This dramatic looking matt black Lotus Exige CR was brought to us by its owner with a view to protecting the unusual paint finish. The CR stands for Club Racer, and denotes that this is the most hardcore version of the already extreme Lotus flagship model. Wearing a composite body over it’s bonded aluminium tub chassis, it weighs a little over 1100kg, yet is powered by a supercharged, mid mounted V6 engine. With little compromise made by Lotus to consider any luxury for the occupants, this car would be a proper weapon on a track day.
However, in the real world of ownership, special consideration needs to be given to caring for its stealth spec paint job. Believed to be one of only 5 matt black examples, the owner wanted something durable to protect the finish and make its care easier. With frequent trips on muddy roads (as the evidence shows in the pictures below), this delicate paint finish will need all the help it can get.
We’ve been asked quite a few times by people considering the purchase of a car with a matt finish paint. Our answer is always that it is something of an enigma. You could say it is both the easiest, and hardest, paint finish to look after. The easiest, because there is little you can do apart from wash it, and the hardest, because there is little you can do apart from wash it……
Of course, that isn’t strictly true, there are a hand full of specialist products designed for the specific purpose of cleaning and protecting matt paint and vinyl finishes, such as the Swissvax Opaque range. But because this is a real paint, and will be exposed to a reasonably hard life, we recommended the excellent Williams endorsed Ceramic Coat product. It offers a long term barrier against the elements, resisting damage from bird droppings, road film, and chemicals.
One of the biggest problems with this finish, particularly on a car that draws so much attention, is that people can\’t help but want to touch the paint, to see what it feels like. Oils and grease on our hands, whether naturally present or from foods, etc, can severely mark this paint, even leaving perfect hand prints. Due to the nature of the matt finish, there is nothing that can be done to ‘polish it out’, like you would on a regular gloss paint. So this is where Ceramic Coat will earn its living, as a layer of protection to minimize the chances of those things actually coming into direct contact with the porous paint surface.
Due to the condition of the car upon arrival, and the spectacular amount of mud underneath it, it received an extended clean, including be raised one side at a time, to enable us to thoroughly clean the wheels, arches, underside and rear diffuser. Later, with the car inside the Studio, the wheels were removed and taken back outside for another clean, just to make sure they were immaculate before the Ceramic Coat was applied.
A pre-soak detergent was applied several times, being allowed to dwell and soften the dirt, before rinsing as much off as possible. The car was then carefully washed with a lambswool mitt, rinsed again, dried and taken indoors.
Drying a car with a matt finish can be a challenge. The paint seems to cling onto the water on it\’s surface, but the task was made easier by using our new Britemax UberMax drying towels. A perfect size, very absorbent and exceptionally soft, they were just the trick.
Moving indoors, the first job was to carefully jack the car up to remove and finish cleaning the wheels. Absolute precision is necessary on a car like this, to prevent unwanted accidents that could see the jack lifting-pad crash through the sills, as others have unfortunately found out in the past.
As mentioned, the matt paint cannot be polished with anything abrasive, nor should a traditional oil based paint cleanser be used, or in fact anything designed to make things glossier. So an alcohol based solvent cleaner was used to make sure there were no contaminants remaining on the wheels or paint surface, before applying the Ceramic Coating. As can be seen in the image below, it appears to make the colour slightly richer and deeper. To the right of the badge had been treated, to the left had not. It\’s a very subtle difference, but left the paint with a lovely sheen afterwards.
Once the exterior was completed, attention turned to the minimalist interior. The lighweight leather seats were coated with a protector, as were the optional carpet mats, and fabric boot lining. The exterior glass was all treated with a water repellant coating, and plastics with a UV inhibiting dressing. Left overnight to completely cure, the car was then ready for collection.