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SHOP TALK: Get Your Shine On!

Written by: JT Photos & Video by: JT

Hello once again fellow gearheads. Today I come to you as a 57-year-old lifetime car junkie. While I may be considered an “old dog” to some, I have certainly learned a lot of new tricks when it comes to fabrication, data logging, suspension geometry, and the wonderful world of new tools. But I am not afraid to admit that in some areas I continue to do things the old school way. This is not because I feel the old ways are better, it’s because I simply don’t know how to do it any other way.

This past August, I was fortunate to have Chevrolet finally agree to build my custom Camaro after four years of patiently waiting. We needed a new second car, as my pickup truck is getting old, and I need to save its energy for towing the race car exclusively. I’m not an SUV guy, and I am really not a pickup truck guy either. I figured if I am going to spend that much money on a new vehicle, it might as well be something that excites me. When I put together my custom build, it was actually less expensive than a new truck or even a real nice SUV. In my twisted mind, I rationalized this concept and felt I was doing the responsible thing by buying a new Camaro.

Four years ago the world was a different place and I had a different financial situation. The Covid nightmare forced me to close my thriving business after 30 years of dedication. Enough about that saga, that is all in the past. Let’s press fast forward. Each year I kept resubmitting my custom order, despite being told it was an absolute long shot, Hail Mary that it would get picked up given the “chip” shortage, and the fact that GM was simply not producing any Camaros with V8s in them. The ones that they did produce, were in extremely low numbers like double digits worldwide. I kept the mantra of you have to be in it to win it at the forefront of each reorder along with the fact that I was severally depressed from losing my business and having to start all over again. I figured the Camaro was my way of sticking the middle finger to the world and to what I was going through.

On August 12th, I rolled out of the dealership with a 2023 Camaro 2SS with every high performance option they would allow on my build without badging it a ZL1. Before I left the dealership they told me that GM only made 23 V8 Camaros so far this year and of the 23, only 3 were red. I had a one of one custom build that is now a collector’s item on a grand scale, because they stop production in November. The SS Camaro will be no more. So much for an ordinary “second car” to get me around. I really had to give this some thought.

For everyone that knows me, I take extremely good care of everything I have. My OCD and anal clean-freak syndrome forces me to be on top of everything I own. I was explaining to my dear friend Rick that I was going to wax it and get a car cover for it even though she would be garage kept. Now Rick is not the best mechanic or even one at all, but he is an expert on car detailing. He yelled at me and said, “you don’t wax that thing, you need to have it ceramic coated!” He went on to explain that it’s much more durable and lasts for years. Rick not only educated me during that conversation, he also sent me links to what micro fiber cloths I should get and every other product that I needed to start using on my new Camaro. I had heard about ceramic coating before, but this is that old dog reference from before, I simply discounted it and was happy with my old ways.

A few months prior my buddy Shawn came up to New Jersey just to help me bring Big Red to the GM Nationals. Big Red was invited to be one of 13 featured vehicles to be indoors, and I needed his help loading and unloading her into the venue. (that’s a story in its self) During our stay at the GM Nationals, we met someone who does paint correction and ceramic coating. He showed us some of the cars in the event that he worked on and they were indeed beautiful. But, so was Big Red, and I used good old Maguire’s carnauba wax for years on it. I also forgot to mention that this guy went on to explain that it costs around $1,500-$2,000 depending upon the size of the vehicle to do his quality of work. My old school brain quickly shut that process off. I didn’t care how shiny the paint was, $1,500 to wax my car was ridiculous.

So now I have both Rick and Shawn in my ear telling me I have no option but to have “Little Red” (yes that’s what I call her) ceramic coated. I respectfully listened to both of them as they educated me on the process once again, but inside my brain is saying “you don’t have $1,500 to wax your car!” So like the true old dog I am, I waxed my new car like I have done all of my life, well I used to use a bath towel to buff out the wax before I learned a new trick called micro fiber. She looked awesome when I was done and was officially ready for her first cruise night. I rolled up to the Andover Diner with my fellow Dog Pound Cruisers and proudly showed off Little Red.

As fate would have it, a gorgeous, black Camaro ZL1 rolled into the parking lot that night making a menacing but beautiful sound. This car was not your Dad’s stock ZL1. I asked someone I was talking with who owned the car and he told me, “you know, it’s Wayne the guy who owns the ceramic coat company.” I didn’t know Wayne so I asked to be introduced. Well we immediately hit it off and he absolutely loved my car. He went on to say it needs to be paint corrected and ceramic coated. I told him that my car was two days old and was just freshly waxed. He showed me over a dozen areas of paint flaws and assured me that if I thought my car was shiny now, it would be on a completely different level when he was finished with it. He walked me over to his ZL1 and took the cap off of his water bottle and spilled it on his hood. Within seconds the there was no water on his car. It just magically vanished. He went on to explain the hydrophobic qualities and other benefits of ceramic coating. I was extremely impressed with his top quality sales techniques and asked the looming question. “How much would it cost it paint correct and ceramic coat my car?” Without hesitation he replied, “well since you are a Dog Pound Cruiser, I can do your car for $1,600.” Again, I vomited in my mouth but was very respectful and told him I would think about it.

I went home that night and in my usual, analytical approach did a full evenings worth of research trying to find as much as I could about this process. I found that there are five major areas that ceramic coating covers. The first being another layer of Paint Protection. Ceramic Coating is 10x stronger than any wax and will last for years depending on how often your car is washed and exposed to the elements. Ceramic coating uses nano technology to bond to the paint and cures to a strong, protective and hydrophobic coating. Ceramic coatings behave as a sacrificial layer to the factory clear coat of a vehicle. Installation of a ceramic coating provides both protection and an enhanced look to surface paint, wheels, and paint protection film. The next area is Protection Against Harmful UV Rays. Ceramic Coating will protect your cars paint from oxidizing, preventing it from fading and wearing a dull look. This is absolutely critical if you park your car outside. It will also protect your car from Chemical Stains. Chemical stains that arise from acidic contaminants in the air are another potential damage to your car. A coating will prevent these contaminants from bonding into the paint. Ease Of Cleaning is the next benefit. With ceramic coating, you don’t have to worry about the polymer wearing off. Not only does it blend with your car’s paint but it also repels water. This means that all water-based dirt and grime will bead on the surface and eventually slide off. A quick jet wash afterward and you will have yourself a spotless, ageless car. And lastly, Ceramic Coating provides you with an unparalleled Glossy Finish. This is where the aesthetics that all car owners look for will love. Ceramic coating also adds gloss and depth into your car’s paint. It will give your car a glossy look, bringing the best out of the original paint job. The amazing gloss finish will remain for a long time and will help protect your vehicle from debris, dirt, chemicals and much more.

Needless to say, the very next day I gave Wayne at Air, Land, Sea Ceramics a call to schedule my car in. There is a six step process that he and his talented guys undergo when servicing your vehicle. Step 1 is to thoroughly clean the surface from any dust or dirt. Step 2 is to spray and clay to remove all of the hidden dirt and contaminants. Step 3 is to use a one-step compound and buff away any swirls and small scratches. If the vehicle is older and has more severe paint damage, they will begin the wet sanding process and ensure that the paint is as good as it could be without re-painting. Step 4 on my Camaro was to use a cutting pad on the roof to fix the factory paint flaws. Step 5 is to thoroughly wipe the vehicle down with alcohol to cleanse it from any contaminants that happened during the paint correction process. Step 6 is the actual application of the ceramic coating one panel at a time.

As I watched the entire process unfold right in front of me, I have to admit that I was terrified. My car had less than 40 miles on it and Howard who is the master correction specialist was using power tools on my brand new car. He sensed my fear and talked me through every step he made, educating me along the way. He was able to correct every one of the factory paint flaws that were on my car. When he was complete with this process the finish looked absolutely amazing. I had to remind myself that the actual ceramic coating was not even on the car yet. It was only going to get better! When Howard was finished working his mastery, Wayne took over to apply the ceramic coating. During this process he actually had Howard step in again and fix a few more spots that they found while carefully inspecting the ceramic application process. As Wayne completed each section, there was a drastic difference in gloss. The paint actually looked like it had more depth to it. As an OCD and anal detail guy, I was thoroughly impressed watching them quality control my car when it was complete. They will not let any car leave the shop until it passes their skilled and meticulous inspection. My car was glowing in the shop like it had lights under the paint. Wayne then told me that I was about to be truly blown away as the car was going to look even better when they bring it outside. He did not disappoint! When the sun hit Little Red she looked like she was on fire. Even though my car had only 40 miles on it, it looked ten times better than when I brought it in. I can only imagine the transformation of an older car and how their customers react when they see it complete.

I am not too proud to say that my old school ways of cleaning a car and waxing it are indeed a thing of the past. The science behind this product is enough evidence to become a believer. Add on the labor intense process that is necessary to correct and treat a vehicle’s paint, in my stubborn, old-school opinion, ceramic coating is worth every penny it will cost you. Here is my only warning. The key ingredient is not the product you choose. The most important element is the place that you decide to have the work done. I am so blessed that I was fortunate enough to have Wayne and Howard from Air, Land, Sea Ceramics hold my hand through this entire process. I’m not only a happy customer, I’m incredibly grateful.

Wishing you the best,

Keep Wrenching



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