The Mercedes-Benz SLK burst onto the scene in 1996 as Mercedes’s compact luxury roadster. The initials ‘SLK’ come from the Mercedes-Benz mission statement: to create sporty, light and short cars — in German: sportlich (sporty), leicht (light) und kurz (short). It’s proved a winning formula too as the SLK is now well into its third generation. Celebrating their 125th anniversary in 2011, the SLK was given a ‘classic’ face to resemble the 190 SL, widely considered the original ‘SLK’. But whilst the look may be somewhat retro, the technology has always been innovative: the original SLK had the first hard folding roof; the second generation introduced the AIRSCARF, a heating system to keep necks and shoulders warm when driving with the top down. For the 2011 generation, Mercedes-Benz delivered Magic Sky Control, giving occupants the ability to change the smart glass roof from light to dark with the flick of a switch.
The owner of this SLK wanted to significantly enhance the car cosmetically and subsequently he booked it into UF Studio for a number of restorative services including Gloss Enhancement to restore the Fire Opal Red paintwork to its original deep colour. In addition, the leather needed a deep clean and the alloy wheels required refurbishing prior to protecting with a ceramic coating. Finally, the gloss enhanced paintwork would be protected with Gtechniq Crystal Serum Ultra, providing a durable, swirl-resistant, high-gloss finish.
Step one was to decontaminate the SLK which was covered in tar droplets, tree sap, pollen and other debris. UF Iron+ Fallout Remover was sprayed onto the wheels and left to dwell for a few minutes, allowing the colour to develop indicating the active ingredient was working to loosen the bond brake dust particles had formed with the wheel’s surface.
The solution was rinsed from the wheels and arches using a Kranzle K-1152 TST pressure washer. The wheels and arches were degreased to ensure oily road grime was eliminated before finally being washed with UF Safe Wheel Cleaner. Wheel Woolies were used, the long-handled brushes reaching through the alloy wheel spokes to clean the rear of the rim. The wheels were then rinsed again before the bodywork was treated for iron contamination remover and then degreased before once more, being rinsed.
Now wet, residue from previous trim products could be seen streaking the paintwork with black runs.
Inferior trim restorers typically don’t have a great deal of staying power and rely on ingredients that temporarily stain the trim. However, when the car is either washed or caught in the rain, the residues can streak down the paintwork causing unsightly black run marks. – Matt Back, Master Detailer, UF Studio
Special attention was paid to the door, bonnet and boot shuts as a significant amount of debris had collected in these areas.
The bodywork was treated for adhesives such as tar deposits and tree sap. The solution was sprayed on and allowed to dwell, loosening the sticky bonds. Ultimate Snow Foam was then applied to the whole car, covering it in a thick blanket of creamy lather. The foam lifts larger particles of dirt and grit away from the surface of the panels and reaches into the grille and other nooks and crannies. The dirt and the foam can then be easily rinsed away before a wash mitt comes into contact with the panels during the wash process. This helps prevent swirling and scratching the paintwork.
After rinsing the foam, the SLK was washed using two buckets to keep the wash water separate from the rinse water. The first bucket contains water and UF Pure Shampoo, a free-rinsing car wash without gloss enhancers or additives that might leave a residue on the paintwork. The second bucket contains plain water that can be used to rinse the dirty mitt once it has cleaned a section of the car. Rinsing it in a bucket of plain water transfers the dirt into that bucket but keeps the wash water clean.
The suds were rinsed again before an Aqua Gleam De-ionising Water Filter was attached to a hose to give the car a final pure water rinse. The SLK was brought into the studio and placed on a hydraulic ramp where it was dried using a BigBoi BlowR Pro touchless car dryer. The BlowR Pro uses twin motors to direct a powerful jet of warm filtered air across the car, chasing water off panels and out of tight areas such as door mirror housings where water typically is retained. Once dry, the wheels were removed and sent for factory quality refurbishing. The paintwork was inspected for any remaining stubbornly bonded contamination. As the surface still felt rough to the touch, the SLK was further decontaminated using a clay bar and lubricant to shear the particles away from the surface. In some areas, the contamination was so affixed to the surface, a denibbing tool had to be used.
The denibber works like a planing tool, so care has to be taken to ensure the correct angle is maintained so as to act on the contamination without contacting the paintwork – as the tool is extremely sharp, it could easily scratch the finish. – Matt Back, Master Detailer, UF Studio
The paintwork was inspected using SCANGRIP high-intensity detailing lights to reveal the true condition which was found to be highly swirled.
RUPES LHR 15ES and LHR 75E dual action machine polishers were used to correct the damage with a combination of Koch-Chemie Heavy Cut H8.02 Compound and Meguiar’s Microfibre Cutting Discs. The combination of the diminishing abrasive particles in the compound and the aggressive cutting action provided by the microfibre was sufficient to remove the damage to reveal a gloss enhanced finish.
The low profile of the microfibre discs enhances the cutting power whilst allowing for improved feedback, so the detailer can better assess the machine polishing process as it progresses.
Once the severe swirling had been eliminated, the paintwork was refined using RUPES Yellow Polishing Pads and Menzerna Super Finish Plus 3800 to bring out the shine in the restored finish. The paintwork could then be prepared for the application of the ceramic coating by first being treated with a solution of Gtechniq Panel Wipe, removing traces of polish residue. Gtechniq Crystal Serum Ultra was then applied.
Crystal Serum Ultra is the latest incarnation of Gtechniq’s flagship sealant, providing exceptional swirl resistance helping therefore to maintain the gloss. The hydrophobic nature of the coating ensures water and waterborne contamination bead away from the paint, rather than adhering to it, so the weekly wash is far easier. The key to Crystal Serum Ultra’s performance is also in part attributable to the method and conditions under which it is applied: the car must be completely dry before application as moisture interferes with the optical clarity of the coating. Similarly, temperature and humidity must be within set parameters during application and the vehicle must be protected from the elements for a minimum of twelve hours to allow the coating to cure. For these reasons, Crystal Serum Ultra is available as a service only through Gtechniq-approved detailers, but once installed carries a manufacturer’s performance guarantee of nine years. – Matt Back, Master Detailer, UF Studio
Fully refurbished back to factory standard, the wheels were returned and coated with Gtechniq C5 Alloy Wheel Armour, a heat-resistant ceramic coating that repels brake dust, road grime and debris making treated wheels easier to maintain during the weekly wash. The calipers were also coated before the wheels carefully refitted to the car. New Mercedes-Benz centre caps were sourced and fitted to complete the look.
The Alpaca Grey leather interior also required attention as it had not been protected previously. Colourlock Mild Leather Cleaner was used, the foaming solution worked into the leather grain using a foam block, lifting dirt and grime out of the material. The area is then wiped with a microfibre and allowed to dry completely for a few minutes. Then, Colourlock Leather Shield was sprayed on, providing a hydrophobic, abrasion resistant layer that protects leather from scuffing and accidental staining from spillages or dye transfer. Leather Shield also contains UV inhibitors, helping prevent the leather discolouring through exposure to sunshine.
The owner uses the vehicle daily and with winter approaching had decided to opt for a Glass Protection Treatment, where a hydrophobic coating is applied to the windows. Here, two coats of Gtechniq G1 ClearVision Smart Glass was applied. This encourages rainwater to bead on contact with the treated surface, so droplets blow away from the glass even whilst driving at relatively low speeds. This helps keep the window clear of water and contamination, making driving easier and less fatiguing during inclement weather conditions.
The tyres were coated with Gtechniq T2 Tyre Dressing to provide a long-lasting, natural satin sheen to perfectly complement the glossy, restored appearance of the SLK.
Unlike many tyre dressings, T2 does not wash away with the first downpour and instead helps to keep tyres looking healthier for longer. With all of the surfaces restored back to better than when it left the factory, the SLK was now ready to start turning heads once again!