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Paint correction: chasing a top-shelf finish

21 August 2016

Imagine finding a pristine example of your dream car overseas, shipping it home, and finding unexpected imperfections in the finish. You’d be pretty gutted, and understandably so. That’s essentially what happened with this beautiful ’56 Chev 210 Sport Coupe, which had been built and painted in the USA to a very high standard. Unfortunately, when it arrived in New Zealand, the owner found that the shipping company had over-tightened the protective blankets around the car, and, during transit, surface-level scuffing in the paint had been created. 

And when you’ve forked out the coin for a top-shelf car such as this, you’d want it to be as perfect as it should be. That’s why we visited Final Touch, to see what goes into bringing a car’s finish back to the standard it should be. 

“We usually do what we’d call the last 10 per cent,” says Final Touch’s Grant Hawtree. “Generally, you’d take a car to a body shop and get it painted, and they won’t usually do that last 10 per cent of the work needed for a perfect finish — we’ll do that final 10 per cent, and finesse the finish to what it should be.” 

The procedure is what Grant refers to as “paint correction”, and it is exactly what it sounds like. The first step involves eyeballing the vehicle to identify the imperfections that they’re dealing with, and once they have an idea of exactly what sort of damage they have on their hands  — something that realistically takes experience to accurately gauge — they can begin. 

In this instance, we were dealing with what the team call “defect removal”, and this generally only applies to above-surface defects, such as scratches, swirls, etc. Once the damage has gone below surface level, that tends to be a job for a panel shop. 

“First, the paint is measured with a paint-depth gauge, and we’ll then do a test spot — starting with the least aggressive product, we see what results,” Grant explains. “This lets us know, for example, that I could use product A and product B to achieve the required result.” 

After the test spot has been applied, and a plan of attack formulated, the surface is cleaned to remove any contaminants. In this case, a microfibre cloth was used, as the car had been cleaned prior to being parked in the shop — however, what’s required for cleaning will vary from car to car. A perfectly clean area is essential. Overhead fluorescent lights also help to pick up any imperfections. 

For this particular job, a light to medium finishing polish, applied with a polishing pad, will do the trick. “If I was to measure the corrective properties of this compound on a scale of zero to 10, I’d put it around a four,” says Grant, to give us an idea of how aggressive, or not, the compound required for this job needs to be. 

The tools used here are a dual-action (DA) polisher and polishing pad, as well as the aforementioned polishing compound. Working in small areas at a time, Grant works his way over the car, removing imperfections one area at a time. A job like this, in which the entire car needs doing to a high standard, will take around a whole day to complete. 

The job also includes some minor paint touch-ups, and this is something that will also be handled at Final Touch. Paint is mixed and colour-matched in-house, and is injected using a range of different methods. Because of the paint formula they use, the surface requires minimal prep work, the paint dries very quickly, and, with the use of Final Touch’s proprietary Formula F184, can be smoothed to an excellent finish. 

“We apply the paint as best as possible, which involves playing with it so it best covers the area. Paint is dry in five minutes, and is normally OK — doesn’t need clear, or a polish. Part of the precise application is getting the paint applied as smoothly as possible, so it won’t need filling or sanding.” This is the last job to be done on the car, after the paint-correction procedure has been completed. 

With the small touch-ups complete, the car is ready to go, looking every bit as good as such a car deserves to. While the paint correction procedure detailed here is something that many readers will be capable, and comfortable, performing, it’s also a job where the best results are a result of knowledge and experience — just look at the ’56 after Final Touch’s thorough once-over. Want to get in touch with Final Touch? Click here!