After you have spent literally thousands of hours building and restoring your car, a final and very important part of showing your car and winning first place is in the final details. These cars have sometimes cost six figures to build. Only one or two points may separate first from second and often it comes down to the finest details. Where the average enthusiast cleans his car with a sponge and bucket of water, when you are detailing for show you have to use a toothbrush and cotton swab.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book, MOPAR B-BODY RESTORATION: 1966-1970. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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Whether you are getting your car ready to show at the local cruise-in or the Mopar Nationals, the goal is the same: to present your car in the very best condition possible. No one area of your car is more important than any other. Although most people spend all of their effort making the paint and interior shine, the undercarriage and trunk are just as important for a car to truly be show ready.
We have a rule of thumb when going over our cars: “If I see it, I assume everyone sees it.” We have heard car owners say, “The judge won’t see that, only I will know.” Wrong! The only way to show your car is with your best possible effort, especially in the area of cleaning and detailing.
A Detail Job Worthy of Judging
You can choose from literally thousands of products to clean and detail your car. Almost everyone has his or her own group of favorite products. Do not be afraid of trying new products, especially if you like the results you see on someone else’s car. It’s great to check out everyone’s detail basket and see what he or she uses.
The best detailing is done in your garage, before you take the car to a show. Never wait until you get on the show field. That is where you do the final touch-up and cleaning.
We always recommend that you wear soft cotton sweat pants or shorts and a tee shirt. No buttons, belts, jewelry, or key chains. Wear nothing that can scratch your car. You may not look cool, but it isn’t about you; it’s about your car! Detailing can be a hot job so you may also want to wear a sweatband or hat. You don’t want that sweat from your head to drip on a seat or fender.
Some basic items you need include microfiber cloths, cotton baby diapers, hand towels, bath towels, shop paper towels, a California duster, a soft toothbrush, cottontipped swabs, newspaper, detail fine paint brushes, canned air, 0000 steel wool, masking tape, a hand brush with soft bristles, round toothpicks, and a sealable jar for touch-up paint and another one for lacquer thinner.
Always start with the interior so that any dust or dirt that brushes up while cleaning does not settle on the exterior of the car. Vacuum all the carpet, and move the front seat up and back to make sure you remove everything under the seat. Vacuum the package tray carefully with the brush attachment; the fiber finish can be marred with a hard attachment. Also vacuum in the seat cracks where the seat back and bottom meet.
Wipe down all the hard surfaces in the interior with a damp cotton cloth such as a baby diaper or hand towel. Use any all-purpose cleaner. Many use Windex to clean all of these surfaces including the glass.
Using a small duster that has been treated so the dust clings to the duster, dust all the dash, bezels, and instruments.
Then we wipe all of the soft upholstery with the Meguiar’s Natural Shine. We never use any treatment that makes everything so slick and shiny that it looks wet.
Do not forget to clean above the sun visors, in the glove box, in the ashtrays, and the kick panels.
If you have leather use a high-quality leather conditioner. Do not use any product designed for vinyl on leather because it dries it out.
You can use canned air to blow any dust from areas you cannot reach with a rag, such as vents.
If you have wood grain you can bring back its shine with Lemon Pledge. Also use Lemon Pledge on the Organisol exterior stripes. Use the natural shine on all rubber seals, pedals, and rubber heel pad. Remove any mats for final showing.
On the show field you can use a long piece of masking tape, wrapped around your hand with the sticky side out, to remove any small bits of trash or grass from the carpet.
After cleaning all the interior surfaces it is time to clean the interior side of the glass. Again use Windex but change to a microfiber rag. Use one rag with the Windex and then follow up with a fresh, clean and dry rag. After this you can take a wadded-up piece of newspaper and wipe the glass. This removes the last bit of streaks so often found on glass.
If your glass has any difficult dirt that does not come off with a rag and cleaner you can use 0000 steel wool or a razor blade to remove it.
Clean all of the dash plastic bezels with the Windex and rag. In tight spots you may have to use the cotton-tipped swab.
Finally, using artist-quality finedetail paintbrushes touch up any chips in your interior painted surfaces. No matter how hard you try to avoid them, chips and scratches get into the interior painted hard surfaces. As is the case anytime you touch-up paint, apply new paint only to the part of the chip or scratch that is missing. If you paint outside the chip you will always be able to spot the repair.
Engine and Engine Bay
After the interior turn your attention to the engine and engine bay. Use a soft cotton rag and take your time; wipe every area with the Windex so it is clean. Windex dries without leaving a residue.
Apply Meguiar’s Natural shine to a small rag and wipe all rubber parts. It looks clean and natural and not greasy as are other rubber treatments.
Clean the fins of the radiator with a soft-bristle brush. Also have a pair of radiator fin pliers to straighten any fins that may have been bent.
Next, blow any dirt or dust out of the lower radiator support and K-member with canned air.
Touch up any body color, engine color, or painted surfaces with touch-up brushes. Spray some paint into the top from an aerosol paint can. Make all the touch-ups then clean the brush with lacquer thinner.
Do not forget to clean the edges of the hood and the bottom of the hood hinges where fine residue appears from opening and closing the hood.
Tires and Wheels
When preparing a car for a show you should remove the wheels and tires to clean them. This way you can also detail the wheelwells and front and rear suspension while the tires are off the car.
Wet the wheels and tires with water before applying Bleche-Wite white-wall cleaner. Try not to get this cleaner on the wheels because it can stain polished aluminum; if you do, wipe it off immediately. Use a steel-wool or stiff brush to scrub the white/red wall or raised letters on the tires. Rinse with water.
If your tires do not have any white/red walls or white letters just skip this step and use Wolfgang’s tire cleaner. Then wipe the tire and wheel dry with a large soft towel.
Polish the wheel with a cotton cloth using Sheen Genie All Metal Polish and Cleaner. This product cleans chrome and polished aluminum very well. Follow this with Sheen Genie sealer and repellant. This is an amazing product that keeps your wheels looking great and stops any future oxidizing.
Now that the tires and wheels are completely clean and polished apply Pinnacle Natural Brilliance Black Onyx Tire Gel with a foam applicator. Many tire treatments leave your tires much too glossy and looking greasy. This gel treats the tire and leaves it looking really clean and with a natural look. You can also reapply this gel on the show field because it isn’t a spray.
Hand polish all the lug nuts, check the air pressure and adjust as necessary, and install all the tires and wheels back onto the car.
Now your tires and wheels are ready to show and only a quick wipe down to remove any grass or slight residue may be needed when you arrive at your spot on the show field.
Detailing the trunk is often overlooked and left until the last. Many points are lost in this neglected area. The trunk paint, mat, spare tire, jack assembly, wiring, trunk latch, trunk seal, and light bezels need to be in correct and original condition. Clean and treat everything in the trunk the same as you would the exterior.
Judges always lift the trunk mat to inspect the condition of the paint and the body plugs. Many check the ribs in the trunk floor to watch for “puddle” primer painted over with body color. They also look for correct sound deadener patterns.
All the attaching bolts that attach the trunk lid are painted body color along with the catch. Even the trunk slider is greased and then painted before installation on the tension trunk bars.
Be sure to follow the jack instructions. They tell you how to mount the jack, spare, and hold-downs.
Unless the car was special ordered with a “styled” wheel the spare is a plain steel wheel painted gloss black with about 10 to 15 percent flattener added. Some cars have the size of the spare written on the inside of the trunk lid with a grease/paint marker.
In addition to having everything correct and as clean as possible, always remove everything from the trunk before your car is judged.
The exterior paint of the car is the first thing everyone notices on a car. Good paint can make or break a restoration. Here are several things you should do to get the best out of your car’s paint. Seldom “wash” a restored car. The best way to detail your car for show is to clean it completely before it leaves your garage or shop. If you trailer your car or if you drive it, it needs to leave your garage as clean as possible. The first thing to do before touching the car with a rag is to use a California duster. Even if the car had a cover, use the duster as soon as you remove the cover and again before you put it back on. Be sure to invest in the best car cover possible. Any fine dust creates “spider swirls” in the paint unless they are removed with a duster.
After dusting the car it is time to clean the car by using microfiber cloths and Windex. Spray a fine mist over a section at a time and wipe with a cloth that has Windex sprayed on it and is damp, followed by wiping with a clean dry cloth. Do this on all the painted exterior surfaces, the stainless, the chrome, and the glass.
After the car is clean use a high-quality show car polish system from Zaino Brothers. It really is worth the investment and makes even the best paint job look deeper and the shine fantastic. Good results also come from Meguiar’s Gold Class Liquid Wax and quick detailer.
No matter what products you use, the basics are the same. The paint must be wet sanded and buffed correctly. It must be clean from any contaminants, and it must have quality products applied correctly.
Clean, clean, and clean. The undercarriage must have all of the correct finishes and be completely clean before you leave the garage. A car that follows the steps for correctly painting the undercarriage the way the factory did always outscores someone who paints it with body color or all black. Inspection marks on the suspension go a long way in separating you from the rest of the pack.
If you drive your car you must really spend a large amount of time under it compared to a car that was brought on a trailer. If the show field is on grass and it has rained your work doubles. No matter the conditions, many first- and second-place cars are separated by the level of detail to the undercarriage. So spend time to make the bottom as good as the top!
Stainless and Chrome
The last areas to be detailed for show are the stainless, light bezels, emblems, and chrome. This is where even the smallest details make a big difference.
Many use a toothbrush to remove polish residue from around emblems and cotton swabs around turn signal bezels and grilles. Wenol chrome and stainless polish is a great product and you only need to use a very little to get the desired results.
Be sure to polish between, over, and under all trim. The same basic rule for the paint also goes for the chrome and stainless. Polish does not make poor paint, chrome, or stainless with scratches better. It only makes the good finishes better!
Now that you have cleaned, polished, and detailed all areas of the car you can see where to touch up the paint and parts. Use the very best fine artist brushes to make these touch-ups.
Have a can or a small bottle of every color used on the car in your kit along with a small bottle of lacquer thinner. Several soft cloths or shop towels come in handy for cleanup during this process.
Always be aware of other cars around you when using touch-up paint sprayed into the cap of the aerosol can. Any breeze at all can spread your color to the car next to you. Something no one wants to have to deal with is overspray from a neighbor!
Now that you have your car finished, detailed, and ready to show, you can enjoy several aspects and show levels. There are as many different shows as there are cities, including cruise-ins, local weekend shows, regional and state shows, and national shows. These shows can have no judging, drive by judging, participant judging, and points judging. No matter what the venue it helps you to enjoy the show more if you understand the process of the specific show.
No matter where you show your car it is important to remember to enjoy the experience. It really is not about a piece of plastic or a plaque, but it is about enjoying your car as you strive to make it the best it can possibly be. By showing your car you can learn where it needs to be improved. In the process you make some wonderful memories and get to know many great people who love these cars as much as you do.
This type of show is so popular that literally thousands if not tens of thousands of these venues have them on Friday, Saturday, and every other night of the week. You will enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of everyone driving their car and wiping it down and setting up your lawn chair and talking with all the friendly people who also love and enjoy their car just like you do.
No real judging goes on at these venues, but many give away a trophy of the week. This is completely subjective and frequently does not go to the best or most correctly restored car in the lot. This is a good place to get to know other owners with similar cars and develop friendships that can last a lifetime.
Local Weekend Shows
A group usually sponsors this type of show to raise money for a charity or club. A small entry fee is standard, music and food are available, and a trophy is presented at the close of the day. The classes for different years and makes of cars are broad in scope. They may have only one class for Mopars that includes all years, models, modified, and original cars.
This type of event can have participant judging, which is really just a popularity contest, or a count of who has the most friends in attendance that day.
These shows may instead use drive-by judging, where several people take a quick look at your car and score it with a general judging sheet.
Or they can have true points judging in which experienced, trained judges look at each car and score it according to a detailed judging sheet. They total the points in each class and award trophies based on points.
Regional and State Shows
These are usually organized on a much larger scale and draw participants from more than one area or state. The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) hosts these type of events all around the country. These shows are for original cars only and their goal is the preservation of great cars 25 years or older of all models. Members of the AACA that attend these events can be assured that their car is fairly judged and can receive judging sheets that show how the car can be improved.
The first year you can achieve Junior First or Senior First if you score well enough according to their guidelines. The next year you can show at a Grand National event and receive Grand National First. The third year you can attend a Grand National event and receive Senior Grand National First. If you have a Senior Grand National car you really have one of the finest examples of an original car.
Many shows fit into this level of competition and most of them have qualified judges who judge according to a points sheet. That way all cars have a fair chance and stand on their merits.
For Mopars several shows in various parts of the country meet the standards of this show level. The basic requirements are clearly defined classes, separating cars by years, and specifying whether modified and original.
Experienced, qualified judges spend at least 30 minutes with each car examining every aspect and part of the car to determine whether it is truly original, according to the standard of the way it left the factory. They check any original paperwork or documentation you have for the car.
The event usually lasts for more than one day and the reputation of the cars that win at these shows increases the value of the cars. This is where magazines find cars they are impressed with and do full features, including a photo shoot and article in their publication. To have your car featured in one of these magazines is an experience of a lifetime.
At national shows you may find an even higher level of judging for only a few cars. That is called OEM level. These cars are judged to the highest standards and each car can be evaluated for three hours or more.
Written by Mike Wilkins & Mike Wilkins and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks
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