This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
On just about every road in the word, there exists many hazards. None can be as damaging to your paint as the gravel, rocks and other debris kicked up by cars in front of you. A lot of people don't realize the amount of paint damage that can occur until it's too late. It's best to protect your car from damage while it is still in good condition. Doing so will help the car hold its resale value.
Without a doubt, the most effective method of protection is to use a front cover, comically named a 'car bra.' Many people feel that the look of the car bra detracts from the overall lines of the car. However, there really isn't much else available to protect the front surface of your car. Most of the bras are made out of a stretchy type of black vinyl that has a leathery feel to it. The bra is attached to the front of the car and protects the bumper, hood, and sides of the fenders from rocks and gravel. The bottom side of the bra is lined with a felt-like material. Not only does the bra protect your car from scratches, but it can also reduce the amount of damage inflicted from flying rocks. Expensive and damaging paint chips can be minimized by the use of a front mounted bra.
There are basically two types of bras for the 911s. There's the one piece unit that covers the entire front of the car. This one doesn't allow you to open the hood without removing the bra. The other type is a two piece unit that separately covers the fenders and the hood. This type allows you to open the hood when the bra is attached. All the bras must be ordered specifically your year car. The 1965-73 911s typically use the same bra. The 1974-89 cars used a later-style bra. The bras typically have openings for the US fog lamps. Some bras can be specially tailored towards your specific car. For example, you can eliminate the license plate opening, front bumper guard openings, fog lamp openings, or add holes for the headlamp washers. Either way, it's smart to get a bra that fits your car well.
Without a doubt, bras can be unwieldy and cumbersome, and it's wise to follow a few rules of thumb when using one. The first rule is to never leave the bra on the car when it's wet. This will create an environment for condensation and steam to build up underneath the bra. This resulting water vapor can seriously damage the paint underneath, either by cracking the clear coat, or altering the shade of the paint. It's a good idea to get in the habit of removing the bra immediately from the car whenever it gets wet. You would hate to have to put the bra on the car just to cover up damage that it was supposed to prevent!
The next rule to follow is to watch the seams of the bra. Beverly Frohm of the Orange Coast Region of the Porsche Club of America recommends that you use soft felt squares on any point where there is a seam touching metal. She recommends using a minimum of six of these squares: one for each of the headlight openings, one each for the top of the fenders and two side by side on the hood. Body flex during routine driving may cause the chassis to flex enough to cause substantial rubbing damage, especially on the hood. Adding these felt squares reduces the likelihood of damage.
Finally, the most important thing to do is to keep the bra clean. It won't help your car if there is dirt trapped between the bra and the paint. Routine driving with a dirty bra will result in scratches to your paint. It's generally not a wise idea to purchase a used bra for use on your car, because it will probably be too dirty to amply protect your car from damage.
When installing the bra on your 911, make sure that it is tight and properly attached. Poorly installed bras can do more damage than the risks from rocks on the road. There are a few different types of bras depending upon the year of your 911. Some allow you to easily open the hood, and others fit better by using the hood as an attachment point.
An interesting alternative to the traditional cloth bra, is the MagBra. This product is manufactured out of a material that is similar to the one used to create refrigerator magnets. Although it doesn't offer as comprehensive coverage as the traditional bra, the MagBra is indeed a good alternative. The MagBra is also less likely to damage your paint if it gets wet, and also doesn't cause the damage that traditional bras can when they become loose and flap in the wind.