For those of you who have been following my work for some time now, you have gotten the opportunity to follow along with me while I perform full details and major paint correction on some of the most beautiful cars in the world: Ferrari! You’ve seen the art of detailing on such Ferrari’s as the powerful 599 GTB, the stunning Challenge Stradale, the ultra-rare 288 GTO, and one of my most popular posts in the Mini-Restoration Detail of a 355 GTS.
What I bring to you today however is quite special: The 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia!
Not only is this particular 458 one of the first to arrive here in the States, but to my knowledge it’s the very first in North America to go through such an extensive and fully documented paint correction detail. My client brought this beauty to me the day after he received it so that I could get it started off correctly and fix the paint issues that typically come from the factory.
Introduction: Ferrari 458 Italia
The 458 Italia is the successor to the popular mid-engined F430 and is much more than a simple makeover! Weighing in at a mere 3042 pounds, the 560HP V-8 motor will propel the 458 from 0-62 mph in a scant 3.4 seconds and reaches a top speed of 202 mph! The 7-speed, double-clutch gearbox is a technical marvel in itself, and the shifts from the paddle shifters happen almost instantaneously (I went for a ride in it and can vouch on this claim). The ride was firm but not harsh by any means, and the stunning interior ranks up there with finishing touches and amenities found in high-end luxury cars. While the shape and overall beauty of the 458 is art to your eyes, the intoxicating sound coming from the exhaust is art to your ears. Ferrari didn’t merely hit a home run on the Italia…they knocked it completely out of the park.
As I stated previously, my client took delivery of his new 458 on Monday afternoon, and I had it in my possession already on Tuesday morning. We had an open appointment set for months, knowing that the car would need some work when it arrived via air freight from Italy. Before working on it, I was taken for a ride in this technical marvel and all I can say is that it’s everything that the media raves about…and then some! We arrived back at the shop, big smile on my face, and ready for a closer inspection and evaluation of the paint.
Now I’ve worked on enough Ferrari’s to know that they come from the factory in less than stellar condition, so I was prepared for the worst. Many people assume that the more you pay for a vehicle, the better that it would look but that’s not always the case. Many of these low production, hand-built vehicles simply don’t have the quality of paint finish that the mass produced vehicles do…I know that sounds a bit crazy, but it’s reality.
I know that I said that I was prepared for the worst, but when I saw the reality of what I had to deal with, I just shook my head in amazement! The car had been attacked at some point with a high speed rotary buffer with an aggressive wool pad by somebody completely unqualified for this type of work. This is not the first brand new Ferrari that I’ve done with this same affliction, and it’s not the only 458 that has been treated the same way. I know a great detailer in Hungary that has already worked on several of them (Europe received theirs sooner than North America), and he found the exact same issues. I should be completely desensitized to this with all that I’ve seen, but I’ve got so much passion for cars (especially Ferrari!) and for paint perfection that it’s hard for me to simply accept it for what it is. However…Ferrari brings me a lot of business for proper paint correction so I shouldn’t complain too loudly! :)
The following shots were actually taken after the pre-polishing prep process (that’s a lot of P’s), but I wanted to show them to you first so you can get a good idea of what we have to work with. You can typically get a pretty good idea on the condition of a vehicle before going through this process, but it’s after you strip any waxes, sealant, glazes, or fillers when you can get a true reading (many of these products hide the actual condition).
When looking at this photo, you can tell that the car is an absolute beauty and you’d never think that it needed to be “detailed”.
Look how nice this fender is…gotta love that new showroom shine.
What was that about the beautiful showroom shine? Now let’s take a look at that same fender with my Brinkmann Dual LED paint inspection light. Let me warn you though, the following photos are not for the faint of heart.
What you see here is what I was referring to earlier…swirls, holograms, and deep scratches left over from overly aggressive polishing / compounding techniques. When you do this, you need to go back with medium and fine polishing steps to clean up the mess that was left from the compounding stage. On a brand new car, or one that has been properly polished, you should only see clear reflections of the light itself. Another way to inspect is to look at the vehicle in the direct sunshine (the light of truth).
Right rear fender:
This is in the same area as the photo above. The haziness that you see on the lens is paint overspray, indicating that there had been some spot / repair re-painting done after the vehicle was built. I was able to detect the faint blend line above this area (and verified it with my DeFelsko paint thickness gauge), but it was too faint to capture with the camera. Once again this is pretty typical, and doesn’t indicate a problem with this car in particular.
This is on the front bumper, which was one of the more severe areas. As you can see, there’s no direct reflection of the light in this photo.
I could have randomly picked out 30 more places on the car to take the inspection photos, and they would have all looked like the photos above. Sure some areas were better than others, but there were no areas on the car that I would have deemed to be acceptable.
Before we get into polishing, we need to prep the car to ensure that we have a truly clean surface to work off of. Any previous waxes, sealants, glazes, or embedded contaminants can interfere with the polishing process.
In this shot you will see how well the water is beading. This tells me that there is some kind of protection on the surface that needs to be stripped (glaze, wax, sealant). I saw how bad the condition was even with a concealing product on it, and knew that it would look even worse once it was fully removed.
First up were the wheels. Since this beast comes with Brembo Carbon Ceramic brakes, it’s imperative that we use a very gentle cleaner to prevent any contamination or damage to the carbon rotors. Since I cannot afford to buy a damaged set of them (although they’d look great sitting on my desk!), I chose to go with P21S Wheel Gel.
To get into the deep barrels of the rims, and behind the spokes, I use an EZ Detail brush.
Now that the wheels are done, it was time to move on to the rest of the car. I fully washed it using the Grit Guard 2×4 Method. Here I am pre-soaking the vehicle in P21S Total Auto Wash to help remove any chemicals from the surface. For my wash solution, I used Chemical Guys Citrus Wash & Clear at paint prep ratio.
This is why we call it detailing!
For more information on the washing processes I use, please refer to a few of my reference articles:
- How to Properly Wash and Dry a Vehicle (Without Causing Swirls)
- The Grit Guard 2×4 Wash Method
- How to Detail your Engine Bay
- Exhaust Tip Detailing
- How to Detail your Wheels, Tires, and Wheel Wells
Now that I have the wash process complete, it’s time to further decontaminate the paint surfaces by claying the vehicle to remove any embedded contaminants. Even on a brand new car you’ll be amazed at what the clay will remove from the surface. Here I am using the new DI Fine Clay with Dodo Juice Born Slippy as a lubricant. For more information, please refer to my article on How to Properly Use a Clay Bar.
After claying, I rinsed the vehicle again, dried it off, and taped up all of the trim and any places that have potential for being damaged by the buffer. Here I am using the brand new Meguiar’s Professional Masking Tape designed for automotive use.
During the washing and claying processes, I’m always looking out for problems or challenging areas that may affect the polishing process. When I saw this point (the taped up part) sticking out on both sides, I thought that they looked like places that could easily be damaged with the buffer if not protected. Unfortunately the person behind the buffer at the factory didn’t think this through the same way I did and burned through the very tip of it on one side of the car (I could tell by the touch-up paint that had been applied to it). So for detailers that will be working on a 458 soon…watch out for these! They’re located just behind the doors (the vertical seem you see), and are part of the panel with the Pinanfarina emblem on it.
The Polishing Process:
The process at the beginning of every detail is to do a test section to figure out what combination of pads, compounds and / or polishes will be required to achieved the desired level of correction. I had heard from my buddy Jesse in Hungary (Apollo Auto) that the 458 paint reacted differently than its predecessor the 430, so I was already expecting a test session to get the system dialed in. For the compounding stage to cut through the heavy defects, I used an Orange cutting pad with Meguiar’s M105 Ultra-Cut Compound. This did a tremendous job, and any remnants were cleaned up in my finishing stage.
If you look in the photo above, you can see the vertical tape line I am using for my test area. After I polish it I remove the tape to give me a 50 / 50 comparison look at the before and after condition of the paint.
In the photo below, you will see what I came up with after the first trial with M105 / Orange. There are still a few remnants of wool cutting marks (from the factory) in the polished area on the right, but I was able to get them completely cleaned up. When you look at the difference between the left side (un-polished) and the right side (polished), you can see that there will be a tremendous difference in the overall looks of the vehicle when I am finished. When the finish is hazed over from the swirls and defects, it prevents pure light reflection and actually hides the true color of the paint. So if you thought that the very first photo I showed made the car look good, then just imagine what we’re going to end up with when I’m all done with proper leveling and polishing of the paint.
I’ve got my compounding system down, so now it’s off to the races. Here I am working the Meguiar’s M105 with an Orange cutting pad on the Makita rotary ranging from 1200-1500 RPM’s. The keys to successful compounding with M105 are proper pad priming and pressure (regardless of whether you’re using a random orbital or rotary buffer). As you can see, I also prefer to use the Meguiar’s W-66 backing plate which helps tremendously when you’re working on a car with as many curves as Ferrari.
Here I am working on the areas that lead to the big air intakes at the back of the car. These places are quite challenging because of the curvature, and because of the all of the dangerous curves adjacent to them (lots of taping!). I only used the larger 6.5″ pads for the top surface as you see here, and then I had to use the small 4″ spot pads for the majority of the intake. These areas take a tremendous amount of time to do right, and coincidentally they were the areas that received the most wool pad abuse from the factory. On the right side of the car, I switched to a Porter Cable 7424XP buffer with a Surbuf Pad and M105…found it much easier to work with and didn’t need to spend as much time with the 4″ spot pad on the rotary.
At the back of the car, the defects were extremely bad, but I wasn’t able to capture on camera the true severity of it all. Here you can get just a small idea of what I had to work with.
After compounding, you can tell that I restored a tremendous amount of clarity to the paint by removing the heavy wool defects that existed.
Moving around the back of the car, I’m now on the passenger side and working my way forward. This is in the area of the air intake. Once again…heavy defects before.
Afterwards you can see a huge difference in the clarity and color of the paint!
I’m fast forwarding now to the front end of the car. Because of the tight angles, dangerous curves, and small parts that I had to work with (not to mention some of the worst damange on the car), I ended up spending 2 hours just compounding the front bumper alone! Here I am working the small lip at the bottom of the car. For areas like this, it requires lots of patience, and a steady hand.
Not only does Meguiar’s make a great product in M105, but the bottles also make great tools to prop up the hood! Here I am “cutting in” the edges around the hood before switching over to the bigger 6.5″ pads. You must be very careful when doing this and weight the top edge of the pad so that you don’t create too much heat at the thin edge of the hood…otherwise you risk burning the edge. I also use slower speeds just to be cautious.
Here’s the condition of the A-pillars! Yes…they even took the aggressive wool pad to them as well!
After using my 4″ orange spot pad (sorry…just a tad out of focus).
After many hours of compounding, I finally finished up and proceeded on with finish polishing to remove any haziness leftover from the compounding stage, and to refine the gloss and clarity even more. Now here’s where I noticed the difference in the clear coat in comparison to previous models. Normally at this stage after using Meg’s M105 I could go straight to M205 Ultra Finishing Polish and a Tangerine pad on the Porter Cable and it would easily remove any marring from the compound, and refine the finish even greater. When I tried this combination, I restored a lot of gloss but found that I still had light defects remaining. Hmmm.
When I have come across very hard paints that wouldn’t allow me to jump from M105 to M205, I have used Menzerna PO203S Power Finish on a slightly more aggressive pad to bridge the gap. Power Finish has just a bit more cut than M205, and finishes down very fine as well. Although it takes more time since it is a traditional diminishing abrasive polish that requires proper break-down time (M205 is a non-diminishing abrasive that works very quickly), I no longer had the option of the quick-finish with M205 and simply had to stay working late!
So away I went with Menzerna Power Finish and a Green light cutting pad on my Porter Cable 7424XP on speed 6 with moderate pressure through the breakdown cycle, and then did my last several passes on speed 4.5 ~ 5 with little to no pressure to make sure that I was finishing down as well as I could.
I started working on the Italia on Tuesday afternoon, and it is now Thursday evening! On jobs like these I can usually expect another 5 hours or so of work after I have finished polishing, so I know that I’ve rounded third base and am on my way to home plate. I cleaned up my work space a bit to get ready for the next day, sat back and enjoyed the beauty of the now properly polished 458, and closed up the studio for the night and would start back up the next morning. It’s been a long 2.5 days so far!
The Final Touches of Detailing a Ferrari 458 Italia:
After so many hours of compounding and polishing, you can expect a tremendous amount of polishing dust and residue in all of the cracks, crevices, and around the edges where tape was applied. All of this needs to be fully removed and cleaned prior to applying your sealants and / or wax. It’s time consuming, it’s a bit laborious, but it’s one of the signs of a quality job. Depending on the area or surface composition, I’ll use a combination of Optimum No Rinse, Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer, or Meguiar’s M34 Final Inspection to clean it all up.
The 458 is all opened up for this process:
With that behind me now, it was time to further clean the paint from any polish residue and prep it for a good bond with my sealant. For this I use Chemical Guys EZ Creme Glaze on the Porter Cable, with a soft Blue pad, at speed 6. It’s a relatively quick process (maybe 20 minutes to go around the entire car), but it makes a big difference both in terms of looks, and for how well the sealant bonds.
After application of the EZ Creme Glaze, I moved on to the application of my sealant of choice…Blackfire Wet Diamond. It looks great on every color of vehicle, and provides durable protection for many months. This too gets applied with the Porter Cable (by hand in the tight areas) on a Blue pad at speed 3.5~4.
Don’t forget to apply your sealant and / or wax to the door jambs!
Blackfire Wet Diamond needs some time to cure, so while that is happening I take the opportunity to work on other areas of the car to keep the workflow moving along. If I would have had another day for the Blackfire to finish curing, I would have applied a coat of Chemical Guys Ezyme Natura wax. I have done this combination on several Ferrari’s in Rosso Corsa, and it looks absolutely beautiful. I’ll be working on this particular car again here in a few weeks just before we show it at the Arthritis Foundation Classic Auto Show, and will apply the Ezyme at that time.
Here I’ve moved on to cleaning and polishing the unique 3-tip exhaust configuration on the 458. First I clean them inside and out with Meguiar’s All Purpose Cleaner Plus, and then polish them inside and out with Optimum Metal Polish.
Moving on to the wheels, I dressed the tires with Chemical Guys Extreme V.R.P. Dressing. It looks pretty glossy when first applied, but after a short period of time it dries and leaves a nice, matte finish. To ensure that I have an even application, I’ll go back over the tires a second time after ten minutes or so with my applicator, but I won’t apply any more product to it.
Then I sealed both the outer surface and inner barrels of the rims using Klasse Sealant Glaze. Sealing them will provide a better gloss to the finish, and it will make them easier to keep clean in the future.
And finally dressed the wheel wells with Chemical Guys Fade 2 Black.
Next up is the engine compartment on the 458. Now you may think that the engine bay wouldn’t be very dirty on a brand new car, but all Ferrari’s go through extensive test driving on road and track after they’re built. There’s also significant ventilation around the rear glass that allows water, dirt and everything else to get in there as well. I cleaned up the engine bay with Optimum No Rinse (dilluted to quick detailer ratio in a spray bottle). As you can see, it’s not real easy gaining access in there to clean the engine and the small back window. I was standing on a platform, and covered the fenders with soft Great White microfiber towels to protect the finish.
After cleaning, I treated any plastic components with 303 Aerospace Protectant.
The trunk area was cleaned and vacuumed, and all hard surfaces treated accordingly. The owner of the vehicle opted to keep the plastic on the cases for now (I had to call that out otherwise somebody would have given me a hard time for not removing it!)
The exterior is complete, and I needed to take care of a few areas in the interior of the 458. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of work I needed to do in there, and didn’t get many photos of the process. I cleaned up the leather with Leatherique Prestine Clean, cleaned and treated hard surfaces with Meguiar’s Quik Interior Detailer, removed any shipping plastic that remained on various items, and cleaned the glass with Meguiar’s Glass Cleaner.
I think that about wraps it up. Are you ready for some finished after-shots?
Ferrari 458 Italia Detailing Images:
After 25 hours worth of work refining the finish of this beauty, I am proud to present plenty of juicy pictures for your viewing pleasure. The 458 finally looked the way it should have from the factory, and both indoors and outside in the sunshine it looked nothing short of breathtaking. Because the 458 is such a work of art, I took (and posted) a tremendous amount of images…hope you don’t mind!
Grabbing onto this steering wheel just may think your name is Fernando Alonso, and you’re sitting behind the wheel of an F1 car!
9,000 RPM redline!
Unfortunately this photo didn’t turn out as I had hoped because the seats are a big source of pride for the owner…he drew up the design and sent them to Ferrari with his order. They obliged!
Now for what I feel is the defining design element of the 458 Italia…the front end and headlight area. I have plenty of photos of this area below simply because I wanted to capture as many angles as possible. It looks fantastic in photos, but nothing compared to what it looks like 3-dimensionally in person.
I’ve included 2 different photos here of the same vent next to the headlight just so you could get appreciation for the sculpting that goes on here, but also for what it took to polish these out! For this small area, it required polishing by hand, by Porter Cable, and by Makita rotary polisher. This was quite challenging and time consuming, but the end result was well worth it.
Brembo Carbon Metallic rotors and massive calipers
The tail lights were badly swirled as well from the wool buffing process at the factory, but through several polishing steps I was able to restore them to full clarity.
Such beautiful lines on the 458. How about that level of gloss?
Let’s take a quick look back at the original “before” photo of the front bumper with the Brinkmann inspection light:
Now this is what it looked like afterwards (and how it should have looked from the beginning).
Now let’s pull the car outside and see how it looks. As with the rest of the photos, there has been no post-processing other than to re-size and add a border.
Now that’s a mean looking face!
On this shot I actually focused on the 458 Italia logo on the dash…
I loved this shot…
Now for a series of sun shots, or as we call it in the detailing world: the light of truth! If there are any swirls or defects, you’ll see it in the direct sun.
When the car was covered in swirls and wool-induced defects, there was no way that it would be capable of producing this level of reflections.
Another one of my favorite shots:
I certainly appreciate you taking the time to follow me along in the detailing process of this stunning new Ferrari 458 Italia. It was great to have been commissioned to correct one of the first examples to arrive in North America, and equally enjoyable to share it with everybody.
If you’re waiting for the arrival of your 458 (or have just received it), and you’d like for yours to look as fine as this one now does, please get in touch.
Should you have any additional comments or questions about this article, please reply in the comment box below.