The specialist: Perfection Detailing

| 24 Nov 2023
Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

“I’ve always been a detailer,” says Richard Tipper, reflecting on the term that defines his business, but which didn’t exist in the UK when he started out in 1989.

“It’s a terminology that came across from America,” he says.

“There, car cleaning is detailing; over here it has been adapted to refer to a cleaning service that is to the extreme.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

Richard’s passion for classic cars has led him to track down an impressive back catalogue of vehicles to work on, from F1 racers to rally legends

The clientele is often exceptional, too.

He counts off the models he has cleaned on a checklist, in much the same way collectors might with vehicles they own.

“Over the years I’ve hunted down cars that I’ve had a desire to work on,” he says.

“The first Ferrari that Michael Schumacher drove and won in; Colin McRae’s championship-winning Subaru – I’ve worked on the entire Prodrive heritage fleet.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing
Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

A custom-fitted van carries the tools of Richard’s trade, but owners can buy them, too

Yet it was in the early days when Richard came across the car that remains his favourite.

Just a year after he began valeting, a friend left the industry and passed on a client who owned a new Ferrari F40.

Richard has looked after it ever since, through successive owners, and tackled a further 25 F40s.

“I’ve done almost every iteration of Ferrari road car,” he says.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

Cleaning foam helps with tricky wire wheels

Having started out washing neighbours’ cars at the age of 14, Richard considers the moment he turned professional to be when he passed his driving test.

With a Vauxhall Astra to get around, all he needed was the equipment.

“My dad said we should visit the bank to get a loan, and that I needed to put together a business plan to work out if there was a profit,” he says.

But the plan turned out to be for his father, who loaned him the money that he soon paid back.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

Snow foam goes on before the main wash, but after the traffic film remover

Working on an MGB GT today, the first step is to look over the vehicle and get an idea of expectations.

This is crucial for older cars, where there may be patches of flaking paint that need to be treated gently, or even areas of patina the owner would rather weren’t corrected.

Richard points at the riveted headlamp covers on the MG: “They’re going to annoy me, because there is no way of getting underneath.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

Soapy water is used to lubricate the MGB GT’s paintwork

Each opening is checked to make sure it is fully closed, then he feels in the arches for loose paint.

“There’s a lot of negative press about jet washers, especially on classics, but if used properly they are perfectly okay,” he says.

“It’s about water volume, not pressure.”

Every time he starts, Richard gives the lance a precautionary burst away from the car, so that if an attachment has come loose it doesn’t fly off and hit a panel.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

The MGB GT’s wheelarches are checked for flaking paint before using the jet washer

He starts with the wires, spraying on a wheel cleaner that he agitates with a brush before washing with an older mitt and rinsing.

Then a non-caustic traffic-film remover is sprayed on to the lower third of the car, before being rinsed in preparation for snow foam across the entire vehicle, to lift any loose dirt.

After rinsing, Richard speeds up to wash the car with a mitt on each hand, then applies a hydrophobic sealer with the jet washer.

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

Water is blown off the body to minimise smears

He can now dry with an air blower, pushing the water off the body.

From here, the real detailing begins: first with a clay bar, with which he prefers to use soapy water rather than detailing spray, followed by a machine polish and a coating if specified.

“It’s not an elite group,” he says of the washes, polishes, cloths and clay bars that fill his van.

“A benefit of the growth in detailing is that the products are all readily available to the public.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

The use of a clay bar turns a valet into a detail

Harsh sunlight can pose a challenge, forcing Richard to adjust his work order to account for faster drying times on the sunny side.

“Products react differently to heat, and it’s essential to clean wheels when they’re cold,” he explains.

“If they are hot, the water will quickly steam off and the chemical will be more concentrated.”

Classic & Sports Car – The specialist: Perfection Detailing

Richard buys elbow grease in bulk

“You can become a bit obsessed,” Richard admits.

“When you have reached the pinnacle with one car, it might not be possible with the next because it is not in the same condition.

“That can be frustrating, but there is a satisfaction in meeting clients’ expectations.”

Images: Malcolm Griffiths

The knowledge

  • Name Perfection Detailing
  • Address n/a (mobile)
  • Specialism Automotive cleaning and detailing
  • Staff One
  • Prices £POA
  • Tel 07860 336825
  • Web


Triumph Spitfire vs MGB vs Lotus Elan: a new dawn

How to... clean and care for your classic car’s hood

Best car polishes 2023