1955 Porsche 356 Porsche "Continental" Cabrio paint job.
In August of 2006 the Porsche was tied down inside the newly finished Spartanette Toybox when we hit a guardrail. The Porsche tore loose from its moorings and smashed into the inside wall of the trailer.
The entire length of the Porsche was smashed pretty flat. The front suspension was bent from contacting the wheel well of the trailer. I knew that my friend Larry Smith, owner of Autometric Collision and new head of the Meadow Brook Concours, had recently restored a 356 from his collection of beautiful cars.
I asked Larry who he would recommend to repair the car and he said he would literally "take it under his wing" to see that it was done right and to justify an invitation to show it at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance in August of '07.
My insurance company sent out an independent adjuster who was very familiar with Autometrics and thought that they would also be the correct company to make the sheetmetal repairs.
The Porsche 356 is post-war German engineering at its best, yet had enough ideosyncracies to warrant a mechanical specialist with the right tools and temperament to do the job on the damaged suspension.
Ted turned out to be the right guy. Expert on all things 356. Ted got the task of disassembling the car for repair. He pulled off all the trim, bumpers and windshield so that there would be little masking necessary.
Ted repaired the bent front suspension and found an appropriate replacement brake drum to replace the one that was bent. He was able to straighten the bent rim and detected no tire damage.
When the car came back to Autometric the passenger side sheetmetal was treated to a basic straightening and grinding that exposed some additional areas of concern. The rocker panels had been replaced years earlier but had not been properly positioned. The door sheetmetal seam at the bottom had thickened over time due to rust expanding the layers of metal. They had fit the sill to the door instead of repairing the door and installing the new sills correctly.
This is what the car looked like just before the crash.
The aftermath. The back bumper is pushed in flush with the fender, the door is flattened and the front fender has a distinct slab-side look to it.
I went to look at the condition of the car at this stage and I was shown the thick door bottoms and some minor rust penetration along the bottom of the door. They showed me, with a shim, that the sill was improperly installed to accommodate the the thick door bottom.
It was at this point that I had to have words with the insurance company. They were only going to pay for painting the damaged side of the car, which would have been fine had there been some break line to paint to. Since this is a unibody car with no removable fenders there is no natural break point to paint to.
Autometric's could have blended the paint but the original lacquer paint would have not reacted well to being overpainted with today's two-stage paint. I learned that the thinners used today would seep into the lowers of paint, destabilizing them over time.
I was able to convince a higher level adjuster to take a closer look at the evidence I had gathered in support of repainting the entire car. They brought in their own paint expert that agreed with my assessment and authorized the additional $8,000 to strip and build a fresh paint job. This was on top of the $11,000 already authorized for the bump and paint work on the damaged side.
The car was taken to bare metal all over. The front end was media blasted to remove thick layers of body filler.
The front end had been hit sometime in its past requiring the replacement of the hood. Each panel is stamped with the car's serial number except the hood.
The front end had been pushed in but never bumped out properly.
The front end sheetmetal was slathered with bondo to make the front panel line up with front edge of the new hood. The filler was 1/2" thick along the hood edge.
The entire front of the car is one stamping from the wheel wells forward. This seam needed some attention but was basically sound. Removal of the body filler revealed a past sideswipe that was never properly bumped.
The front door gaps were excellent showing no rust in the typical areas.
Once the car was stripped of all paint and filler it was shot with a Dupont heavy zinc self-etching primer designed to be the bonding agent between the raw metal and the new body filler and paint.
The blocked and sanded hood was reinstalled on the car and the front end sheetmetal was restored to its original position requiring minimal body filler. The hood gap was also adjusted with metal manipulation and body filler where needed.
The replacement door sill welds were ground off and the sill was properly repositioned.
The entire car was covered in a layer of body filler just thick enough to take out the body flaws. This was typical of factory bodywork of the time. The body filler was sanded to near perfection and a layer of gray primer was sprayed over the whole car.
Successive layers of primer were sprayed on and blocked off. The primer layers were overlaid with a black paint that stayed in the bottom of flaws and scratches bringing them to the attention of the bodyman.
Meanwhile, the doors were removed and worked separately. Pinhole rust was found in the bottoms of the original door skins so they removed about an inch of metal along the bottom of each door. They ground down the spot welds and removed the rusted door panel bottom. A section was cut from the lower door skin that originally was big enough to cover the bottom 6" of the door. The bodyman thought it best to cut away as little as possible to eliminate any distortion of the door.
A final coat of primer was applied and thoroughly wet sanded. Close attention was paid to eliminate any flaws before the first layer of paint went on.
There's no margin for error at this point as it will be shot with two-stage paint,eliminating the sanding in-between coats.
The color coats are shot and then is covered by the clear coat so that the whole paint job cures as one coat.
Wet sanded, wheeled-out and ready to be reassembled.