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Can you save the soul of a wrecked exotic car? This shop says yes

Every Sunday, I come out with a fun little article called Talk Me Out Of It, and it involves me picking up some random used fun car for sale that we all just know will be trouble. It’s always a gamble – do you want a Ferrari with a history that resembles your teenager’s diary?…


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J&B Bodyworks
Welcome to J&B Bodyworks.

Every Sunday, I come out with a fun little article called Talk Me Out Of It, and it involves me picking up some random used fun car for sale that we all just know will be trouble. It’s always a gamble – do you want a Ferrari with a history that resembles your teenager’s diary?

Maybe, if these guys fixed it.

Welcome to the exotic body shop.

Ferrari 458

Car Anxiety

I will admit, I have car anxiety. What’s that? It’s when I drop my car off anywhere and other people touch it. Dealer. Trusted shops. Friends. Sorry – it’s not them, it’s me.

Ironic I know, that other people trust me with their beloved rides. It’s another reason why I always try to be respectful.

J&B Bodyworks

And yes, I’ve had people hit me while driving. Infuriating isn’t the word. It’s not just the headache that comes with insurances and rentals, but the knowledge that my baby will never be 100% again. The paint color is off a shade. This button doesn’t work as well. Whatever it is, I know the difference.

I wouldn’t call my experiences terrible aside form one or two shops over the years, but I’m also very picky. No one is going to love my ride like me.

Not true anymore.

J&B Bodyworks
Everything is hand-washed with a foam canon.
Ferrari bath

Best of the best

I was made aware of J&B Bodyworks through Larry Kosilla (who else?) – they had done a full restoration on his famous Porsche 911. If Larry trusted them, they must be better than good – they have to be the best.

J&B Bodyworks
A bumper for an Aventador is casually rolled down the street.
J&B Bodyworks

So I spoke with Joe Izzo, the shop foreman, and together we came up with something completely unique for my M3 – but that’s a story for another day.

Because while I was waiting in between all the drying and sanding, I took a little stroll through the shop. It’s really an amazing place if you love cars, not just for the way they make them look, but as a place that has everything needed to make them whole again.

J&B Bodyworks

Deep breath

Not every shoot I go on is high-stress, but some are more intense than others. I cannot screw up down the back straight at the Thermal Club – the effort needed to get the cars, the instructors, the lighting – I only really have one shot to make it work. No do overs.

So I can relate to the artists at J&B. When you need to fix a one-of-one Rolls Royce with a hood design that can’t be replicated, there is no chance to do it all over.

J&B Bodyworks

That extends to everything from cosmetics to fixing the entire frame of a car. The most difficult surgery takes place in a special bay with a curtain that closes, not unlike an emergency room. Frames are contorted back into their original tolerance, structural integrity restored to factory spec.

J&B Bodyworks

Every section of the shop is organized, from the painting booths to the mechanics and body repair areas. It is extremely hectic as cars finish in one area and move on to the next. I tried my best to remain out of the way, but within a few minutes the spot I’d pick was occupied with something else.

Parts deliveries happen all day. Imagine seeing the rear engine cover of a McLaren delivered in an enclosed flat bed. It’s a surreal experience.

J&B Bodyworks
I thought this was a car being dropped off. Just a (very) expensive part.
J&B Bodyworks

Of course, you can bring any car here, but imagine seeing a McLaren at your local Fix N’ Go. That’s how regular traffic stands out here among all the rare things.

No Fooling J&B Bodyworks

J&B Bodyworks

It’s not just new stuff. I saw a classic Ford Mustang, a Ferrari Dino, a Porsche 356 – things you can’t mess up on because the panel next to the one you’re working on is still original.

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s electric cars. Teslas. Taycans. Lucids. Imagine one shop that can work on a 1965 Mustang V-8, and the next day take apart the chassis cell that holds a Taycan’s battery. They are incredibly complex vehicles to work on. The variety is stunning.

Ferrari Dino
Lucid Air
The array of cars is incredible.

It all happens in a shop that takes up just about one city block in Mount Vernon, just outside of the Bronx. No doubt located here due to the central location for well-healed Westchester and Long Island owners, it looks forbidding if it weren’t for the rows of exotics parks up and down Beach street.

Painting perfection

Porsche detailing
Cars are detailed and completed across the street.

Have you ever parked your car next to another in the same color and thought “Yea but they look different”. It’s not just you – it’s real.

My shade of blue, Portimao, is available on an multiple BMW models built in different factories. So it stands to reason that though they might be the same shade, they aren’t the same color. A special swatch book helps Jon, a painter at J&B Bodyworks, determine the exact factory spec.

Rolls Royce
Rolls Royce paint is sometimes simply BMW paint colors renamed.
Rolls Royce

Why different? Many reasons – air quality, humidity level, temperature – think of how dry the factory in Mexico is vs a cold, damp day in Germany.

From there, it’s mixing chemicals together on a scale that’s so accurate, a fan blowing air over it causes the numbers to fluctuate. Once he has the color mixed, it’s air brushed onto a card that’s placed next to the car to ensure the color is exact. If not, it’s remixed until accurate. There’s no exact science, and some rare colors require tinkering.

Bumpers drying.

Jon must mix paint according to spray gun sizing as well – larger guns lay down paint differently than smaller ones. There are shades of primer depending on paint color – I could go on. Safe to say that the attention to detail alone in simply mixing the paint requires patience and skill.

J&B Bodyworks

And is it any surprise – German car makers prefer Glasurit, a German paint made by BASF. Italians prefer Italian paint – go figure.

Factory fresh

Bentley repair

On a visit to the BMW factory in Spartanburg, I was amazed to watch as an X3 was built from start to finish in 40 minutes. It’s a complex machine, built in a single day.

This experience was different. No two collisions are alike, so no two repairs are the same. Even though cars are stripped to a level not seen since they were built, it’s not a simple puzzle to assemble back together. I have a lot of respect for what is essentially an art form.

J&B Bodyworks

Feels like home

J&B Bodyworks

Perhaps the best kind of omen for me was seeing a pair of G80s in for repair, both the same Dravit Grey color. One was in far worse shape, and J&B Bodyworks had taken what seemed like half the car apart.

G80 M3 repair

With the cars stripped down to bare metal, it becomes easier to understand where the added weight of modern vehicles comes from. The driver of one of these M3s might not have survived in an E46.

That could have been me in there.

But if it is, it’s nice to know a soul can still be saved.

G80 M3 repair

Want your car reviewed?

If you live in the tri-state area and want me to check it out, send me an email! 

Support the cause

Commissions may be received for product links on this site. Help out if you can.

I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls

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