When a relative married a native of St. Anne’s, Jamaica, I inherited a fascinating group of the man’s friends. A vast network!
One of the most likeable, and connected, is Bradley (not real name). He owns and operates a luxury and custom vehicle repair shop in South Florida. Among his clientele are sports figures, entertainers, entrepreneurs, developers, real estate moguls, authors, and fashion icons.
Customers that live wherever – Florida, Caribbean Islands, New York, L. A., Seattle, Houston, Canada, the Americas – and take, or pay to transport, their prized vehicles to Bradley’s shop.
Any time that I visit, I’m free to roam the shop and property. And, get a close look at some of the most finely crafted vehicles on the road today.
Each vehicle’s unique characteristics are apparent. By looks alone. The design. The lines. The harmonious front-to-back, top-to-bottom blending of standard and custom features. Bumpers, grillwork, lights, glass/windows, mirrors, hardware, etc.
On some vehicles, the finish is still pristine. The paint colors – even black – a rich, luxurious patina. On others, the body shows the natural wear of the original finish and materials.
Occasionally, a vehicle in Bradley’s shop also needs body work. Work that is performed in South Florida, but not at the mechanical and electrical repair shop.
With vehicles such as Phantom Rolls, Ferarris, Bentleys, Bugatis, and Lamborghenis, repairs and restoration require ample time, special skills, attention to detail, and money. A budget redo can start at $10,000. A top quality job, which includes trim removal, finish stripping, etc. can run $40,000 or more. This special work is executed by highly-skilled craftspersons. Many of them European-born artisans.
One such team in South Florida works out of a shop, an old warehouse, that you’d miss if you didn’t know where to look. The building’s exterior looks indistinctive and blends into the neighborhood.
Its interior has been redesigned and retrofitted to accommodate the class of customers – vehicles – that it serves “by appointment only.” More important, it’s been equipped with every amenity, tool and piece of equipment that those artisan finishers could possibly need to do a top quality job.
This particular team of artisans is made up of experts. All of them are highly-skilled in basic surface assessment, product selection, preparation, spray finishing, and clean-up.
At the same time, each craftsperson is certified in one or more special areas. Some are experts in paint composition and pigmentation. Some in adherence. Some are magicians at surface prepping. Some are technical geniuses at mixing, matching and blending. Some are masters at using an HVLP spray system.
It’s a real pleasure to watch each of them work. To stand an arm-length away, and observe the way that each artisan approaches his or her specific tasks.
During one visit to Bradley’s shop, I watched a paint master examine a 1980 Phantom Rolls Royce. The vehicle had “an appointment” for minor body work, then a complete, top quality repainting. The goal: Return the vehicle’s exterior to its original pristine finish.
The man carried a little notebook. On its pages, he had been making different sketches notes and computations. He used two gauges to measure the finish thickness in areas that he had marked previously.
With a special magnifying glass, he closely examined the entire body for marks, scratches, pebble indentations, color imperfections, etc. At each trouble spot, he used a clear, expandable circular ruler to measure the circumference of the overall area.
In broken English, the craftsman asked about my interest. “I’m a journeyman painter and decorator,” I responded.
“Automobiles?” he asked, with a rolling French accent.
“No,” I answered, almost apologetically. “Buildings, structures, furniture…I specialize in interior finishing, some faux.”
He turned and faced me. “Ah! My wife has a French Provincial armoire that she desires for restoration.” He returned to his work.
“Bradley knows my residence address and telephone,” he continued. He reached in a pocket, and handed me a card. “Tell Bradley to write it on back of card.”
Then, he dismissed me. No problem, I told myself. He had more important things to do.
Like get that Rolls ready for its refinishing appointment. After Bradley’s group of mechanical and electrical experts finished their jobs.
Footnote: In comparison to the craftsmanship of these artisans, my vehicle restoration work has been second class. That’s why I held back from mentioning the 1967 Mach I Mustang, 1965 Mustang, 1987, and full-size Chevy Blazer. And, as time permits, the repairing and prepping of a 1989 Mercury Sable’s body for repainting and finish coating at a great paint shop, located in Central Florida.