For years, Mazda’s MX-5 has been enormously popular for those looking for the thrill of an open top car that still delivers a genuinely fun driving experience. Mazda is hoping to capitalise on that with the introduction of the MX-5 RF, a hard top version of their successful soft-top cabriolet. The RF designation represents Retractable Fastback and, with the top retracted into the boot, the RF retains its fastback profile, albeit more of a ‘Targa’ rather than a full convertible found on the Mk3 MX-5.
However, the sleek and elegant styling of the MX-5 RF is entirely its own. Crafted using Mazda’s KODO Design philosophy of breathing life and personality into their cars, the nose hangs low, the bodyline swoops over the bonnet and curves gently to the rear. The lines tuck in at the sides where body panels wrap around the doors, bringing the outside body colour into the teardrop shaped cabin, giving a continuous flow that increases the driver’s feeling of unity with the car. The beauty isn’t only skin deep either as the new RF has received praise from many quarters for blending playful handling with a comfortable ride. This all stems from Mazda’s SKYACTIV vehicle dynamics which provide integrated control of the engine and transmission, whilst the body and chassis have been created from lightweight materials including aluminium and high-tensile steel. As with all the MX-5s, the RF is rear wheel drive and with well-balanced steering it’s incredibly nimble even if the hard top convertible is 45 kgs heavier than its fabric top counterpart. And to add icing to the cake, the raspy sports exhaust delivers a note that matches expectations.
The owner of this ‘Soul Red Crystal’ RF had read of the benefits of New Car Protection Treatments provided by independent detailing studios and as a result, declined the dealership’s offer and instead, booked his vehicle into UF’s Brands Hatch Detailing Studio. In addition to having the paintwork protected, the customer specified Alloy Wheel Armour to give the hard working wheels a durable barrier against dirt and brake dust build-up.
Although new, this MX-5 RF wasn’t delivered directly from the dealership. Over the course of the intervening days, the vehicle had been driven and had accumulated some dirt, debris and contamination, made worse by the wintry weather.
During winter, roads can be persistently wet and when this is combined with grit and salt, cars are really under siege. These contaminants are splashed onto the bodywork, wheels, and undercarriage. The wheels and brake calipers heat up whilst driving,and the water evaporates leaving chemical deposits which bond quickly with the hot surface. The combination is highly corrosive, so it’s easy to see how these surfaces become pitted and dulled. Protecting them with a nano-coating helps prevent contamination from adhering, helping prevent damage. ~ Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
The first stage was to ensure the vehicle was completely clean. The process began with using a trolley jack to raise the body slightly, increasing the gap between the wheel and the wheel arch. This allows for easier and more thorough cleaning, ensuring all salt and corrosive elements are removed.
Having treated the wheels and arches with Gtechniq W5 Citrus All Purpose Cleaner to remove greasy deposits and general dirt, Gtechniq W6 Iron & General Fallout Remover was sprayed on and allowed to dwell. The active ingredient within the solution changes colour on contact with ferrous particles, derived from brake pads shredding when under load, and the chemical reaction shrinks the particles, causing them to break their bond with the substrate. The area can then be easily rinsed completely clean. The bodywork and sills were then also treated for greasy contamination and ferrous deposits.
After being rinsed, the MX-5 was pre-cleaned using Ultimate Snow Foam, designed to lift larger particles of dirt and grit away from the surface of the paintwork and encapsulate it within the foam. This helps preserve the integrity of the clear coat during the main wash by reducing or eliminating the majority of contamination which would otherwise be caught in the wash mitt and potentially scratch the surface. The car was then rinsed with a pressure washer before being washed using the Two Bucket Method, a further step to prevent compromising the paintwork.
The Two Bucket Method keeps wash solution separate from the rinse water. All the dirt removed from the car is released from the mitt into the Rinse Water with the aid of a Grit Guard placed in the bottom of the Rinse Bucket. The mitt can then be reloaded with solution from the Wash Bucket – also fitted with a Grit Guard – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
Once clean, the suds were rinsed away before an Aqua Gleam De-ionising Water Filter was attached in-line with the water supply to deliver a final, pure rinse. The MX-5 was brought into the detailing studio and raised on a hydraulic ramp. A BigBoi BlowR Pro was used to quickly chase water off panels and force every drop out from behind natural trap areas such as grilles, badges and from wing mirror pockets.
Before applying a coating, it’s essential to ensure all droplets of water have been removed from the vehicle. If water comes into contact with the coating during application or before the coating has been allowed to cure, it can negatively impact the optical clarity, ruining the otherwise candy-gloss shine it provides. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
Now clean and dry, the paintwork was inspected under Scangrip high-intensity lighting to reveal any swirls, scuffs, and blemishes which, if present, would need to be removed before the coating was applied.
Nano-coatings are durable and effective as a result of the chemical reaction that takes place between the coating and the car’s clear coat. The coating actually forms a bond to become a sacrificial layer for the clear coat. Any damage present when the coating is applied will become locked beneath and therefore cannot be addressed without removing the coating, so it’s essential that the paintwork is perfect prior to sealing. ~ Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
In this instance, there were some wash swirls visible in the clear coat and on the piano black trim, as well as small scuff marks and clusters of short, straight-line scratches, compatible with something brushing up against the paintwork. The placement of these marks was noted on the Vehicle Appraisal Sheet for reference during machine polishing.
The paintwork on the MX-5 was reasonably soft. To tackle the blemishes a RUPES LHR 12E Duetto was used over the larger panels, the smaller throw Dual Action machine giving a more concentrated polishing action for faster results. For narrow areas, such as the piano black trim beside the windows, the pillars, and along the grille, a RUPES LHR 75E Mini was used. On both machines, a RUPES Yellow Polishing Pad was used with Menzerna Medium Cut Polish 2200.
To prepare the paintwork for coating, the panels were sprayed with Gtechniq Panel Wipe, a solution that removes traces of polish residue that might otherwise interfere with the chemical bonds from forming. Then, Gtechniq Crystal Serum Ultra was applied.
Crystal Serum Ultra (CSU) is the newest formulation of Gtechniq’s flagship sealant based on their original Crystal Serum (CS). As with the original CS, CSU is applied as a single layer and during the hardening process forms two distinct layers: a flexible layer next to the paintwork and a hard, swirl and chemical resistant layer at the surface. This new formulation introduces the use of two differently sized nanoparticles, one at 7nm, the other at 20nm. This combination works to allow the particles to settle together, the smaller particles filling in the gaps left by the larger particles, to form a greater number of cross-links for a firmer, more durable and impermeable bond.
Ultra feels very similar to the original CS during application, although it seems to begin curing quicker than CS so it’s better to work on smaller areas at a time. As with CS, CSU must be applied within specific environmental conditions, with humidity and ambient air temperature carefully controlled otherwise the chemical bonding process will be affected and the coating will not performance to its full potential. As a result, CSU is available as a service only through Gtechniq-accredited studios. Once in place, CSU carries a manufacturer’s performance guarantee of nine years! ~ Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
The alloy wheels and calipers were coated with Gtechniq C5 Alloy Wheel Armour. This coating has been specifically engineered to protect wheels from the demanding conditions they experience. As well as repelling water, dirt and oils, C5 will prevent brake dust from adhering as readily to the wheel so wheels are easier to maintain during the weekly wash. Astringent cleaning solutions are therefore not required as C5 is virtually impervious to extremes of pH so offers increased resilience against environmental and industrial fallout. Additionally, C5 is resistant to high temperatures, so will not burn off. The final look was then completed with Gtechniq T2 Tyre Dressing for a long-lasting natural satin finish.
With the protection package now complete, the Soul Red Crystal paintwork looked fabulous with the metallic flake ‘popping’ in the studio lighting. Altogether a stunning looking car!