You’ve heard of HTTP and hopefully laughed at HTTPS,i but have you heard of HTTPPF ?
It isn’t even completely divorced from computers! Not only is it applied to the microprocessors-on-wheels that we’re still hilariously calling “cars” in the same way that we call mobile productivity/entertainment devices “phones,” but its application also requires hours upon hours of manipulation on very expensive and relatively tedious software, this before the manual craft is even employed.
What are we talking about ? PPF of course!
Paint protection films, colloquially known as “3M” or “clear bra,” are all the rage these days. Just a decade ago they were applied in at most 12″ strips along rock-chip-prone areas such as the very front of the hood and bulging fender flares of sporting vehicles,ii but today the “head-to-toe” (HTT) treatment is not only desirable but technically possible and aesthetically feasible. Hypercars, super sports cars, and even some relatively mundane means of transport like civilianised (and bougie-ised) military vehicles are now having their automotive manufacturer’s multi-layer paints protected with a thin, transparent urethane film that not only protects what’s underneath from rock chips and various scrapes, but will even “self-heal” (to a degree) with the application of heat.
The three major manufacturers of PPF coatings currently are Suntek, Xpel, and 3M. While the latter pioneered the industry and is now graced with being the “Kleenex” or Coke” in its class, each of the three firms has taken turns one-upping the other with better and better tech on an almost annual basis. Larger sheets, more water repellency, “self-healing” properties, better application software, greater ease of application, softer films, stronger films, etc. It just so happens that in 2019, Suntek Ultra is the, well, ne plus ultra. So that’s what we’ll be looking at more closely today.
Dropping of the G with my good friend Des at Auto Details / Fix Auto Express in downtown Edmonton, I left him the keys with every confidence that the truck would be well taken care of. Not only does Des do that regardless, but he also shares a soft spot for the G-Wagen, having owned a 2003 G55 a few years back, and I knew that he would go the extra mile with this new one. I didn’t know much about PPF other than that I knew it would bring me a large measure of peace of mind and that Des was the man to deliver it. Was I right ? Good Lord was I right!
When I picked up the truck a week later, I was absolutely floored by the attention to detail of the finished product. I’d never had a vehicle PPF’d before, much less HTTPPF’d, nor did I even know anyone who’d ever gone through the hassle and expense of doing more than a few “high risk” spots, but I can sure as hell tell when the details are sweated (and it makes me over-the-moon happy when they are) and this is exactly what Des did.
Using hundreds of square feet of Suntek Ultra, every single edge was perfectly wrapped, some for inches beyond what you’d ever see even if you tried.iii Every effort (and then some) was made to have a single sheet of film cover a single panel, but on the rare visible seam, such on the massive roof, the seam was perfectly straight and exquisitely aligned. Every chromed logo (eg. “V8”) was completely removed before installing the film so that the logo could be replaced on top afterwards without leaving visible film edges around them. You could barely even feel the seams with your fingers, much less see them against the Obsidian Black paint with the naked eye. Des even did the interior as a bonus! The massive double-screen dashboard,iv the scratch-prone touch-controls on the centre console, and even the car key! Needless to say, I’ve seen HTTPPF applied to $1`000`000 supercars that wasn’t this well executed.
But what’s the process itself actually look like, you might be wondering ? Well, it’s a little trickier than the films you apply to your phone screens…
Bubbly eh! The massive roof turned out to be the most difficult part, requiring newly-released 96″ wide rolls of Suntek Ultra PPF. Needless to say, this was a state-of-the-art application that would’ve been a pipe dream just a few short years ago. Yet here it is!
Now that it’s all done, and done so beautifully, this Daddy Wagen is well and ready to have bicycles scraped up along its sides, hockey pucks grazed off its slabby surfaces, protesting kid boots kicked maliciously into its flanks, ice scrapers chiseled into its frozen mass, and even wand wash brushesv circled into muddy creases without fear of the whole thing looking like it’s been to Afghanistan and back after just twelve months of suburban living.vi The metal will still dent, of that there can be little doubt, but dents without paint damage are a lot easier to repair than dents with paint damage.vii
So is HTTPPF a juice worth the squeeze ? If only to experience first-hand this combination of cutting-edge chemistry and deliberate craft, I don’t see how not. Peace of mind is just the cherry on top.
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- Or have you forgotten Heartbleed so soon ? ↩
- You could argue that the first PPF applications weren’t even aftermarket – recall the opaque rear fender flare tape applied to the iconic 1979-89 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.3.
Can you name an earlier production example ? ↩
- This is very much that Swiss Protestant internal monologue that gave the country’s high-end watchmaking the reputation that it still enjoys (and bilks) today, viz. “no one will see my beautiful cotes de geneve but The Good Lord above, which is why they must be beautiful.” ↩
- I can’t fucking stand screen glare and so I apply anti-reflective matte coatings to all of my too-shiny Mac shit. Respect your eyes, folks, they’re the only ones you’ve got! ↩
- Admittedly, wand wash brushes are an edge case here. I’m really not much for the “show and shine” scene, or even for regular washes. Thankfully, the G looks right at home dirty as shit. ↩
- Ok, mostly suburban living. This thing is positively begging to be taken off-road this summer and I’m not disinclined to indulge it. ↩
- The whole “that will buff right out” thing is an inside joke for a reason. A lot less “buffs right out” than you might think. ↩