WARNING: This is a very long post with LOTS of cool pictures (but totally worth the read!) Get your popcorn ready!
It was Wednesday 6/3/2009 at about 8:15am and I was almost to work when my phone rang. Caller ID is a wonderful thing and it told me that the caller was my sales rep, Todd Crosby at the Classic Chevy in Grapevine, Texas. Imagine my excitement, as I quickly pulled into the parking lot at Joe's Crab Shack and answered the phone, "Holy sh*t, Todd! Is this the call?"
"Haha, hey Adam! Yes sir, this is the call... She got in this morning at about 7:30am. Sorry I missed being here to take pictures for you, but the car has been pulled around back and is waiting for you to come see her. Can you make it over this morning?"
My exact words are difficult to recall but I managed a reply to the effect of "I'll be there in about five minutes, Todd. I'm right around the corner". I am pretty sure it didn't take me the whole five minutes to get there.
During previous discussions with Todd, we established that no one at the dealership would touch my car besides the guy who unloaded it from the truck and, of course, Todd. We also established that the dealership would not scar the facia by putting on the front license plate. More importantly though, Todd and I worked it out so that the dealership would not "make the car ready". I did not want the dealer to wash the car. I did not want the plastic removed from outside or inside the car. I literally wanted to take possession of the car just like it rolled off the line at the plant. Classic Chevrolet is the largest volume dealer of Corvettes and Camaro's in the country and they are used to these types of requests. Todd made sure that they accommodated my request to the letter.
When I whipped into the dealership at what must have been an excessive speed, Todd was coming out of the sales building to greet me. "She's around back", Todd said, "let's go check her out!" Through determination and old fashioned detective work, I had already managed to acquire several pictures of my car during various phases of production/completion but this was the first time that I was going to see my new Baby in person... and my camera was ready.
After nearly nine months of waiting, it was love at first sight. She was gorgeous, just like I knew show would be. Imperial Blue Metallic paint with bold Arctic White rally stripes. A dream come true. As pretty as she was though, I knew that the car was sitting there covered in graphite and rail dust from the train ride it had taken from Canada. Having consulted with Steve Pasztor (Co-Owner of Tropi-Care.com) at the dealership's Camaro Launch party, I also knew that the car was coated in even more graphite and dust while sitting in the rail yard. Steve made it very easy to understand that having the dealership wash the car would be the worst thing that I could do... unless I wanted free swirls in my paint job. As Steve explained, what most people don't realize is that while the graphite particles look like fine dust, they are large enough to do serious damage to a paint job. This is especially true for paint jobs that have a clear coat applied, like my brand new Camaro. Based on my conversation with Steve, I decided to start off on the right foot and not ruin my paint job before my Baby even left the lot.
Most dealerships get a new car and then immediately pull it into a stall to have it washed. This is a good thing, right? Wrong! Why? Because they don't take the time to remove the graphite and dust before they wash the car. Instead, they grab a sponge and some soapy water and start washing away... all the while rubbing the graphite and dust around on the paint. Typically, people wash cars with circular motions and when you combine a circular motion with graphite and dust you get circular scratches in the paint. This is why you see brand new cars with swirls in the brand new paint job. I was not going to make this mistake, not with my new Baby, and Todd understood completely.
In fact, from the moment I got to the dealership that morning, I was in charge of my car. Todd was with me every step of the way but the car was mine and everywhere the car needed to go, I drove it. First stop was the "car wash" stall. With no intentions of putting a sponge or towel on the car until the graphite and dust were properly removed, Todd just used water to lightly hose the car down. Afterwards, I drove the car into another stall where the State Inspection sticker was applied. From there, it was off for window tinting and then to the front of the dealership, while I went and actually bought the car. If memory serves, it was somewhere around this time that I called into work and let them know that I would not be coming in that day... and they knew exactly why too!
Once I had taken delivery of the car and drove her home, it was time to call Steve at Tropi-Care and confirm the steps that I should follow to ensure that the car was "made ready" properly. After talking with Steve, he decided that the dark color of my paint, along with my not letting the dealer do anything to the car, made my situation ideal for a step-by-step "make ready" how-to... and Steve wanted to handle it personally. I was floored! Steve's idea was simple, he would use my car to create an example of how to ensure a new car's paint job does not fall victim to the graphite and dust it brought with it to the dealership.
So, that Sunday 6/7/2009, Steve showed up at my house and proceeded to teach me things that I never knew about washing a car. Suffice it say that I am in my fourth decade of life now and I started washing cars sometime during the first decade... and I've been doing it wrong the entire time (I couldn't help but be really thankful that the son and I went to the dealership's Camaro launch party where I met Steve).
The process started with removing the plastic from inside the car (at last!) and then a light rinse to remove loose graphite, dust and dirt on the outside. Something I learned here, thanks to Steve, is that cleaning the wheels/fender can be done prior to the washing the body itself. This approach minimizes transferring dirt and graphite back to the paint and potentially damaging the finish. Once the car had been lightly rinsed with low pressure water, Steve swabbed the surface with soapy water using straight strokes to minimize any scratch infliction. I learned something here too (recurring theme of the day), as Steve rinsed the special sponge he was using after each stroke to remove the graphite/dirt.
After swabbing the entire car down with soapy water, it was time to rinse the car again and move on to using the clay bar. I had never used a clay bar before, much less seen one used. For those that don't know, and I just learned this myself, a clay bar is used to remove surface contaminants that make the paint/surface feel gritty or rough to the touch. After using the clay bar on all the major flat (horizontal) surfaces, it was time to rinse the car again. After this rinse, he dried the car with a microfiber waffle weave drying towel that is designed to not leave scratches on the paint. Once we had the car dried, we moved it into the garage to let the surface cool down before applying the TC-2 Black wax. I had never seen black wax before but that's what it is, dark black liquid car wax that's designed for cars with darker paint jobs.
Using a soft wax applicator and minimal amounts of the wax, Steve wiped down all door jambs, hood/deck, lid, ledges and trim area. I was really surprised by a couple of things here... one, how little wax you really have to use to do the job right. Two, how little pressure you have to use to properly apply the wax. Man, had I been doing things wrong and working too hard in the process. Waxing a car can actually be a fun labor of love! LOL!
Once the wax dried and we had buffed it off, Steve dressed the tires with TC-15 water based tire dress. I like my tires clean but I don't want them sliding down the road or splashing tire cleaner onto the paint. As it turns out, this is how it should be... at least, that's what the professional thinks. After cleaning the wheels, Steve went back over the car using detail spray.
The final paint inspection and wipe down with detail spray was the last step. Once Steve was done with that, it was time to admire the work and snap some pictures of the car. With Steve on his way and the car glistening in the late afternoon sun, the wife and I hopped in the car and roared off to a local industrial park to take some pictures of the final product. Man, this car turned heads before but it's blinding people and breaking necks now!
I took over one hundred pictures throughout the day. From start to finish, the entire process took about 5 hours. It was really amazing to watch, as my car went from gorgeous to absolutely stunning, and I definitely learned a ton about the right way to take care of my beloved car. As a final note and in case you can't tell from the pictures above, Steve did an incredible job and his attention to detail is second only to his attention to customer service. Tropi-Care isn't the only product on the market, we can all think of other multi-step products that are designed to produce similar results. That said, other products might produce similar results but Steve set his company a part from the others in my mind. He replies to emails, he answers his phone, he cares that I am happy with my car but he also cares that my car is happy. A great product is a good thing, but a great product with incredible customer service is an even better thing and I'll be a Tropi-Care customer for life.
Ordered early on 10/13/2008, it took almost nine months to get #4768 home. Ultimately though, my R6P early order was delivered *and* made ready the right way. At the end of the day, that's what is important. It took a long time to get this car. The wait was long, the wait was painful. When I turned the key for the first time, the wait was completely forgotten.
Todd Crosby and Steve Pasztor, thank you very, very much. You guys rock!