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TECH: A Little Off the Bottom, Please

By Rotten Rodney 


On my very first day here at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, I could tell right away that I’d just missed the boat on a fair handful of magazine tech-worthy projects. Having not been here to cover them from their beginnings, it would be difficult to fill certain gaps for print. But even so, I can’t help thinkin’ that the aforementioned projects, which vary greatly in diversity, should still be shared.


David Jones’ 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 is a prime example of what we’re talkin’ about. This lowdown 4-wheel-drive rocket was previously outfitted with a 996 body kit. At first the exaggerated fiberglass front bumper did offer sufficient ground clearance, but that was on the somewhat smoother streets of Chicago, Illinois. Almost immediately following relocation to the greater San Diego, California area, crowned and potholed roads began having their way with the ground-grindin’ ground effects. In need of a trim, Mr. Jones brought his pride ‘n’ joy to HR&CS, where his own imagineering would be transformed to reality by the crafty crew—beginning with body man, Andy.



Here’s where we were when yours truly entered the picture, just a day or three too late to document the project’s earliest beginnings.


“So what’re ya doin’ to that big fiberglass bumper, Andy?” Through his particulate respirator and above the whine of his pneumatic body grinder, body man Andy explains that he’s already sliced ‘n’ diced certain sections away. This necessary surgery will create the slight bit of extra ground clearance that this car so badly needs.


As Andy goes about featheredging in preparation for cosmetic filler work, it’s difficult to envision what he’s already done. The bumper appears to retain its original proportions, but in reality, it’s two inches higher at the bottom, as well as two inches further back.


Here on the backside I’m lookin’ for seams, but Andy has already smoothed away all telltale traces of them for a factory-like appearance—even where his work won’t show.


So for the purpose of illustration, let’s attempt to arrange the missing pieces of this puzzle. Without these pieces as proof, it’s doubtful that anyone would ever know. The modification’s effect is subtle enough not to attract attention.


In preparation for filler work, Andy is masking to ensure a clean application—only where filler is needed.


That’s not Bondo. That’s Mar-Glass—a fiber-reinforced filler from 3M. Because of its superior strength, Mar-Glass is Andy’s first choice for initial filler work, and it’s especially appropriate for use over fiberglass seams.


Making good use of his time on this cool December day, Andy is speeding up the cure with his trusty ‘lectric heat gun. He’ll be fairing this fill in a matter of minutes.


One mark of a good body man is his ability to smoothly face-off filler with a body grinder, before switching to the correct-dimension flexible fairing board. This step is optional, but it’s a big timesaver for those who possess the skill.


With the bumper now in primer, we can better visualize the finished product. The modifications will indeed be difficult to detect—perhaps even for the 996 body kit’s own designers.


By this time the bumper is well on its way to being pronounced “prepped” for paint. From here it will be transported into HR&CS’s state-of-the-art Garmat downflow spray booth, where the final chemical cleaning will be performed.


Here HR&CS painter, also named Andy, skillfully applies the first of two coats of PPG Envirobase, waterborne basecoat.


Modern waterborne basecoats do require a different technique, as well as additional flashtime between coats—hence the air blower. Andy is PPG-certified; however, he is very well-versed in all types of automotive finishes. With due respect for our environment, HR&CS uses only California-compliant chemicals. 


After basecoats, clear topcoats went on slick and clean, and Andy’s color match is spot-on. However, the texture must match as well. Here HR&CS finishwork expert, Juan begins with colorsanding the freshly cured clear. This step perfects the surface before buffing.


After passing Juan’s inspection, the colorsanded bumper is thoroughly rinsed and dried, using modern microfiber toweling, which will not scratch like terrycloth toweling of yore. Technology is all around us these days—even in towels.


As Juan commences buffing, the luster immediately begins to reappear—only this time with a mirror-like reflection. This is just the beginning of the procedure. There will be finer compounds and glazes used before the final hand polishing.


With refinishing chores out of the way, the car can now be thoughtfully reassembled.


One day before the scheduled delivery date, the project is nearly completed. Now only in need of a final detailing, we’re confident that the job will be finished on time.


At Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, “we do it all and we do it right,” from customizing to collision repair, of which this project is a little of both. In this particular instance, like any high quality repair, this subtle-but-necessary custom modification was intended to go unnoticed—and it will.