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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Audi TT – It’s Not a Wrap!


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!