Marketed as a two-door super luxury roadster, 60 years after its release the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL is now regarded as a luxury classic. The monocoque shell with its flowing curves remains a thing of beauty, even more desirable now, in an age where angular lines and futuristic designs dominate.
This 190 SL manufactured in 1960 had recently been treated to a sympathetic restoration and, as a result, was a stunning specimen. From the cream leather interior to the bright red paintwork, the car was a picture perfect example of the Hollywood grace and glamour of the era.
The owner had previously brought his ex-works Mk 1 Ford Escort to UF for show car preparation, prior to its appearance at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Concours in France. Impressed with the level of care his Escort had received, he was keen to ensure the 190 SL received similar treatment. It was therefore booked into UF’s Brands Hatch studio for a Gloss Enhancement Treatment.
Before an assessment of the paintwork could be undertaken, it was first necessary to thoroughly decontaminate and clean the car.
When you see a shiny car it’s a common mistake to assume that the appearance is the sole result of a wax or sealant. However, in reality, it is very much reliant on the preparation stages being completed correctly. The decontamination stage is one of the most important, as the surfaces have to be free from dirt, old polish and wax residues, tar spots and tree sap before an accurate appraisal can be carried out – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
Contamination has the potential to inflict damage to paintwork, either by the harmful elements of the contamination itself or in attempts to remove it. For example, trying to remove brake dust with a wash mitt is likely to put swirls into the paintwork and could potentially lead to deeper scratches. To avoid this type of damage, UF use multi-stage non-contact cleaning processes. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
Initially, the 190 SL was treated for iron contamination using Fireball Ultimate Iron Burn. This solution is sprayed onto the vehicle and allowed to dwell for a few minutes. The product changes to red when it comes into contact with iron particles. When the colour has fully changed, the solution can be safely rinsed off carrying the contamination with it. Next, the 190 SL was treated with Bilt-Hamber Surfex HD to remove oily residues. Drain holes designed to carry rainwater away had been lubricated with grease to encourage water to pass along the tube and outflow on the ground beneath the vehicle. However, the lubricant had caused dirt and grime to build-up and needed to be thoroughly rinsed through using a solution of Surfex HD. The car was then treated for adhesive deposits using Fireball Ultimate Tar Remover. Wheel arches are prime areas for collecting oily road grime and were peppered with tar deposits, so Surfex HD was first applied using a Kwazar Orion Super Pro+ Pump-Up Sprayer followed by Ultimate Tar Remover to dissolve the sticky contamination.
The wheels and wheel arches were then thoroughly rinsed clear of all suds.
To ensure larger particles of dirt and grit were removed prior to the main wash, the car was treated with an application of Ultimate Snow Foam. Applied using a foam lance, the thick foam clings to vertical surfaces for longer to remove excess grime effectively. After rinsing the foam away, the car was washed using the Two Bucket Method, an Ulti-Mitt Double Sided Merino Wash Mitt and Nanolex Pure Shampoo.
Many shampoos leave behind a residue that can interfere with the bonding of the sealant or wax. However, Nanolex Pure is a highly effective pH-neutral phosphate and NTA-free shampoo that also exhibits superb slip properties. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
After rinsing the wash water away, an Aqua Gleam De-Ionising Water Filter was attached in-line with the hose to give a final pure water rinse. The neutralising agents in Aqua Gleam eliminate the impurities which can cause water spotting. The car was then dried using Ultra Soft Microfibre Drying Towels before being brought into the studio where the paintwork was inspected under high-intensity lighting.
Many owners believe their car’s paintwork is in perfect condition until they see the sun shining directly on it! Sunlight shows up many defects including swirls, scratches and holograms. The lighting we use in the studio mimics the intensity of sunlight and allows us to accurately identify the true condition of the paint. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
On further inspection, DA (Dual Action) sanding marks were evident beneath the squared off sections of the wheel arches. This is typically indicative of poor finishing and most likely occurred during the restoration when the car was repainted.
When polishing contoured areas such as the wheel arches, it’s essential to have the right tools. If the head of the machine polisher or the throw is too large, you won’t be able to concentrate the polishing action in the right spot. Where required, I used a RUPES Nano iBrid – small throw, small head and, as you can switch between Dual Action and Rotary, you get the correct level of cut. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
The remainder of the bodywork was corrected using a combination of a RUPES BigFoot LHR15ES for the larger, flatter areas, a RUPES LHR75 Mini, a RUPES BigFoot Nano iBrid and the FLEX PE8 for the small areas requiring intensive correction.
Having a range of tools to suit every eventuality makes the correction stage a lot easier, particularly when you’re working on a car with a complex profile. I used three different RUPES machines: an LHR15 with a Meguiar’s Cutting Disc, an LHR75 with a FLEX 3″ Heavy Cutting Pad and the iBrid with a 1.5″ Polishing Pad for the really challenging areas. These were combined with Koch-Chemie Heavy Cut H8 compound to give longer working times and a gloss finish that required very little refining. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
The paintwork was refined using a 3M PERFECT-IT III Black Polishing Pad and Menzerna Super Finish Plus 3800 and a FLEX PE14 Rotary Machine Polisher, to leave a perfectly reflective surface.
To protect the appearance, Fireball Fusion Wax was applied by hand.
Fireball Fusion is a hybrid wax, containing a blend of 40% premium grade carnauba and 20% silica dioxide (SiO2), the key ingredient in ceramic sealants. SiO2 provides longevity whilst the carnauba provides an amazing, deep wet-look shine and a warmth to the fiery red paintwork. – Matt Back, UF Detailing Studio
The britework had been replaced during the restoration and was therefore in as-new condition. It was given a light polish and then sealed using Britemax Metal Twins.
The fabric roof was protected using Gtechniq I1 Smart Fabric AB. This nanotechnology-based sealant coats the individual fibres of the fabric to provide complete protection without adversely affecting the feel of the material. Rainwater beads and runs off treated surface, preventing the water from soaking into the hood. This, combined with the antibacterial function prevents the formation of mildew within the material, keeping the hood fresh and as new for longer.
The wheels were protected using Swissvax Autobahn Wheel Wax, a heat resistant carnauba wax designed to protect wheels from the build-up of brake dust, dirt and grime whilst providing a great shine.
The tyres were dressed with Swissvax Pneu to produce a deep, natural satin sheen.
Finished and protected with Fireball Fusion Wax, the 190 SL was clearly the hottest ride in town!
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