In celebration of reaching 50,000 subscribers and to say thanks for all the loyal views I decided to “detail” my old dodgy car using some even older dodgier products!
And in order to “keep it real” these prehistoric products were all to be used alongside a collection of suitably subpar accessories namely an old builders bucket, a couple of gritty sponges, a decaying chamois leather, some bargain-basement brushes and some paper thin polishing rags.
Having not yet had the chance to give the somewhat unremarkable Titanium Grey V40 a proper seeing to I wasn’t worried about damaging a flawless finish during the upcoming dodgy detail as the paintwork was already inflicted with 13 years worth of defects so one more improper wash really wasn’t going to make it much worse and who knows, with the car crying out for a clean after two weeks of neglect a basic sponge bath may actually have it looking allot better.
The majority of the panels were currently caked in traffic film and surface spray following a series of wet summer jaunts, the lower sills were also peppered with unsightly tar spots that although at a distance were difficult to see still needed dealing with, the 13 year old plastics and trims were looking suitably discoloured not to mention being contaminated with unsightly white polish residue, the 17-inch Arcadia wheels were sporting a fairly heavy layer of cheap brake pad dust as well as their fair share of tar spots and the sensible Swedish estate in general just looked tired, neglected and far from how a true Guru-mobile should.
First up out the old stable garage then was this bottle of not so wonderful looking Wonder Wheels; a notoriously strong rim cleaner most people actively avoid like the plague!
It was first sprayed liberally onto the dry wheels and tyres before being worked in with a few different brushes. A dodgy stiff bristled one I found lying around was used for the tyres, while the measly little soft detailing type that came with the product which seemed more suited to dusting off dash vents was used for the wheels themselves.
Despite working outdoors the nasty smell of the chemical cleaner quickly caught the back of my throat meaning I had to take cover behind my shirt to prevent respiratory failure which wouldn’t have been good this early on in the detail. Still, the weather was nice!
Once thoroughly worked in the potent product was neutralised with a bit of Zip Wash & Wax taken from the ‘garage selection’ which was sponged over the wheel before being thoroughly rinsed off allowing me to take a breather.
Next up was a quick pressurised pre-rinse of the car prior to its sponge bath. No snow foams or pre-cleaners here I’m afraid, just a straight up retro rinse to rid the surface of any loose dirt.
Pre-rinse complete it was time to clean the car using the classic Turtle Wax Zip Wash & Wax. Knowing these cheap shampoos can often turn out a little flat I mixed it double bubble to ensure it had the best shot at cleansing the paintwork and so far so good as it smelled fresh and frothed up nicely in the manky builders bucket and with the 50 pence sponge added to the mix it was time to get squeaky clean!
The car was washed in the usual top down manner working a section at a time and despite only having the one bucket and no grit guard I did flip the sponge halfway through each panel in a halfhearted attempt to minimise any damage being inflicted before depositing the dirt in the bucket, collecting some fresh suds and moving on.
I must admit it did feel pretty weird washing with a sponge as I haven’t used one on the body of a car in almost a decade and although it seemed to be doing a decent enough job of soaping up the surface there’s nothing more unsettling than hearing it squeal across the paintwork as friction cuts through the cheap suds and imparts unsightly flaws in the finish.
It also struggled to access the various nooks and crannies a modern wash mitt easily could but back in the day I guess this level of clean was good enough.
Once all areas had been sufficiently sponged down the car was throughly rinsed off one last time to reveal a visibly cleaner albeit probably slightly swirlier surface ready for drying.
And dry it I did! Using this crusty old chamois leather that clearly hadn’t had so much as a whiff of the wet stuff for years.
It was soaked and wrung out first though to prevent any unnecessary scuffs being inflicted before being awkwardly drawn over the surface to slowly soak up the rinse water.
I hadn’t used a chamois for a decade either and as I struggled to keep the thing gliding over the surface I wondered why on Earth people still to this day choose to use one to dry their car with instead of a nice plush towel.
Again, it was pretty useless around the Volvo’s egg crate grill and anywhere else water was hiding for that matter but thankfully the warm weather meant most of this would evaporate with time anyway.
Body inefficiently dried, the door shuts were also ‘chamoied’ off to soak up any sitting water as were the faces of the wheels prior to the tyres being dressed – and what a product I had in store for that!
The can of good old Tyre Slik I’d ‘carefully’ selected for use on the rubber looked like it hadn’t seen the light of day for the entire 13 years this car has been on the road but to be fair it was Auto Expresses’ 11 times ‘best buy’ winner so I was obviously in for a treat.
Working from the edges of the tread inwards the rusty Slik was liberally sprayed directly onto the tyre walls until that classic ’wet look’ was achieved before the faces of the wheels were quickly wiped over with a rag to lift off any excess overspray.
And there was certainly no denying the tyres looked wet. Not to everyone’s taste I’m sure but perhaps suitable for some situations that call for that flamboyant bling factor.
While tar removers would usually be beyond the scope of the average shed lineup I did manage to find this pretty pointless looking tar remover polish type product I thought I’d give a go.
It’s applied directly onto the affected area, spread over the surface evenly and given some time to soak into the unsightly contaminants before being worked in with plenty of elbow grease which as you can see here did absolutely nothing!
I reapplied it heavily, let it sit for a little longer then tried again and to be fair the tar spots did begin to soften and dissolve but the energy and time required to clean up just a small area like this meant it was hardly worth it especially considering the modern liquid removers now available that do the job in half the time and require little to no harsh rubbing.
I also tried it on the rims as they too were peppered with light tar spots that the Wonder Wheels hadn’t managed to shift but sadly the outcome was the same. Some of them disappeared with adequate agitation but the finished results hardly warranted the effort.
As a one-off tar spot remover maybe but to use to fully de-tar a heavily contaminated car like the one pictured on the bottle no way which is why along with the rusty can of Tyre Slik it was cast into the builders bucket of shame never to be applied again!
Next up was the infamous T-Cut; a crude polishing compound many non-detailing types believe to be the only product in existence capable of cutting and polishing paintwork.
There is also a metallic version now available however considering we’re not actually polishing the colour coat I wrote that off as a waste of money and stuck with the standard recognisable red bottle.
To give it a fair crack I went with a decent sponge applicator pad over a traditional rag, applied a few dabs from the open bottle old school style and spread the strong solventy smelling product evenly over about a third of the bonnet before working it in using a combination of back and forth and circular motions to ensure it was adequately broken down.
Once sufficiently worked in it was buffed over with a microfibre towel as I knew the thin polishing cloths would be useless against it but as you can probably see even the towel couldn’t shift the incredibly stubborn residue that had now completely baked onto the surface! To be fair I had applied it in direct sunlight which goes against the directions yet it wasn’t really that hot and most modern comparible products can usually be used with minimal hinderance in the sun nowadays.
A detail spray wouldn’t shift it either so I had to crack open an old bottle of Autoglym Super Resin Polish a product I know to be ‘safe’ to use in the sun to take advantage of it’s cleaners and light abrasives to lift the difficult residue off which thankfully it did just fine. A truly versatile product always worth having to hand (the Super Resin Polish that is, not the T-Cut!)
To give the old compound the chance to shine I also tried it on a few cool panels that were’t sitting in the sunlight and it seemed to do just fine leaving a clear and residue free finish yet quite why you’d choose T-Cut over literally any other polish product out there I don’t know. As an occasional rubbing compound for the odd light scuff or scratch perhaps, otherwise just no. So into the bucket-o-shame it went.
Once the terrible ‘T-Cutting’ had been abandoned it was time to try out another notoriously bad product; Turtle Wax Hard Shell paste wax. This particular pot had been recovered during the dismantling of my departed Grandad’s garden shed a number of years ago and I know he only ever used clean his camper van with water so who knows how long it had been sitting there, the mouldy Turtle droppings inside suggested a fair while though!
The foam applicator under the cap was well past it so I went with a basic one of my own again to give it a fighting chance and like the T-Cut this too stunk of solvents as I guess car cleaning fragrances obviously weren’t a consideration for manufacturers back in the day.
It was applied to a small section with the pad, left to dry to a haze and buffed off with a microfibre towel (as I’d basically given up on the idea of second-rate rags for polishing and waxing at this point) and to my surprise it came off really easily and actually gave a pretty decent finish.
The camera didn’t pick it up properly but it brought the metallic flake out in the paint nicely and at certain angles the car almost looked as if it had received a fresh coat of lacquer – who’d have thought it!
Just to make certain that wasn’t a fluke though I decided to go for an application on the bonnet in the direct sun and really cake it on to see if I couldn’t trip the Turtle up.
Here you can see just how heavily it was applied although it is a horribly chalky product even when spread thinly but with the help of a quick spritz of detail spray it came off just as easily as more high end waxes would if applied in these conditions.
At this point I was sold so went around the car coating a few more panels to give them that ‘hard shell’ protection.
Last on the dodgy detailing products list was good old Simoniz Back to Black. Being a baller I had it in both trigger spray and aerosol form but opted for the latter for that authentic nostalgic feel.
It was relatively neatly sprayed directly onto the old grey plastics and left to soak in for a few moments before any excess was wiped off with a paper thin yet thankfully lint-free cloth.
The last time I’d used this noxious spray was as a teenager as part of my Saturday scooter cleaning regimen to ensure the 50cc beast looked its best when parking up at school come Monday morning so this stage was quite literally a blast from the past!
Although messy and outdated in its application the Back to Black actually did what it said on the tin and gave a fairly decent finish to the tired old trim. Here you can see the difference it made to a section before and after although how long it would actually last remained to be seen.
It didn’t fair so well on the smooth window moldings however plenty more modern dressings also struggle to obtain a decent finish here so I wasn’t going to hold that against the B2B. They did look noticeably better after a number of applications and wipe downs it just wasn’t particularly pleasant to do.
It also struggled on the super faded and contaminated door handles as you can see it soaking straight in here but to tell the truth I’d already coated them with some Black Wow a few weeks prior and that didn’t do much either. They looked a tad better for it I suppose but lets face it there’s nothing worse than hideous unpainted trim and being an old car there was plenty of it to get to grips with.
The aerosol certainly helped finish off the look of the dodgily detailed estate but it was still tossed into the builders bucket at the end of the day due to the horrible smell and it’s old-fashioned messy application. Bye bye Back to Black!
Finally, all of the the areas surrounding the freshly dressed plastics were wiped down with the damp old chamois which suitably smeared them up and left plenty of unsightly bits of hide behind but that was kind of the point. From there though I refused to go on any longer with the dodgy detailing madness and called it quits in order to get some equally dodgy after shots.
Overall I guess the car appeared clean and presentable compared to how it started off and to the untrained eye it probably looked like a decent job.
The Titanium Grey paintwork for example was giving some nice reflections in the sunlight which considering its 13 years worth of abuse certainly shows some potential for future polishing. The previously washed out plastics and trims were now looking relatively rich and replenished, while the wheels (although in need of a refurb) appeared clean and presentable thanks in part to the surrounding ‘slik’ wet look rubber but take a closer look and the telltale signs of a dodgy discount detail can quite clearly be seen.
Stubborn white polish and wax residue still contaminated various painted parts and while decades ago that may have been acceptable in this detailing day and age it certainly isn’t. Airborne contaminants were also now settling on the freshly ‘back-to-blacked’ plastics and trims as the product doesn’t readily dry to the touch, while misty overspray from the aerosol-based dressing and smears from the useless chamois leather combined to spoil the glass.
Although I think I showed that technically you can make a discernible difference to suitably dirty cars using obsolete old products like these quite why you’d want to do so with such a decent selection of detailing gear out there nowadays is beyond me.
But it’s not just about the compromised results they give because even if they did achieve a perfect finish they’re just not nice to use, they stink, they’re hard work and all that extra elbow grease plus the risk they pose to your health means they’re just not worth it in my opinion.
Yes there were a few exceptions, the two Turtle Wax products – the Zip shampoo and Hard Shell wax were okay but they still cant realistically compete with their more modern rivals and so sadly a shed-dwelling eternity awaited the lot!