“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”
– Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities
Somewhere near the end of March, I booked two cars: 1996 Mazada Miata M Edition and a 1998 Jaguar XK8. I didn’t realize it at the time that I would be detailing these two cars back to back, nor that they would come to symbolize the best and worst of the mid to late 1990’s. I did know one thing though, their “winter of despair” was over and their “spring of hope” was on the horizon.
In the mid-90’s life was great in America. The market was roaring, Dave Matthews was restoring hope to a whole generation of music lovers who thought touring jam bands might have died with the passing of Jerry Garcia, and what better way to blow some profit than a cool, curvacious car of the times. The boxy, wedgy, bland styles of the 80’s and early-90’s had finally taken their step aside and imported speed and style was all the rage. On top of that, when there is excess in the bank, there is excess on the streets, and what better way to show it off that to take a perfectly sound, safe, and sturdy car and chop off it’s top to let everyone take a good look at the inside of the “good life”. Yes, the roadster was reborn.
And these two roadsters, were the best of two worlds, like the two cities in Dickens’ tale. The Mx-5 Miata M Edition played itself sweetly as a curve hugging, fun driving, limited edition to the middle class who wanted to play but just couldn’t pay the entry fee required to be in the XK8. The XK8, had classic, British interior luxury and an exterior that made it the fastest selling sports car in Jaguar history.
But, as Dickens wrote so long ago, it was also “the age of foolishness”. Due to poor foresight and incredulous greed, the same era that helped build these two vehicles and their intrinsic ownership experiences would (a decade later) bring about a “winter of despair”. Seen in the financial world through a recession and seen through these two vehicles by their current state of existence.
First up was the 1996 Mazda Miata MX-5 M Edition. From 1994-1997 Mazda produced a limited number of these M Editions, putting smiles from miles on the faces of blue collar workers everywhere. In fact, of the years in which these cars were produced, 1996 was the most expensive (priced at around $25k) and provided its driver with real wood shifter knob and E-brake handle, M Edition logos everywhere, and a few performance features including Enkei Wheels wrapped in high performance tires. It came in Starlight Mica Blue that year, which had some beautiful flake and really “popped” in the sun. Combined with an almost caramel colored European-stitched leather and this was a Miata lover’s Miata and fun for days.
But, with limited edition emblems, comes limited production of parts, and an increase in cost to maintain. Add that to a recessing economy, and you end up with the car that pulled into my shop. In nearly 15 years it had never been polished and had more than it’s fair share of age marks and crust.
After my initial review of the vehicle’s condition I was ready for the cleansing process. Because the paint was original, and even though it only had 70-some thousand miles, I wanted to be gentle. So I gave it an Optimum No Rinse (ONR) bath to start. For this step I like to use a Quart Sprayer with ONR mix in it to presoak and then proceed with my tradition ONR bath.
After the wash it was time for decontamination of a deeper level- clay. In almost 15 years, this paint had never been clayed either and it wasn’t too bad.
As I clayed the car, I noticed that the sides of the car had two different finishes. The top half was a traditional base coat/clear coat, but the bottom half was topped off with a protective layer that was like glue for grime. Look at the difference of the clay from this area. Yuck!
Next it was time for the engine. Again, I didn’t want to damage any of the internals, so I opted for a gentle ONR wash with various brushes and some Optimum Power Clean (OPC) diluted 2:1. After soaking the engine with OPC, I agitated the engine and surrounding areas with various brushes including an EZ Detail Mini.
Once finished with the agitation, I sprayed ONR mixture (to clear up the muck and neutralize the OPC)over all of the engine parts and surrounding areas and wiped everything up with Micro-Fiber towels. I finished by dressing the engine with Chemical Guys Fade to Black. What I love about this dressing is its low sheen and ability to just spray and walk away. No wiping is necessary and you never end up with artificial shine.
After cleansing the engine, I payed a little visit to the fuel cap area. A little ONR, some OPC and a gentle brush made for easy work and a much nicer place to fuel-up.
Next came time to correct the paint. I knew exactly what I wanted to use to bring the “starlight” out of the “mica blue”. I used my Flex 3401 and a Cyan Lake Country Hydro Tech 6.5 inch pad with Meguiar’s 105. You may have read that M105 is basically the best thing since sliced bread in the compound world; and while I have used it before, I never experienced it fully until I combined it with the Lake Country Hydro Tech 6.5 inch pad. Man does this stuff work awesome! Check out the power of this combo on this worn out, crusted up, aged paint.
I then followed it up with Meguiar’s 205 and a Tangerine Lake Country Hyrdo Tech 6.5 inch pad (which I loving call ‘Tango Tech’). While the paint was already popping after the initial compounding, going over it again with this combo and my Flex 3401 on speed 5 really brought even more clarity to the paint.
After the paint was done, I gave the car another bath, this time with some Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss to clean off any oils and residue from the correction step. I also cleansed the Vinyl Top with Raggtop Convertible Top Cleaner and a stiff brush.
Back under the lights, it was time to put the top down and get busy on the interior. I pulled out the mats and pre-treated them with OPC diluted 3:1. Let me tell you this stuff is terrific. Even at 3:1, it cleans with power! They were pretty soiled and I gave them the random orbital – carpet brush treatment as well as some extractor love.
I then cleansed all of the interior textiles with the same diluted OPC, including the leather. To do this properly, I used a combination of brushes from long-bristled Boar’s Hair to short bristled Tampico nail brushes.
I finalized the interior by feeding the leather and dressing the vinyl. For the vinyl I used Meguiar’s Quick Interior Detailer which protects the surfaces from UV rays, leaves a factory correct matte finish, and smells nice and clean. I also sealed the wood with Klasse All-in-One. Although it was designed and used traditionally as a base for Klasse Sealant, I love using it on interior surfaces like wood and aluminum.
With everything cleansed and and protected it was time to run the Metro Vacuum and put the mats back in to their proper positions. With the top back up it was time for wax.
I applied Dodo Juice Supernatural as my LSP. I wanted something to really help protect the “pop” in the paint and make this car feel as ethereal as it looked. You can see my waxing process here .
And finally, before turning out the lights for the night, I attended to the emblems. Again using Klasse All-in-One, I used a foam swab to not only bring out the shine in the emblem, but also make sure there wasn’t any unsightly unpolished paint left behind .
Next up was the 1998 Jaguar XK8. Although this one has been to death’s door, it has come back again. In 1998 this car was in its 2nd year of production. On top, its long hood and short rear was a throw back to the E-Types of the 1960’s. Underneath, it chassis, was borrowed from the XJS and shared with Aston Martin’s DB7. From the factory showroom this car oozed class through it’s classic English-luxury -burled walnut and hand stitched Connolly coach work (front seats). As you accelerated away, you realized how well it had blended its roots from the XK and XJ’s of the past to create a pretentious machine that could back up its looks with a fearsome roar powered by a 4.0Litre V8. While the Miata provided fun, inspired envy was created by the XK8 as it put down its top in the lovely sun of the late-90’s.
But, this one had also seen it’s “winter of despair”. In fact, when the owner of this XK8 picked it up in 2006, he got a great deal. Why? Because the original owners had run out of money and the ability to maintain the car to its original standards. But this is the difference between the two vehicles’ “new owners”. The Miata can be restored with not so much money and kind of quickly, but Jaguar parts are still Jaguar parts…so it happens slowly. and with expense. Slowly, the new owner acquired parts, purchased new leather, new paint, and the list goes on. In fact, the day he picked up this car from this detail, he had me order new emblems and a few other parts we are going to install to finalize the car’s soul restoration.
When the car came to me, it was very clean. After being stored for most of the year, the owner took it out on the road only a few weeks prior and ran it through a couple of washes at the local swirl and shine. Therefore, once again I opted for a nice and easy Optimum No Rinse (ONR) bath to start. After which, I was left looking at the following paint blemishes.
I decided to treat this car just like the Miata. I used my Flex 3401, but this time, a Tangerine Lake Country Hydro Tech 6.5 inch pad with Meguiar’s 105. I knew the paint was soft and I wanted to see how 105 would finish with a Tango Tech pad. While it wasn’t perfect, it was what I was looking for…about 90%+ correction. This is a daily driver in the Summer, which means tunnel washes most of the time. So, to go for perfection is not realistic for this vehicle in terms of maintenance as well as budget for the detail itself. I tried stepping down after wards to see if I could bring more clarity to the paint with 205, but it made no difference in that aspect. It was pretty slick to go from one-step to LSP from a compound!
After polishing the paint, I pulled the car out to be washed like the Miata. I gave the car another bath, this time with some Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss to clean off any oils and residue from the correction step. This time though, I used a pressure washer and washed the top too.
I then pulled the car inside and gave the engine an ONR wash and wipe down. No dressing was needed as I check back later and the finish that was left behind was already perfectly matte and factory correct.
Now that the exterior was done, it was time to address the interior. This owner is light on his car, so a quick vacuum with the Metro Vacuum took care of any loose debris, but the leather was a different story. A few years back, the owner had the seats replaced. They were not an issue. But the door panels and rear seats were a different story. For this I used Optimum Power Clean and a short-bristled Tampico brush to cleanse the leather. It was amazing to see the difference the OPC was making one such a light surface that already looked pretty clean.
After (note- the leather here was very brittle and the owner said not to worry if it lost some…which they did. They’re going to be replaced soon too I imagine):
Rear Seats Before:
Rear Seats After:
Again, I finalized the interior by feeding the leather and dressing the vinyl. For the vinyl I used Meguiar’s Quick Interior Detailer which protects the surfaces from UV rays, leaves a facttory correct matte finish, and smells nice and clean. I also sealed the wood with Klasse All-in-One and cleansed the glass with Stoner’s Invisible Glass.
Before I turned off the lights for the night, I dressed the seals and waxed the car using my Polishing Pal and some P21S Concours Wax. I just think the British Racing Green (BRG) warms right up with this wax. I use it every time on BRG.
So how did they turn out? While Dickens ended his tale with “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known,” I end mine with a picture show. Like Dickens writes, after the work that has been performed here, I definitely had a nice rest. But, thanks to this work, these cars won’t. They have been restored to a former glory, ready for a spirited drive with the top down, and look at what was and is the true pleasure of a roadster. Once again they have a “Spring of Hope” after a long “Winter of despair”. Here are the two cars’ final shots, alternating to show how a Tale of Two Roadsters ends happily after nearly 15 years and over 10 hours each.
Thank you for taking the time to view my write up. Please feel free to leave me a comment or ask a question.