HERE’S A TEST of a relationship: your pride and joy, a dead original 1966 Mustang is minding its own business in the shed when it gets hit by a bicycle. The offending treadly is owned by your fiancé and the damage is just bad enough that it can’t be ignored.

This happened to daughter Althea and, surprisingly, hubbie-to-be didn’t leave the country. I did ask where she buried the body, but she swears he’s still alive and breathing because he was going to pay for the repair.

The damage was slight. A small and shallow dent with a paint chip on a rear quarter panel. No-one in the family claims to be a panel-beater, and the rest of the car is so good that a quick fill and amateur touch-up was out of the question.

We asked around and Total Collision Repairs in Essendon (Melb) was recommended. I suspect this really was more of a nuisance than a commercial prospect, but they undertook it.

It ended up there were two elements to the job: calling in a paintless dent removal specialist in the shape of John Foxall of Dent Tech Victoria; and then fixing the paint.

Foxall’s main business is hail damage. An experienced panel beater, his approach was to light up the area, and then get in behind the trim with assorted tools to gently roll out the damage. It was a quick process, about 20 minutes.

As for the paint, Ming from Total spent a fair bit of time fine-tuning his side of things. With some decades of experience on his side, his challenge was getting exactly the right match. “It’s making sure you have the tone of it right,” he said. “Getting the metallics right takes time as there are 12 tinters in the paint. Particularly with an older vehicle like this, you don’t really know what they’ve done, so you’re measuring the paint with a spectrometer.

“These days we’re using water-based. I believe solventbased paints are on the way out. So you need to be aware that once it dries it changes again. It’s a bit of an art form.”

While all this was going on, we got chatting with the boss at Total, Ray Stephens. He suggests that for a major repair you should consider hiring a recovery agency. What they do is independently assess the damage, so you’re not relying solely on the judgement of the insurance company.

“Insurance companies should sell insurance, but some don’t. They have their hand in every pie. Some open up their own shops, which is a conflict of interest.”

Anyway, this story had a happy ending. The culprit is still breathing, the car is fixed and it didn’t cost a bomb.