In­vis­i­ble paint pro­tec­tion spe­cial­ists

911 Porsche World - - This month - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy: Brett Fraser

Ste­wart Dyos can tell you a lot about the del­i­cate art of ap­ply­ing au­to­mo­tive paint pro­tec­tion film, as prac­tised at Peter­bor­ough-based spe­cial­ist, Paintshield, where he is Work­shop Man­ager. And de­spite what you might think – and what I did think be­fore I got there – it’s in­ter­est­ing stuff. Only trou­ble is, it can be a tri­fle dif­fi­cult un­der­stand­ing a word Ste­wart says…

No, Ste­wart doesn’t have a speech im­ped­i­ment – not in the con­ven­tional sense, at least – and nor does he have a hard to grasp ac­cent. It’s sim­ply that when you’re painstak­ingly wrap­ping large sheets of pro­tec­tive film around the com­plex curves and cran­nies, ridges and scal­lops of mod­ern cars, two hands just aren’t enough: that’s when the abil­ity to hold ob­jects in your mouth be­comes in­valu­able, in par­tic­u­lar the small rubber squeegee used to ex­pel air bub­bles and liq­uid from be­neath the film once it’s fi­nally in pre­cisely the right place. Un­clear dic­tion is the price you pay for easy squeegee lo­ca­tion.

Paint pro­tec­tion film ap­pli­ca­tion is all that fam­ily-run Paintshield does. And it’s all it has done for the past 15 years. It doesn’t do vinyl wraps to change the colour of your car, or paint­work, or hi-fi in­stal­la­tions or any­thing else. The com­pany’s sole fo­cus is to be mas­ter of this sin­gle dis­ci­pline, pri­mar­ily for top-end cars, but also for re­cently re­stored clas­sics. Porsches rep­re­sent a goodly chunk of Paintshield’s busi­ness, and on the day of our visit there were a brand new 991 GT3 and a Panamera E-hy­brid sit­ting nose-high on ramps; a re­cently fin­ished Fer­rari 488 Spy­der was keep­ing them com­pany, its pro­tec­tion film per­form­ing guard du­ties for a £16,000 op­tional paint-job.

Paintshield’s gen­e­sis, how­ever, did in­volve a con­nec­tion to an­other sec­tor of the au­to­mo­tive af­ter­mar­ket, as co-founder Ann Wake­ford, ex­plains: ‘Back in about 2003 my hus­band Tom and I took a Toy­ota Cel­ica we owned to a com­pany called ICE Direct, for a hi-fi in­stal­la­tion. Tom no­ticed a TVR in the car park that had paint pro­tec­tion film on the front end and asked the owner for de­tails of where it had come from and what its pur­pose was.

‘Ev­ery time we took the Cel­ica out it picked up stone chips some­where along the way, so from a per­sonal per­spec­tive we could re­ally see the value of paint pro­tec­tion film. And we also re­alised that with so many other car own­ers fac­ing the same predica­ment, this could be a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity for us. Af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing the US mar­ket where it orig­i­nated we opened a

small – one car – fa­cil­ity in Gran­tham in Lin­colnshire. We moved to this cur­rent fa­cil­ity in Peter­bor­ough in 2009: it has much more work­shop space in­creas­ing our ca­pac­ity to seven cars, a large car park out the front, and it’s greatly more ac­ces­si­ble be­ing close to mo­tor­ways and a main­line train sta­tion di­rectly from Kings Cross.

‘At the time we started there was only one other paint pro­tec­tion film com­pany in the UK, so you could call our cus­tomers early adopters. Even so, it was hard work to be­gin with: we spent days up at the NEC show, hav­ing taken the bumper off our Cel­ica to use as a dis­play piece. We soon be­gan to de­velop our own tem­plates for Porsches, Fer­raris, TVRS and Lo­tuses, and we’ve kept tem­plate de­sign in-house ever since: that way we’re in to­tal con­trol of the pre­ci­sion fit of the pat­terns. And with ever-more com­plex shapes go­ing on with mod­ern sports cars and su­per­cars – front spoil­ers pierced with mul­ti­ple vents, tow­er­ing rear spoil­ers, aero­dy­nam­i­cally shaped door mir­rors – ac­cu­racy is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal.

‘My son-in-law and Head of De­sign, Joe Lawrence, has de­signed our tem­plates over many years. Joe trained as a graphic de­signer, but it’s not just his tal­ent on the com­puter that makes him so well suited to the task, he is also a pro­tec­tion film fit­ter. That means he’s got an in­stinc­tive feel for what are likely to be dif­fi­cult ar­eas on the body­work, and how best to de­sign the film com­po­nents for re­ally tricky pieces such as the bumpers and mir­rors: he also knows how much stretch there is in the ma­te­rial and can ad­just the tem­plates ac­cord­ingly. And like Ste­wart – like all of us, re­ally – Joe has a pas­sion for cars and a deep-rooted be­lief in do­ing the very best job pos­si­ble.’

In the early days Paintshield, in com­mon with the in­dus­try as a whole, of­fered just front-end pro­tec­tion, which is ob­vi­ously where the ma­jor­ity of stone dam­age oc­curs on any car. But while that re­mains one of the op­tions avail­able to its cus­tomers, Paintshield has moved on to whole car cov­er­age, a pop­u­lar choice, it would seem. The beauty of the films that Paintshield uses is man­i­fold. They don’t dif­fuse the car’s orig­i­nal colour at all, they shine like orig­i­nal paint­work, and they don’t yel­low or tar­nish with age. The film is “self-heal­ing” from swirls and mi­nor scratches that don’t go through the top­coat of the film, keep­ing it look­ing good for many years to come.

An­other im­por­tant fac­tor is that you have to stare at the paint­work re­ally hard to see that the film is there at all, a skill Paintshield is jus­ti­fi­ably proud of. This is where the pre­ci­sion of the tem­plates comes into its

At the time we started there was only one other paint film co in the UK

own. ‘For ex­am­ple, just have a look at the area around the head­lamp wash­ers on the GT3,’ in­sists Ste­wart. ‘The hole in the film is pre-cut to per­fectly en­cir­cle the washer unit. Stare hard and you can see it, but you can also see how ac­cu­rate and tight that hole is.

‘Some film pro­tec­tion com­pa­nies sim­ply drape a large piece of film over the car and then cut it to fit. With knives! We’ve ac­tu­ally re­moved other peo­ple’s films and found cut marks in the paint un­der­neath! We don’t have knives here and cer­tainly wouldn’t use them near the cars even if we did. It in­volves lots of hard work but you’ve got to get your tem­plates right in the first in­stance, and then have the ex­pe­ri­ence and skill to fit them prop­erly.’

Ste­wart cer­tainly seems to have plenty of the lat­ter qual­i­ties. Watch­ing him roll back and forth on his wheeled stool, arms and squeegee and liq­uid spray bot­tles in per­pet­ual mo­tion, is akin to gaz­ing at some form of mod­ern in­ter­pre­tive dance rou­tine; it’s al­most bal­letic. And in those mo­ments where the squeegee is in his hands rather than be­tween his teeth, Ste­wart ed­u­cates me as to what he be­lieves sets Paintshield apart from some oth­ers in the same field.

‘What’s cru­cial for longevity and neat­ness is to wrap the film over into the shuts for the doors, bon­net and fuel filler flap, as well as other edges, plus the whee­larches where they roll out of sight and into the arch. Just imag­ine wrap­ping up a curved or spher­i­cal present; the pa­per will wrin­kle as it goes around the curves. The same thing hap­pens with the film as you go into the arches or along the edge of a door – we call the wrin­kles “fin­gers” and it takes a mix­ture of pa­tience and knowl­edge to iron them out so that they sit smoothly against the metal. It can be men­tally stress­ful to achieve this, but the results are very much worth it.’

Be­fore the film is ap­plied each car is in­ten­sively cleaned (us­ing “snow foam”) and air-jet dried to re­move dirt and dust, and then the panel to be cov­ered is sprayed with a soapy “slip” so­lu­tion. The pre-cut film is peeled off a back­ing sheet, rather like a sticker or the de­cals for your old Air­fix

You’ve got to get the tem­plates right in the first in­stance

Spit­fire, and the slip so­lu­tion al­lows it to be ma­noeu­vred very pre­cisely into po­si­tion – even with an eye as keen as Ste­wart’s, this can take some time… Us­ing his trusty squeegee he teases out the bub­bles and liq­uid to test the fit, and if it’s not spot-on he peels big sec­tions of it back up again, squirts in some more slip so­lu­tion, and then “floats” the panel around un­til it’s just-so. ‘The first les­son I was ever taught on this job was “align­ment, align­ment, align­ment”,’ laughs Ste­wart.

When the film panel is ex­actly where it should be, the slip so­lu­tion is re­placed with an­other con­tain­ing Iso­propal al­co­hol that ac­ti­vates the ad­he­sive prop­er­ties of the film; with the ap­pli­ca­tion of heated air, this fixes the film into its fi­nal rest­ing place.

‘Ste­wart makes achiev­ing a metic­u­lous level of qual­ity look rel­a­tively sim­ple,’ states Ann, ‘yet it’s any­thing but. Our cus­tomers ap­pre­ci­ate this, though, which is why we have so much re­peat busi­ness – the gen­tle­man who owns the Panamera EHy­brid in the work­shop today has been com­ing to us for ten years.

‘We know that our cus­tomers are busy peo­ple, so we try to make it as sim­ple as pos­si­ble for them to have film ap­plied to their cars. We can col­lect and de­liver us­ing our large cov­ered trailer, es­pe­cially from deal­er­ships, and we also have cour­tesy cars avail­able at no ex­tra cost. Be­cause ap­ply­ing the film can be a long process very few cus­tomers wait around for it to done, but if they have no al­ter­na­tive then we have a very com­fort­able re­cep­tion area, com­plete with Wi-fi and re­fresh­ments, where they can con­tinue to work.’

Paint pro­tec­tion film may not be top of your list of must-have ac­ces­sories when buy­ing a new Porsche or fetch­ing your newly re­stored one, but if you want to add value in the long-run and pro­tect from stone chips, have a chat with Paintshield: prob­a­bly best to ask for Ann, rather than Ste­wart… PW

The first les­son I was taught was ‘align­ment, align­ment, align­ment’

There’s no short­age of Porsches through Paintshield’s Peter­bor­ough work­shop. Today’s fea­tured fit­ting car is a new 991 GT3. The Panamera E-hy­brid be­longs to a cus­tomer who has been us­ing Paint Shield on his cars for 16-years

Pa­tience is the key to this job. A ‘slip’ so­lu­tion al­lows the pre-cut film to be moved into place. The in­evitable bub­bles are teased out with the squeegee

Paintshield’s Ste­wart Dyos re­veals the prac­ti­cal se­crets of suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion: You need two hands on the job and your mouth to hold the all im­por­tant squeegee!

In the early days of paint pro­tec­tion film, most folk just had the front-end of their car treated to pro­tect against stone chips. Now, how­ever, most go for full cov­er­age for ul­ti­mate pro­tec­tion

The car needs to be scrupu­lously clean be­fore the pro­tec­tive film is ap­plied. Door shuts are air-jet dried – im­por­tant as the film wraps over the edges of the door for a per­fect fin­ish

Right: All Paintshield’s pro­tec­tive film kits are de­signed on com­puter first. Far right above: they get through a lot of this stuff. Be­low: Com­fort­able wait­ing area, should you need it. Most cus­tomers will leave their car be­cause it’s a lengthy process. Paintshield can also col­lect, with a cov­ered trans­porter

The paint-pro­tec­tion film is pre-cut from Paintshield’s data­base of tem­plates. Right: Paintshield co­founder, Ann Wake­ford, who cre­ated the com­pany with hus­band Tom

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