1998 Ferrari 355 GTS Mini-Restoration by Esoteric Auto Detail of Columbus, Ohio.
The Ferrari 355 was built from 1994 through 1999. It was the successor to the 348, and was replaced by the 360. The mid-engined 3.5l V-8 produced 375hp (55hp increase from the 3.4l 348), and incorporated new 5-valve per cylinder heads. Although the 355 is not considered to be one of Ferrari’s Super Cars, it was still capable of 0-60mph runs in about 4.6s, with a top speed of 183mph!
The owner of this beauty just purchased the car this past year, and wanted to perform a mini-restoration over the winter to bring the car back to its former glory. This car is also being shown at the Keeneland Concours d’Elegence in Lexington, KY this summer. Despite only having 19K miles on the clock, the finish was in pretty bad condition after years of improper care. I found a few areas that had been repainted, a couple of buffer-burned edges, some poor blend marks from touch-ups, and a lot of scratches and swirls. From a distance it looked good, but once you got up close to the car and looked at it under the lights you could tell that the paint looked “dead”.
The interior of the car required a lot of work as well. The leather on the dash had gone through some shrinkage and needed to be replaced, the carpets were pretty dirty, and all of the plastic pieces inside suffered from the notorious “sticky-gummy” affliction that is common with older Ferraris.
There was a tremendous amount of work to perform on this car both inside and out, but I was up for the challenge! This job was a collaboration of efforts through my relationship with Craig Reed…I provide the detailing services and he provides the mechanical services.
First let’s take a look at the interior of the car.
Here you can see where the leather had shrunk just above the vents. This would need to be replaced.
In many of the older Ferraris, the plastic interior components suffer what’s commonly known as “sticky-gummy”. Just by looking at it you can tell that they don’t look right. When you touch them, they actually have a sticky/gummy feel to them, and regular cleaners won’t solve the problem. These would require complete removal and then send them out to be restored by a company that refinishes them, and re-prints all of the markings.
Even the door handles were in bad shape and would need to be restored.
The light colored carpets were in need of some attention.
So how to fix all of these problems? Pull the dash, and remove all of the plastic components!
While the dash is out to be re-wrapped in leather, and the plastic components were being restored, I moved to the exterior of the car. I’ll go back to the interior later.
The first thing I did was to completely wash the car using the 2×4 Method, and then used DI fine grade clay with Dodo Juice Born Slippy clay lube to remove any additional contaminants. To ensure that I was removing any wax or sealants during the wash process, I used Chemical Guy’s Citrus Wash & Clear at paint prep ratio (2oz/gal), and also pre-sprayed each panel prior to washing with P21S TAW.
While cleaning the wheels with P21S Wheel Gel and my trusty EZ Detail brush, I cut the, umm, “crap” out of my finger in the wheel well (on the first wheel!). It was New Year’s Eve when I started this project, and I didn’t want to spend the day in the emergency room so just I taped it up, put on a rubber glove, and soldiered through the rest of the day. Murphy’s Law dictated that I had to cut my right hand, so trying to clean the wheels with my left hand was like trying to brush your teeth with your weak hand…it just wasn’t working very well! Because of this I couldn’t get the wheels as clean as I would have liked, and just figured I would take them off at a later time and finish them properly (I would have the car for a while).
Now that it’s all clean, it looks pretty good, right?
Let’s take a closer look to reveal the true identity of this 355…
Here you can see a bad blend mark where a small section had been repainted on the hood. Typically speaking a lot of what you see here is beneath the surface, so you can only make it a little better.
Yes, much of the car looked like this!
Here you can get a good idea of the scratches (RIDS) that covered the car. Many of them were pretty deep.
This looked like it had been maintained with a Brillo pad!
So now that you have a good idea of what I was dealing with, let’s get to work.
The engine covers on these (as well as many of the older Ferraris) not only have a tremendous amount of small areas to work around, but they’re also very difficult to get to in the back.
What’s the best approach? Completely remove the engine cover!!
By removing it and placing it on saw-horses, I had full access to all areas and I knew I would get a much better correction rate. As you can see, they also require a lot of taping to protect all of the edges, and to prevent compound from getting into all of the mesh.
I also removed the Ferrari badges from the car so I could re-finish the areas underneath.
For the engine cover, I worked with both the Makita rotary and the Porter Cable 7424XP D/A, and used a variety of polishes as well. Megs M105, Menzerna SIP, and Menzerna 106FA were all called into action on this one. For the more “open” spaces like you see me working on below, I used the Makita rotary with a 4” spot pad, and for the small areas between the vents I used the PC.
Here you can get a good idea of the severity of the defects on this beast.
After refinishing (sorry…slightly out of focus).
Not only was I able to remove probably 97% of all scratches and swirls, but the color transformation was amazing. The true color can’t show through the haziness caused by swirls and scratches, and when you properly remove them and level the surface, the paint looks as it was originally intended.
Between taping, compounding, and polishing, I spent 3.5 hours on the engine cover alone!
I decided to leave the engine cover off of the car until I was finished with everything, and simply covered the engine with plastic.
Now that I’m moving to the rest of the car, I had to de-badge most of the emblems to allow full polishing access, and the customer wanted his shields permanently removed from the front fenders. Here you can see where the shield has been removed leaving the adhesive that easily came off with Goo Gone.
The car is all taped up and ready for surgery. Since these cars have so many areas that need to be protected, I end up leaving some of the taping for when I’m actually performing the work. More on that in a minute.
For the compounding stage (which took a long, long time!), I used a combination of pads, polishes, and tools that varied depending on the size of the area and the severity of the defects. For most of it I used the PC7424XP with Megs M105 and a Lake Country Orange pad. In the tight areas I used a PC7424 with a Lake Country Cyan Hydro-Tech pad and M105, and for the heavy defects I used the Makita rotary with a Cyan 4” spot pad and M105. I keep 3 different buffers on a cart that follows me around the car…each one is loaded with a different sized backing plate and/or pad so I just need to plug in a different machine instead of taking the time to swap out backing plates.
Also throughout the process I continually checked the paint thickness on the metal sections using my DeFelsko Posi-Test DFT Combo Paint Thickness Gage to ensure that I was preserving clear coat for future polishing.
A lot of the areas on this car required careful attention to prevent damage to adjacent surfaces. All of this extra taping, care and finessing results in a lot of extra time.
This area is one where you need to be careful. While working on the horizontal surface you need to protect the adjacent vertical surface with tape. Once you’re done with the horizontal surface, you swap places with the tape and then work on the vertical surface.
Here you can see how bad the paint looked before the work began.
After just the compounding stage. The finish is still a little hazy, but that will be cleared up when I come back around for the final polishing stage. As you can see, it looks much better already!
Here’s another “before” example. If you look closely you can also see a lot of deeper scratches hiding within the swirls.
After compounding, but before final finish polishing.
Some of the heavier defects required wetsanding. Here on the front-left side of the bumper, I used Meguiar’s Uni-Grit paper from 1500-2500.
Here I am working the blend marks that were on the hood. Notice that I also carefully tape up all edges and seems that are even close to where I am sanding.
Same area after compounding.
The Targa top had some very deep scratches in it. From the looks of the scratches, there was a large piece of debris at some point in the past that was caught in a wash mitt or a towel because you could follow the circular motion that somebody used. What was surprising about the Targa top was the hardness of the paint. The rest of the car was pretty soft, but the Targa top was as hard as a rock, and required a completely different method to get it corrected. To remove the sanding marks, I used Menzerna Power Gloss with the Makita and a Lake Country Purple Foamed Wool pad for 3-4 passes. Then I switched to Megs M105/Cyan pad with the Makita for a few passes. Then I used Menzerna SIP/Orange pad on the rotary, and then finally Menzerna 106FA/white/rotary. It was a tremendous amount of work for just the top, and in the end I was only able to make the deepest of scratches “better”. It was simply too deep to safely remove, but the rest of the top looked very good.
I’m going to fast-forward through a few more processes here since I didn’t photo-document the finish polishing.
After the marathon-compounding session, I cleaned the paint with Isopropyl Alcohol to ensure all of the polishing oils were removed, and used Megs M34 Final Inspection to clean out all of the cracks and edges. For the final polishing, I used Menzerna 106FA/Makita/Black LC pad on all of the large surfaces, and used Megs M205/PC7424XP/Black LC pad on all of the tight areas. With the paint being soft, it was easy to go directly from M105 to either 106FA or M205 and leave a very nice finish.
Here are a few shots after polishing, but before adding finishing touches.
Notice the gloss and clarity that has been restored.
Well I told you the story about the wheels…now it was time to go back and finish the job. The wheels were pulled, and here they are waiting to be finished. I cleaned off the tar and rubber with Stoner’s Tarminator, removed old wheel weight tape, cleaned them once again with P21S Wheel Gel, and then sealed the wheels (inside and out) with Optimum Opti-Seal.
Before applying a sealant, I wanted to make sure that the paint work was absolutely clean and prepped for sealing. For this stage I use Chemical Guy’s Vertua-Bond 408. By applying it with a PC7424XP and a Blue pad on speed 5, it thoroughly cleans the surface, adds a bit of gloss, and it acts as a bonding agent for sealants and/or wax. It only takes an additional 30 minutes or so, but this step can make a big difference in how the car looks, and how well the sealant or wax bonds to the surface (thus increasing durability).
After applying Vertua-Bond, I decided to use Blackfire Wet Diamond sealant on the car for maximum durability. Oh, and it looks tremendous too!
Here’s the Blackfire being applied to the car.
This article has been going for quite a while now, and I appreciate the fact that you’re still hanging in there with me! Be patient though, as we still have a little ways to go. I think you’re really going to like how this turns out, so hang tough because we’re going to get through this one…together!
Alright then. I still don’t have the wheels put back on it, but I wanted to take some shots after all of the polishing and sealants have been applied. The engine cover has been replaced, but still not the emblems.
I’ll also throw in some direct before/after shots so you don’t have to scroll all the way back up to the top of the article…I’m just a nice guy that way.
How’s this for a little bit of gloss and clarity in the finish?
OK, let’s move on to the interior.
As you can see, the floor mats are in pretty bad shape.
First I started off by using compressed air to blow out as much of the dirt as possible.
Then I used a stiff brush to loosen up any remaining dirt or debris, and then hit it with compressed air again.
Here I am testing a carpet/upholstery product (to be named at a later time). I used a little heavier concentration directly on the heavy spots, and did a light spray on the rest of the carpet.
Then I scrubbed it with a brush to work the cleaner into the fibers.
And even though I have a carpet extractor, I wiped the carpets down with a towel to see how much dirt I could remove (I was testing a new product after all, and wanted to gain “manual” results since most people don’t have access to an extractor). It actually did a very good job by hand.
Since I was going for maximum results however, I then cleaned the floor mats (and the rest of the interior carpet using the same methods) using an extractor and straight water. After the mats and the interior carpet dried, I treated them with 303 High Tech Fabric Guard.
This is what came out of the extractor after doing the mats and the interior carpet.
On the rest of the interior, I cleaned all of the leather with Leatherique Prestine Clean, Stoner’s Invisible Glass on the windows, and Meguiars Quik Interior Detailer on all other surfaces (gauges, controls, etc).
The dash has been re-wrapped in new leather, and all of the plastic components have been restored.
Now for some complete interior shots:
Before the emblems were re-installed, I polished them by hand with Klasse All-In-One.
The car is all finished, the wheels re-installed, the tires dressed with Optimum Tire Gel, the wheel wells were treated with Chemical Guys Fade 2 Black, and the car is waiting to be put in an enclosed trailer and shipped back to Kentucky.
Not only do I provide the customer with a DVD so he has full documentation of the process, but at this level he also receives an Esoteric Auto Detail t-shirt! Just like Ferraris, these shirts are made in very small quantities, and are limited to just a “select few” (which is the definition of Esoteric!).
Although the car looks great in photos, it looks even better in person! This F355 went through an amazing transformation, and now has a completely new lease on life.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this article. I was happy to have been commissioned to work on this beauty, and equally happy to share my work with everybody.
If you have any comments or questions regarding the process or products used, please submit them in the comment box below.