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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Frederik Faidhi's journey from washing cars as a teen to detailing expensive supercars in Dubai

"If you’ve invested millions of dirhams in a motor car, why would you put up with anything other than a perfect exterior finish?” he says 

Keeping car in pristine condition is a passion for Frederik Faidhi. Photo by Kevin Hackett
Keeping car in pristine condition is a passion for Frederik Faidhi. Photo by Kevin Hackett

For Dubai to be home to the world’s most expensive anything would raise barely an eyebrow after years of international headlines stating just that. This even extends to cleaning cars, as Frederik Faidhi once had the dubious honour of being labelled by the Daily Mail as provider of the world’s most expensive carwash (a claim he’s never made himself).

Just don’t let him hear you refer to the services of the company he runs in Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial area in such simplistic terms. For, within the rather anonymous-looking workshop unit District 31 trades from, nothing short of magic takes place. This is car detailing on a level most people have never experienced before, where factory fresh paint on the world’s most exclusive automobiles is made to look better than even their makers could manage.

Faidhi, who prefers to be referred to simply as Fred, started out by washing cars while still a teenager. At the extensive grounds within his sprawling family home in London, the great and the good used to leave their cars parked while visiting Wimbledon for the annual tennis championships. Spotting an opportunity to earn some money, he started offering to wash them – he hasn’t stopped since.

At 56 years of age, he could safely be called one of the world’s leading experts in his craft.

“What we do here is painstaking work,” he says. “It’s a labour of love. Take a close look at any car, even the world’s most expensive, rarest and most desirable luxury cars and supercars. Even when they’re in the showrooms before delivery you can spot what we call ‘orange peel’. We eliminate that, producing a truly flawless reflective surface. If you’ve invested millions of dirhams in a motor car, why would you put up with anything other than a perfect exterior finish?”

So-called orange peel is the slight rippling of paint on a car’s body panels, and it’s something that is incredibly labour intensive to sort out, which is why manufacturers tend to shy away from doing it. Indeed, a quick scan around the premises reveals a brand new McLaren supercar that was only recently supplied to its Saudi owner. He hasn’t even sat in it yet but he’s given District 31 the task of perfecting its paint before he turns a wheel.

Under the unforgiving inspection lamps that Faidhi uses to highlight even the tiniest flaws, it’s remarkable how imperfect the paint is. To fix it, microscopic layers of paint or lacquer are gently removed and the surfaces sanded and polished until every imperfection has been obliterated.

This is a man who gets ­physically upset when he sees the region’s expensive vehicles being cleaned in a bay at a petrol station, or in a supermarket car park. “It’s a tragedy,” he says. “I just can’t get my head around people who care so little for their magnificent cars that they pay to have the paint damaged.”

He points out that normal water, which might be perfectly safe to drink or bathe in, contains acids and minerals that, once the water has evaporated, remain on the paint being cleaned. Eventually there is a build-up of these invisible pollutants and they cause pesky swirl marks and holograms, which Faidhi’s dedicated team spends its time and energy removing.

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Read more:

Revealed: The car-washing habits of the UAE

How to jazz up your car for under Dh1,100

Abu Dhabi drivers paying hundreds of dirhams a month for car cleaning

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Full detailing projects, particularly on cars that are to be displayed at concours d’elegance events where they are judged on originality and appearance, can take up to six months. And nobody in the region has won more awards for the owners of these cars than District 31 (at the last count it was 17 national and international gongs, nine of which were for “best of show”).

“We have clients who’ve remarked that they didn’t realise their car was so complex in colour, because it’s always been hidden underneath layers of contamination,” he says. “And while we admit to being expensive, the best is never cheap. This is an investment, no different to keeping a home maintained, and it can add many thousands of dirhams to a car’s value.

“The thing is, once we’ve finished, owners tend to fall in love with their cars again and wouldn’t dream of selling them.”

Such is his reputation in this rarefied industry that District 31 carries out its own research and development, with manufacturers of detailing products in Japan and Italy adapting according to the results achieved. “If a product is good enough for us to use it, it’s good enough for anyone.”

With that, he unscrews the lid from a tiny pot of polish – it smells good enough to devour. “And you could eat it,” he smiles. “It’s entirely natural, we don’t use any destructive chemicals. You could say this is a luxury spa for automobiles.” The results, as testified by the bulging trophy cabinet in his office, and the perfectly mirrored Rolls-Royce being ensconced in protective sheeting before its owner collects it, speak for themselves.

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