Car detailing has been around about as long as vehicles have been on the road. The quality of the products and the number of products has grown over the years. What was once just water and soap is now multiple chemicals and new machines to achieve different results.
Car detailing hardware has improved greatly over the past few years. Many years ago, cars were buffed by hand and they could only become as clean as your hands would allow. Now there are high speed orbital buffers that can make nearly any car look like it's brand new. One of the best buffers on the market now is the German built Flex Polisher. It both orbits and spins, creating an unmatched shine. As a professional, you can pick this polisher up for around $500, with the replacement polishing pads costing $10 each.
The next important item in detailing are the chemicals used. Yes, you can run to the local auto parts store and see a wide selection of consumer chemicals with lofty claims. If you want real results, search online for some of the professional products. There are many different stages of waxes, cutting compounds and glazes that can make an old car shine like new. These products seem expensive, but the supply lasts much longer because it takes less chemical to achieve the desired result.
Detailing your vehicle is a long and difficult project sometimes. Given that you're using the best chemicals and the best possible equipment, this project can be a very rewarding one in the end.