BUSINESS: Gilroy detailer puts cars in a “time capsule”

Paul Lufo sprays black paint on a silver car...and the paint wipes off. He also slams the paint can into the car five times without leaving a scratch.

Walk into Lufo’s Auto Detailing shop in Gilroy and you can see a $2.3 million 1915 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Phantom–one of three in the world–parked next to a more proletarian Hyundai Genesis. They have two things in common: both gleam like new and their owners love them madly.
Lufo’s is to standard auto detailers what Tiffany’s is to a mall jewelry store. It’s a place for people who want to keep their cars shimmering like new for half a decade. Owner Paul Cilluffo has a range of treatments, from $150 to $1,500, with the top-priced one lasting five years.
Cilluffo, 49, one of a few detailers in the area who put a ceramic coat on a car that works like armor. It not only keeps it from having to be waxed for a year or more –but it’s graffiti-proof.
He demonstrates on a silver Vauxhall TRO. First he sprays nasty black paint on it. Then, he batters it hard with the spray can half a dozen times. The paint wipes off cleanly and the car doesn’t sport a scratch. He shows that a sponge coated with his ceramic won’t even soak up water. It just beads off, as do bugs and dirt on the car.
“It’s like putting your car in a time capsule,” says Cilluffo, who is celebrating a grand opening and ribbon cutting at 5:45 p.m. on March 16 at 6468 Auto Mall Parkway. “You never have to wax your car. We’re not the cheapest. We’re not a car wash. We do car washes, but they start at 100 bucks.”
You get what you pay for, he says. People don’t mind paying top dollar for the best.
“I always ask people when they come in how long they want to keep their car. If it’s the greatest car they’ve ever had– the car of their life–they’ll want the top service. If it’s a lease or one they aren’t going to keep forever, we have less expensive services.”
Like the Ford Escort getting a $150 makeover because its owner wants to sell it and figures it’s worth a lot more looking like new. Most customers spend more for custom coats that last much longer and can take days to apply. The Rolls Royce, for example, took 72 hours of work. Lufo brought in $265,000 last year and has a staff of seven doing 120-140 cars a month.
After working in Monterey and winning an award at Pebble Beach’s Concours d’Elegance for a car he worked on for more than 30 hours, he chose to locate in Gilroy because there was no one else nearby doing the same thing, the population is growing and his shop is right next to the popular car dealerships.
Most of his customers come from word of mouth, but he hopes the grand opening will alert Gilroyans to a business they might have driven by.
Under the hood
Cilluffo, who goes by the nickname “Lufo”, has been working on cars since he was 10 and a neighbor paid him $20 for waxing a car that took two days. It was good money–or better than the $1.95 he was making mowing lawns. He learned from his mistakes and made many through his teens, scratching cars, knocking off antennae, ruining ornaments–all of which his father had to reimburse. Finally, his father sent him to an auto shop to be trained.
He got the nickname Lufo when the letters of his name–Cilluffo– on his school lunchbox wore off and left only those four. A friend told him to bring his Lufo lunchbox and the nickname stuck.
He’s a father of five grown children and lives in Hollister.
See a range of high end cars in top detailed condition at 5:45 p.m. March 16 at 6468 Auto Mall Parkway at Lufo’s grand opening. The opening is being shared with Gilroy Automotive Repair next door.
Around Town
We hate to see businesses leave downtown, especially Mango Street Kids, which had great, affordable children’s toys and clothes and was where Santa used to stop by after the holiday parade. On the positive side, the owners left a hopeful note last week on their Facebook page: “The store may soon be under new ownership and at a new location in the community. As nothing is set in stone yet, we appreciate your patience and will keep you updated within the coming months.“

Leave your comments