Patina for Doris the PT Cruiser

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.

dynam0 pt cruiserI 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!


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Mini Van Door

Some creations make themselves.  When we acquired a pair of old, dull, rusty blue doors from a vintage Mini van, they didn’t look like much.  We had much debate about how to paint them and had more than one idea around the Italian job….”you’re only supposed to blow the …..”.  But as soon as Caroline started to flat off the paint a story was revealed.  It was the story that the Mini Van was once red…(or is that oxide?).  Then it went grey.  Then yellow.  Then orange.  And finally blue.  We decided to wire brush off the loose rust and reveal small sections of the story – we especially liked the runs in the paint, which sanded back as lovely squiggly lines!  We even left the 50 sticker on it. And then we applied four heavy clear coats on top to give it a boiled sweet shine. It makes a beautiful wall hanging – we have even fitted a small light where the number plates light is.  The door is available to buy – enquiry via  We aren’t sure what we will do with door number 2 yet …watch this space.


Morris Minor

Recently rescued a Morris Minor 1000 bonnet from a lockup in Gloucester.  Several months later we have transformed her into an amazing homage to the British classic.


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The Black Caravan – before and after photos

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.

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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!

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