High Tech for Old Porsches
by Pat Yanahan

Those terrible chips and abrasion on the front paint of our old Porsches drive us crazy and make us think it's time to go to the shop for a complete front end paint job.  But you don't have to be a concours fanatic to fix them yourself.  The tried and true methods of fixing paint chips, polishing out scratches and swirls by hand have served me well for many years.  For a review of the old methods, including a list of recommended products, see the event report for Pat's 2008 paint workshop.  Doing it all by the meticulous application of paint with micro-sponge tipped applicators and a steady hand took hours and hours—but it worked and the concours judges could not find them.  I was always hunting for old and well-worn diapers and cotton receiving blankets.  No need to spend money on microfiber cloths since they were initially very expensive.  If all this old technology worked, why change?

Well, the new technologies have made things better and easier for our dear 356s.   [On May 23, 2009, Pat conducted a workshop to demonstrate the use of the Dr. Color Chip system and the Porter Cable 7424 orbiter polisher. Click here to see photos from that event.]

Paint chips and road rash
If you have deep chips or scratches then you must still build the paint up to the near surface by filling with paint using micro-applicators.  These E-Z Dabbers are available from at E Z Mix.  Color paint in small bottle quantities is available at your Porsche dealer or at Paint Scratch.  If you have an older Porsche where the paint has faded due to age and sunlight then this is not the correct source.  Taking a gas lid or torsion bar access cover to a professional auto paint supplier like Ketone Automotive in Broadview, IL, is the best route.  They will computer color match to your faded color which will be dead on. The minimum quantity is one spray can which will last you for years.

But for most chips and surface road rash on the front bumpers and hood lip the Dr. Color Chip product is just fantastic and fast.  I have used it on a few cars now and can attest to its validity.  The instructions require a little modification but are very clear and the kit contains everything you need.  Before you start you must remove all of the wax from the area.  A good liquid dish soap washing followed by using a silicone and wax remover is an absolute requirement.  The basics of the product are that you fill in the chip or spread the paint over the rash area, let it dry and then using the supplied solvent you chemically sand the excess paint off with the solvent applied to a clean rag.  After it dries (I like overnight) you can use the supplied microfiber cloth to polish it to a shine.  It may take a few application tries to blend it in perfectly, but it does work.

How to make it shine
It is not the wax that makes the paint shine—it is the polishing.  The wax is protecting the polished surface which we really need in this area with hard water and acid rain.  I still suggest polishing and waxing by hand and moving the cloth in the direction that air flows over the car in motion.  Most of our cars are not too big to do it by hand, and for some of us it is good physical therapy.  But what about those micro scratches, dull oxidized paint and spider webs from the previous owner who took your beautiful car though commercial car washes? Or did the kids wash it with dirty rags?  And if you have a black or dark car it really stands out—at least to you.  Well, technology is here to the rescue!

The recent commercialization of orbital polishers that are good and affordable has made power polishing almost error-free for all of us.  With circular polishers we amateurs could burn the surface of the paint.  The orbital path of the new polishers literally guarantees that you won't damage the paint.  Polishes come in varying degrees of abrasiveness so you must buy the correct polish and progressively go from coarse to fine much like using sandpaper on wood.  You can buy kits with the orbital polisher, polish and buffing wheels from retailers like Griot's or Autogeek.com.  At either of these web sites you will see fantastic videos that show you how to do it.  I really like the Porter Cable 7424 machine since it is a rugged brand of industrial equipment.  Both suppliers put together kits with everything to get you started.  At AutoGeek the kit I suggest is the Menzerna Intensive Shine Kit.  Expect to spend $175 to $250 for something that will last you for years.  Again, remember to try this on the family car first.  It works on single stage (older Porsches) as well as the newer clear-coated (two stage) paint systems.  As many cars as I have done the old way, I was amazed at the quality and relative speed of this process.  A hint:  don't try to do the whole car in one session.  I break the car up into three sessions:  front fenders and hood, then the doors/top and lastly the rear fenders and engine lid.  This project spread out over three separate days will still keep it fun.  Remember to mask the chrome, crests and scripts with masking tape just to make it easier to clean up when you are done waxing.

Which Wax?
My common observation is that most of the cars I see at events have too much wax on them.  The wax is to protect the finish after polishing, not to be the sole source of that magic shine.  In fact, a lot of show cars do not have any wax on them at all.  Again it is the polishing and hand detailing that is the key.  Light applications of wax maybe twice a year is enough.  Put the wax on very thin or even dilute it with water.  I use a wet rag and a spray bottle of water (distilled) to keep the application spread out thin and even.  To remove the wax for the final step you can use your new orbital polisher with the white buffer wheel or good clean old cotton rags OR a microfiber cloth.  I have had great success using old cotton towels to remove the excess wax and then do a final wipe with the microfiber cloth.  Just keep rotating the cloth surface to a clean area so you don't pick up any dirt.  So, again, which wax?  Most of the products are good.  It is how you use them that makes the difference.  A carnauba-based wax is available from most of the better brands.  Meguiar's, Malm's and P21S are my favorites.  For you with new cars that have a clear coat the new polymer waxes are just fantastic.  I did Bonnie's wagon years ago with a new polymer product from Zaino, and it still beads up in the rain.  Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter, and you will realize great results.  Just stay away from the late-night TV commercial super-duper-special car waxes.

Old rags vs. microfiber
Well, I am finally admitting that the new microfiber cloths have merit.  They are made from a fiber combination of polyester and polyesteramide at about 1/200th the thickness of a human hair.  As you can see the thread is super fine and it is perfect for picking up the excess polish or wax at the very end of your project and it does not scratch.  I still like the old cotton for getting the polish or wax off first and then switching to the microfiber for the very last step.

Does all this really work?
Yes, it does.  I experimented by wet-sanding the top of my 356 to remove the orange peel and scratched finish.  This car was painted over 15 years ago but the shop never wet sanded and polished it out.  So I used all of this new technology on my old car and it looks like glass.  I was so impressed that over several weeks I did the entire body.  Yes, I will still keep my 3M Imperial Hand Glaze and Blue Magic metal polish for spot work, but it's time to move on to the new technologies.

So go drive them!
With the combination of great original paint jobs from the factory and these new technologies you can drive your cars the way you really want.  Don't worry, we can always bring them back and make them look like new without a total new paint job.  A project like this does not take a lot of time and makes a winter go by fast.

Pat Yanahan
Midwest 356 Club
May 2009

The author has no business or financial relationship with any of the manufacturers of the products mentioned in this article. His real job is with an international marketing consulting firm that specializes in high technology products and services. There is no guarantee implied with any product and he suggests that you try any new technique on the family car first before approaching your prized Porsche.