Thursday, July 23, 2020

Protecting the GT-R: PPF Installation

In my previous post I picked up the GT-R after maintenance at Omori Factory and left it loaded on a flatbed, which I followed en route to Tokyo. After fresh, new and improved clear coat on the front carbon splitter and rear wing flap there was only one course of action that would make sense before driving the car again: paint protection film (or PPF) installation.

The first step was to find a good, reputable shop that had the necessary tools and know-how to properly install the film. After months searching I ended up choosing Active Garage, a PPF specialist shop that takes care of most supercars in east Tokyo. Abe-san, the owner, not only is a PPF fanatic (attending conventions, seminars, etc.), but also extremely knowledgeable about car paint in general and, bonus point of them all, was the person who polished and detailed the R35 GT-R used in the launch event at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show!

Before leaving I arranged a short briefing between Abe-san and the staff at Nismo, for him to learn about the car. That is because, despite the paint being the same Nissan OEM Dark Metal Grey (KAD), all the other materials used are completely different, with a dedicated application process for the carbon parts vs. normal body panels. This is the main reason behind the peculiar look of the CRS demo-car (since many people have speculated whether it’s actually painted in KAD).

Once at the workshop (and after a through check and clean) Abe-san jumped straight to work and began to map the templates by hand. I decided to apply PPF to all the carbon body parts (bonnet, front bumper, fenders, front under-spoiler lip and rear wing flap), headlights, high impact areas such as side skirts, wheel arches covers and inners, and the lower sides of the car. Given how much (or little) I drive the GT-R and the fact that PPF is a temporary (3 years lifespan) application, this was the best cost-performance option for me.

Today PPF has become a quite popular solution to preserve cars and manufacturers happily lend 3D CAD design models to protection film makers so that perfectly fitting templates can be applied. This, unfortunately, is not the case for the older BNR34, so the quality and precision of the application solely depends on the craft of the artisan that has the task at hand. 

During the following week I received regular photo updates from Active Garage; the application process went on smoothly and the protection film was fitted without removing any part (like side winkers or emblems). Whenever you entrust a new shop with your car for the first time it’s always a bit of a gamble, but lots can be guessed by how the workshop is kept, the materials used and overall care and attention to detail that you are given throughout the process. In this sense I had no complaints at all.

Part of the service included re-delivery of the vehicle with the flatbed (which is great as I hate driving through Tokyo traffic), so I paid a visit to the workshop for a final inspection the day before. My first thoughts after seeing the car completely clean were - wow, does it look good! 

The XPEL protection film surely does add extra gloss to the car and, with its self-healing properties, is able to repair minor scratches and damages with the application of just a bit of heat. Tell tale sign of a good PPF application is that you shouldn’t be able to notice that is there in the first place and this is exactly what I experienced. Beside looking in obvious areas where the film had been wrapped in, I would have never noticed the difference, at least at a glance. 

The R-tune bonnet and all the front end are quite intricate and took a lot of time to prepare, but Abe-san and his team did a great job in making sure that they would be protected without using too many smaller pieces of film, as they tend to lift a bit easier than bigger areas that can be wrapped inwards. 

Obviously some of the lines can be seen if you really search for them, but stand even just one or two meters away and it’s literally impossible to see anything! I’m very happy with the result, even though a proper evaluation should be given after a year or so, to assess how the installation is standing the test of time. 

The next day I greeted Abe-san nice and early in front of my apartment when, as a final surprise, he told me that he applied glass coating free of charge to all the PPF - now that is a welcome bonus!

Crazy to think about it, but between maintenance, Golden Week and paint protection film installation it took about 3 months to have the GT-R back, but it was all worth it, especially now that I can drive it without worrying about scratches and stone-chips. I thought it would be a crime not to drive it pretty much right away and so I did and enjoyed a couple of laps around the C1 - I almost forgot how good this car is!

And on the good news side, my new parts which have been in the making for almost a year now, are finally ready to be picked up! Stay tuned.

Until next time.


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