We love detailing a spangly new car here at Auto Finesse, after all, who doesn’t? Who wouldn’t want to get their mitts on a modified RS4, Audi R8, or AMG Mercedes? But, we’d also say that our roots don’t lie there, giving ourselves an easy life by dealing cars with decent paint, along with cotton-wool-wrapped exotica, is lovely now and again, but it just isn’t how we roll.
You see, what we love most is transforming the most down-to-earth street cars with nothing more than proper detailing. And, even more than that, the thing we really love is a challenge. This was going to be one of our biggest yet…
A couple of weeks ago, as the worldwide Covid-19 lockdown started to ease, things were far too quiet for our liking at the Academy. Many have been affected by the crisis, not least in the car scene, so we decided to offer the chance for one Auto Finesse fan to win a spot in our detailing bay for three whole days. And, even more important than that, get the undivided attention of the Academy Team and a selection of heavy hitters from our Accredited Detailer Network.
Open to all makes and models, in any condition, the competition drew in over 4000 entries. So, our first task was narrowing these down to a top 10 – chiefly the cars we thought would present the biggest challenge to our team and our entire range of products. After that it was all up to you. We put the public vote live on our social media channels, and prepared the bay for your winner. Step (or at least roll) forward Alex Paul’s dilapidated Porsche 944.
The truth be told, we were actually pretty pleased that you guys picked a 944. We love our retro metal, and the so-called ‘poor man’s Porsche’ is a hairy-chested, ‘80s classic through and through. There’s quite the following for these nowadays, and rightly so - they’re getting cooler and cooler all the time. As far as Stuttgart’s finest go, the 944 is extremely grass-roots. It’s highly likely that any surviving 911 from the same era will have been pampered, desperate to be used and abused as it should. Maybe these cars will hit the streets on the odd occasion, but you can pretty much guarantee that most will never see so much as a summer shower, let alone a big dirty puddle.
What we were dealing with here is quite the opposite. This particular example had been used hard, and then found itself sitting idle on a farm for what, at first glance, could be mistaken to be for couple of decades. Suffice to say that we couldn’t wait to get started…
As the car came off the trailer, we knew that we wasn’t exactly on for a 5 o’clock finish, either. We’d seen pictures of course, but nothing quite prepares you for an up-close inspection of a car like this. Grime, oil, cobwebs, industrial fallout, you name it, this one had the lot. Can detailing alone really sort out a mess like this? We were about to find out.
So, Monday morning came around, and our ADN professionals were just as excited to work on the project. They’d travelled from all corners the UK just to get here. Then again, Liam from Urban Valets, Alan from Kleentec Detailing, Josh from The Features Club and Danny from DG Automotive are always ready to pitch in for any ADN challenge. It’s something of a community thing. It gives us all the chance to meet up, compare notes, swap tips and tricks… and eat a lot of Pizza.
Clearly there was going to be no messing around here, so after assessing the situation, the Porsche was straight in for a safe wash. Okay yes, we realise that the idea of ‘safe’ washing may seem laughable with a car in this condition, but it’s the only way we do business. Start as you mean to go on and all that.
Now obviously, this would go further than any normal detail - above and beyond you might say – but, having so many team members on the case at the same time makes things move fast. The first job was to tackle the grimy engine bay with a combination of Eradicate Engine Degreaser and Verso All Purpose Cleaner, brushing in and thoroughly rinsing off. The bay was a good example of just how bad this car had degraded, with rusty clips and deteriorating cables. The truth is that sometimes a full-on detail can highlight other areas like this, that need a bit of extra love, so we’d be sure to revisit this later… along with those heavily corroded wheels.
Speaking of wheels, too. When it came to the pre-wash, the car was jacked up and these were removed to give access to the chassis and under-arches, these could then be sprayed with Eradicate and Dynamite Traffic Film Remover, agitated and rinsed to remove 30-odd years of caked-on grease and grime.
The wheels and tyres received a thorough decon using Iron Out Contaminant Remover, Imperial Wheel Cleaner, Revolution Wheel Soap and Verso, cleaning them up nicely even though these would be whisked away by courier later in the day for a full referb. After all, we’re not wheel refinishers here, but we figured that a set of immaculate rims would make one hell of a finishing touch. Adding to, rather than taking away from, our master plan for the paintwork.
On to the main operation – the bodywork. Again, the years of neglect hadn’t been the kindest, so all the tools in the arsenal were used. A combination of Verso, Dynamite and Citrus Power Bug and Grime Remover was used to cut through the heavy grime, with our team brushing-in any areas that had served as a dirt traps. This was followed by lashings and lashings of Avalanche Snow Foam, and a full two bucket (or technically, six bucket) wash with Lather Car Shampoo.
It goes without saying that decontamination would be important here, so the whole body was doused in Iron Out to chemically dissolve any remaining metal contaminants, before being rinsed. ObliTARate Tar and Glue Remover was then sprayed on to any areas that needed extra attention, removing the stickiest contaminants with ease. Another wash to neutralise the ObiTARate came next, before every inch could be clayed with our Clay Bar and Glide Clay Lube. This is the only way to attain a prepared surface that’s perfect for paint correction, and gives some indication why professional detailers absolutely love using clay. Even to us, it can be surprising just how many impurities can be pulled out with hardly any pressure at all.
After that, and a little rinsing and drying, it was finally time to get the car into the bay. This part, for most of our guys, is where the real fun begins. Masking up is an important part of the process, but when it comes to cutting paint, we all know that it’s something of an artform. What’s more, every detailer has their own technique and ‘feel’ for the job in hand, so we always think it’s important for our ADN professionals to tackle each part their own way, the key thing, after all, is always the end result. We took two of our products, One-Step All-in-One compound and Revitalise No:1 Restoring Compound, and carried out tests on various panels. When cutting paint, you’ll often find that each panel is slightly different, especially on older cars where you may not know the history, so it’s important to keep checking, and assess every panel separately. Using a gauge to check the depth of the paint in different areas is also an essential for any heavy restoration job. There needs to be some left to actually cut!
What makes our guys different to many though, is that after hours of different people cutting different panels, with different machines at different speeds, they still communicated as a team, and managed to give the 944 a uniform stage of cut.
There’s no denying that a lot of work was completed on Day 1, but such is life, it wasn’t without a discovery or two. Take the bonnet for example, the 944 had received a new one at some point in its life… but unfortunately, it was painted in metallic black, rather than solid black like the rest of the car. See what we mean about not knowing the history? This was never going to look right, so we needed to cook up a plan for that, too.
Now, you may think, what with all the heavy cutting complete, that most of the resurrection was done in the first day, but there was still a long way to go. Day 2 was all about refinement, so the team got back to the grind working through the remaining two stages of our Revitalise System, along with Tripple All-In-One Polish on various panels. Once again, we see refining as an artform and the guys certainly didn’t disappoint, using their experience to create a finish that we’d argue was better than when the car rolled off the production line. All this refining extended to the window glass too, which was thoroughly machined and then hand polished using Vision, doing our best to remove the multitude of scratches that had been inflicted over the years.
Day 2 also saw the removal of the interior (including the seats and centre console) to give the best access for deep cleaning by vacuuming the carpets and adding a heavy dose of Total Interior cleaner. Once the inside was scrubbed, sanitised with Wipe Out Interior Disinfectant, and finished off with Spritz Interior Detailer, the other parts (alongside the rear lights and any other pieces of trim that could be removed), were taken to another bay where they were cleaned and polished to perfection. The seats were treated to a deep clean with Hide Leather Cleaner and Hide Leather Conditioner, and the rest a combination of Verso, Tripple and Total.
Aside from getting stuck into the exhaust and engine bay with Mercury Metal Polish, (the latter needing plenty of wire wool and a good helping of Dressle All Purpose Trim Dressing), there were a few extra jobs that would need a little drying time overnight - namely painting the brake calipers and a few engine parts. Before we knew it though, this took us to the end of Day 2, two thirds of the way through already.
The last day was the refit and reveal but this is where all the little tricks from Team AF and our ADN detailers really came into their own. The final details are arguably the most important for elevating the job, perhaps that’s why they call it detailing, eh? It’s little tips, like hand polishing the awkward areas inside the doors with Tripple, or cleaning around the headlight trims with Verso and a small detailing brush, that are useful hints which can push any detail to the next level.
Obviously, the bigger tasks for the day were a little more on the mechanical side. These included refitting the interior and wet sanding any imperfections to prepare the bonnet for a wrap in satin black. After much deliberation we chose to go down the wrapping route to offer a contrast with the gloss paint, this we thought would highlight the transformation of the paintwork even more. We were correct in that assumption, and handily the bonnet also matches some exterior parts, like the sidelight surrounds and wiper arms, that we removed, restored and repainted.
One thing was missing throughout all of this of course, so we also collected the newly refurbished wheels. Bolted-on we’re happy to say that, like the bonnet, these really set off the all the hard work on the exterior.
So, with… well, let’s just say not a lot, of time to go. The whole car was treated to a couple of coats of our flagship show car wax – Illusion, and all the crucial finishing steps were performed – Crystal Glass Cleaner on the windows, Satin Tyre Creme on the tyres and every piece of trim and rubber treated to some extra attention with Verso, Revive or Dressle. We even managed to give the exterior glass the Caramics treatment with our Caramics Glass Protection Kit.
We were always confident that we could do something seriously special with this German classic, but we will admit that even we were surprised at just how stunning this car turned out to be. The owner was very much in agreement, speechless is the word… as speechless as anyone presented with their car thoroughly transformed in just 3 days.
Alex was happy it goes without saying, but arguably we were even happier, this project proves that some in-depth detailing can not only make a huge difference to how any car looks, but it can also bring a seemingly-impossible project right back from the dead.