I would like to thank our sponsor XPEL for helping to make this article possible. I would also like to thank Chicago Auto Pros who did the installation work shown in these photos. As many of you may know, I've had some form of clear bra on various cars I've owned going clear back to 1998 when I first discovered that a car's paint could be protected with a clear film. I also know that a clear film is not necessarily for everyone, feel free to visit the debates in our forum to read some of the reasons for and against a clear bra. For me the decision was simple. A brand new GT4 that was going to be driven 550+ miles its first time out, why would I want to punish the paint of an instant classic such as the GT4? I didn't want to, plus if this car is going to be visiting the track it is going to need something to keep all that track debris from turning a gorgeous racing yellow into a grey poupon.
Since my knowledge of films was a little bit dated I decided to dive in and do some research on various films. I ultimately (no pun intended) landed on the XPEL Ultimate film, not only for its visual clarity but for its ability to heal itself from minor scratches or swirl marks. (Some good information about the self-healing properties on XPEL's Website) I can certainly point to places on my 10 year old 987 Cayman S where the clear bra has some swirl marks and light scratches and while you don't immediately notice them on a yellow car if the light hits the car just right they are noticeable. One of the things that also bothered me about my prior 3M film was the amount of visual orange peel that it added to car at certain angles. It was never "bad" but again, look at it just right and you noticed it. One other item that has changed in the last decade is that larger rolls of film are produced now which means instead of having a piece that only went half way up my hood and created a place to avoid when waxing the car, now the hood of the GT4 could be covered and the edges wrapped with one solid piece! Suffice it to say that if you are forming your opinion about clear bras based on decade plus old experiences then it is time to update yourself and re-think what I believe to be a virtual must for any car the caliber of a Porsche let alone the COTY GT4!
After choosing the XPEL Ultimate film (and again my thanks to Ben and his team at XPEL to answer any of my questions) my next requirement was to find an installer. If there is one thing that has held constant since the dawn of clear bras it is that the installer can make all the difference. A great film isn't going to turn out great if the installer leaves behind bubbles and stretch marks galore. I've seen some pretty awful clear bra installs before so I knew it was important to get references. I sought out and found an installer in Chicago not far from the Porsche Exchange where the car was being delivered. The shop was called Chicago Auto Pros and not only are they a certified XPEL installer with trained and certified installers on staff, but they also had prior GT4 install experience thanks to another Planet-9 member who took his car there previously and was very happy with the results.
Although the dealership volunteered to have the install done on their premises I chose to have the work done at Chicago Auto Pros because they have a "clean room" equipped with lots of lighting that allows them to do high quality installs. Not to mention all their special tools such as steamers, heat guns, etc. Chicago Auto Pros picked up the car on a Thursday so they could spend the latter portion of the day cleaning and prepping the car for install. Even though Porsche does a pretty good job of protecting the paint after shipping a car from the factory, cars still pick up some dust, dirt and other debris while en route to the dealership. Making sure the surface of the car to be covered was pristine is a necessary preparation step and something that I've seen other shops overlook, simply assuming a car wash is "good enough". After the car was fully prepped it was placed into the clean room that night to await installation in the morning.
How long does an installation take? That really depends on how much you install. A simple bumper might be an hour, a complete kit could be 8-12 hours depending upon complexity. Obviously, it is important to find out the billable hour rate of the shop you choose ahead of time along with the estimated number of hours. Although we we under a tight timeline to get the car on the road I did my best not to rush anyone as again, the installer can make all the difference. Which reminds me, it is always a good idea to budget a tip for your installer if you are asking them to dedicate a day of their life to protecting your car. With respect to this GT4 a full frontal kit (full hood full fenders full bumper and mirrors) plus rockers plus wing plus custom pieces were chosen. Here is a link to the GT4 kits available via XPEL's website: http://www.xpel.com/paint-protection-kits/Passenger_Cars_and_Light_Trucks/2016/Porsche/Cayman/GT4/
XPEL has pre-cut kits for most cars so it shouldn't be a problem to find a pre-cut kit for almost anything you drive, and of course custom work can always be done by high quality installers. Most of the XPEL pre-cut kits also allow the installers to wrap the edges which helps protect the maximum amount of paint while also preventing dirt build up along edges or any unsightly peeling or pulling up that can happen along an edge.
Chicago Auto Pros has its own photographer / videographer at the shop that day so we pretty much stayed out of the clean room and let him shoot some pictures for us with our camera. This gave us time to get an oil change and service done on my 987 Cayman S at the Porsche Exchange and enjoy some fine local dining. We did check in from time to time and witnessed the attention to detail that the installer paid to the car and hopefully some of that shows up in the photos. During the install I also had time to do a Q&A video with the videographer which is now available on the Chicago Auto Pros Facebook page as well as here directly on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BegfmYec23A so feel free to check both of those out.
While the installer was performing his magic, I also discovered that XPEL Ultimate comes with a 10 year warranty, if the film yellows, discolors, cracks, peels, hazes, or fails XPEL will replace it including the cost of labor. Wow! That is certainly better than the 5 year film-only warranty I received with my last install. A couple of other things I should point out about installs. It is OK for an installer to lay down a piece, take it back up and do it again if the installer isn't happy with how the piece is laying down, in fact I think that's a sign of a good installer, they are willing to redo their work until it is right. A good installer has no problem trimming material on the car. As you can see in the photos my installer had a glass table for doing trimming work prior to laying the pieces up on the car (keep in mind that patterns come pre-cut). So for the most part trimming is not done on the car but certainly there are times when it does need to be done. I've seen cars where some installer did nearly all the trimming on a car and ended up scratching the paint. A good installer knows that they only need to score the material and then pull and separate it, never getting anywhere near your paint. For some people seeing an installer with a metal blade close to their paint gives them heart palpitations, for me I'm completely fine with it.
One of the things I unfortunately could not allow Chicago Auto Pros and the installer to do is to let my car sit for 24 hours after the install to retouch any places that needed it prior to handing me the keys. Due to our extremely tight timeline we literally drove off minutes after the install was completed. Would I recommend this? No, please give your install time to set up and your installer time to revisit anyplace that needs attention. Instead of doing that we drove the next several hours at highway speeds including at least 5 of those in the rain, often times torrential downpours! You want excitement? Take your first long trip in a GT4 in a monsoon on the highway, that's plenty to keep you excited! By the time we made it to Kansas City it was nearly 2am and the car was put away for the night. The next day I inspected the car closely in the sun and found only a couple of minor places where the film had lifted a little and a couple of places where dirty rain water had left deposits along an edge that the highway speeds had caused to lift a couple of millimeters. I called XPEL and to their credit they referred me to the local XPEL installer in Kansas City where I took my car over to have those places touched up at no cost (remember that warranty people!) Since the touch up there have been no issues with the install and anyone who has seen the car has not been able to tell that the car has a clear bra on it, which, afterall, is what you want!
I have placed all of the photos taken during the install in our online Photo Gallery here: http://www.planet-9.com/gallery/browseimages.php?do=browseimages&c=865 I invite you to look through them in detail to see how the install was performed and what the finished product looks like. If you have any questions please ask in the forum new topic discussing this article and installation.
As always, Stay Tuned!