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Details, Details, Details: Tips & Tricks for Conquering the Car Show

One look at the British Motoring Calendar section says it all: there are more car shows in June, July, and August than the rest of the year combined. After a long Winter hibernation, even the most finely-detailed show cars can use a little elbow grease to whip them into shape.

With an ever-increasing number of detailing products cluttering up the shelves at the local auto parts store, ferreting the right products and correct methods to detail and preserve your precious metal can be daunting task. Looking for guidance, we got an expert to dish up the straight scoop on detailing do’s and donut’s. West Hills, California, resident, Bob Muzio, is something of an expert when it comes to taking care of cars. His day job involves papering new rides as a the service manager at a new car dealership. His weekend gig is more British-oriented—he’s the president of the Southern California Vintage Triumph Register. Need more credentials? Muzio organizes the annual Triumphest show, and has taken home nearly two-dozen trophies with his jaw-dropping 1964 TR-4. The man knows how to bring the best out of a car.

With introductions out of the way, we stood back and let Muzio work his magic on his already-gleaming Triumph. With a bevy of different “spray ‘n wax” miracle products currently hitting the market, we were curious if any of them actually worked. According to Bob, Meguire’s Quick Detailer works fairly well for a pre-show maintenance and upkeep after a complete detail, but nothing can compare to a full-blown wash and hand wax to maintain luster and shine. He even shared a few homemade tools and tricks for cleaning those hard-to-reach areas.

Follow along as we clean, wipe, buff and wax our Triumph guinea pig to show car glory.

All the products showcased in this story are available from Moss Motors, including the complete Auto Glym product line, imported genuine chamois, and real will wash mitts. Visit www.mossmotors.com for more details and we’ll see you at the show!

    • Revered in England yet difficult to find in the U.S., Auto Glym is the official detailing product of Aston Martin, Jaguar, and McLaren, We utilized various Auto Glym products, including the durable Super Resin Polish, Instant Tyre Dressing, and Vinyl & Rubber Care spray. Other detailing kit must-haves include a proper wash mitt, chamois cloth, a scrub brush, and a vinyl top cleaner.
    • After sitting under a car cover all winter, the TR-4 was relatively clean but covered in a thing coat of dust. It is always a good idea to start with a perfectly clean finish, so we wiped the car down with a wet wash mitt. Clean, warm water works best if the car is dusty, since repeated use of soap can harm some finishes. If you must use soap, a few drops of high-quality car wash solution works best.
    • Rather than washing the entire car, then attempting to dry everything before the water evaporates and leaves water spots, try washing one panel at a time. This minimizes spotting and maximizes attention to detail. Towels can leave fine scratches and swirl marks, so we dried the car off with a freshly wrung-out chamois.

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    • You wouldn’t drive your car around without insurance, so why expose your paint to the sun without proper protection? Old-fashioned carnauba wax can build up over time and give your paintjob a dull, flat look. We prefer cream polishes with polymer or Teflon protection, such as Auto Glym Super Resin Polish. Apply to one panel at a time in a circular motion. NEVER wax a car in the heat or direct sunlight.
    • Once the polish has dried, buff off lightly with a soft baby diaper or cloth. Getting every last trace of tried polish out of the corners and crevices can make or break a show car, and Bob likes to use this little trick for hard-to-reach places: find a soft basting brush, wrap the handle in masking tape for protection, then cut off half the bristle length. Now you’ll have a soft, stiff brush that won’t harm your paint and will remove any final traces of polish.

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    • After we hand-buffed the body to a mile-deep shine, it’s time to tackle the trim. Most British cars have a fair amount of rubber trim, which can fade and crack over time if not properly cared for. Traditional products such as Armor-All will make rubber shiny, but actually pulls moisture out of the rubber over time. We used Auto Glym Vinyl & Rubber Care on a terrycloth towel. Apply liberally and allow to dry for a high sheen, or apply sparingly and buff off quickly for a low sheen.
    • Headlights have a tendency to massacre entire species of bugs, which can be difficult to remove. We use More Than Glass from Orison Marketing, a totally non-toxic glass cleaner designed for industrial use that won’t harm paint or chrome but easily cleans all kinds of glass.
    • If your car has new glass, then a simple wipe-down with water and a chamois will probably do. But, if you’re peering out through 40-year old glass and even the strongest glass cleaner can’t clear off all the contamination, it might be time for a good scrubbing. Glass Science Glass Scrub is a heavy-duty cream cleanser that cleans auto glass without acids or solvents. Simply wet the windshield, massage in the Scrub with a sponge or damp cloth, then rinse off.
    • Early British cars sport a lot of chrome, and keeping it shiny is easier than you’d think. Apply a small amount of Auto Glym Chrome & Bumper Care to a soft cloth, wipe on in a circular motion, and allow it to dry. Buff it off with a different dry cloth, and the chrome with shine like new.
    • In the past, the worst part of detailing a British car was tackling the wire wheels. Hours of scrubbing, buffing, and pinching fingers made it a terrible job. Thankfully, new products on the market have made wire wheel detailing a snap. The key is to keep them clean, preventing a long-term buildup of brake dust. If the chrome is heavily clouded or dirty, triple-ought steel wool will back the shine in no time.
    • If you regularly maintain your wire wheels, pre-show cleaning is a snap. Spray the spokes with a coat of Auto Glym Clean Wheels, which dissolves brake dust and road grime without harming the chrome or painted finish.
    • After the Clean Wheels spray has had a chance to soak in, scrub between the spokes and behind the spinner with a thick-bristle scrub brush. This loosens up the tougher stains and deposits.
    • Finally, rinse off the wheel with a hose, and dry it with compressed air. The compressed air helps blow all the water out of crevices and around the spokes where it could mix with brake dust and create a mess.
    • Finally, we wiped the tires down with Auto Glym Tyre Dressing. Rather than spraying the tire directly, which would make a mess of our freshly-cleaned wheels, we prefer to soak a rag, then massage the dressing in by hand. Tyre Dressing uses polymer silicone protectant to seal the tires, rather than old-fashioned tire shine products that can cause checking over time.
    • After dusting everything off with a car duster, we wiped down all the interior vinyl and plastic panels with Auto Glym Vinyl & Rubber Care.
    • A quick spray and vigorous wipe keeps everything protected from the environment and gives the interior an attractive matte-finish sheen.
    • A Q-tip is used to clean the trim around the gauges.
    •  Vacuuming the carpet helps, but sometimes even the most powerful vacuum can’t pull up lint or hair. Use a clothes roller (you can find them at most dry cleaners) for perfectly clean carpet.
    • We could write an entire book on engine detailing, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you’ve got the basics covered. Once the engine has been degreased, wipe everything down with a wet rag, then blow it dry with compressed air.
    • Wrapping a popsicle stick in a shop rag allows you to scrub hard-to-reach areas that tend to collect grease and dust.

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    • The last step in the detailing process is the top. The Triumph’s top wasn’t bad, it just needed a bit of scrubbing and spiffing-up. First we soaked a sponge with Renovo Soft Top Cleaner and rubbed it into the vinyl top. Then we wiped it off with a wet rag.
    • Next, we protected our newly-cleaned top with Renovo Vinyl Ultra Proofer, which conditions the top and locks out harmful UV rays and oxidation. To apply, simply soak a rag in the Vinyl Proofer, rub it on and allow it to dry.
    • Finally, we remedied a long-standing British car problem by cleaning and polishing the back window with Renovo Plastic Window Polish. Squeeze a dime-sized dollop onto a soft, clean rag, then work it into the plastic in circular motions. Allow the polish to dry, then buff off with a soft baby diaper or cheesecloth. The window will look as good as new.

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As you can see, the finished product is fully detailed and ready to take home car show gold.

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