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Specification:
Peugeot 306 Rallye
Engine:
2.0-litre, 4cyl
Claimed MPG:
30
Performance:
0-62mph in 7.8s
Weight:
1163kg
Price:
n/a

When I started this project, pulling the 306 out of its lock-up captivity, the one thing I wasn’t that fussed about was how it looked. Well, I wanted shot of the bird droppings and cobwebs, but beyond that every blemish tells a story, right? I’ve always been enamoured of those Icon derelicts, q-cars hold a very special place in my heart. And yet look at me now – freshly resprayed panels last update, now off for a full Meguiars makeover.

Somewhere along the line I’ve derailed myself, or maybe it’s that I fear what further underbody investigation might reveal. I know the car’s structurally sound – actually in really good nick for its age – but I’ve yet to trace the origin of the wheel wobble, and it simply doesn’t drive as crisply as I want. But that’s not for now.

Into the detailing bay it goes, on go the lights and in goes the breath. Jeepers, this is unforgiving. Stand well back and it’s OK, but get up close and all you see is chips, scratches and swirls in the paintwork and… “has a cardboard box slid down the bonnet at some stage? You know, one with staples underneath?”, says Meguiars senior marketer, and today my guide through the trials of detailing, Tom Clarke. I dimly recall watching a box containing the jack and jump leads disappear while trying to jump start it about five years back. I’d been more worried about the contents of the box.

Today’s plan is to get the whole car up to the standards of the freshly painted bits. I’m sceptical, Tom only slightly less so. We set to work. First the car is washed and dried, then wetted again so we can clay it. I’d naively assumed a fine clay was used to fill in the swirls and chips. Wrong. It’s used to deep clean, you just gently wipe it over and it picks up dirt, so blemishes and stains disappear. Tom talks me through cleaning techniques: work in straight lines, side to side plus up and down so you don’t miss anything. Once again we dry the car, then it’s polishing.

Tom hands me a machine polisher. Good, my arms had been starting to tire. Turns out that even in this day and age the best product for cleaning a car is still elbow grease. First you apply dabs of polish to the rotary head, spread it over a section of panel and then work it into the surface. More technique. Move the machine fast and keep the rotary head spinning slowly (it’s clutched) for spreading it around, then reverse those two to work it into the surface, making sure you don’t overheat any section of panel, as you’ll burn through the lacquer top coat. Sounds complicated, but even I could manage this.

I’m used to waiting for polishes to dry to a chalky residue before polishing them off. That’s apparently because some companies use chalk as a bulking agent. No need here, one light sweep with a cloth and it’s done. Last step is a wax to seal the surface. Same process – it goes on with the machine polisher and gets buffed to a high sheen. While Tom takes command of that, I head indoors with the heavy-duty cleaner and set about erasing the smell of rodent urine which has manifested itself on warm summer days. After an hour the cabin, once grey, is now black again, the glass is clear and the smell far, far fresher. Truth be told I got quite carried away after Tom handed me a toothpick-like swab: airvent inners and pedal caps were delicately detoxed, I even lifted the gearlever gaiter.

It takes two of us four hours to do the job. I’ve found the whole process strangely therapeutic. The Rallye has clearly found the process utterly rejuvenating. It sparkles. The paint has gained depth and lustre, even the previously matte bumpers glow. It’s a transformation. And it makes me want to achieve the same results elsewhere, too.

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