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Tuesday, 2 February 2010

How to make a monkey (£500) with a bucket and sponge

Ok, For those of you who don't know, a Monkey is £500. Such terminology was made famous initially by Arthur Daley in the 1970s TV series Minder and then since by such TV characters as Del boy.
There was a dealer of used Jaguars not far from me some years ago. I absolutely adore Jaguars, I have owned so many of them and I bought one from this dealer many moons ago.

Their premises were in a small warehouse on a small and well kept industrial estate, It was big enough to hold around a dozen cars. The building was very well presented. The floor was painted In British Racing Green and the walls were cream and displayed large paintings of old racing Jaguar C types and D types in the hands of Stirling Moss at Le Mans. Old Jaguar racing flags hung from the ceiling and old tin adverts with Gulf logos and the likes were abound. Classical music played unobtrusively in the background and the whole place oozed character. 

The salesman there had a huge effect on me, I rather liked his company and got to chat with him often. I would guess at the time he was in his mid 50s. I was only 21 when I bought my first Jaguar and so I wasn't that adept at guessing the age of older folk. His name was Charles, he reminded me very much of the actor Leslie Phillips both in appearance and manner. He also had a great British accent. He smoked large fragrant cigars, always wore a great suit with an open collar shirt and silk dress scarf and was simply a perfect person to be selling used Jaguars.

Despite the cars being fully prepared for sale Charles could often be seen with a cloth and polish or leather cream casually polishing away the fingerprints from the last customer or browser. It was a great sight for a potential customer to see, Charles with his dapper looks lovingly rubbing leather cream into the doeskin interior of an XJ6. He loved his job and the customers loved him.
He could often be heard to say "A product well displayed is a product half sold" a phrase that I have adopted and used many times since. 

And that is the purpose of this post, Preparing a car PROPERLY for sale is the easiest way that you can add value. I will wager that you can bring me any car that is currently for sale privately and I can add a minimum of £500 value to it with nothing more than some cleaning materials. 

You would not believe the times that I have looked at cars for sale privately that simply haven't been prepared well. I have bought them, brought them home and days later turned a handsome profit just by cleaning it. I have already posted about a TVR that was in need of restoration, it was still no excuse for not cleaning it. 

A classic example was this 2002 Mercedes S Class 320 Cdi. I spotted this going through the auction, high miles but full history, It was dirty, the plastic cowl around the seat was broken and hanging down, the grey leather had in grained dirt all over it, the windows were filthy, the engine bay was a disgrace. As a result no one placed a bid, except me!
I paid £3000 for it, I got it home, ordered the seat cowl from Mercedes for around £40, paid my mechanic to service it for around £100 and then I set about valeting it. The car was on ebay the next week, I sold it to a German for £7500 who flew in to collect it. He was taking it back to Germany where he was then paying 2000 euros to convert it to left hand drive. He informed me that it would then be worth 25,000 euros!

You can see in the pictures the level of detailing involved, all the door edges were cleaned, all the leather was cleaned and dressed, the wood was polished, under the bonnet was degreased and dressed. All the glass was gleaming, new mats were put in. It makes a huge difference, You simply would not have believed how this car looked when I bought it. I added over £3000 in value simply by preparing the car properly.

So how should you prepare a car? 

Ok first of all I begin by power washing it all over paying particular attention to under the arches and around the suspension. Next I would lift the bonnet and spray degreaser over any soiled areas, let this soak in. mix some traffic film remover in warm water and using a microfibre cloth wipe around the door edges. Spray neat degreaser around the hinge areas if necessary. Using just a hose (not the power washer) rinse the door edges clean.  Now start the engine and whilst the car is running Power wash the whole engine and engine bay including the underside of the bonnet, rub any stubborn stains with the microfibre cloth. Try to avoid spraying directly onto the ECU and electronic ignition.  Leave the engine running for a few minutes after you have finished.

Spray some traffic film remover onto the wheels and around the lower areas of the car, cills bumpers etc. Fill a bucket with warm water and add some car shampoo and a touch of traffic film remover. I prefer Meguiars shampoo, In fact, I prefer Meguiars entire product range. I tend not to use sponges as they scratch the cars paint. Try to use either a soft car wash brush or those cool mitts that you wear on your hands, not only are these gentle on your paint they also really speed up the car wash process. Wash the roof, windows, bonnet and boot then rinse with the Power Washer. Next wash the rest of the car down to the body moudlings then rinse, finally wash the bottom of the car including bumpers and finally the wheels, rinse. 

To speed dry the car I use an autoglym blade if you have never used one you will be amazed! I finish off with a standard chamois leather. Whilst you have the chamois leather to hand do all the windows inside and out.

Remove the mats from the car, if they are in good condition then jet wash them! hang them somewhere to dry. If they are old and tired then go and get some new ones. I tend to go for the heavy duty rubber type. Have a look around the discount stores, I can usually find a full set for around £7.99 They make a huge difference. Unless I am dealing with something like a BMW or a Mercedes with factory fitted mats then I will always put new ones in. Empty any rubbish from the door bins, glove box, and centre console. Vacuum the entire car including the seats, for those hard to reach places at the sides of the seats and transmission tunnel you can either use a blow off gun if you have access to a compressor or use a damp rag. If the vehicle has fabric seats then look for any marks and stains, Dilute some traffic film remover (trust me) in some water and work in with a soft brush. Using a clean microfibre cloth in warm water rub the stain. You'll find all but the worst stains will come out. This same method can be used on leather, head linings etc. I tend to use diluted film remover on the whole of the interior, door panels, dashboard etc. For those hard to clean places such as air vents and around switchgear simply use an old toothbrush and then wipe over with the damp micro cloth. don't overlook behind the sun visors and also the accelerator, brake and clutch pedals! Don't forget that the interior includes the boot! Whilst in the boot it's always advisable to lift the spare wheel cover. If needed, remove the wheel, clean both the wheel and the area in which it sits. Pretty much everyone who looks at a car for sale for some reason looks at the spare wheel! It looks so much better if the whole area is clean and tidy. I don't dress the dashboard and other plastics after this process, it normally dries to a nice matt finish. Personally I hate glossy plastic, if you simply must use something then go for a matt finish product. Pop an air freshener in, your new mats and the inside is done!

Back outside, using a micro cloth wipe around the engine bay to remove any water spots. Apply a coat of wax to the entire body. For the sake of 15 minutes it makes a world of difference and really shouldn't be skipped. Again I highly recommend Meguiars, (see the links above) it goes on so quick and gives excellent results. If you spot any small stone chips or hairline scratches whilst waxing then use this cheat. Buy a cheap set of felt tip pens. Select a colour (doesn't matter about shade) that matches the car, colour over the scratch/chip and the lightly polish. Voila! Instant repair!
Remember to polish the chrome exhaust tip if the car has one. Using a matt finish black trim polish, treat any black trim including mirror backs and rub strips/mud flaps. Polish the head lights and rear lights. Finally, dress the tyres using a Gel, tyre spray tends to fling everywhere when the car is moving. Meguiars do a tyre gel that smells of bubble gum and lasts for weeks. I have a two inch paint brush, I squeeze a small amount onto the brush and paint around the tyre wall.

Now walk around the car with a critical eye and a micro fibre cloth in hand. Have you missed anywhere? Open the doors, open the boot, the bonnet. Everywhere you look should be spotless.
Stand back and admire, you have just made a Monkey with a bucket! 


  1. Hi Maria,

    I know, I think it got to be an illness of mine at one point changing cars every few months so I thought what the hell! May as well learn to profit from them too!

  2. no comment! I so don't get cars!:) BUT I think the idea of doing this is great!!!! good for you! So I will follow your idea even if I do not get the subject!!:)

  3. Hi Debbie,
    SO I guess you followed the link from my other blog?
    It does work,adding value simply by presentation. I've done it for years. I've gained a lot of knowledge about trading cars so I thought I'd start a blog for people who want to start buying and selling cars for profit :)

  4. My brother in law would so love your blog, he loves cars, always buying, fixing, selling - mainly for my sister. When I see him I'll show him your blog.