Project P38: Interior Appeal

Auto Genie pro-valet, Britpart mats and loadspace liner & Pure DAB Radio at Halfords

One of the reasons I’ve always loved the P38 is for its stunning, luxurious, superbly comfortable interior – which is especially excellent in Project P38’s range-topping Vogue model, with its Walnut dash, tilt and slide sunroof and charcoal black/grey leather armchairs, sorry, seats.

To be fair, despite its 100,000+ miles of use and being 13-years old, the interior is in superb condition – one of the reasons I was happy to purchase the car at auction (looking cared for). The front (especially driver) leather seats are mildly worn and cracked, but not badly. The rears still look like new and the dash and boot have worn well, despite years of use. Project P38’s interior is pretty impressive overall really.

But it’s not perfect – coming from the auction with no floor mats and in need of a darn good clean. On top of this, the factory fitted (old school tape and CD autochanger) Alpine head unit is pretty dire, and only works peripatetically.

Naturally, as a proud new owner, I’ve given the interior a decent hoover, dust, clean and even treated the plastics to a bit of protective silicone sealant on a few occasions – all of which helped improve its appearance. But I fancied giving the car a proper valet, to restore its former glory – something that’s way beyond my car cleaning abilities.  So, I booked a pro to do a pro job – Stuart Staples, aka, “the Auto Genie.” His expert eye for detail, bag full of top-quality professional valeting gear and years of know-how should transform the interior.

Additionally, I used my now very good friends at top Land Rover parts people, Britpart, to get hold of some top products to protect the interior – with a set of hard-wearing, easy-clean, perfectly-fitting smart rubber floor mats and a very cool boot-protecting loadspace liner.

Finally, as I am a big BBC 6 Music digital radio fan, I decided to update the ancient ICE – replacing the factory-fitted (tape!) head unit with the very new, very latest Pure Highway H240Di DAB radio, which should make the most of another P38 Vogue interior spec treat, the amped, Harman Kardon system. And, in order to get this done properly, and at a great price, I used national car parts giants, Halfords and their accessible ‘We Fit’ service – available for any product they sell, at any of their 467 stores across the UK.

Auto Genie Interior Valet

If you’re anything like me, car cleaning comes way down the list after driving, enjoying, tinkering, tuning… etc. And an interior clean to me, at best, probably consists of chucking out litter, randomly running a hoover around quickly and wiping the dash and seats down with a cloth. Done! Right?

Wrong! As with everything else in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing things. Or should that be a good way and a decidedly average one. And, whether you’re doing an interior clean-up to enhance enjoyment and ownership pleasure from being all pristine, or because you want to maximise its appeal (therefore profit) at sale time… this is a job you’d be well advised to use a professional for: What they can achieve, using their pro-products (only available to the trade) and far superior cleaning techniques is like night and day compared to what us mere mortals can muster, believe me.

So, on a very strong recommendation from some trade competition racer pals of mine (and having spoken to folk who’ve used him to achieve fast, asking price sales), I employed the service of big Stu, aka “the Auto Genie.” He’s based near me in Norfolk, but works all over the East of England (and will travel further, with travel expenses covered). He’s a true petrol head and a lovely chap to boot. And he really knows his microfibre cloth from his dual action polisher – taking the notion of car cleaning to a whole different level. But fear not… we’re not talking car detailing here – anal, awkward, arguably insane OCD cleaning that costs hundreds of pounds, so you can show your shiny undersides at a show – just proper, professional, effective valeting.

The brief for the (£50, four-hour) job was to give the P38’s entire interior “a good going over” – focusing on lavishing the leather to look luscious, preserving its longevity with top products and making the interior all look good, smell great and stay clean for as long as possible.

To achieve this, Stu set to work: All the (slightly stained, muddy) carpets (including the huge boot and parcel shelf) were vacuumed first to remove the loose dirt, then shampood, using a trade cleanser. The shampoo was agitated with a clean microfibre cloth and then vacuumed again to remove any moisture – leaving a very smart, snazzy stripped pattern behind, as well as removing all the grime perfectly. This looks fab and the carpet colour difference before and after the Auto Genie set to work was staggering.

Next, the leather trim on the door cards and all the seats were gently cleaned using a top-line (expensive and beautiful smelling) Car-Chem product. The leather was then wiped down with a clean microfiber, before applying a conditioner to increase suppleness and provide a more uniform OE appearance – more matt, than shiny, as leather seats should be.

They now look marvelous, feel great and smell fine too. “I love using these Car Chem products on a really nice leather interior like this,” says Stu. “You end up with such a transformed look and you get left with a really nice, old car leather smell – like a classic Jaguar or Aston – it’s great.” I concur. Why have I never done this before in over two decades of car ownership? Madness! It’s fabulous.

Next, all the air vents, electrical switches and driver controls were dusted (with a variety of brushes) and simultaneously vacuumed to remove all the biscuit crumbs, tobacco, crisps, fag ash, insects, dust, hairballs and other yucky detritus that gathers in crevices over 13-years of multiple ownership. These areas were then dressed with Sonax products, to further clean, and protect too. And Stu also applied and polished a window cleaning solution, to bring the shine back to the glass. Finally, the Britpart rubber mats and boot liner (see on) were cleaned with a diluted all purpose cleaner before being dressed with Autosmart products using a clean microfibre cloth, for the final piece of the jigsaw. Bling!

And the effect of all this detailed cleaning is a most pleasing, genuinely spotless interior that shines and emits a lovely aroma. Stu worked really hard, achieving a fabulous finish and giving Project P38 a fresh, fine finish to the fabulous furniture. Most impressive – plus, he’s a top petrol head guy to natter about cars with to boot and only charged £50. It was great fun having him around and he did a superb job: Highly recommended, whether for your own enjoyment, or pre-sale, to help you achieve the best price when selling a car by making it look its absolute best.

Britpart Car Mats & Loadspace Liner

Project P38 was a little sparce – with no carpet mats – and pretty darn filthy from auction, needing a good DIY clean (then a proper pro valet!). And with the Auto Genie doing such great work tidying up the interior, especially deep cleaning and bringing the colour back to the grey carpets (not to mention leaving them with that pro stripe finish), I felt I should preserve the carpets from more abuse, extending the interior’s longevity and protecting it from green lane Norfolk mud, beach sand, kiddy vomit, pet hair and worse.

So, I contacted my local Britpart supplier and ordered a premium loadspace liner for the boot, costing £85 inc. VAT. This tough, durable, semi-rigid, non-slip rubber liner – with three-inch deep sides, funky criss-cross pattern and Britpart logo – is designed to fit snuggly into the boot P38’s space. And, as well as being hard wearing and practical (protecting from damage), it’s really smartened up the loading area and took ten seconds to ‘fit.’ Ace!

It’s also superbly easy to clean mud (or indeed anything!) off and whatever you put on it doesn’t slip and slide around in the boot now either. That’s an unexpected bonus: I keep a box of fix-its and P38 essentials – like oil, water, coolant, fuses, gaffer tape, hammer and other precision tools – in the boot and it was forever skidding from side to side around corners before I fitted the loadspace liner; spewing its contents, incredibly annoyingly. Now, it stays put at the back of the boot, never tips over and that simple thing pleases me greatly – as much as seeing the smart-looking liner does every time I open the P38’s ace spilt tailgate (the best feature on any car, ever). The liner is also water-proof and the deep sides mean even if you do spill stuff on it, it’ll easily mop out, without having drowned or stained the carpet beneath: Another first rate, practical, long-lasting Britpart product.

Speaking of which, rather than go for a set of fancy, deep-shag-pile carpet mats which cost a bomb and spend their life soaking up stains and showing-up all the bits you drop, I ordered a set of black Britpart rubber over mats – front and rear, for just over £100 inc. VAT.

They are more of the simple school of design – black and grooved – than they are adding to the P38’s luxury vibe, but they are very thick/comfy underfoot, extremely easy to clean, don’t slip or slide about and (like the loadspace liner) they’re cut to fit superbly, especially in the rear, where every millimetre of carpet is perfectly covered-up by the snug-fit mats. They will do the job of covering up the carpet and protecting it from filth and wear for decades, whilst being easy to remove, brush down and clean-up… not to mention good value. Win, win, win: I do like Britpart’s intelligently-designed, practical, no-nonsense goodies.

Pure Highway H240Di DAB Radio Head Unit & Halfords ‘We Fit’ Service

Project P38’s standard, old school (and not cool!) head unit is one of the interior features that really is showing its age now (even though the amped 6-speaker Harman Kardon speaker system remains pretty up-to-date and offers good sound, even with an out-dated Land Rover/Alpine head unit). Built in an era where tape players ruled, and people still knew what AM radio was, the Range Rover managed a minor modernization at its birth in 2000 with a CD autochanger fit, but even that’s redundant now – thanks to the birth of iPods and DAB radio.

And as a big fan of both digital sound systems (and with the government about to announce a digital switchover for radio this Autumn and with over 30 million car owners yet to make the switch), I thought it would be a nice, modern addition to the Range Rover’s luxurious interior to update the in-car entertainment – with a brand new, state-of-the-art DAB (digital) radio, so I can have BBC 6 Music on whenever I fancy, or enjoy my iTunes library on the move via my iPod.

The ICE world is a minefield. There’s 1000’s of products out there and as many so-called specialists ready to take your money for installation. Call me a purist, but I still trust and respect the knowledge and ability of the established Halfords brand – with 467 branches all over the country, all of which now offer their ‘We Fit’ fitting (and basic servicing) service, as well as a myriad of products to chose from.

So, that’s where I took Project P38 to supply and fit a literally hot-off-the-shelves, super-fresh Pure brand, Highway H240Di DAB radio – designed to “shake-up the in-car audio market” – with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. Looks smart eh?

The Pure Highway H240Di DAB (retailing at £129.99) unit is described as “an advanced in-car stereo delivering fantastic audio and a great choice of stations from its digital, FM and AM tuners.”

It offers:

  • DAB Digital, FM and AM radio
  • Connection for iPod/iPhone and USB with full music control and charging
  • CD/CD-R/RW compatible
  • Single Din ∙ Aux input ∙ Detachable fascia ∙ 4 x 45WD
  • Din mounting kit
  • Fascia carry case.

Halfords’ product manager Jon Oliver said: “There is now real momentum in the transition to digital radio and we anticipate that a government switchover will trigger a surge in consumer interest – just as it did with Digital TV.

“Digital radios are starting to make significant in-roads into the analogue market and our own sales of these units are currently outpacing wider market growth. Combining our retail and fitting capability with Pure’s award-winning technological capabilities means we can offer customers an unbeatable digital radio solution.”

Pure and Halfords add: “Mobile digital radio lets you listen to the same great stations with crystal clear sound as you do in your home. It also brings with it a whole host of great digital features including scrolling text and station tuning by name. And as well as broadcast radio, Pure’s Highway unit also offers iPod/iPhone charging and playback connectivity, CD/CD-ROM playback, and MP3 CD/USB playback with bookmarking – perfect for listening to spoken word on your commute. And, with the dedicated DAB button you’re only one press away from hearing your favourite stations in digital quality sound. Highway also makes it simple to save your favourite stations as presets for easy access on the move.”

Incidentally, as well as launching the Pure Highway H240Di model we fitted, they have also just launched the H260DBioffering Bluetooth connectivity and support for wireless Bluetooth audio playback with A2DP controls, which retails at £149.99.

I picked Halfords also for their ‘We Fit’ service. The lads who fitted it were – as always – massive car enthusiasts: Knowing and raving about the new DAB head unit and loving Project P38 to boot.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though: We did have quite a few technical issues with the P38 (of course!), which took some time to resolve: Being a “luxury” Harman Kardon pre-amped system, we needed to order a couple of special wires to integrate the new head unit to the existing wiring and map – which caused some extra thinking, cost and much head scratching. But the chaps at Halfords rose to the ICE fitting challenge to get the job done – even fitting a piece of spare facia, to make the installation of the new (smaller) head unit look factory, and neat.

The end result is excellent: The new unit looks great (especially at night, all brightly lit) and the sound quality is improved, making the Harman Kardon system very happy to have a proper head unit driving it for a change. And the difference between a scratchy FM (or worse, AM) signal and the mountain stream clear digital DAB sound is unreal.

And any doom-mongers who say DAB radios in cars means lots of lost signal and audio pixilation are wrong – even in rural Norfolk! Alan Partridge would approve I’m sure. On top of that, the ace one-press functionality to get onto my beloved BBC 6Music in the Range Rover is amazing, as is being able to plug in my iPhone and iPod. This is proper digital technology modernizing the P38’s interior and sound system superbly.

Conclusion

Project P38’s interior is looking (and smelling) fabulous, thanks to the Auto Genie, which is a really pleasurable experience. It looks smarter and is well protected, thanks to Britpart’s superb mats and load liner, which are 100% practical (and the Auto Genie’s protective products). And I can now knock along listening to BBC 6 Music (& 100’s of other great digital channels) and my iPod, using the very latest Pure DAB radio, supplied and installed by Halfords’ “We Fit” service. Project P38 improvements keep on coming… in all areas. Happy days!

Thanks

Paul Myers @ Britpart (car mats & load liner)

www.britpart.com

Tel: 01588 674200

Stuart Staples, Auto Genie (valeting)

www.stuartstaplesonline.co.uk/auto-genie-car-care.html

Tel: 07775 856131

Stuart Humphreys at Halfords (Pure Highway H240Di DAB radio & “We Fit” service @ Norwich)

www.halfords.com

Tel: 08450 579 000 (UK) or 01603-760091 (Norwich)

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