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Monthly Master Class Classic Car Bodywork Maintenance

Tips to Make Your Classic Motor As Good As New

There are few things more eye-catching than watching a classic car club out on a Sunday afternoon, sun glinting off pristine bodywork and engines thundering. But the roar of the engines, the gleaming body work and the elegant beauty of classic cars all need to be carefully preserved through proper maintenance. If you’re the proud owner of a classic motor, you’ll know that hours must be spent washing, waxing and treating them for rust to keep them looking and running as though they have only just left the factory.

Every classic car owner should know how to keep their motor looking great, and body and paint maintenance can help the average owner maintain the value and drivability of the classic car. Here are some tips to help you.  


Tip #1 - Cleanliness is a Virtue

Classic cars seem to sparkle; there isn’t a chip or a scratch in sight, and they are waxed to perfection. They scream ‘look at me’, as though they are still exclusively the reserve of rich men and royals as they were in their heyday. Their opulent glory does not fade over time, and their beauty demands that they are always kept looking picture perfect. It’s a good job that most classic car owners can’t resist the lure of washing and waxing them, as the cleaner the car is, the less likely it is to rust. Bird droppings, in particular, should be wiped away as quickly as possible, as they are the only natural compound more likely to damage a car than salt water. The chemicals in them eat away at the paintwork. To keep your car in perfect condition, enjoy your Sunday drive, and then go home and lavish some loving on your car. Remember, there’s no such thing as ‘too clean’.   

image of Jaguar E-type being spray painted


Tip #2 - Pristine Paint


More than anything else, a well-kept, correctly maintained body and paint job will ensure that all eyes are on your classic, but simply driving around will expose your car to noxious substances which attach themselves to your paintwork and eat away it. Exhaust fumes deposit sooty black particles on the bodywork, whilst rotting leaves and bird droppings damage the paint. The air itself eventually causes the paint on your car to dull, as the outer surface oxidises and starts to lose its sheen. Damage to the paint exposes the bare metal beneath to the rain and wind.

The simplest solution to a dull finish is to wash the car weekly. Warm water, applied evenly over the body of the car, will rinse away specks and light dirt, although special car shampoos are denser and less acidic. If the paint on your car is dull, apply polish and elbow-grease to add some shine.   

Mild cleaning should be performed using a sponge or soft cloth, making sure that it’s not abrasive. Check that there are no dirt particles trapped in the sponge, as these can scratch the paint. This weekly clean will be enough to wash away debris and corrosive substances.

Tip #3 – Waxing

Make an effort to wax your vehicle every 3-4 months, as this creates an invisible barrier between the surface and the elements, and has the added benefit of making your motor shine like new.

Tip #4 - Add a Little Sparkle

For exterior brightwork, such as chrome bumpers and rear view mirrors, look for a metal polish. Using this product will clean, shine, polish and preserve the exterior of your work.  

Tip #5 - Old Shiny not Old Rusty

Classic cars should be lavished with regular rust treatment. Choose your rust treatment according to your car’s requirements; one that is designed for classic car will offer your motor the protection it needs.

Where rust has already set in, don’t despair. If stripping the paintwork on your classic reveals bad patches of rust, it is not necessary to cut the rusted portion out and weld in a new piece. Provided the rust has not caused holes, you can use a product which converts the rust, both surface and subsurface, into a polymer, which will provide an excellent base to take paint. Holes can be repaired using fiberglass mats or by gluing special repair patches onto damaged areas.   

Image of scratch on classic car bodywork


Tip #6 - Removing Scratches


Scratches which haven’t penetrated the paint are easily fixed with detailing solution or acetone. Apply this to the scratch and then wax the vehicle, as the solution will remove the protective barrier over the paint.

If you’re taking time to make sure that your motor runs at its maximum potential, then it’s well worth devoting a couple of hours a week to keeping the bodywork in tip-top shape. Regular cleaning, polishing and rust maintenance can help to protect your classic from the elements and will keep it looking smart and shiny for years to come. If you’re looking for a solution short of keeping your car garaged, bathing it regularly in oil, and only driving when it’s sunny, follow these steps to enjoy your classic every day.


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