We are now relocated and set up in Ewen, Cirencester as UK Detailing Ltd.
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Same people, new name.
We had an Alfa Romeo Spider come into our detailing studio, with an owner looking to improve the condition of the paint. Being an S-reg (98) we were not too surprised at the state of the car in the sunlight. There was little reflection from the paint, and when the sun shone directly on the car the light was distorted by large amounts of scratches and swirl marks.
We also noticed that the bonnet was covered in holograms from an attempt at buffing without a “refinement” stage. We asked about them and were a bit shocked to learn that the car had just had a full respray! It is worth noting that the owner then told us he'd had the car sprayed at a special discount, so wasn’t expecting a showroom finish from it…
In addition to the paintwork he also wanted to improve the look of his engine bay. He had just purchased a strut brace in white to fit the car and wanted to try and bring the bay together around that. Unfortunately the twin-spark has a silver plastic engine cover which although could be painted to match, would be unlikely to last long. We also noted that the black front slam panel was beginning to rust so we suggested stripping the strut brace and slam panel and powder coating them both silver, then steam cleaning the engine bay and shot blasting the exhaust heat shield to leave a clean sharp engine bay with all the colours tied in. He agreed, and once settled on a price we booked it in for the following week.
Did I mention that we only had one day to complete all of this…
The client dropped the vehicle on Tuesday evening so we could get an early start on Wednesday. We gave the exterior a quick wash before getting it into our secure, alarmed workshop overnight, ready for the next day. We also took some pictures under halogen light which highlighted all the buffer trails left in the paint by the bodyshop. Whilst the scratching was bad, these trails really affected the appearance of the vehicle in sunlight so it was important to ensure complete removal.
The Engine Bay:
We began by removing the slam panel warning stickers so they could be re-attached upon refit, and the metal badge from the strut brace. We then unbolted the panel, placing both pieces in a chemical stripping bath to remove all the coatings and leave a clean metal surface ready for prep.
Whilst these were stripping we removed the plastic engine bay cover and various plastic caps for cleaning.
We then coated the engine bay in de-greaser and left for ten minutes to work, before steam cleaning all accessible surfaces free of dirt and grease, drying with compressed air. Surfaces were dressed with a satin finish rubber hose and plastic dressing whilst painted surfaces were coated with a spray wax and lightly buffed. Plastics were re-installed, and the bonnet sound proofing vacuumed. We also checked the windscreen washer fluid was topped up and there were no obvious signs of engine fluid leaks to inform the customer of.
Once stripped, the parts were cleaned, rust ground out of the slam panel, and keyed with a chemical metal degreaser and scotch pads before being placed in our powder oven for an hour at 180˚C to out-gas. We then applied the coating, cured and cooled the parts ready for fitting.
We refitted the warning stickers and bolted the parts into place, modifying the position of the brace’s logo from the original “central” location as it looked odd in the left heavy engine bay.
Whilst the powder coating was in progress, we started on the paintwork. Luckily the wash the previous night had saved us some time and left a nice clean surface we could crack straight on with.
There was no obvious “good” place to start, so when in doubt start with the worst: the bonnet. This was where the body shop had attempted compounding to flatten the paint and either not bothered to finish the job or lacked the skill to. As I mentioned, the respray was done at a discount so I would hope it was just the former, just to save the client on cost.
Once the car had been completely clayed to remove contaminants and overspray we were ready to do a test area to assess the level of cut needed to achieve the desired finish.
We settled on a two step finish with Meguiar’s polishing compounds followed by a coat of Dodo Juice Purple Haze. You can see in the photo the abrupt line down the centre of the car showing the test half.
Unusually, We did a lot of the correction with a Cyclo DA polisher rather than a rotary as we didn’t want any surprises from this unknown paint job, the DA keeps the friction heat down on the paintwork for a safer, though slower cut. The only exception was the boot lid as there were some deeper scratches which would not budge without the rotary, we also used a heavier micro abrasive compound for this section.
One thing I hate as a detailer is seeing dried polish and compound left in cracks and seams from lack of prep and lazy clean ups. There were even large flecks of paint on the windscreen which hadn’t been cleaned off, so next was to go round the vehicle with a selection of small brushes, cotton buds and tooth picks removing as much of the debris as possible. Much had dried solid, but a little work took the worst off with a clean of the door jambs removing unsightly white lithium grease and old roof dye drips.
Once done we used a panel wipe solution to clean the paint off to check that no old filler polishes had masked further issues. None were found, but the finish did still contain multiple “fish eyes” – fish eyes are small craters like imperfections found in some paint finishes usually caused by silicon contamination either on the surface, in the atmosphere or in the air lines of the paint sprayer. Most cars will inevitably have one or two fish eyes, although you may never notice them. But we were amazed at how many there were on this finish. Nothing can be done about them post spraying – a sand back and re spray is the only option - but it does emphasis the “you get what you pay for” motto of some bodyshops.
After the "final" inspection was done, both inside and outside in the full glory of the British sun, we brought the car back in the workshop to wax the entire car with a layer of Dodo Juice Purple Haze to protect and enhance the finish before taking the “after” photos.
Total time – 8.5 hrs