It's time consuming, a little dirty, will absolutely cause you to break a sweat and, for most, rarely on the top of any car-related to-do list. I'm referring of course to detailing that goes well beyond the basic wash and biennial, haphazard wax that most rely on to keep their project looking its best—or at least "good enough."
You've adopted the two-bucket system and kept up with those easy-to-apply Meguiar's Ultimate Quik Wax applications, but the reality is, there's probably quite a bit more shine and protection for your pride and joy that you're ignoring simply because it's more work and you might not know where to start or what products to use. Fortunately for you, you have us and, fortunately for us, we've got the car care gurus at Meguiar's just a few blocks away to completely school us on how to do things the right way.
The subject is the Super Street Week to Wicked AP1, a project that we spent a week thrashing on last year for a video series and since then, have decided to continue developing the car to update the look and change things up. In the midst of the revamp, we reached out to @signatureautobody to apply some fresh paint to our new @seiboncarbon hood, half-bumper and trunk, as well as our newly installed @evstuning vented fenders. In the end, 75% of the S2K was painted with the other 25% being original paint that, for its age, was in pretty decent condition. Our goal was to rework the new and old paint so that the look was seamless and the paint smooth to the touch.
After Signature finished their part, the car was stored at our Tech Center for about 30 days, then brought straight to the Meguiar's R&D center in Irvine, CA, still sporting a nice layer of body shop dust. The Meguiar's crew examined the entire car then got right into it, handing us a few bottles of their Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax. Essentially a car wash in a spray bottle, they explained that the AP1 was relatively clean but needed that body shop dust knocked off and the Waterless option made quick work as we applied quite a bit to each panel and made sure not to skimp on the clean microfiber towels. Within minutes the surface was clean and the Meguiar's crew grabbed their Danish-made Scangrip handheld lights to get a focused look at each panel in order to determine their plan of attack.
Once we completed wiping the car down, we were each handed a piece of clay from Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Kit and we got to work spraying each panel with Meguiar's Quik Detailer Mist and Wipe (included in the kit) while claying each panel applying light pressure with the clay gliding it back and forth over the exterior panels. The idea is to run the non-abrasive clay across every square inch of the body to pick up any surface contaminants and leave you with a smooth, clean blank canvas, free of any rough spots or even previous wax applications. With all of us pitching in and working on various panels, the clay process only took minutes to complete.
The next step was to figure out how to refresh the paint on our beloved S2K. With both old factory paint and some newly painted components, we approached each type differently. Meguiar's product and Training Specialist, Nicholas Winn walked us through the steps in determining how to make the best of the factory painted portions of our AP1.
First, he recommended using a rotating and oscillating dual-action polisher like Meguiar's MT300 DA due to its ability to make quick work—far quicker than applying products manually. As a general norm he recommends starting with a more mild method like using Meguiar's Ultimate Polish, which is less aggressive and when applied using a polishing pad, can actually help remove some minor swirls. Speaking of the various pads used, Nicholas mentioned that the soft buff foam discs include a red foam cutting pad, which is the most aggressive and usually used with a compound to do heavy defect removal, while yellow is usually relied on for polishing, and the black pad is typically chosen to apply wax, though at times it can be used to polish as well. The process involves slow, steady, overlapping passes along each panel to insure you're not missing any areas and any stubborn swirl marks. If your paint is rougher than it appears, like ours was, then a product like Ultimate Polish may not be able to get rid of the more pronounced paint defects. You might have to use something a little more aggressive like we did. In the case of the original paint of the S2K, we went with Meguiar's Ultimate Compound and DFC5 soft buff red foam cutting disc. We did end up applying Meguiar's Ultimate Polish with a DFP5 soft buff yellow polishing disc after the compounding step to complete the surface refresh on the factory paint and give the original red on this car more depth and shine.
After further investigation of the freshly painted parts and components, an even more aggressive DMC5 D/A microfiber cutting disc was then selected along with Meguiar's Professional Mirror Glaze M110 Ultra Pro Speed Compound. These items come from Meguiar's Professional car care line of products and are the go-to of many body shops and pro detailers but can still be used by any hardcore enthusiast. They're intended to help remove more severe surface defects like left over sanding marks that we found on some of the freshly painted panels of our AP1 and though it's usable for just about any painted surface, it's always a good idea to test a small area first before going all-out with any product.
A slow, methodical approach with the polisher with just a few dabs of product used for each section began the transformation. Super Street Editor Sam Du got a hands-on lesson in proper technique on the passenger side of the AP1.
Once we completed compounding the fresh paint with M110, we used Meguiar's Professional Mirror Glaze M210 Ultra Pro Finishing Polish with a DFP5 soft buff yellow polishing disc to further refine clarity of the fresh paint, remove DA haze and provide a high gloss finish. Being that the trunk and hood are originally dry carbon fiber pieces and the paint only having cured for about 30 days, the crew noted that both featured a soft finish as they carefully made their away across the newly painted surface. Nicholas also added, "the sensitive paint was due to a combination of variables, mainly the carbon fiber substrate's ability to dissipate heat combined with the paint being so fresh. We used Meguiar's Professional Line of Mirror Glaze compounds and polishes on these particular parts due to the sensitivity of these surfaces and our need to tackle more severe paint defects."
At this point, the paint looked incredible with a shine and newfound clarity, not to mention the smooth, glass-like feel with all of the contaminants removed from the clay process and the paint correction work.
As the paint became smoother and the depth of the red increased throughout the process, the headlights sat on the other end of the spectrum. Hazy and oxidized, we found that the previous owner/s had added some sort of clear coat over the lenses and time had been chipping away at the finish. Meguiar's grabbed their off-the-shelf, Heavy Duty Headlight Restoration Kit and the lights were taped off to avoid any contact with the fenders and bumper.
The lights were dampened and the included 1,000 grit sandpaper used to eliminate oxidation and that old, aftermarket clearcoat. A switch to 3,000 grit was made to complete the process producing a smooth and dry frosted finish.
The objective with the sanding is to get that frosted appearance even on every portion of the headlight. It looks terrible and you're not able to see the inside of the light, but that's exactly what you want midway through this process.
Also, in the box is a bottle of PlastX Polish which is applied with the included polishing attachment that pops right into any standard drill and once you start working, that frosted finish is eliminated entirely, revealing a crystal clear lens.
Our 18 year-old headlights look brand new again and to keep them protected, the final step is to apply the supplied headlight protectant in an overlapping motion in order to completely cover the surface. You want to avoid doing this near any windy or dusty area so that no contaminants stick to the headlight surface while the protectant fully dries.
It's a tough thing, describing the look of our S2000 after the Meguiar's crew worked their magic. Rather than relying on tired metaphors and overused catchphrases I'll keep things simple—the car now glows. I mean that literally—our S2000 looks as if it carries a halo of deep red finish across the entire body. Something to keep in mind when taking on a DIY project like this in your own garage, although the paint looks and feels absolutely amazing, we've yet to add a level of real protection. The processes explained above and demonstrated in the video show you how to get rid of any old wax or contaminants to start from scratch, as well as chasing down any swirls or defects for a nice, even finish. However, once our fresh paint finally cures and reaches its 90-day milestone, a complete coat of wax across every square inch of paint is required for a barrier of protection. It's something to think about, as you're stripping away the old and cleaning your pride and joy, you don't want to forget about the long game, and keeping that glow intact. Until the paint cure is complete, we had to pull the car out and into the sun for a better look and you can see the amazing results in the video above.
Getting a front-end conversion color-matched to your car or maybe a new hood, pair of side skirts or a wing is pretty common. The body shop is expected to take care of the matching process and lay down proper paintwork, but in the end, it's your responsibility to make it all mesh together.
Do it well enough and the average onlooker might have no idea what was and wasn't painted. It's a fine art but one that you can absolutely tackle on your own in your garage, given you've armed yourself with the right tools and products, like those available from Meguiar's, and you avoid cutting corners.