Film Stars March/April 2022

April 4th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

The Eye of the Kiger

Tony Kiger’s first paint protection film (PPF) job was a 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Base-priced at $190,050, the 520 horsepower German machine was an initial industry test in August 2019. Kiger had absorbed the basics from XPEL’s PPF training course only a week before, but 15 years of paint correction/detailing experience aided in handling the pressure-packed process.

Plunging Into PPF

“This isn’t your typical Honda Civic or Ford Fiesta getting wrapped,” says Kiger, then a PPF applicator at Porsche South Orlando in Florida. “This is someone buying a car costing more than one hundred thousand dollars. They’re not expecting exposed edges or pre-cut patterns. The [client’s] expecting a high-end finish where you’re wrapping edges and making sure everything is lined up properly.”

Kiger’s journey to Porsche South Orlando is windy, but cars were a constant. He worked in Coshocton, Ohio’s, Walmart Auto Care Center as a tire and lube express (TLE) technician from 20 to 24, detailing part-time in his parent’s garage. He then took on detailing at a Volkswagen dealership in Columbus, Ohio, in 2008 and a Cadillac dealer in 2013.

Kiger’s 2019 PPF deep-dive served him a platter of do’s and don’ts. Discovering where and how far to stretch the protective product provided challenging. “I was figuring out where to start and where to end,” he explains. “… I back-rolled the [film] onto the car because I didn’t have a peel board. Where am I going to start placing this piece so everything lines up and it’s not overstretched or over-hung where it’s not supposed to be?”

Preventing contaminants from infiltrating film is vital, and it’s something Kiger battled during the job. “I didn’t know [about not wearing] cotton shirts,” says Kiger, who rates his project an eight out of ten. “We had to change clothing—wearing Dri-Fit shirts and aprons that wouldn’t lint or dust. [I learned to] keep the floor damp, so I don’t have to worry about things [flying up] as I’m wrapping. There were minor learning experiences that made a huge difference in the finished product.”

Kiger is now the lead PPF installer at Ultimate Auto of Orlando, Fla. His company also offers paint corrections and coatings, but his detailing days are on hold.

“I would say my passion for paint corrections and coatings is equal to PPF,” says Kiger, who entered the segment nearly three years ago. “It’s still challenging to me. PPF has a learning curve because of new cars coming out. I work on many new cars that there aren’t patterns for yet. I had to wrap an entire Lamborghini Huracan STO, but there were only patterns for the front-end at the time.”

Pre-cut PPF patterns are helpful, but the option is not always available. A Mercedes-Benz G-Class (G-Wagon) equipped with a sprawling body kit represented one such moment. “It was 90% bulk, and I had never done one before. I finished in four days,” he says.

Groups That Guide

Industry Facebook groups are an integral part of promoting camaraderie and advancing knowledge. Kiger founded Realm of Coatings in January 2017 to do just that.

“Coating manufacturers and representatives released misinformation to the point where I was sick of it,” says Kiger, who also contributes to the Window Film Pros Facebook group. “I decided to create a platform where installers, representatives, and chemists can provide accurate information—not hearsay or advertisement.”

Realm of Coatings now has 2,500 members, which Kiger aims to lead to greater heights. “My wife and I both teach in some aspect,” he says. “Her field is education, and mine is the automotive industry. I know products inside and out. I’ve beta-tested products for companies and like to figure out how it works, what it’s supposed to do, and how far we can push it.”

Full Focus

Automotive enhancement requires an eye for the little things. During his three years at The Specialists Detail Studio in Las Vegas, Kiger’s colleagues took note of his. “They said, ‘That’s the eye of the Kiger.’”

Kiger posted photos of a black Chevrolet Camaro’s base coat on professional detailing pages, asking a deceptively simple question: “What do you guys see in this?” Commenters saw ‘marring,’ ‘sanding marks,’ and a ‘clear coat texture.’

“No, this clear coat is 100% flat. It’s fully finished,” Kiger replied. “You’re seeing the actual textured spray of the base color coat through the clear coat. It was an eye-opener. Only two to three people of 50 knew what they were looking at.”

The exchange drove the detailing veteran’s desire to enlighten industry allies and train their eyes to spot defects. Kiger founded Eye of the Kiger in 2016, further facilitating a growing desire to instruct others. It’s a digital resource containing more than 400 vehicle inspection forms.

“I wanted a website where I could put up information on how to disassemble or reassemble rare cars—a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing or an original Shelby Cobra. It was also a place where I could show the work that I achieved.”

The forms allow detailers to conduct a preliminary inspection before performing a paint correction, documenting imperfections for clients. Kiger’s system allows users to identify defects in reports noting the make, model, and trim level. He aims to create educational videos and forms to assist the PPF crowd in the future.

Nearly 25% of the vehicles arriving at Ultimate Auto belong to celebrities. From Major League Baseball (MLB) Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. to the Denver Nuggets’ Austin Rivers, the clientele is famous. But Kiger only sees the car.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a reputation or not. I want my work to turn out as good as it can. You’re paying for the job, and you came here expecting a high-end finish. That’s what I’m here to put out, regardless if you have a well-known name or not,” Kiger concludes.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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