Updated: Mar 30, 2019
When it comes to restoring a vintage vehicle key notes should be taken along with care of fragile and irreplaceable pieces such as glass, door handles, knobs, and other trim pieces. This '65 Cobra came to us initially for paint correction and a durable sealant, however after evaluating the paint and the frequent wipes of this extremely soft single stage paint, a coating was recommended to allow a harder surface that would make wiping the vehicle surface much safer and easier to maintain.
Brief history of this Cobra:
This '65 Cobra is a "CS" VIN and is "Original." That being said what I mean by this is that it is an aluminum body and not fiberglass. It does not have side exhaust as for that was later on, and no roll-bar. Original numbers matching 427. One might say this is a Unicorn of a masterpiece.
With this Cobra being as rare and old as it is, the paint needed to be gauged (use of a paint meter to determine how thick the surface paint is), to know exactly what we had to work with. If you were to skip this step and start buffing (removing microscopic layers of paint/clear) blind as I call it, you risk the chance of going through the paint. If one were to buff or polish through the paint, the only remedy would be to repaint the vehicle and in this case, making a mistake like this is not an option.
Prior to gauging the Cobra, we evaluated the condition of the paint even before washing it. Why evaluate before it has been cleaned? This is for us to perform a walk around and pinpoint any dings, dents, and or deep to light scratches before we lay a hand on it. Once the initial evaluation has been thoroughly completed we moved onto the cleansing process. We knew ahead of time that this paint was single stage and by the look of the light to heavy scratches from improper wiping of the painted surface, we knew this was very soft paint. Being that this Cobra does not have a top to it and we don't want to introduce water into the many openings leading to electrical, a dry wash agent was used along with a pile of plush microfibers to grab and collect the dust and debris laying on the surface. Meanwhile inspecting the microfiber for heavy buildup of dirt and evaluating the paint before, during, and after each wipe. To some this may seem to be overkill, yet when working on something of such rarity, ever move must be carefully taken. With the paint fully cleansed, another walk around was performed to address the worst, most damaged areas, and assess them. Marking each area with a piece of painters tape allows us to quickly find those areas as we work around the vehicle. Next was to figure out a combination that would work best to correct and finish down the paint to a flawless finish before being coated. Several test spots were performed in multiple areas with the paint thickness always being taken before and after each leveling phase to know how quickly paint was being removed and how much was left to work with, along with evaluating the finish left behind. We initially started with a light polishing pad and "Reflect" (ultra-fine polish), to see how effective it would be on this soft paint. If one were to use a heavy compound/polish on soft paint, the rate of removal would be much faster and would generally not finish down as well, leaving the surface hazy and marred. Marred meaning microscopic defects installed from pad and product rotating across the surface digging into the paint without being fully broken down. We found that the paint was correcting, yet there were still deeper scratches that were not fully removed. Instead of changing polishes to something more aggressive we decided to step up the pad used. We went with a Meguiars microfiber cutting disc. This would allow more cut but still finish down very well. However, if we were to finish with a microfiber disc, there would still be a little bit of haze and potential marring from the fibers scrubbing the surface. This is why refining is needed to achieve a brilliant finish.
Keep in mind, when leveling paint, is it safe to fully remove the deeper scratch, or limit it but still leave some traces of it. Because this was a repaint of factory color a little over 30 years ago, and a scuff and spray (light sanding of original paint and new paint sprayed directly over original) at that, we had to be very cautious as to not buff through the top coat revealing the original paint and causing a blemish or discoloration of the paint.
Once we found the combination to level the surface safely, without removing too much paint, we had to deal with removing any leftover polish/paint residue without inflicting scratches into the now flawless section. Using all brand new CarPro Boa's, to not take any chances in scratching the corrected surface, we still found, due to the super soft paint, that a lubricant such as a dry wash was needed to help remove the residue safely before final polishing. For final polishing, we used CarPro orange pads. When polishing with an ultra-fine polish, I found that if the product was not completely scrubbed from the surface (working a polish till it is completely broken down and scrubbed from the panel via polishing pad, that the surface would leave a light haze. In order to create a uniform even finish, any and all polish had to be cycled completely through and machine scrubbed from every inch of painted surface. When we were happy with the results, the paint was treated to an Eraser (intensive polish and oil remover) wipe-down. This allowed the paint to be stripped of any residual polish or surface oils, creating a bare paint surface ready for coating, but not quite ready for coating.
Before we could start coating any areas, this vehicle had been waxed and a great deal of residue had built up around all the trim pieces and crevices. This may not sound like a big deal but when you are coating a vehicle, all of this needs to be cleaned otherwise it will be sealed in and not easily removable. Generally removing wax is simple however in this case, it was baked in and the single stage paint had absorbed some of it. Countless Q-tips, brushes, plastic blades, and microfibers soaked with Eraser were used to help break down and remove the wax buildup. This task, even on a fairly simple vehicle can be time consuming. When a vehicle is small, this does not always mean it is simple. The fact that there are fewer objects to point out means that the vehicle is raw and every little detail stands out that much more. For example: if you have a bag of marbles and they are all varying colors, finding a particular one can be difficult. On the other hand a bag off all matching marbles and only one different will stand out like a sore thumb. Because this car is bare and simple any imperfection will stand out to one's eye.
After all the residue had been cleaned thoroughly from the Cobra, and every inch of paint polished, reviving the weathered and faded paint, it was ready to be coated with “Finest” (ceramic nanotech paint coating). This coating will allow for easier cleaning, while leaving behind a harder surface over the paint, and a richer gloss. When coating a vehicle, several precautions should be used. Wearing gloves, mask if not in a well ventilated area due to the fumes during application, clean applicators, suede towels, and new polishing microfibers are needed. Lighting is key when applying a coating to make sure there are no high spots or streaks. If the coating is allowed to cure for too long without a wipe down, a high spot or blemish may be seen and would require an Eraser wipe or a light polishing to level the installed imperfection.
Note: Coatings should only be installed by a highly skilled Detailer. If a coating is installed on an uncorrected surface, any defect that had not been corrected, will be sealed in. To fix this issue, the affected area would need to be stripped, corrected and re-coated.
The Cobra was broken up into sections since the body aside from the doors are all on piece. Section by section, the coating was applied, let setup, and wiped down to an even coat and a second application was applied. Every section is evaluated and scrutinized by our eyes scanning for any imperfection in the paint and coating application. Over the next couple hours the paint was fully coated and a second coat was applied. At this point we were able to move onto the interior to clean any loose debris and dust from the correction process. The seats were thoroughly cleaned and conditioned from the aging to renew them.
After speaking to the client about the rims we found that 2 of the 4 rims had been either replaced or reconditioned. A new challenge had been brought to us. How to clean and patina a wheel that is newer, to look as original as the aged wheels. As you can see in the photo the before and after. Before the wheel facing was too light and washed out as it was supposed to be a dark grey. The lip of the rim had fogged over and needed polishing. It took over 2 hours per wheel to get them to all match, by hand and machine. The key here, was to restore the finish but not to a brand new look. On this job it is possible to go too far. If the wheels were to look brand new all around the value of this super rare ’65 Cobra may degrade. The goal is to restore as much as possible with the thought of keeping it original looking yet as if it had never been touched from the day it was built. With today’s chemicals and cleaners we are able to achieve a better finish and results than when this vehicle was first built.
To recap what was performed to the ’65 Cobra:
• Dry Washed
• Paint Metered
• Eraser Cleansed
• Coated – Multiple Coats
• Interior Conditioning
• Rim Reconditioning/Patina
• Rupes Bigfoot 21MM Polisher x2
• Rupes Bigfoot 15MM Polisher x3
• Rupes MINI Polisher x2
• Rupes Ibrid Nano Polisher x2
• Various High Intensity Lights
• 30 High Grade Mirofibers
• CarPro Professional Suede x6
• CarPro Suede Applicators x6
• 5-6” Microfiber Cutting Discs x6
• 3” Microfiber Cutting Discs x5
• 2” Microfiber Cutting Discs x2
• 5-6” Microfiber Finishing Discs x3
• 3” Microfiber Finishing Discs x4
• 5-6” Carpro Orange Pad x6
• 3” CarPro Orange Pad x4
• 1” Rupes Yellow Pad x3
• 2” Rupes Yellow Pad x2
• 1” Rupes Blue Pad x1
• 10 Professional Grade Swabs
• Reflect Polish
• Wheel Polishing Cone
• Wheel Polish
• Meguiars Yellow Applicator x3
• Glass Towels x3
• Glass Cleaner
• Class B Microfibers x8
• Leather\Vinyl Conditioner
• 50ml “Finest” Coating
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to message me.