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1953 Studebaker Champion 4 Door Sedan

Initial Cleaning - In Situ Project

Well, yes, I've harped on the fact that our focus will be on the mechanicals and not making the car all whistle pretty. And here we are, in the first actual bit of work, cleaning and polishing the car. Sounds a bit off, right? Well, as with any project, you need to ensure that you know what you're doing and start with a clean workspace. So, cleaning and polishing the car gives us a clean place to start as well as an opportunity to get close to the project and really get a good look at things.

Now, we're not just looking at the exterior of the car. Since we will be focusing on mechanicals the first bit of washing will be under the hood. Now, you can't just raise the hood and fire away with the hose. Instead you need to cover the distributor (at a miminum) as well as any other electrical relays and such that may get damaged by the water. I also recommend disconnecting the battery when you do this. My favorite "trick" for getting off old engine gunk is the liberal application of Simple Green or similar cleaner.

Give it a few minutes to soak in. Additionally, if you have a high pressure nozzle for your hose, use it. Even better is hot water, providing you have the ability to hook a hose up to a hot water source. (If you don't have a hot water line in your garage, I'd recommend adding one, if you're plumbing capable. If you're not, check the hot water supply to the clothes washer, you may be able to hook a garden hose up to it. -- Just don't come complaining to me if the wife finds out and you get into trouble.)

One last additional tip. If you have a particularly gooey engine compartment I've found that an old toilet brush happens to be the best scrubbing tool. Now, if you steal this from the bathroom, then you definitely need to buy a new one otherwise the wife will definitely hang you for using it and me for recommending that you use it.

Now it's time to take care of the exterior. The crucial thing to understand when dealing with cleaning the paint on a vehicle is undestanding the type of paint that is on the car. In the case of the Studebaker it's an old single stage paint job. Your car may be the same, or it may be clear coated. You'll want to ensure that you get a car wash that's approriate for the paint as well as a polish. Now the car wash part is less important than the polish part.

Since we're dealing with a car that is an old single stage, what we're going to do is attack the surface oxidation and get down to clean paint. Most folks use a sponge when they wash their car. Because we'll be scrubbing off the oxidation I'm going to use an old terrycloth towel. The towel combined with the car wash soap will be just abrasive enough to knock off the worst of the oxidation.

After a good scrubbing with terrycloth towels my junior greasemonkey and I managed to get down to the paint level. With an old car like this, and an old paint job on the car, each time you wash and polish the car you take a layer of paint off. This particular paint job it's been worn to the nub. It's thin enough that in another year or so, if left as is, will thin to the point of not being able to protect the paint any longer. This is why ensuring that the paint is protected as best as possible in the near term is crucial to protecting your in-situ project.

Now, in my case, when dealing with a paint job of this nature (old single stage) I have found a roduct that I personally prefer: TR3 Resin Glaze. It not only cleans off the last bit of oxidation, but lays a filling coat of glaze over the paint to protect it from sun, rain, etc. When it comes to laying down a coat of polish I prefer to lay it on by hand using the Mr. Miyagi method (i.e. wax on - wax off). Then I finish it up with a 10-inch buffer. The manual effort keeps me close to the paint so that I can ensure that every bit of the car is appropriately coated. The buffer simply puts a better shine on the glaze.

Now that the car is cleaned and polished we're ready to get into the real work. You may have noted that I didn't bother polishing chrome or cleaning the interior. Chrome polishing isn't necessary to protect something that we'll get rechromed. And the interior is in bad enough shape that ad we tried to clean it, it would have disintegrated further.

In the next article we'll focus on the fuel system so that we can get the old girl running!

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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