We head to Fen End to find the secret behind a spotless finish
You'd never tell from the weather we've had so far, but the summer is here and when the sunshine finally breaks through you’ll no doubt want your motor to be looking its best.
With that in mind we thought who’s better to ask than the people who prepare our vehicles to the highest standards for product launch events and international motor shows? So, I bagged myself an invite down to Fen End, home of Event Vehicle Operations (EVO) to find out more.
EVO are responsible for all things within JLR that requires vehicle support. Whether that’s providing assistance for far-flung media drives or doing logistics for the employee vehicle displays that you see here at Castle Brom.
When I arrived at the JLR facility, based at the former RAF Honiley airfield they invited me into the specialist workshop where cars destined for the big events and VIP customers are prepared.
The team working in here are like the elite special forces of the operation, they’ve got the most exacting standards and can spot an imperfection that most people wouldn’t even notice.
I’d definitely come to the right place.
Walking down to the end of the room I find two rotating car turntables and a full lighting rig that together simulate the conditions you’ll find at events, it was there that I was introduced to Scott Oatridge.
Scott is one of our vehicle detailers who’d agreed to share what they do and pass on a few pointers on the perfect valet. They’d kindly put a Jaguar XF Sportbrake into position so he could demonstrate exactly what goes into prepping these cars.
“A launch car or one going to a show has to be absolutely perfect,” says Scott. “The combination of the bright lighting and the amount of close attention these vehicles receive means that imperfections have nowhere to hide.
“Every part of these cars need to be immaculate inside and out, the detailing, the alloys, the paintwork and every inch of the interior needs to be in top condition. That means, no paint imperfections, no scratches, no blemishes and no blushing.”
One car that had recently come through this workshop was the Firenze red 20 model year XE that starred in the launch films, photoshoots and at the London media reveal of Castle Brom’s latest XE offering.
Coming in straight from the factory there isn’t much grime on it to begin with. However it will be cleaned to make sure any dirt or residue that it may have picked up in transit is removed.
If required the car is handed to their paint repair team who can deal with any chips in the paint work, then all of the shut lines are double checked so they’re absolutely perfect. It’s then passed back to Scott’s team to begin the final clean.
“It’s all about identifying every swirl, light scratch or blemish,” Scott says as he uses his clay pencil to mark a blemish that if I’m honest I was still struggling to see even when he pointed it out to me.
“The areas requiring most attention is the detailing,” he continues. “The piano blacks tend to show the most marks so we have to give them a lot of attention.”
Once all the marks have been identified it’s all about the buffing. Scott’s got his preferred route around the car that helps him to ensure he doesn’t miss anything.
Depending on the type of issue he’s looking to remove he’ll select one of the different colour coded 3M compounds and use the air buffer tool and work through using a progressively finer compound until he’s got the result he’s after. Each compound has a specialised buffer pad that is designed to work specifically with it so he makes sure to switch them around as he’s going.
After you’ve used the compound and got the mark out you’ll then need to use the anti-hologram polish to avoid getting blushing, which is when the buffing process leaves a slightly cloudy finish on the paintwork.
Finally comes the application of the Autoglym fast shine lube that Scott swears by. He uses it for multiple jobs and surfaces inside and out of the car it and applies it using a fresh microfiber cloth as the last thing you want to do is reintroduce any marks at this stage of the game.
The final clean process can typically take over two days with Scott and his teammate on the afternoon shift working non-stop on a car to get it event ready.
Before it can go anywhere the car must be checked over meticulously and then signed off by a Senior Quality Manager before it can be transported to the event where it will be seen by thousands or even millions of people.
I couldn’t help but ask Scott if his own car was this spotless. He said, “I like to keep it tidy but after spending all day cleaning them at work it is the last thing you want to do when you get home.
“I am a car salesman’s worst nightmare though, if I ever go to look at a car I can’t help myself picking up on every detail.”
Top tips for a spotless finish
Before we left we asked Scott for any words of wisdom or advice for getting our own cars looking spotless. Here’s what he said...
1. Start contactless - Always start by getting as much dirt off as possible using a pressure jet wash before going anywhere near it with a sponge. That way you’ll avoid scratches that come from dragging grit and grime all over your paintwork.
2. Never use washing up liquid - it may be great for getting those burnt on stains off your pots and pans but don’t even think about using it to wash your car as it strips all the wax straight off it.
3. Clean water is a must - keep the water in your bucket nice and fresh and keep changing it if you can. Some people use the two bucket method were you use one ‘dirty’ bucket just for rinsing the sponge.
4. Avoid direct sunlight - not just a good tip for vampires, also useful for car cleaning too. Scott tells us that in the heat any wax applied dries on far too quickly, looks streaky and is a right pain to get off too.
5. Don’t drag the hose all over the car - you’d be supprised but he’s seen people do it. If you are making the effort to get you bodywork sparkling this is a massive own goal.
6. Wax on dirt off - a properly waxed car will repel dirt and make it harder for grime to stay attached in the first place. Making it much easier for you to clean.
7. Buy a silver car - sounds like an expensive option but they really are by far the easiest to clean. White ones tend to get dirty too quickly and swirls and imperfections tend to show up more with darker colours.