Cleaning your car for that ‘Show’ look

Here are a few tips that will help you win that trophy next time you show your car.

A few assumptions have been made; that you will enter the correct category, that your Holden is already more like a silk purse than a sow’s ear, and that it has the correct parts and accessories for its year model. This is one situation where cleanliness really is next to Godliness!

Judging is usually based around equally weighted marks for engine, underbody, interior, and exterior, with a smaller fifth mark for overall impression. A “hard” judge will be equally hard on everyone, so this is not a factor. An immaculately clean but slightly “lived-in” car will always score better than a dirty one which has just undergone aground-up restoration. Points are usually awarded for having a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher, so there are some free points.

Set yourself aside a fair few hours for this job. Results in this case are definitely proportional to the time spent. Begin with the two dirtiest tasks. Thoroughly soak the engine, top and bottom, with your favourite gunk remover, be it kero, degreaser, dieseline, or whatever. Use a paint brush to work the cleaner into all nooks and crannies. That “shaggy dog” toothbrush you were about to throw into the garbage may come in handy for such areas as the carby and the the sump. Don’t forget the rocker cover.

While the degreaser is soaking in, jack up each side of the car in turn. Remove each wheel, clean the inner rim, and dress the inner side side-wall with “Armour-all” or a similar product. Use a long handled brush or old broom to wash the underside of the floor pan and the suspension components with warm soapy water. If your wheel wells are painted the same colour as the body of the car, scrub each one with a stiff brush. Do this until all road grime is washed away. Remove any tar spots with kero or tar and bug remover. Later you could polish this area when you wax the rest of the car. No kidding! If the wheel wells are painted in under body sealer, remove any caked on mud, and at a later stage spray with matte black. The areas to be sprayed must be completely dry to do this, otherwise the paint can dry to a light grey, looking very much like the road grime you are trying to hide. Watch over-spray!

When the under-carriage is completely clean, wash the engine down (protect distributor and coil from water) and hose under the whole car, including the wheel arches. Did you remember to clean under the bonnet son? Now wet the whole car in preparation for washing.

Wash the car from top to bottom, a panel at a time, using the soap of your preference. Be sure to wash under the windscreen wipers, the inside of the bumper bars, the lips of the wheel arches. When the job is done, chamois the car dry. Clean it in very warn (not hot) running water, or use a different chamois on the glass to avoid getting old wax from the body on the windows.

Inside the car, the first thing to do is vacuum the carpet or clean the rubber mats. This is best done with the seats removed. Then clean the head liner, seats, and door trims with soapy water or a spray-and-wipe cleaner. Do not wet things too much though, as stitching may rot at a later date. Shampoo any spots on the carpet. Break out the armour-all again, and treat, dash knobs, padding, everything but the steering wheel and pedal rubbers (do not make these too slippery), floor matting and inside window rubbers. Open the glove box and remove everything, then clean it. Clean the door jambs, paying special attention to the hinges, inside and out, and the door latch area.

Back outside, remove all tar and bugs. Now the car is ready for waxing. You will also need a “No.2” or mild cutting polish to remove scratches from under the door handles, and any kick marks around the door frames inside. Also polish and/or wax inside the boot lid, any visible painted metal inside the boot, inside the bonnet, and the painted metal inside the car. Avoid letting wax residue lodge in crevises, but use a clean paint brush to remove it if you do.

Did you buy a large bottle of “Armour-all”? Now you need it again! With a rag wrapped around the index finger, use it on all exterior body rubber, keeping it off both paint and glass. Use it on the boot and door seals, windscreen rubbers etc.

Now go to the engine bay and dress any plastic or rubber parts. (NOT the fan belt!) While you have it out, also do the tyres, including the spare. Did you think to clean the spare tyre compartment? If the metal parts of the engine look a bit dull, try some metal polish, mag wheel cleaner, or cutting compound. Tail light lenses which have gone matte will respond to “Brasso”. Wiring harnesses can be cleaned with a rag slightly wet with lacquer thinners.

Finally, clean the windows inside and out with metho and newspaper (the best!), or any window cleaner. Your car will now look very impressive indeed and will be a serious contender for that trophy. You will also find that once a car is this clean, it will be easier to keep it that way.