- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Dad loves cars, right? And we know you love Dad.

So there’s no point wandering down the hanging-dice aisle at Wal-Mart to look for a Father’s Day car gift. You want the good stuff, the automotive equivalent of 18-year-old Scotch, not a six-pack of Budweiser.

We decided to do a little scouting at a toy store for car guys. “The things you want, not the things you need,” explains the manager. The only shocks absorbed in this place come from finding out what you can spend on radar detectors ($300) or high-intensity headlights ($600).

Or car wax.

Call us old-fashioned, but we weren’t expecting anything exotic when we asked what sort of wax Dad might enjoy slathering on the old buggy. We were picturing one of those pry-top tins of blue pudding with the little oval sponge.

“Nothing like that,” says the manager’s assistant. “But if you’re looking for the best value, this is it.” He holds out something called the Pinnacle Souveran Sizzling Shine Kit. The picture of the classic Cord convertible on the box is a tip-off that this might not be for dads who drive Kias.

The kit includes “paintwork cleansing lotion,” “bodywork shampoo” and applicator pads and polishing cloths. The centerpiece is a modest, 8-ounce container of wax.

The cost: $99.95. A bit much for car wax, no?

“Not at all,” the assistant says. “You could spend a lot more. A lot more.”

OK, we have to ask: How much more?

“Well, if Dad’s a little neurotic about his car, he’d probably want Zymol.”

Uh-oh — that umlaut looks expensive, and it is. Zymol turns out to be a whole range of specialized waxes. Special wax for Volvos, special wax for Saabs, special wax for Japanese paint — all about $100.

And the price keeps going up. Zymol NSX Glaze, made especially for the Acura NSX sport car: $395. Zymol Atlantique, developed for an antique Bugatti, $650. And the real brain-glazer: Zymol Vintage, developed for a classic Bentley but supposedly suitable for just about anything on wheels: $1,500.

What in the world makes this Vintage Glaze worth that kind of money?

“Actually, it’s pronounced van-TAHJ,” the assistant says.

This might be the only car wax in the world that ought to come with French lessons. But there has to be more to it than snob appeal. Can we get a close-up look? The manager ducks into the backroom and returns with a sample minijar. This stuff’s soft as hand cream and smells like a coconut-banana Smoothie. “I used it on my car, and it came out great,” he says.

But would anyone who paid $1,500 think so? There’s no one to ask. The manager says he last sold a jar “sometime last summer, I think, over the Internet. It wasn’t to somebody around here.” (The Web buyer got a bargain: thedriversseat.com lists Vintage at just $1,295.)

Pronounce it correctly, if you please

We decide to let the manager off the hook and ask the Zymol company to explain what the fuss is about. It’s worth a call to Germany or Switzerland or … just where is this Zymol company, anyway?

Connecticut?

We figure Zymol must be the owner’s name, so we ask to speak with him. “There’s no Mr. Zymol,” says product information manager Russell Datz. “The name stands for a combination of ‘enzyme’ and ‘emollient.’”

Sounds pretty chemical.

“Oh, no,” Mr. Datz says. It’s all natural wax and oils, he says. The main ingredient, carnauba, is harvested from the rainforests of Brazil. All good car waxes contain some carnauba, because it’s as hard and durable as wax gets.

The general theory of car wax seems to be that harder is almost always better, because it means more protection from acid rain, bird droppings and uninvited fingers. “There’s maybe 5 percent carnauba in the common automotive product,” Mr. Datz says.

How much is in Vintage?

“Van-TAHJ,” Mr. Datz emphasizes, “has about 61 percent carnauba.”

Even with all those emollients, that much carnauba needs body heat to soften it so it can spread evenly. “That’s why you spread it on with your bare hands,” Mr. Datz says.

For that kind of money, you’d think they would at least lend you someone else’s hands. But car people like Dad live for this sort of hands-on, car-bonding experience. And if you buy Dad his very own 22-ounce, hand-cut lucite container of Vintage (“suitable for the mantel piece”), he’ll have the rest of his life to enjoy the fun.

“It’s infinitely refillable,” Mr. Datz says. “When somebody goes through it, we fill it up again free.”

A gift that keeps on giving

This is starting to sound almost reasonable: $1,500 (or maybe just $1,295) gets Dad a lifetime supply?

“More, actually,” Mr. Datz says. “It can be bequeathed.”

Well, that’s something to think about, although maybe not too hard. We asked one of Ford Motor Co.’s paint experts whether modern cars really need exotic, expensive waxes. His answer boiled down to this: No.

Wax helps protect the paint, helps it look shiny and makes it easier to keep clean.

Any wax compatible with modern clear-coat finishes (just check the label) will do that.

But maybe Dad does indeed have a classic Bentley or Bugatti, or wants to imagine he does.

In that case, maybe Dear Old Dad and his ride deserve Zymol Vintage Glaze for Father’s Day.

Assuming, of course, that his will is in order.

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