View Full Version : Prepping a one of a kind Bugatti for SEMA

Michael Stoops
Nov 8th, 2013, 11:36 AM
What do you do when you need to prep an incredibly valuable and rare car for the largest industry trade show in the world? You call in one of the best guys in the business, Derek Bemiss of Detail Werks, to get the job done. Derek also happens to be the man who takes care of Barry Meguiar's personal cars, and as you can imagine Barry knows a thing or two about how paint should look. Now, when your boss leans over to you during a totally unrelated meeting and asks if you're available on a certain day to head up to the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA to help out with the prep, what do you do? Well, you try really hard to contain your excitement (you are in a formal meeting, after all) and casually reply "sure, I can make time for that.".

The car in question is a Bugatti, but not one of the current crop of high dollar and even higher speed engineering marvels. No, it's a one of a kind, 1939 Vanvooren bodied Type 57C that was a gift from the French Government to the Prince of Persia (later the Shah of Iran) on the occasion of his wedding. And it's worth a whole heck of a lot more than those brand new Veyrons are, that's for sure. Heck, it's worth more than a whole fleet of Veyrons, truth be told. Here's a bit of background on the car from the Petersen Museum:

Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the former Prince and heir to the throne as Shah of Iran, received this striking supercharged Bugatti as a gift from the French government on the occasion of his first wedding. The dramatic body was constructed by Vanvooren of Paris in the style of Figoni et Falaschi, one of the most progressive coachbuilders of the day.

Advanced features include fully skirted fenders, a top that conceals beneath a metal panel when down, and a windshield that can be lowered into the cowl by means of a hand crank mounted under the dashboard. Bugatti contributed a Type 57C chassis that came equipped with a supercharger that helped the car produce 175 horsepower (130kW) from a 3245cc (198 cu in) engine.

In 1959, the Bugatti was sold out of the Shah's Imperial Garage for a sum equivalent to approximately 275 US dollars. It was subsequently owned by a succession of Bugatti enthusiasts, but never publicly shown until after receiving a complete restoration in 1983. It is now in the collection of Margie and Robert E. Petersen at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

So, with that in mind, we headed up to the Petersen Museum early on a Wednesday morning to work on the car in no less impressive a setting than the so called "Vault" of the museum, their underground garage where restorations and repairs are done, and where dozens of cars are stored when not on display in the museum proper. What an experience!!!

This is how this beauty looked when we arrived. Not too bad, huh?


Upon closer inspection, however, we start finding all kinds of severe defects all over the car. This is where the roof contacts the tonneau cover when the roof is up.

Series of scratches like this were found on the rear deck, the large front cowl area, the front fenders, and other areas as well.

More nastiness!

And still more.... almost makes you want to cry.

OK, so we had our work cut out for us. Derek and Ryan (also of Detail Werks) are pros - they know how to do the job right and how to work quickly when they have to. And boy did we have to. Turns out we only had as much time to work on the car as the employees of the Vault had hours of the day in their shift. Fortunately for us, they had to work a couple of extra hours that day so we had a bit more time that we normally would have. Still, at the end of it all we would have loved another full day to experiment a bit, but such is life. You do what you gotta do in the time allotted, so there was no time to mess around. We had work to do.

But........ working in the presence of all these amazing cars...... you just have to stop and look around every now and then, you know?

Check out this enormous, one off Rolls Royce. The so called Round Door Rolls Royce, a 1925 Phantom that was rebodied in 1934.

A one of a kind Bosley Mk 1. All fiberglass body, full custom chassis and powered by a Chrysler Hemi with 6 carbs!

A totally original 1913 Mercer Raceabout - even the paint is original on this car!

Steve McQueen's Jaguar XKSS. Seriously now, how darn cool is this??? Steve McQueen's XKSS!!!

Packard Victoria.

Jaguar XJ220


And another Delahaye.

A Ruxton. One of the first front wheel drive cars ever built, the Ruxton was built for two years only, 1929 and 30. A total of only about 500 were ever made, and just a handful remain today.

The Austin 7. Such an unassuming little car (and it is very small indeed), the Austin 7 was hugely popular in England throughout the 1920s, was licensed by BMW when that company started building cars, and was one of the first cars the Colin Chapman modified and raced before starting his own car company, Lotus.

Mercedes Benz.

Bugatti Type 57.

Speaking of Bugatti, let's get back to the Prince of Persia car.

A couple of experiments with tool, pad and product gave us some insight into what were up against (besides the clock, that is). The car had been restored in the 1980s and was holding up quite well. Still, the severity of the defects meant we would need to be somewhat aggressive when polishing certain areas, but we didn't want to get too aggressive. After all, this is the only such car in existence and it's just crazy valuable. Our first test was M205 on a yellow foam polishing pad. That got rid of the swirls pretty quickly, but the deeper marks were fading very slowly. With time being a factor we stepped things up a bit and put M205 on microfiber finishing pads with the Rupes 21 Bigfoot. That ate the defects but left the paint a bit hazy.

With all the tight areas, sharp contours, and close spaced trim on this masterpiece, we needed a smaller footprint buffer for quite a lot of the surface area. Here's Ryan working the G110v2 with a 3" microfiber pad on the hood between all the trim. This proved to be the perfect combo for these tighter areas.

Ryan was the master of detailing the interior and all the fine brightwork on the exterior. His attention to detail is amazing - there was so much trim on this car, with so many tight areas, that he spent as much time working on all that as Derek and I did working on the major body panels to correct the paint defects.

We accidentally discovered something really interesting with the behavior of this paint: As mentioned earlier, we were seeing some hazing with M205 on the microfiber finishing pads. We were using a very small amount of product and only light to moderate pressure. Until we came upon a deeper scratch that needed a bit more punch to remove. So we upped the tool speed a bit, increased the pressure a bit, and voila! No more scratch. But also virtually no haze. That was a bit of a surprise - more speed, more pressure, a nicer finish. Go figure. So we adapted our technique a bit and carried on.

After doing the major correction this way, we swapped back to foam pads and M205 to further refine the finish. This is the sort of thing we were getting prior to wax. Yes, this is a reflection in the side of the car, not just a shot looking into the garage. That's why the reflection of the camera is included!

We decided to top everything off with Gold Class Carnauba Plus paste wax. Here she is, covered in Gold Class, while Ryan continues to double and triple check the interior.

Done. And just gleaming. Such a work of art, and such a privilege to work on!

A great car, a very cool setting, and a couple of supremely talented guys to work with. Detailing just doesn't get much better!

Derek and I with the same photo in mind!


Done and ready to roll, we needed one final shot. (L to R: Derek, me, Ryan).

We can't thank these guys enough for helping us prepare this incredible vehicle for SEMA. The car is a fairly radical departure for SEMA but it definitely turned heads at the show. Meguiar's is once again the official car care products supplier to the Petersen Museum, so having this car in our booth at SEMA was a celebration of that partnership, and also a great way to highlight our product line.

Once transported to Las Vegas, the Bugatti was placed in our booth for the world to see. And she definitely looked pretty amazing under the lights!

Nov 8th, 2013, 06:26 PM
Wow! Great job on that masterpiece Mike!

You're making me seriously jealous of the places you get to visit to detail cars and the fantastically diverse range of rare classics you get to see on a regular basis!

Nov 8th, 2013, 10:30 PM
great work Mr stoops, Ryan and Mr Derek, you guys did an awesome job!

Nov 9th, 2013, 05:48 AM
Great job!!!

Nov 9th, 2013, 08:12 AM
Amazing photos Mike! Thanks for sharing us your experience with this rare gem. That is a thing of beauty! Must have felt amazing when Barry whispered you about this project.

Great job by the way!!!

Detail Werks
Nov 9th, 2013, 08:51 AM
Thank you for all the kind words Mike its always an honor working with you and the Meguiars company. Im still pinching myself in disbelief I actually got to work on that vehicle

Nov 9th, 2013, 10:57 AM
Awesome job and congrats to you (Mike) Derek, and Ryan. You guys are the pros' pros and the Petersen Museum and SEMA both benefit from your expertise.

Nov 9th, 2013, 12:48 PM
what say picture say 10000 words good job....

Nov 9th, 2013, 05:45 PM
Unbelievable! That is absolutely stunning, I think I found a new wallpaper!

Nov 10th, 2013, 03:46 PM
Great job Mike! Thanks for posting your polishing process.

I saw this Bugatti on other forums and it quickly caught my attention out of 100s of SEMA pictures.

Scott's 62
Nov 10th, 2013, 05:23 PM
Amazing work! the car looks stunning.

davey g-force
Nov 10th, 2013, 05:30 PM
Wow, amazing work guys! :xyxthumbs

The old M205 1, 2 combo hey?

Nov 10th, 2013, 11:14 PM
That picture showing the reflection of the garage with the camera in it.... Mind= BLOWN!

All I can say is... Well Done.

Nov 11th, 2013, 07:43 AM
Being a relative noob, I was trying to figure out how many rolls of tape I would have used masking off all the trim !!

The picture of of the car sitting at SEMA says a lot, but the previous picture of the three gentlemen and the car says a bit more. Who's smiling more, the men or the car?
The car did get worked over by the best !

Thanks for sharing.

Nov 11th, 2013, 07:43 AM
Outstanding project !!!

Well done, gentlemen. :xyxthumbs

Detailing by M
Nov 11th, 2013, 04:51 PM
That car was beautiful, you guys did a great job restoring the finish. It looked awesome.

Here are my pics of the $275 car

















as I was taking pics I ran into Joe of Superior Shine, I hadn't seen him in like 10 secs. Good to see old friends at The SEMA Show.

Nov 14th, 2013, 01:51 PM
Simply amazing!!!!

Nov 21st, 2013, 09:49 AM
BTW…the pictures of the work DO NOT show the level of amaze balls that Mike Stoops and Derek Bemiss and others did on this Bugatti. It's great that I live so close to Meguiars that I'm able to attend the TNOG events to receive some great knowledge from Mike Stoops and everyone else at Meguiars, however, to be able to see the work that they do in person…this is definitely detailing p0rn.

I was able to go to The Peterson Museum yesterday and took a vault tour and there was only 6 of us in the tour. Pretty awesome!

That Rolls Royce Round Door was nothing short of AMAZING. I hate using the world amazing but that's the only word that even comes remotely close to describing how awesome that car looks. It has an extremely commanding presence. I was thinking about the Rolls Royce Round Door for the rest of the day. As beautiful as the Bugatti looks…the Rolls Royce Round Door in my book is absolutely the most impressive and beautiful car I've seen!

Michael Stoops
Nov 21st, 2013, 03:18 PM
Thanks for the kind words, Tommy.

That Rolls Royce Round Door was nothing short of AMAZING. I hate using the world amazing but that's the only word that even comes remotely close to describing how awesome that car looks. It has an extremely commanding presence. I was thinking about the Rolls Royce Round Door for the rest of the day. As beautiful as the Bugatti looks…the Rolls Royce Round Door in my book is absolutely the most impressive and beautiful car I've seen!
Yes, that has to be one of, if not the, most imposing cars I've ever come across. It's absolutely enormous, almost truck like in size. Crazy car, but apparently a pain to drive.

Detail Werks
Nov 27th, 2013, 06:38 PM
Thanks for all the kind words everyone, also just wanted to say thanks again to Meguiars for such an amazing opportunity and also to Mike Stoops for all his help and for the amazing write up, you are truly the word wizard!

Dec 4th, 2013, 07:16 PM
This car looked amazing at the booth. Incredible work gentleman.