Classic Car Maintenance for Show Season

It’s almost spring, and for classic car enthusiasts across the U.S., that means car show season is upon us. If you winterized and stored a pristine vehicle for the off-season, you may have very little maintenance to complete before you roll your baby out to the first big show. If this is your first time on the circuit, or if you use your vintage car as a weekend driver, you might have a fair bit of work cut out for you. Read on to find some tips and tricks for collector car maintenance, to get you to the show in style.

2. Build Your Arsenal.

If you plan to participate in collector car shows on an ongoing basis, it is well worth the expense to gather quality maintenance tools that will make your prep work easier. David Schultz, from Classic Car, advises that winter is a great time to prepare. He says, “For me, winter is time for maintenance. There are always plenty of projects; the key is to plan ahead.”

Use the cold months to choose a reputable technician, if necessary, and to shop for supplies and accessories. Mark McCourt recommends that you keep the following items on hand:

  • Vacuum cleaner with crevice tools and brushes
  • Soft cleaning brushes and old toothbrushes
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Flathead screwdriver and cloth for hard-to-reach spots
  • Carpet stain remover
  • Upholstery shampoo, or leather cleaner/conditioner
  • Tire cleaner/protectant
  • Glass cleaner
  • Canned compressed air
  • Bucket
  • Two wash mitts (one for wheels and one for body)
  • SOS pads, or similar soap-in steel wool, for tires
  • Cotton towels
  • Orbital buffer
  • Car wash solution
  • Wheel cleaner and whitewall cleaner
  • Clay bar
  • Polish
  • Wax

3. Check Engine and Fluids Before You Begin.

Do the dirty work first. Any tire changes, oil changes, carburetor adjustments, etc. need to be completed before your baby is gleaming, if you want to save your nerves and your spotless detailing.

4. Clean Everything - Every Last, Tiny, Little Thing.

This is the perfect time to let those latent obsessive-compulsive tendencies run wild. If you are less than detail oriented by nature, it may be a good time to enlist the help of a local classic car detailer, or a good friend who excels in minutiae and loves to point out the little spots you miss. Whether you are the one doing the handiwork, or a professional, you are the final responsible party when it’s time for inspection. Use this handy checklist before you hit the show circuit.

For under the hood, Autos.com prescribes following:

  • Engine and air filter cleaned and polished to a shine
  • New belts and hoses
  • Clean fluids
  • Battery and leads clean and well-attached
  • For the wheels:
  • Chrome or aluminum cleaned, polished, and sealed
  • Whitewalls scrubbed
  • Tires cleaned and sealed

Old Classic Car and Hemmings Daily recommend the following for the interior:

  • Dash, console, and armrests cleaned and polished
  • Chrome details scrubbed and shined
  • Vents dusted with cotton swabs and cleaner
  • Carpets cleaned and vacuumed
  • Upholstery shampooed
  • Leather cleaned and conditioned
  • Pockets and crevices dusted
  • Trunk cleaned and vacuumed

5. Shine, Baby, Shine.

This is a beloved vintage car’s crowning glory. It’s what brings the crowds to a standstill, that lustrous gleam that makes everyone stop and admire. It can even make the drive seem a little bit smoother, and certainly happier. Autopia.com lists six ingredients for perfect collector car shine:

  1. Paint in good condition, with minimal oxidation: Keeping this up requires a good wash every week, at the least.
  2. Contaminants removed: Dust, tar, bugs, etc. all eat away at your paint and dull the shine. You cannot wax over contaminants. They have to be removed before any sealant is applied.
  3. Polished perfectly smooth: Polishing removes nicks, swirls, scratches, and rough patches caused by road wear and storage.
  4. Glazed to a high gloss: A good glaze fills in the imperfections in paint, to restore a glossy feel.
  5. Protected with synthetic sealant: According to Autopia, “Synthetic coatings are five to ten times more durable than the carnauba waxes. They offer extended protection from the elements and create a super-slick surface.”
  6. Waxed with natural carnauba wax: Wax has no cleaning properties, only shine. It adds warmth and life to your paint color and provides the perfect finishing touch to make your car stand out from the crowd.

Now that your baby is gleaming brighter than ever, you can show up to the car show with confidence. Remember to call ahead to register, if necessary, and check into any hidden fees or parking requirements prior to arrival. Shows can be cancelled without much notice due to inclement weather, so it’s always a good idea to check conditions the night before and the morning of the big show. Then roll onto the lot in style, and enjoy the company of vintage car lovers and admirers just like you.

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