My Grille at The Panel Shop

My Grille at the Panel Shop

My grille now resides at a place called “The Panel Shop” in south central Connecticut. After realizing that some of the final metal fabrication was beyond my abilities, François suggested I send the grille to Mark and Steve who own and operate “The Panel Shop.” I stopped by their shop for a tour, and to drop off some aluminum for the grille. We decided that it would be best to make new end pieces from scratch. To do this correctly, they would need the same alloy I used for the rest of the grille so there would be no differences in the surface finishes when the grille was polished. They would also take the raw sheet aluminum I dropped off to make welding rods, and use that as filler. Everything in this grille would be of the same material, making for a beautiful final product.

François has been using Mark and Steve for over 20 years, and they have done the panel work on countless Ferraris. The current project in the queue is this Lusso. This car is pretty familiar to me as I saw it three years ago in a shop in New Jersey.

The original story I heard about the car can be found  here, but the truth is the car is owned by someone who has decided to do a ground up restoration. She has owned this car for over 30 years, and used it regularly in its earlier life. It will be nice to see this car returned to her former glory.

“The Panel Shop” fabricates for all sorts of cars, and the level of craftsmanship is beautiful. These two guys are English, and met while working for Rolls Royce. Steve worked for Aston Martin before that, and between the both of them have many years of experience.

Although this car was late model Camaro, the custom body work that was requested requires a high level of skill.

These pieces are made completely hand made out of aluminum, and although you may have seen shapes like this done in fiberglass, it takes real skill to do this all in metal.

Steve’s passion lies with Jaguar E-Types, and hanging in the rafters and hidden in the corners of the shop are parts and panels waiting to be assembled into a personal project.

Mark’s current project is this Bugatti. It came into the shop with a partially fabricated body, but much of it still needed to be made.

The owner has left Mark with the task of figuring out how the car was originally made with the correct proportions. On his workbench is a photo album of three other cars to use as reference, but each one has its differences. Some of these cars have been rebodied before, so deciding which details are correct is no easy task.

Mark showed me how the successful intersection of three panels makes a good Bugatti body. It’s a subtle detail, but without this correct alignment, the whole front section looses its balance. Understanding that this body was made in France means that measurements need to be made in metric units, and there is a certain correlation to round measurements. You can see the notations on this panel reading 165 mm, 120 mm, 100 mm. It’s logical to assume that the original designs followed these round numbers when laying out the louvres, and Mark is trying his best to keep to these dimensions.

We kind of laughed about how much attention he paid to this car with every minute detail, and how similar it was to the attention I paid towards the grille of my car. It’s like our little secret how obsessed we are with the details the rest of the world would not take a moment to stop and admire.

There is still much to be done on this car, and some of it is in correcting past work, but the progress that has been accomplished in the past 6 months is pretty impressive, especially when many of these panels started from flat sheets of aluminum. The television shows may show cars being made in a week, but this stuff is where the real skill lies.

When Mark needs a break from the Bugatti, he turns his attention to this hard top for a convertible. This is no ordinary hard top, but rather it belongs to a very rare and desirable Ferrari 250GT California Spyder.

To get this hard top to fit the windows, wood templates were made of the side glass with allowances for the window rubber. Taking these templates, Mark reforms new drip rails from scratch and forms them to the hard top and template for a perfect fit. What’s interesting is templates had to be made for each window because each one had a different profile! This perhaps proves when this car was made at the Scaglietti factory, each window was cut to fit the car after the bodywork was done. 

If you don’t get excited about what you see in this picture, I’m afraid you just don’t get it!

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