicle engine fuel. In terms of how the fuel gets to be produced or manufactured, the fuel is the type that, in the distillation and processing of crude oil work, is obtained in the mid-boiling range of that process. Related fuels which are used for non-road applications including off-road diesel engines, such as the Industrial Gas Oils (IGOs), are obtained from the same ‘fraction’ of the crude oil barrel.

Technically speaking, the term Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) is the technical name used by the oil industry in describing this particular fuel. However, in terms of the ordinary consumers in the market, the term ‘automotive diesel fuel,’ or just plain ‘diesel,’ is the more commonly used and more widespread name that the ordinary consumer uses in describing this fuel. Petroleum products are usually grouped into THREE categories: the ‘light distillates’ (LPG, gasoline, naphtha), the ‘middle’ distillates (kerosene, diesel), and the ‘heavy’ distillates and residuum (heavy fuel oil, lubricating oils, wax, asphalt). This classification is based primarily on the way crude oil is distilled and separated into fractions (called distillates and residuum). Within the oil industry, the generic oil industry name that’s used to describe gasoils – which include both AGO and IGO – fall under the ‘Middle Distillates’ category, meaning those kinds of refined oil products whose ‘boiling range’ fall in the MIDDLE, that is, between those whose range fall in the higher levels or in the lower levels. (See the Chart below). As you can readily see in the Chart below, at a Boiling Range of between 520 to 650, the AGO falls right in the middle range of most categories of the refined oil products.

The Market & Primary Uses of the AGO oil Product Among Its Customers

AGO is used in two main types of vehicles: 1) the heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks and buses, and 2) the light-duty vehicles, such as vans and passenger cars. In most countries, including the USA as well as the developing countries, the heavy-duty vehicles make up the bulk of the market for AGO. In a country such as Japan, there is a significant light-duty vehicle sector, but it is in Europe that the demand for AGO from this sector is highest, with more than one-third coming from the passenger cars and other light vehicles. Customer requirements between the two types of fuel usage differ to some extent. Diesel engines are widely used in heavy-duty vehicles. Such vehicles are frequently operated in fleets and are re-fuelled centrally with the fuel delivered directly from the supplier. In the light-duty vehicle sector, recent advances in engine design now also allow light-duty diesel engines to compete with gasoline engines in terms of the performance standards. Light-duty vehicles are generally re-fuelled through retail outlets. In any case, whether it is in the light-duty sector or in the heavy-duty sector, in both sectors the customer will generally be looking for the fuel that provides economy, power, reliability and environmental acceptability.

Use As Car Fuel

Diesel-powered vehicles, such as AGO-powered vehicles, generally have a better fuel economy than equivalent gasoline engines and produce less greenhouse gas emission. Their greater economy is due to the higher energy per-liter content of diesel fuel and the intrinsic efficiency of the diesel engine. True, petrodiesel’s higher density results in higher greenhouse gas emissions per liter compared to gasoline. However, the modern diesel-engine automobiles have a 20-40% better fuel economy, and this well offsets the higher per-liter emissions of greenhouse gases, while a diesel-powered vehicle emits 10-20 percent less greenhouse gas than comparable gasoline vehicles. Biodiesel-powered diesel engines offer substantially improved emission reductions compared to petrodiesel or gasoline-powered engines, while retaining most of the fuel economy advantages over conventional gasoline-powered automobiles.

How Crude Oil Fractions Are Processed Into Refined Oil Products, Including AGO and Other Products

How do we get to have refined petroleum products, of which a product like AGO is one? Put simply, it is out of the refinery processing (i.e., out of the ‘refining’) of crude oil that many other usable products – products that we generally refer to as refined or finished petroleum products – are produced. Meaning products such as gasoil, gasoline, kerosene, AGO, etc. The process of oil ‘refining’ or processing is a very complex one, and involves both chemical reactions and physical separations. The substance that’s called Crude Oil is composed of thousands of different ‘molecules,’ and according to chemical engineers and molecular experts, it would be nearly impossible to isolate every molecule that exists in crude oil and thereby make finished products from each molecule.

Consequently, the way chemists and engineers deal with this problem, is simply by them isolating the mixtures (also called ‘fractions’) of molecules according to what is known as the mixture’s “boiling point range.” For example, molecules for the gasoline product might boil within the ‘range’ of from 90 to 400 oF. While the range at which the home heating oil product’s molecular mixes could boil might be from 500 to 650 oF, and so on. For purposes of convenience and simplification, each mixture or fraction is assigned a specific name to identify it.

The following chart illustrates the ‘boiling range’ and name of the petroleum fractions.


Boiling Range,oF.

Butanes and lighter


Light straight run gasoline (LSR)

or light naphtha (LN)


Naphtha or heavy naphtha (HN)




Distillate or atmospheric gas oil (AGO)



650 +

Vacuum gas oil (VGO)


Vacuum Residua

1000 +

In sum, refined products are products that are produced by isolating the mixtures or fractions of molecules that come from the raw crude oil, and combining them, along with those from various refinery processing units. These fractions are ‘blended’ or mixed to satisfy specific properties that are important in allowing the refined product to perform in accordance with the specifications or requirements that are designed by or in an engine, in terms of ease in handling, reducing the undesirable emissions produced when the product is burned, etc


Simply stated, the KEY term and task here is finding an authentic AGO oil product supply or supplier. Or an AGO buyer, as the case may be. Why? This is simply because, today, in the international refined oil products trading market, specially in the so-called “secondary” market, probably the single most fundamental and most difficult common problem which legitimate dealers who seek to find reliable suppliers have, is often NOT so much finding a party who will claim heaven and earth that he/she has the AGO oil product to sell and can supply you the product. Or that he can buy one from you, as the case may be. BUT finding such a party who is actually AUTHENTIC & LEGITIMATE, and can actually DELIVER on the product.


A well-established reality and a given today, is that in world oil deals involving trading in the crude oil and refined petroleum products, specially in the so-called international “secondary” market, probably the single most fundamental and most difficult common problem which legitimate buyers frequently confront today, is the problem of the genuineness and authenticity of the supplier of product and his ability to deliver on the sales offer he presents. Refined petroleum products, such as AGO, D2, Mazut, Jet fuel, etc., are certainly not immune or exempt from such endemic problem that seems to plague the entire secondary market oil trade industry, but rather are, in deed, right in the middle of it.

It’s a problem whose central source can simply be summed up in one word – namely, that not unlike most persons or entities who claim via the Internet to be oil or petroleum products suppliers or “sellers,” most who claim to be suppliers of AGO, as well (or of similar refined oil products, such as the diesel gasoil or Russian D2, Mazut, Jet fuels, and the like), either provide NO proofs or evidence at all of that, or provide proofs or evidence that are often absolutely meaningless because they’re unverified and unverifiable. That is, for the serious or credible Internet petroleum buyer involved in the world oil deals and seriously intent on finding duly verifiable authentic AGO oil product supply or supplier, there are generally just NO such supply or suppliers of the product in the so-called “secondary” market.

Most such serious or genuine AGO buyers (or suppliers, as well, as the case may be) seeking to find equally genuine AGO suppliers (or sellers seeking buyers, when applicable) in the international secondary market, find that the problem is particularly acute and compounded by the fact that almost all “sellers” (or suppliers), or their brokers or intermediaries, that one meets on the Internet, are essentially unknown, unestablished dealers who lack any name, reputation or identity, or any known location on the planet, and lack any record or history of past performance in doing the business. In consequence, a serious AGO buyer, for example, is often being asked – and actually being realistically expected – to, in effect, merely take “the word” of some dubious, anonymous, unidentified and apparently unidentifiable, phantom “seller” or “supplier” for it, with no credible supporting evidence provided, and no verification or authentication whatsoever of the Internet seller’s offer or claims.

In sum, he’s being asked – and actually being expected – to risk, or, rather, to gamble away, his hard-earned mini-fortune of some hundreds of millions of dollars merely on such a “word.”! This, it should be added, is being expected of the buyer in a business environment and climate that is patently awash in fraud and a network of notorious scammers worldwide!


Clearly, then, if you are a real buyer of product seriously intent on finding authentic diesel AGO oil product supply or suppliers (or those of any similar refined oil products, such as the diesel gasoil or Russian D2, Mazut, Jet fuels, and the like) – meaning one that is duly verified and verifiable – probably the most critical, vital, even life-or-death task for you, is that you had better be sure to develop, in some way or manner, a skilled and effective strategy for finding, vetting, selecting out and authenticated suppliers that can provide you reliable steady supply of the product, and which will be scam-free, assured, and long-lasting.


Quite oddly enough, the answer to that question is actually not that complicated or complex. For our limited purposes here, suffice it simply to just say, that there is, in fact, such a methodology, tool and strategy for doing just that long in practical use in the industry. Long in practical use by knowledgeable, experienced and trained eyes and experts, and the successful traders, in the business. If you are, yourself, in fact a provable legitimate trader or authentic practitioner of the petroleum trade (assuming you are actually one) operating in the secondary market, and are truly serious about finding and securing authentic and reliable AGO oil product supply or supplier, or about finding and securing a buyer of equivalent caliber for the product, as the case may be, that’s actually readily within your reach. There’s just really one crucial proviso, only – namely, PROVIDING that you’re equipped with the requisite knowledge, skill, training, tool, methodology and practical experience, by which to undertake the whole process of doing so.

To be sure, true, in today’s world oil deals of the international secondary market, including sourcing for AGO product, which is largely an Internet-dominated world, and is for the most part prevalently awash in fake dealers and scammers, finding duly verified authentic petroleum or automotive gas oil product supply, suppliers and sellers of such caliber (or buyers, just as well), is not ordinary or commonplace. Nor is it at all an easy task to attain. It is, however, by no means impracticable, nor are such suppliers non-existent. Far, far from it! Quite to the contrary, such suppliers abound. It’s only that you just have to search around for such suppliers (or the legitimate buyers, as well, as the case may be) more diligently and skillfully and in the right places from the right sources, and know precisely how and where. That requires, unavoidably, supreme industry knowledge, skills set, training, know-how, connections, precious time expenditure, and experience.