In this instance, size does not matter. Big or small, Cayenne or 911 Coupe, your Porsche can benefit from a bra. No, I'm not talking about the old school, Don Johnson era, leather/vinyl cover-ups. I'm talking about the new, clear, "invisible" bra products.
We've always been aware of the "invisible" bras. In fact, John's 993 C4S has it applied on the rear fender wells (as stone guards) and a few other strategic locations to protect against rock chips. However, we weren't really familiar with the ins and out of the product, or how it is installed, until we bought my new Cayenne and decided with all of our road trips (Florida to Maine and back every year and then some) that we best do what we can to protect the paint on my "Pepper" to keep it looking new (not to mention those costly Xenon headlight assemblies).
After some research on the web we found out that there are a few different products available for Porsche owners. We decide on the 3M Super Shield (please note, this is not a paid post for 3M, it just happens to be the product we choose) for four major reasons:
1. It is our understanding that the 3M template for our Cayenne has the fewest pieces (meaning fewer possible chances at any lines being visible).
2. 3M's newer film allows for UV light to pass through (meaning paint under the bra will have the same sun exposure as areas that are not covered).
3. We like 3M's warranty and what the research shows about lack of yellowing from the 3M films. Some other films are known to yellow over time (some shorter than others). That's not to say the 3M won't ever yellow, but it seems like it is less likely given what we've read.
4. Perhaps, most importantly, the installer - Pepe Feliu (the co-owner of Auto Super Shield in Boca Raton) comes as highly recommended as anyone could. Over the span of three days we speak with as many as 20 Porsche owners in Southern Florida who had their invisible bras installed by Pepe (including the local PCA club) and they all have nothing but good things to say (here's but one of the many threads on Rennlist about Pepe). To top it off, most of the major hi-end sport and luxury brand dealers in the area outsource their installations to Pepe and his crew.
After watching our installation, and it's complexity, it becomes pretty clear that the key to a good experience is the right installer. If you live in Southern Florida call Pepe's wife Wendy (she runs the front of the shop) and they will treat you right!! (We are so impressed with their work, that we end up working out a deal for FlatSixes.com's readers. Simply let Wendy know you heard about their work on our site and they'll give you a 20% discount off the cost of the kit - depending on your Porsche this can be a significant savings; They offer the same discount for local PCA clubs as well. More on this later).
Introductions and Installation Time
We arrive at Auto Super Shield not knowing quite what to expect, only that our installation will take at least four hours (we go way over that, but that's because I didn't stop asking questions and ended up getting much more work done than originally planned) and Wendy and Pepe agree to let me stay and document the whole process for PorschePurist's readers (thanks Wendy!!).
Immediately upon arrival, it's pretty clear that the recommendations for Pepe and his work are spot on. Not only is the shop clean and well lit, but almost every square inch of wall space in the waiting room is covered with pictures of Porsches, Ferraris, Bugatis, Lambos and any other exotic car manufacture you could think of. These are all photos of cars that Pepe has installed clear bras, window tinting or some other form of paint protection. It kind of gives you that same feeling you get when walking into a new doctor's office and see all the degrees from well known Ivy league schools. You know in some ways they are just props, but it gives you the warm fuzzy feeling that you came to the right place and what you need done will be done right.
Clear Bra Installation Process
After completing introductions, Pepe pulls my Cayenne out back to give it a thorough wash in order to make sure it is clean and, more importantly, to strip any wax from the areas where he is going to install the 3M film (like most things, prep is key to a good finished product). After finishing the wash down my Cayenne is pulled into the shop from the rear bay.
As I enter the work-shop my eyes are immediately drawn to a Ferrari 599 delivered by a local dealer for a rush job. Apparently, the Ferrari was just sold yesterday and the new owner wants the car covered from stem to stern with the Supershield product (including all the glass) and wants the tinting replaced with something a bit darker. At this point, any remaining doubts, that there might be a better installer in the area, abruptly leave me. I know I'm in the right place.
With my Cayenne in the installation bay and raised up for easy access, Pepe moves to the shop computer where he calls up the proper pattern for my Cayenne. A few minutes later, the large commercial printer is cutting the film to order and placing it all on a roll that Pepe will use for installation. My first thought is that the clear film is adhesive and will stick to the paint like tape. Fortunately, I'm completely wrong.
How the invisible bra is applied
The 3M Paint Protection film has a paper backing that is first removed to expose the adhesive under the backing. It is then sprayed with a solvent composed of 25% alcohol, and 75% water (this explains the spray bottle on Pepe's tool belt).
The 3M Paint Protection film is then moistened, positioned in place, and squeegeed to the surface of the vehicle in order to remove any air pockets. If there is any excess moisture remaining after installation, a few days in the sun will remove it and allow the film to cure properly.
Initially, I choose to have the front bumper (including 1/3 of the hood) and side view mirrors covered. However, after talking with Pepe for a few minutes we decide to add the film to the headlights too. Even though the additional work adds a slight bump to the cost, the extra expense is more than worth it considering the 3M film can withstand a direct hit from a small pebble up to 120 mph. What this means is that my very, very expensive headlamp assemblies are well protected from stray stones and rocks while commuting (imagine the benefits on the track).
Proper Installation is the Most Important Ingredient
As Pepe continues his installation, I'm amazed by the attention to detail. Proper installation requires good lighting, good tools, a clean work environment and a very steady hand. The placement of the film on the body of the Cayenne is as important as taking the time to ensure all trapped air is completely squeegeed out from under.
Have Clear Bra. Will Travel!
Pepe talks with me while he works and it's clear he enjoys what he does. Not only does he work in his shop, he will frequently set up road trips at the request of local car clubs. In fact, he recently did a weekend with one of the local Florida PCA regions. In this instance, the region's members got together to form a type of "group buy". Here's how it works:
1. Someone from the region acts as a liaison for their group.
2. Group members express interest and supply information about their particular model Porsche.
3. A quote is provided (including a 20% discount on materials) and a final commitment is given by the group.
4. A clean garage with good lighting is located (the space is usually donated by a local member or possibly even a local sponsor of the PCA).
5. Pepe and his crew cut all the templates (along with spares) at their shop in Boca and then travel to do the installs.
While Pepe didn't give a minimum number of cars he likes to have lined up before he travels, it seems pretty clear he likes to stay busy. My guess, depending on distance, is that he wants at least six to eight cars so that he can work straight through the weekend.
As Pepe is finishing my hood, I look back to see window tinting being applied to the Ferrari. My Cayenne came stock from the factory with tint on the rear windows but nothing on front. As John and I are now spending almost five months a year in Florida I decide to have Pepe match the factory tinting for my front windows. That Florida sun can get pretty hot in the afternoon. Pepe immediately notices my MA plates and quickly looks up the maximum percentage of tint allowed in Massachusetts (he doesn't want me getting any tickets for having my windows too dark).
The window tint is applied in a similar manner as the invisible bra. The biggest difference being that the template is created right there on the window of the car and then trimmed as applied. As Pepe's brother (part of his crew) works on the window tinting I talk with him about the 3M film. It turns out the film works so good at stopping stone chips and scratches that both he and his brother have applied it to their iPhones. Even after hard drops, the evidence of which is clearly seen by bashed corners and gouges in the plastic, the glass on their iPhones is still intact. If only I had come a week earlier, maybe I wouldn't have to stare through a spiderweb to see my own email. Anyway, back to the work in progress.
You may remember that shortly after purchasing the Cayenne I installed a Thule roof rack and cargo box. It suddenly occurs to me that maybe I should install a strip of the invisible bra product above my doors, right under the cargo box. This way, when I pull things down from the rack, they won't scratch the hell out of my paint (this was a big problem on my last truck). Pepe say, no problem! He simply measures the distance and the computer cuts a new piece to fit.
At this point, I've covered the bumper, almost 1/2 the hood, the headlights and fog lights, had the windows tinted and added extra paint protection above the doors to avoid scratches from cargo going in and out of my roof top box. I think I'm done. I take one last walk around the Cayenne and notice there is a strip of paint between the rear cargo area and the plastic trim on the edge of the bumper. This painted area is exactly where my 125 lb Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Scout, (that's him up above testing the strength of the tailgate on our Jeep) likes to step as he enters and exits his Cayenne. Hmmm, maybe I should cover that too? I know he's going to scratch it within days.
I begin to realize that maybe it wasn't such a good idea for me to have stuck around for the install. I've almost doubled the size of the original job. Protecting your paint is addictive.
The funny thing is, throughout the entire process, no-one tried to sell me on anything. All the additional work was requested by me as I thought of how many things could get scratched. I now understand why some people "wrap" their entire car. Think about it. Depending on your car, for a few thousand dollars, you can have the entire car cocooned in a protective coating that will keep your car looking like new now matter what kind of hell you put it through. Not a bad choice for a super expensive Porsche (Carrera GT, Turbo S, GT3s, etc.) and other hi-end sports and luxury cars. Heck, if you're even thinking of tracking your car you should, at the very least, get the headlights and front bumper done.
At the end of the day, your Porsche may not need a bra, but for a very limited expense (call it $700 and up) you can really protect your Porsche and its paint. Remember Mike from the PCA Parade? That's his 911 above (he drove it to the Parade from Alaska). While I commend him on his ingenuity and creativeness a clear bra is a much easier application and it lasts a lot longer!!!
20% Discount from AutoSuperShield for PorschePurist Readers
If you are thinking about getting a clear bra installed on your Porsche and you are anywhere in southern Florida (or even within a 3 to 5 hour driving range) you should consider using Pepe at Auto Super Shield to have your work done. Not only will they do a perfect job, but as I mentioned earlier, they will give PorschePurist reader's and PCA members a 20% discount on material costs. Don't forget, if you live far away, but have a group of other Porsche owners that want installations, you just might be able to get Pepe and his crew to travel to you!!