3 April 2011

A Professional Detailer's Responsibility to Preserve History

Today I started to work on a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB, and as I was closely inspecting the car to develop my plan of attack, I remembered a piece that I had written in an F40 article last summer. In it I discussed how important it is for a professional detailer to carefully restore the finish of the car during the process in order to preserve the history, without creating any future issues that could potentially add to the history. Cars like the F40 are rare, but there were far less of the 275 made (only 205 for the ’64-’66 2-cam, and just 330 of the ’66-’68 4-cam). I am fortunate enough to be working on two of them this month (one a ’66 275 GTB, and the other a ’67 275 GTB 4-cam). So when I do a restorative detail on cars like this, I need to heed my own warnings that I outlined in last year’s article below.

A Professional Detailer’s Responsibility to Preserve History

When a professional detailer is commissioned to perform paint correction on an F40, or any highly collectible vehicle for that matter, it is imperative that the goals are to make the vehicle look much better while at the same time preserving the history. The level of expectations should be thoroughly discussed and agreed upon by both the detailer and the owner of the vehicle, and they should be realistic as well. These expectations will be based upon the current condition of the vehicle, the types of defects that are present, and where the defects are located. There are so many (thinly painted) edges, corners, and tight areas that present a high level of risk when doing paint correction on an F40. A highly skilled detailer will know how to evaluate the defects and risk factors, and will know when to say when. Trying to chase down defects that are in dangerous spots is very risky when working on a car like the F40, and in my opinion the risk of damage or too much paint removal is not worth getting another 5% worth of correction. On this particular vehicle for instance, there were areas that I was able to achieve 95% correction, while others were 75%-80%. Some may have opted for wet sanding on a few of the remaining defects on this car, but quite frankly I think that would have been an irresponsible approach. Because of the Carbon and Kevlar-weave construction on the body of the F40, the paint thickness is very inconsistent, and there are areas where you can clearly see the texture and weave of the body. This causes potential problems when trying to measure thickness, which leaves you guessing in some areas. So should you decide to take such an aggressive approach with wet sanding to fully correct a deeper scratch, you could either cause immediate damage by striking through the paint, or you could possibly thin the paint so much in that area that there won’t be adequate paint thickness to do any further corrections down the road. There are simply some defects that should remain as part of the vehicle’s history. Paint preservation should always be top priority!

Something else that is important on vehicles like the F40 is to preserve originality as much as possible. That’s not to say that if the car originally came with buffer trails, holograms, or swirls that they shouldn’t be corrected because I’m sure that when the car was designed and developed it was never intended to get shipped that way (and many Ferrari’s do). But if the cars notoriously came from the factory with paint drips or runs, then they should stay that way.

Having the opportunity to restore a vehicle like the F40 (or the 275) is an honor and a big responsibility. The work you do will become part of the car’s history. Everything gets documented and passed on to future owners. The more precise documentation on the history of the car, the more that it can add to its value. The key here though is to become part of the car’s history, and not to create your own history. What that means is that if you’re doing paint correction and preservation (or any other type of work on the car), it should simply look good when you’re done without leaving any traces of evidence that you were there. Unfortunately I see too many exotic and rare vehicles where previous detailers have left their mark…thinned edges, burned edges, wetsanding marks, and a variety of other issues.

I work on a lot of exotics and rare collector cars (as a matter of fact…I don’t work on many daily drivers these days), and am always cognizant of these words I wrote last year. I would much rather produce a great looking vehicle with some remaining signs of patina, than to create a “perfect” car and risk its future in the process by removing too much paint.

So for detailers that get their first chance at working on an exotic, or for experienced professionals…please preserve the past while protecting the future. Know when to say when!

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