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.