Being a Tommi Mak owner myself, my affection for these rally-inspired JDM legends goes beyond mere commercial interests and into the realm of passion. We all have an affinity towards certain marques as car enthusiasts and for myself, growing up it was always the world-beating JDM sports car’s of the ’90s that held most of my attention as they were seemingly a more attainable goal later in life when compared to similarly performing cars of more exotic brands and price tags.

This is a common story I have discovered from my involvement with the Evo community in Australia where you find a strong commitment to the idea of preservation and restoration of these future classic cars which particularly in a stock standard form are becoming more and more rarer and as a result more valuable.

And there are none rarer and more valuable than the WRC Passion Red Tommi Makinen Edition Evolution 6.5. Built to commemorate Mitsubishi’s 4 WRC championship titles, it was produced in limited numbers and even less so in passion red which was the only CP9A Evo to ever feature the colour.

Additionally, you could factory option Mitsubishi WRC decals for the vehicle, completing the iconic look of the vehicle with a direct lineage to motorsport that can no longer be found in today’s broad-based rally car variants. This was the last Group B spec homologated rally car to compete under the newer WRC rules and remained competitive despite that handicap thanks in no small part to the skill and experience of Tommi, but also Mitsubishi’s development through 5 previous generations of Evolution Lancers.

So when our client presented his most valued possession to us and asked us our opinion on what was possible and what route he should take in bringing out the best in the car and preserving it well into the future, we naturally suggested our Royale Package as it would add the most value to an already appreciating asset and provide the best long term protection for all its perishable surfaces.

Particularly as the red TME’s come from factory standard with oxidation prone, exceptionally thin and bothersome texture laden paintwork, it’s of great importance that a proper regimen of paint restoration and coating suited to this type of system could be selected, assuring the owner that this would be the last time the car would require polishing.

It cannot be overstated the importance of that last statement – the last time the car would require polishing. Because there simply was not enough paint left on the car to ever achieve a safe correction again. We actually knew the history of this car as it’s the previous owner had the car paint corrected after taking delivery from Japan and then sold it to the current owner who is our client. By that time, the car was full of swirl marks, environmental staining, fallout, key marks, water spots and every other type of paint defect you can imagine – despite being coated.

We place a high emphasis on education as we believe it’s ultimately pointless to remove paint and apply coatings without the customer fully understanding the goals of paint correction and coating, it’s limitations and what the expectations are of future maintenance, or it will ultimately end up right back where it started, only with less paint to work with.

Because the car had key marks in it, we also had to undertake colour sanding and advanced paint touch-ups in order to eliminate these unsightly marks as best we could, preserving the original factory paint (and therefore it’s value), as well as the factory, applied decals. For this customer, a respray was not an option! But still demanded the highest attention to detail where these repairs are concerned.

Additionally, we advised the customer to spend the extra on top of the Royale’s standard 4 layers of ceramic coating and apply 8 to ensure that it had the thickest possible protection on the already thinning single-stage paintwork. It wasn’t a hard sell and he was more than happy to go to the extreme for his TME.

With this kind of car and the goal being to preserve the factory paint, only our most experienced operators were tasked with the polishing and sanding of the vehicle. Although this took us extra time, there simply is no other option when shooting for the highest possible correction and minimizing the risk of accidentally damaging the car in the process.

Before we even put polisher to panel we measured average depths and did a thorough visual inspection of every panel paying particular care to look for any discolouration as this is indicative of low paint depth on single stage paints. Soft single stage paint has a reputation among detailers for being finicky and difficult to manage residue, heat and pad cycling while chasing a haze or tracing free finish, however after travelling on more than one occasion to the land of the rising sun to work with Japanese detailers and understand their methods for correcting exactly these type of finishes, we have a winning combination that provides just the right amount of aggression to remove imperfections without creating them again as a result of the process.

Before undertaking this training, I would have laughed at the notion of attacking delicate thin paint with wool, at any stage of the process, much less for both compounding and polishing, but having thoroughly tested this on many paint systems, we can’t imagine going any other way. It was precisely because of this knowledge we felt confident we could achieve a full correction on a car that many other detailers would be (wisely) afraid to chase to the highest levels of perfection, particularly with a fussy client who is hiring us specifically to restore and preserve the factory original paint, failure, in the manner of striking through the paint, just like respraying, was not an option!

The other benefit of using wool is its the ability to remove texture from the finish. Not only did Mitsubishi make this paint thin, soft and single-stage, they also riddled it with the orange peel! While it’s not wise to wet sand it, I knew from experience with my own Tommi that it wasn’t impossible to achieve, since I had done it before! But that’s for another article.

Armed with this knowledge we compounded with the goal of removing defects but also reducing texture to boost image clarity and reflected image quality. This gives the car a truly unique and bespoke look while also providing higher scratch resistance by reducing overall friction introduced to the panel during cleaning and maintenance, particularly with the multi-layer coating system filling and levelling the paint capillary structure.

In addition to this we had to have some passion red paint mixed up to perfectly match paint with nearly 20 years of weathering. Fortunately, we have the assistance of some very talented painters who matched the colour from the petrol flap we removed after polishing to it’s final “ready to be coated” form. This was of paramount importance when undertaking deep scratch repairs on the bodywork of the vehicle as any deviance in shade from the factory paint would stand out like proverbial dog’s balls and in actual fact be worse than the scratch itself. The other challenge is then to build up enough material thickness, achieve the right bond strength and then sand the painted area flat with the factory paint while effecting the surrounding area as little as possible to preserve the film thickness of the original paintwork.

A tedious but important part of a seamless repair process that cannot be sped up nor shortened and requires maximum concentration at all times. Once the sanding is complete outcomes the wool to level out the sanding marks and pray that we have filled the scratch all the way to the edges and created as seamless a repair as we possibly can because there would be no second chances with this paint depth. I am very proud to say we achieved it to a level where unless pointed out specifically, most people will never know the car was keyed, to begin with.

With the correction hurdle out of the way, the next major task was ensuring the single-stage paint would accept a strong bond of the ceramic coating. To achieve this we used Alchemy Prime in order to both refine and prepare the surface for multiple layers of Alchemy Excalibur. Prime is designed with coating longevity in mind and is resistant to the carrier solvent Excalibur is comprised of. Importantly, it also provides a lower friction application of the coating which is particularly important when applying to such a soft scratch-prone finish.

Excalibur was built around the concept of layering for improved thickness, gloss, durability and ease of maintenance, but it’s only possible to achieve such a system when It’s able to be applied to even the softest of paints without marring them during the levelling process. In our early development phase for Excalibur we had issues with any subsequent layer applied onto the base being too difficult to level, leading to marring on softer finishes. With this final iteration, we have eliminated the issue by solving the root causes, both in environmental control and precise timing between layers.

The Royale package, however, is not just limited to the exterior paint surfaces, it’s an all-encompassing restorative process that involves the systematic rejuvenation of every possible surface. This includes disassembly of components like the rear wing assembly, bonnet nostrils, removal of indicators, plastic trim, guard liner removal, cleaning and coating, wiper assembly, wheel removal and restoration, polishing and rejuvenation of all the aluminum control arms, engine bay detail, rubber rejuvenation, door and boot jam polishing and coating, interior steam + chemical extraction, interior trim removal and restoration, odour elimination, glass polishing, weather guard polishing, headlight and taillight polishing, over fender flare removal, brake caliper polishing and rubber and tire coating.

In the final analysis, the Royale treatment of this appreciating modern classic ended up being an investment in value for both the long and short term, while at the same time enhancing the enjoyment for it’s the owner without having to sacrifice being able to actually use it for what it was designed for.

The best part, as usual, was hearing the owner exclaim “I used to think the car looked pretty good but now I realize it was actually $#!7” when he came to pick it up. Another common occurrence is the owner expressing the desire to no longer drive the car because it’s so clean. We enjoy this reaction but always stress that with proper maintenance there is no reason why you can’t have your Royale’s and eat them too.