We’re all looking for something to fill that classic vehicle shaped hole in our life, and some people have done just that! We were introduced to the owner of a Lotus Esprit Turbo Essex – one of 45 ever made, although it’s been said that there’s only a mere 7 that are still registered. With the Classic Motor Show scheduled for November, we made arrangements with the owner and took this extremely rare car into our care for 2 days in preparation for it being displayed at the show. This afforded us the time to enhance its condition so that it looked its absolute best for its time in the spotlight.
As with anything of this value, age and rarity, the pressure was on. We arranged an extensive talk and walk around with the owner, Barrie, to understand the vehicle in general and learn the history to his knowledge, primarily pin-pointing any potential ‘weak’ spots.
Detailing jobs vary in length. In reality, there is no finish – there’s always something extra to do but it’s finding where you draw the line. In this circumstance, we had 48 hours from drop-off which felt like the right amount of time for a car in its condition. The main limitation we had was with the paintwork: the history was blurred with thoughts of it being original but signs showing potential resprays & past polishing. As a result, the paint was sparse in areas and we weren’t left with much to work with. As a rule, we would measure the depth of the paint to get an idea on how far to go, but due to the Lotus being Fibreglass, a material our Paint Depth Gauge wasn’t fond of, it left us with little choice but to rely on old school experience.
Before we could dive into any paint enhancements, we had an exterior to clean and decontaminate. Thankfully for us, Barrie maintains the cleanliness of his Essex seemingly on a regular basis. Our main obstacle instead, was some of the seals & gaps on the Essex: to modern standards it’s no competition. Around the engine bay specifically, the vents (designed for engine cooling) were large enough to fit limbs. As a result of this, it would have been havoc to carelessly Snow Foam the vehicle. Instead, we opted to lightly rinse in a controlled manner as a form of pre-wash. The vehicle ultimately did not warrant anything stronger such as our Citrus Pre-Wash, which if the vehicle had been dirtier would’ve been a great option since this can be applied via trigger bottles. Following this, a simple two-bucket wash offered the required level of safety and cleaning power that we needed to lightly get the Essex in shape.
As the clean & decontamination was nothing of a mission, we had more time to focus on the details. Before commencing, decontamination was on the cards. With the fear of a chemical decon getting into crevices unreachable, we opted for (keeping it in theme) a classic, physical decontamination using our Medium Clay Bar – perfect for lightly contaminated surfaces prior to polishing. The purpose of this was to ensure there would be no stubborn spots of tar stuck between the polishing pad & paintwork when it came to polishing. If there was, the pad could catch said contaminant and induce swirls, or even scratches! However, it’s not all rainbows with Clay Barring… You introduce the risk of light marring when using one, which is why we recommend only doing it if you are to polish afterwards.
Polishing is a task like no other in the world of detailing. It takes years, if not decades to master – no job is ever the same. As the industry & technology evolves, the tasks have become ever more assisted and painless. Dual Action polishers and Paint Depth Gauges in particular have been saviours for many detailers alike; however, sometimes the only way forward is by going back to the roots.
The Essex was unique in many ways. Original paint, resprayed paint, polished paint – there was a mixture of 40 year old composites and modern blends, making hardness and depth a real challenge. With our paint depth gauge out of action, experience played a major role in knowing the limitations. Using the right pad & compound combination is key in an instance like this, so our detailer Elliott set about trialing variations on the roof, coming to a conclusion that our Advanced Compound with a Medium-Heavy Polishing Pad was the duo for whatever the Essex had to throw – showcasing a balance of cut, but importantly refinability.
Before we could fully work on polishing, a thorough inspection under the light was required. It was important to mark out areas of concern thus not forget them. Due to the nature of the paint, mostly suggesting prior polishing work, we had suspicions that there was not much of a top layer to work with, so the entirety of the vehicle was worked on with caution. However, this made working over the vehicle quicker than anticipated since fewer passes were initiated, but at the cost of not being fully perfected. The risk of burning through was too great and not worth the reward. The more time-consuming parts were intricate areas around fuel caps (there are two!) and decals; for this, the Hybrid Nano polisher was put to use, because sometimes 1” is better than 6”!
In the end, nothing completes and makes a vehicle shine like a natural Carnauba Wax. We opted for Beading Marvellous as it was only fitting for the show lights at the NEC show venue. As Barrie said himself, the blue on the Essex became ever so deep from a shine & depth perspective – something he’s been trying to achieve for years.
And just like that, the car was handed back & put on show at the Classic Motor Show 2021.
Have you seen the vehicle on display? Let us know what you thought!
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