Project S4: The Auto Genie Valet-Pro & Sonax Products

A particularly harsh Norfolk Winter and a recent spate of press cars on test has left Project S4 more than a bit unused, neglected and looking a bit sad on the driveway at Road Towers. Post the occasional blast out, it’s had just a few cursory jet wash sessions, to rid it of salt and snow. So it was crying out for some loving, attention and a proper valet to rid it of the Winter blues. That instantly ruled me out, as I am a worse than average car cleaner, as any photographer who’s ever worked with me will testify.

Time to call in the professionals, in the form of big Stuart Staples – aka The Auto Genie (http://www.stuartstaplesonline.co.uk/auto-genie-car-care.html).

Stu is a proper car nut, who runs www.bigpower.co.uk, is a keen racer, track day hound and all round top fella. He also happens to be a very talented car valeter, based over here in the East Anglian region – offering a bespoke, great value for money service, costing £60 for an exterior and interior valet, with engine bay or £90 for “a proper polish and wax” service. We plumbed for the basic £60 job.

To make life a little more awkward, we also tied Stu’s hand behind his back (not literally, as that would just be daft) – asking him to do the job not with his usual professional valeting products, but some new, off-the-shelf gear from Sonax (http://www.sonax.com/Car-Care).

Sonax (by Saxon Brands) say their made in Germany products are “highly effective and easily applied,” and have been used by the McLaren F1 team and the Red Bull Racing team to ensure their cars are sparkly clean on the track. And so, I guess if they’re good enough for Mark, Sebastian, Jenson and Lewis, then they’re good enough for us Roadies and the “mighty S4” as Stu kindly called Project S4!

Stu arrived bright and breezy and took some time familiarising himself with the S4, giving it a thorough inspection, checking for dents, stone chips, paint condition and highlighting areas of damage to me prior to the job beginning. He also chastised me for using sponges and shammy leathers, never using polish and a variety of other crimes against my own car. Tut, tut, tut me!

Next up was an evaluation of the Sonax products in the valeting kit, getting to grips with the brands and their recommendations for use. Then the lengthy, meticulous Auto Genie pro-valeting process could begin.

First up was the Wheel Cleaner (£6.99). Stu gave each wheel a good dose of the product, then worked it in with a special wheel brush giving each rim a few minutes to get to work on the engrained brake dust and tar spots etc. before jet washing the product off. “It’s important you never use products like this on hot alloys, or leave it on to dry,” says Stu, who liked the solid trigger mechanism very much, saying “many of these are too flimsy, but this is quality and works really well.” And the result? Well, the rims looked shiny, fresh and silver to me, so I was impressed. Stu added: “It’s a pretty good product. It’s not shifted all the tar spots, but for a retail product, it’s pretty solid.”

SCORE: 7/10

Next Stu moved onto the bodywork, starting with a rinse, then the Sonax Deep Gloss Shampoo (£3.99), then another rinse. The shampoo comes with a measure to get the right concentration in hot water, with two cups treating 10-litres, which actually proved to be enough to do two cars, easily. Stu said: “It’s really economical, so you don’t need much at all. And I like the funnel outlet mechanism, so you can get the correct quantities easily. The actual clean looks really good too.” Stu patted the S4 dry with a weave cloth after the rinse – as he doesn’t use shammy leathers because they create swirl marks and scratches. “Because we will be polishing the car, there’s no need for it to be bone dry. Some water is a good thing,” he adds, whilst making sure all of the door shuts, boot, bonnet, fuel filler and hidden areas are also given a good rinse, shampoo and rinse. Impressive stuff! Like the shampoo.

SCORE: 9/10

Next up Stu went under the bonnet to clean up the 2.7-litre V6 Twin Turbo’s engine bay, using the Sonax Trim Cleaner (£5.99) which he said was “really, really easy to use. You just spray it on and wipe it off and it’s supposed to return plastics to their factory look.” Which it certainly did, with minimum effort and an obvious improvement, in just five minutes. We liked this, a lot. Stu added: “The thing with this is we don’t know how long it’s going to last, staying looking like this, but initial use is really impressive, especially at this price.”

SCORE: 9/10

Tyres next with the Tyre Care cleaner (£5.99) – claimed to give “a natural look” to the rubber, not that horrible shine some folk inexplicably use (why should tyres be shiny?). Stu didn’t like this product though, mainly because he hates aerosols, as they are so messy, getting overspray all over the nice clean body work. It did clean the tyres up and they did look matt and “natural” afterwards too, but, as Stu pointed out, the look faded by the time the valet was over a few hours later, needing a second dose to get the look back.

SCORE: 5/10

The Sonax Colour Polish & Wax (£12.99) combo was next up, which contained a colour pen for detailing too. It was sent in a deep green colour (they do blue, red, black, white & silver too), which is not an exact match to the S4’s blue, but Stu tested a section on the underside of the rear spoiler and it took well and didn’t turn the S4 green, so we decided to go for it. “It’s going on a piece of cake, and is a great all-rounder” said Stu, working the product in, panel by panel with a microfibre cloth in overlapping swirls with a small amount of pressure and wiping clean with a fresh cloth after the haze has just formed. Just under an hour later, the bodywork was transformed – glimmering in the sun and as Stu pointed out “actually looking blue and metallic.” Result!

SCORE: 7/10

Insides up next, with the Glass Cleaner (£5.99) to sparkle up the filthy windows and vinyl matt finish Cockpit Cleaner (£5.99) to, well, clean the cockpit plastics and spattering of carbonfibre the S4 has. “As with all the products, they are both very easy to use. The Glass Cleaner left no streaks and the Cockpit Cleaner worked really well, and smells really good – if you like lemons that is.” Luckily, I love them, and so I’m happy with both the smell and the shiny windows and trim.

SCORE: Both 8/10

Back outside now, to work on the finishing touches, using the Paint Renovator (£9.99), which is designed to bring the paintwork to life and lift out scratches and marks. Stu said: “It’s another very easy, very safe product. This is the one product type you could damage your paintwork with, used improperly, but this one is very safe… perhaps too safe. It doesn’t have the teeth and bite it could, perhaps should have and as such, it’s just not lifting all the body blemishes out. Of all the products on test here, this is the one with the biggest gulf between a professional product and this off the shelf type. It’s like comparing apples with oranges.” Stu demonstrated this with one side of the car with the Sonax gear and one with his pro gear. The difference was obvious to see. But, both did make the colour come out and paint shine – just to greater and lesser degrees. And the pro product is 10 times the price…

SCORE: 6/10

Finally, the L.S.P, or “last stage product” as Stu explains to my novice ears. It’s the Perfection Polishing Wax (£6.99), to give a lasting shine and final jush-up to the now sparking paintwork. Stu liked this one too, saying “it goes on really easily and leaves very little residue (powder), which a lot of cheap polishes do. It didn’t stain the trim either and has given a really good shine. The acid test test will be to see how it beads when it rains…” which it did, very nicely.

SCORE: 8/10

In summary of the Sonax products from Saxon Brands, Stu was surprised. “I really didn’t expect to get such good results from these great value, customer orientated retail products. They are all really, really easy to use and have all done a decent job.” Happy days!

Big respect and huge thanks to Stu the Auto Genie. Put out of his comfort zone – forced to work with off-the-shelf goodies when he’s used to pukka, expensive trade gear – he did a truly marvellous job. I was deeply impressed. The S4 has never, ever looked as good – defying its age, looking fabulous for a 15-year-old motor. I simply can’t recommend Stu’s professionalism, or his work highly enough, and he’s a top chap to spend time with too. He has transformed Project S4, inside, outside and under the bonnet – not to mention all the filthy crevices. If you want to give your car a treat, or get it looking its best for sale, call the Auto Genie and let him make your wish come true, like he did for Project S4!

Saxon’s Sonax brands are available from independent retailers, supermarkets and retail chains nationwide, to find your nearest stockist simply call Saxon on 01488 689 400 or email info@saxon-brands.com with your postcode. NB: All prices quoted above are RRP inc. VAT.

And you can book Stuart the Auto Genie to transform your car by calling him on 07775 856131, or using the contact form here: http://www.stuartstaplesonline.co.uk/contact-me.html

Pre Auto Genie & Sonax:

Post Auto Genie & Sonax: