Vintage Valets were looking for a vehicle that had some vintage aesthetics, but might be cheaper and slightly more reliable than a classic. I say ‘slightly’ because of the journey we went on. The brief also included having the ability to carry valeting equipment – so a Nissan Figaro was out and so sadly was a Mitsuoka.
I have to say I have always liked a car that makes you smile. Whenever I have spotted a PT Cruiser it has done just that. I’m a sucker for a London Taxi and I love a Ford Pop – so the Cruiser ticked a lot of boxes for me. The brief was simply to source the car – no paintwork needed. But I couldn’t really leave it at that. The first Cruiser we bought, we nick-named ‘Dynamo’ on account of it’s ability to run without diesel. In our first week of ownership it died spectacularly on a busy road. I thought I had killed it, but it had run out of fuel and had been surviving on fumes for some time. The fuel gauge, continued to read as full, even when it was empty. The fuel tank recovered after a few refills and I merrily fixed up all the scratches and scrapes and sprayed the bottom half cream to give it a more vintage look. (I also went a bit mad with stick on chrome, which looked REALLY bad). About a week later the clutch went and a new one was going to cost more than the car was worth – so we scrapped it. So much for ‘more reliable’.
Then we found ‘Doris” for the price of a new clutch. We took the train right across the country to get her and although we haven’t exactly driven her very far, so far, so good. She certainly feels like an update to Dynamo, despite being slightly older. The turning circle is still the worst I have ever experienced (sorry PTC fans, you know it’s true). But I prefer the shape of the original PT Cruiser – especially the lights. Doris already had the red/cream two tone thing going on (the cream is a wrap), so I set about using each panel as a patina test piece. This clearly wasn’t required – but I just couldn’t help myself. When you have only paid £750 for a car, it’s rude not to test your guns on it.
I’d always enjoyed the rat rod look, and made myself smile as I repaired the rusty wheel arches, only to paint the rust back on with paint (see this video of me at work). Once I did one panel I found it hard to stop. I stayed away from additional chrome and fatigued the chrome that was there. I banged a few stickers on – and some tasty domed mirror wheel trims and here she is. The photos are below.
What I REALLY want to do it chose one patina style and rat rod a whole vehicle the same – not necessarily a PT Cruiser. If there are any volunteers with people who want a patina car out there, I would do it for paint cost only. Drop me a line!
I wanted it to be gloomy in the workshop, to capture the TT looking mean and dark. But the sun was shining and we are not far off the longest day – I didn’t want to wait until midnight, so here she is. Not sure which works best – the black and white or colour? You decide.
Click here for the story of how the car came to be.
I was heart broken when I overheard a five year old who was pointing at my car in Sainsbury’s carpark in Stroud: “Dad, Dad, look, a racing car!”
Then Dad says, “That’s just a wrap, son.”
Let’s be clear. This is not a wrap. It’s paint. A bit of blood, sweat and tears too, but mostly paint. But ok, it’s not racing car either, really. Until I race it that is.
The great thing about my job is I get to collect and deliver customer’s cars. It means I get to test out whether a car drives as well as it looks. For a while now Jim and me have been looking for a MkI Audi TT. I’ve loved the style and lines of that car, since it first came out over 20 years ago. We think it has stood the test of time too. Having repaired a few (bodywork), driving them always seemed to put a smile on my face. Jim was very keen to remap the 225bhp engine and use the car to promote his skills. It ticked all his boxes – it was German, turbo-charged, and a tried and tested engine that had been used in lots of VAG applications (Jim’s words not mine 🙂 ).
Once we discovered what good value they were, finding a good one became the focus of my next project. I was particularly keen to find one with an unusual body kit, and this one didn’t let us down. The kit was huge, and although the alloys were not exactly to our liking, they were black and mean. I decided that I wanted to increase the black along the arches and sills on one side. I was also looking for an asymmetric look – so it looked like the car was being thrown around a corner. I taped out the lines I wanted to use and photographed it.
Using a very crude computer tool, I drew on some colours. Well – black, grey and light grey. There was two things I was keen to do: use up obsolete paints (rather than chuck them into land fill); and practice my ‘smoke/flames’ skills. Having sprayed a whole Jaguar with flames, I wanted to make reference to it somehow.
Learning from the Jaguar experience, I knew that respraying a whole car, all at once, was a real challenge. Especially as we don’t have a spray booth. We are ‘SMART’ repairers, and as I am always telling my customers, we don’t do full resprays and we rarely do bonnets or roofs because of this. By dividing up the panels leaving one inch gaps down the lines, I could use regular masking tape, and work on the car, a section at a time.
(Oh and we mounted a second crazy spoiler on the back, just in case anyone accused us of taking ourselves too seriously!)
Another reason that I kept the plans fairly monochromatic was because we were waiting for our branding agency to come up with some cool colours for our mapping business, Miles Better. I decided that I would use tape in the inch wide gaps in whatever colour the company would become. The smokey flame sections were made using freehand strokes with a 0.4 tip in my Iwata LPH80 gun, combined with French curl stencils.
After a few weeks the paintwork was finished. Jim remapped her and she accelerated beautifully with her 260 horses under the bonnet. I began applying the tape in the gaps. Cheap tape from China at first. Then more expensive 3M tape. Some reflective tape. Nothing worked at all. It just wouldn’t bend around the curves – even the narrowest tape. Nevertheless I added the decals for both our businesses, and a few more besides. And got new curb protectors in orange – the new accent colour for Miles Better.
Although the car didn’t look half bad in photos, close up the finish was bad. My son started calling it my “Shittape car.” Not good. Luckily the lacquer had cured long enough for me to re-mask the whole car and having colour matched a reflective orange (from my favourite tape), I made the paint up by eye and sprayed the lines up instead – using a red translucent pearl coat on top at the front for good measure.
The picture below is of the Shittape car – I have yet to do a proper photo shoot of the car (I am waiting to take her on a track and race her) – but look out for us driving around Stroud (it is currently our daily runner) but please, please, don’t call it a wrap!
At ChipsAway Stroud we so badly needed a space to use as an office and a comfortable area for customers to wait in. Our painting workshop is hazardous (and uninsured for visitors) and the only other place for people to wait was outside. We considered our options and got a few quotes for small shed like buildings, dry lined, with electrics, but we just didn’t have the budget. When the idea of a caravan was first raised, we doubted very much whether this would “add” to the customer experience. In my imagination, I thought of a 1970’s car lot, next to the scrap yard, with a cigar smoking, sheepskin wearing, used-car salesman in residence. In any case, decent caravans we looked at, seemed out of reach price-wise. Jim and I agreed that anyway we felt that white caravans looked like toasters, so we explored getting one sprayed or wrapped. We knew it was beyond our guns and most vinyl wrappers didn’t want to know – and demonstrated this by quoting thousands of pounds for the job. In the end we bought a caravan and did both – we used Colour Catch Liquid Wraps who sprayed the van we bought using a liquid vinyl product. Our black van looks great now and certainly attracts a lot of attention!
The next job was to completely gut the interior to transform it into a useable office space. I foolishly offered the existing fittings free to anyone who wanted to help.Some of the free-cyclers were like vultures and came and stripped out anything worth having – even removing the electric box I had specifically asked them not to. They left behind a mess of wires and just the bigger bits of furniture that held the caravan together.
Once we removed the sink, cooker, bathroom walls and most of the seating, we looked at how to build structure back into the space and reinforced the sides and roof with wooden supports.Our friends at Cotswold Connections did a brilliant job, sorting out the electrics – giving us two new lights, a wealth of double sockets, and install a hook up.
Then we decided to make it black inside too. We sprayed the surrounds for the blinds black and painted all the walls.New plywood was laid on the floors and painted with black floor paint.
We sourced some seats on eBay from a Hyundai Coupe, and picked them up from a man in Woodchester and mounted them on a pair of Fiat Panda wheels that we had in the workshop. We decided to keep a bench for seating at one end and I covered a single mattress in leatherette and found some cushions online that looked like they might belong.
I also bought a broken Porsche alloy on eBay for pennies, I refurbished it and bought a circular piece of glass for the top – probably the most expensive item in the caravan!
The only thing left was to move in our desk, a display case, and new desk chair and start work.In the hottest summer for decades.In a black caravan.We very quickly rushed out and bought a portable air conditioner – which was white, so we sprayed it with left over black metallic car paint. Have a look at the slideshow below.
I’ve uploaded a short video of the caravan to give you more of an idea.And if you are passing ChipsAway on the Ryeford Industrial Estate, feel free to call in and have a look at the inside as well as the outside!
Having seen my hot S-Type Jaguar and a respray I did of a friend’s motorbike fuel tank, a local biker got in touch with a very special request.
When I finished the Jaguar project I told myself next time I painted fire, I wanted to go for the classic hot rod flame job, rather than free-hand organic kind. I hadn’t realised the opportunity would arise so quickly.
When the tank, mud guard and rear fender arrived, it had the original black paint on it, but had been crudely embellished with white vinyl, that hadn’t really weathered very well. Worse, when I removed the vinyl, it had clearly been cut to shape after it had been laid on the bodywork – the person who did it had sliced straight into the paintwork, drawing the flame outline with a blade.
Once the vinyl was removed the paintwork had to be flatted back and ground out where areas of rust appeared. The owner wanted to change from black and white to red and yellow (gold), so it was quite a job. After priming the parts, it went red and that’s when the real research started. I found very few people left in the UK who custom paint these days, vinyl wraps have killed the skill, so I turned to the home of the hot rod – the USA. I had previously taken advice from master free-style fire painter, Steve Wisniewski of Royal Reign Artistry but I found a wealth of new friends offering advice online on the classic flame, including the talented Dave Webster of Identity Crisis Design. I read lots of advice by Craig Fraser who has been in the business for years, and ran a number of testers before finally feeling ready to start.
This is not a “how to” blog, as I am still very much in the infancy of my custom work for that. But here are a few photos of the process.
Once painted, pearlescent gold was flicked over the yellow and rich drop shadows added, Jim helped me lacquer (as it was by now about 10.00pm)! We revisited early the next morning to flat and polish and I handed over the parts to a very happy owner a few days later.
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The owner has just sent a photo of the bike reassembled! It would certainly look good on a ride out with my S-Type! Look out for both out and about in Gloucestershire, England!
I learned so much on this journey – and I can’t wait to work on my next project! I’m thinking “Mexican Day of the Dead” – but I now know to be carefully what I wish for 🙂
Feel free to contact me for information and ideas!
Trying to find that sunset moment to photograph our S-Type Jaguar, we raced around some of the best beauty spots in the Cotswolds. Finally ended up at The Lodge in Minchinhampton, but alas it was dusk already and the sun had gone!
Caroline Clennell (aka Jaine) describes transforming a 18 year old Jaguar into the car of her dreams.
In the late summer of 2017 Jim and I began our search for a suitable recipient of some badass paint flames. Having given up being a full-time commercial artist to re-train as a vehicle paint technician earlier in the year, it was only a matter of time before my passions merged. I wanted a big canvas; Jim wanted a V8. We were also keen to make good a vehicle that was a bit under-valued, but that would make people smile. We loved both the front and rear of the S-Type Jag, and the side panels gave plenty of space for the flames to stretch out. We had a budget of around £2000 – and we managed to snatch up an 18 year old, with high mileage, and 4 litre engine from a dealer in Bristol.
The S-Type had a few mechanical issues at first, which delayed our start. Jim was keen not only to make her seen, but also heard, so we researched and invested in a new bespoke twin exhaust system. The exhaust specialist did a good job in the end, but we had to wait nearly two months to get our car back and we had more than one trip to collect her wasted, when we were told she wasn’t quite ready, with a string of random excuses. We wouldn’t have minded, but the three hour round trip in a Fiat Panda wasn’t our idea of fun (Jim will point out here that our ChipsAway Fiat Panda is a very fine car indeed – just not fit for that particular purpose). Eventually, one dark night, the S-Type was delivered back. She rolled off the back of a transporter (with a flat battery and many apologies). We didn’t seem to pay very much for what has turned out to be an amazing job – so the exhaust specialist who behaved so badly, won’t get named and shamed here! Look and listen and judge for yourself what you think, Jim has uploaded a clip of the twin exhausts in action on Youtube. Jim still wants to remap the engine for more crackles and pops and maybe to get some actual flames coming out of the pipes – watch this space.
Once the Jag had her internal bits fixed and came back from her “exhausting” stay away – we turned to fixing all the bumps and scrapes on her bodywork. For her age she remarkably showed no signs of rust, but lacquer peel was a bit of a problem. It was clear that she had already had a number of sub-standard SMART repairs and some of the panels were not originals. Making decisions of what to fix and what to leave was a tricky business. In an ideal world we would be starting with a blank car that had just had a full bodyshop respray. We opted to fix any bigger scratches and dents and touch in small chips. The Jag had two major bodywork problems – one was cracked, shattered looking lacquer on the wings, and the other was that previous owners had taken her through a mechanical car wash once a week – so she was peppered with tiny scratches, mostly on her sides. We chose to give her a rigorous machine cut and polish to get her as smooth as possible, ready for her paint job. This took another day, and by now I was getting anxious to get painting!
DE- BADGING AND DE-CHROMING
The picture says it all. The chrome had to go. We also popped off any other V8 and other badges. I figured that people could very easily hear that she was a V8 and didn’t need it written on the car!
I knew I wanted shiny shiny flames, but having recently learnt how to apply matting agent to our ChipsAway three-part lacquer mix, I really wanted to add a mean element of matt black. We opted to go for just the front and rear valance, the sill extensions and the alloy wheels. Originally we also planned for the roof to be matt black, but quickly realised the main draw-back to matt lacquer: by its very nature, it cannot be polished. As SMART repairers, with no spray booth, and equipment designed to repair damage no bigger than an A4 piece of paper, we are limited to the size of the panel that we can work on. On a normal day, we would never take on a bonnet or a roof.
Nevertheless Jim painted the roof in Reduced Black, and we flicked some gold and red paint splashes on it. Jim then had a go at lacquering the roof with a 1.2mm tip on our Iwata LPH80 gun. We hoped the stripes it made would cure out, but after over an hour of baking, you could still see them. Many tearful hours of sanding, and machine polishing with a cutting compounds and the stripes were still visible. We couldn’t even get a shine on it. We ditched the matt black roof idea and a few weeks later our bright young technician re-lacquered her with four coats and we now have the shiniest roof in the Cotswolds. Looks better anyway, I think.
IN THE SHADE
The next step was to tint the back windows and rear lights. We asked Chris from Top Tints to help us out, and he did a very professional job. She was now starting to look dark and shady. By this time I was raring to go on the paint job and hoping to silence all those who were dubious about my attempts to create ‘a Jag with flames’.
My heart was racing. The kids had left to visit family, so home-alone on Boxing Day 2017, we decided to ditch the mince-pies and the warm log-fire and head to our freezing cold workshop to go for the flames. I’ve painted some big canvasses in my time, but nothing like this. I’ve also used rattle cans to make art, but never really used my paint technicians spray-guns to be creative with. We had already put in weeks of effort, I couldn’t imagine how I (or Jim ) would feel if I messed it up at this stage. We had already keyed the whole car with scotch and/or a fine 1500 grade paper. She was ready.
I started by using up all the left-over white paint we had at the workshop to lighten the nose of the S-Type. I knew that painting yellow onto dark blue might be an uphill struggle, and the white base worked a treat. Once the yellow was on, I added the red and worked down the sides. The biggest chore was drying the water based paint with a heat gun in between coats, but the paint was sprayed very thinly and I had surrounded the car with infra-red lamps, so they were drying off nicely.
The licks of the flames were made using french curves and even the lid of the workshop bin as a stencil. I just kept going at it in layers of white, yellow, red and black until it looked right. Once I thought I had finished I added a pearlescent gold to some parts of the flames. I’m hoping that once she is polished and has her glossy paint protection, these touches will make her sparkle even more on a sunny day!
Towards the back I wanted to flames to leave wisps of white smoke on the quarter panels and flying embers on the boot lid. The rear bumper was painted by hand to look like a swelling mass of lava. Well that was the idea anyway. I was 12 hours into the job by now and beginning to see things (yes I was wearing a mask). By 10 o’clock in the evening on Boxing Day, I had painted a car.
As anyone who paints cars will tell you, it doesn’t end there. My next task was to lacquer the whole car. Jim went first with a smaller gun (we only have one 1.2 tip) and I followed 3 minutes later with the second coat. It was my very first time using the bigger nozzle for clear coat, and even though I say so myself, we did a great job, with runs only in one place, which easily sanded out.
Then she had her MOT.
Thank goodness, our S-Type sailed through her MOT (even with her loud exhaust!) and we have taken her out and about a handful of times since. At the moment she is awaiting another full cut and machine polish – booked in this week, but paying work does have a habit of getting in the way a bit. Once she is shiny as can be (especially that roof!), I will take her up to Minchinhampton Common and await the best sunset view in the Cotswolds, for a fantastic photoshoot. Photos of course will be shared here. In the meantime you will have to make do with our less than perfect workshop photos of her. In the spring she will be off to our friends garage in Castle Combe for a remap. No doubt Jim will upload the pops and crackles to be shared here too!
Drop me a line if you have any questions or you would like us to drive to an event – we are looking for excuses to show her off!
Jim and Caroline own and operate the ChipsAway Franchise covering Stroud, Cirencester, Tetbury and surrounding areas. They usually repair bodywork no bigger than an A4 piece of paper, but have been known to make exceptions.