Drivin' Through - July 2006

Detail? $8,000, Please
Stefan Budricks, Editor-in-Chief

When I sat back with a printed copy of the June issue of Auto Laundry News and reread Kevin Farrell’s Labor Rate story and the Detailer Operator Forum, I was reminded of a piece of news trivia my publisher had passed on to me several months ago. The news item appeared in Hemmings Motor News and concerned Paul Dalton of Miracle Detail in England, who charges a simply outrageous amount of money to detail cars — cars that, admittedly, sell for equally outrageous amounts of money.

While the articles in our magazine dealt in part with the challenge detailers face in arriving at a fair yet profitable charge for their services, the Hemmings piece marveled at the $8,000-plus ticket Dalton’s “Pinnacle Detail” runs premium-car owners. You read that right — an $8,000-plus ticket! Dalton introduced this detail earlier this year following the launch of the $1.5 million Bugatti Veyron.

Dalton’s taste for high-ticket jobs precedes the creation of the Pinnacle Detail, though. Late last year, in conjunction with Zymol wax, he ran a promotion for “PistonHeads” members on www.pistonfest.com, offering to detail their cars (a limit of 20) with the “most expensive wax in the world” for a flat rate of £395 or about $680. The service included bodywork cleansing, paint depth measurement, and corrective polishing to remove small scratches and swirl marks. The promo pointed out that a detail with this super expensive Zymol Royale wax — with 70 percent pure Carnauba wax content — would normally cost upward of £550 ($950).

Whether the following anecdote served as inspiration for Dalton conceiving the Pinnacle Detail we don’t know, but apparently Zymol’s Royale wax was originally formulated to protect the finish of the Bugatti Royale, an ultra-luxury car of the 1920s of which fewer than six were built.

So what does Dalton offer present-day Bugatti and other exotic-car owners for $8,000 — that is, other than more of “the world’s most expensive wax”? The Pinnacle Detail takes 64 hours to complete over a one-to-two-week period and consists of 61 separate stages. A warm-water pressure washer and 100-percent-cotton towels are used. Before the polishing starts, the paint is measured to prevent too much paint being removed. At least four layers of Zymol Royale wax are applied, at 24-hour intervals. The shine and protection, it is claimed, should last for up to six months.

Unfortunately, not all 61 stages are revealed, so it’s really difficult to figure where the value lies. From what we are told, the process doesn’t seem all that different from your common garden-variety detail — the time factor excepted. Comments from contributors to pistonfest.com are enlightening, though. Wrote one: “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to simply respray the entire car every six months? ‘In for another respray sir? Did you drive through a puddle then?’”

Could this scenario be repeated on this side of the Atlantic any time soon? The potential market for such work is already here. There certainly is no shortage of enthusiasts or exotic and collectable cars. If anything, that market is growing. Bugatti and Ferrari need not apply. It’s the homegrown American muscle car that is currently being lusted after. The New York Times (June 4, 2006) reports that this past January a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda convertible sold for $2,160,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, AZ, while a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible fetched $1,242,000. Would the new owners drop $8,000 on a detail? Only if someone offers the service.

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