Polished Bliss: Vintage Prize Detail on MKI MX-5
My god, I've found time to do a write up! Sadly this is no laughing matter for me these days, my hopes of getting back to detailing on a regular basis have evaporated in an energetic cloud of e-mails, orders, events and other matters to attend to, so this one was a real pleasure and made a nice change. Of course, being the elderly gent that I am, I had Clark’s help throughout this detail, which is always a pleasure too.
Ok, the deal with this one was as follows - the Maxda MX5 club approached us last year to do a demonstration event for them, but without suitable premises to work from, we asked them to wait 12 months, and as a sweetener we also said we’d then do a prize giveaway of a full correction detail. This blossomed nicely for them, as in the meantime we became licenced with Zymöl, so the prize was thus upgraded to a full correction detail with Vintage, the winner being drawn in a raffle organised by the club. The concept for the day was for us to complete the work on the car in advance bar one side of the bonnet, which we would then work on in front of the club members for them to see what detailing is all about, and what we offer in the way of services.
Once the winner was known, we asked him to pop round so that we could view the car in advance, in order to ensure we allocated enough time in our diary for the work to be done. I wasn’t at the unit when the owner swung by, but Clark was, and he lost no time in telling the owner that his pride and joy was a good example of a 10ft car. The owner was slightly confused by this term, so Clark put him straight, by telling him it looked good from 10ft, but any closer and it was a mess! The owner in all fairness took this quite well, but the gauntlet was laid down, with him expecting a miracle from us. Nothing like a healthy dollop of pressure, as word of this got back to the owners club and all of the members!
Onto the detail then, which was done over a full Saturday and Sunday morning, in advance of the main demonstration event on the Sunday afternoon. This is how the car looked when it was dropped off first thing on the Saturday morning...
The car, a MKI MX-5, is 12 years old, has around 30k miles on the clock, had a new hood fitted recently and is generally a very tidy car. It is garaged most of the time, being taken out 1-2 times per week for short runs in the dry, and is taken to club meets and shows through the summer months each year. I was actually quote impressed by the cleanliness of the car, with the alloys being clean right through to the backs, and the arches only suffering a light covering of dust and grime...
This being the case, the first step in the wash process was to apply a safe degreaser to the arches using a foaming head spray gun, which enables the product to cling in-situ for longer than normal and do it’s job properly...
The whole car was then foamed with a similar all purpose exterior cleaner, via a foam lance attached to our pressure washer. This was left to dwell for 10 minutes while the wheels were cleaned...
Given the decent state of the wheels, I simply used a pH neutral gel and a combination of a wheel brush and microfiber mitt to ensure all last traces of dirt and debris were removed...
The whole car, including the arches, was then rinsed at high pressure, and all exterior surfaces then hand washed using a gentle shampoo and the two bucket method. It’s important to remember all of the fiddly bits that aren’t necessarily on show...
At this stage I also washed down the door shuts, and noticing that the grubby interior matts were rubberised, I whipped them out, scrubbed them clean with an interior all purpose cleaner and brush, and then rinsed them off with the hose...
The whole exterior was then rinsed again using an open ended hose, and after testing all of the main panels with my fingertips, I did a little bit of spot claying here and there to remove a small amount of bonded surface contamination. The leaf blower was then used to dry the car off, and blow water out of all of the shuts, panel gaps arches and wheel spokes. With the wash stage complete, we rolled the car inside, shut the door and dressed the arches with a solvent-based dressing that would take hours to dry fully over the course of the rest of the detail. We then started the paint inspection, and this is what confronted us when the lights went on...
Just the usual deep swirling, random deep scratches and marring then, all of which would be robbing the car of clarity and reflectivity. Paint readings confirmed an average thickness over much of the car of 90-100 microns, with the bootlid being the only panel showing obvious signs of being resprayed (a plethora of trapped in wetsanding marks and 400-600 microns of paint). From past experience, we expected the paint to be on the soft side and single stage rather than clearcoated, and we were right on both counts. After a little discussion, we opted to start with a heavy cerami-clear finishing polish using a finishing pad on the Makita for the metal panels, and the same polish using a polishing pad on the PC for the plastic panels and light clusters. As it turned out, the rotary combination wasn’t quite up to removing the deeper random scratches afflicting most of the major panels, so we switched to a polishing pad, which then did the trick nicely. Also, the PC combo was failing to remove everything in a single hit on the plastic panels, but with the plastics paint gauge indicating thicknesses of just ~60 microns in some areas, I decided to opt for two hits with the original polish/pad combination rather than step up to anything more aggressive. Here are some of the before and afters on both panel types...
After the machine polishing work was completed, we rolled the car outside into the sun to check for any trace of hologramming, which can be a real pain on soft paint, no matter how carefully you are able to finish down. Although the sun was only partially out, the paint looked good all round, and we were satisfied the finish was as good as we could achieve safely. The following pictures show how the bare paint looked, just goes to show that thorough preparation counts for a lot in terms of the final finish achieved...
We then rolled the car back inside, dusted it down carefully with a Zymöl woollen duster (brilliant bit of kit, well worth the money), and further cleansed the paint with Zymöl HD-Cleanse, applied using a microfiber pad misted with quick detailer. After buffing off the paint cleaner (using a spritz or two of quick detailer to loosen the residue in places), we then applied a thin coat of Zymöl Vintage using a soft foam pad (the wax was worked in to the pad using our fingertips in order to ensure it was fully melted and easy to spread) and buffed down again 5 minutes later. We then called it a day, knowing that we had broken the back of the detail.