By Debbie Holden 31 Dec 2020 7 min read

The art of detailing vintage cars: 5 tips to make an old beauty shine


Owning a classic car is a thing of passion and deep respect for the crowning eras of the automotive industry. From the 1966 Porsche 356 to the 1970 El Camino, and from the American 1969 Mustang Boss to the UK’s iconic Aston Martin DB4 – the world of vintage cars is filled with classic beauties.

Even though owning such a vehicle brings immense pleasure and joy, caring for it is a long-term investment and a challenge. Even though luxury cars can last longer, particularly classic ones, that doesn’t mean that decades of environmental influence won’t put strain on your prized vintage car.

When the time comes to bring back a classic car to its former lustre, you need to employ the services of specialised car mechanics and know the proper detailing procedures. Let’s explore the art of detailing vintage cars and how you can make your old beauty shine.


Taking seasonal care into consideration

First things first, it’s important to note that classic cars require specific care and maintenance, and that people don’t drive them like their everyday cars. When you own a classic, you take good care to keep it away from harsh environments and to avoid any unnecessary environmental influences like harsh winds, rain and show, and the like.

That’s why most classic cars spend the winter seasons in a controlled storage environment. The temperature needs to be right and the humidity needs to be optimised. This is something that your mechanic needs to take into consideration.

Your mechanic needs to know exactly what it takes to care for a vintage care after months of it being locked up in storage. Make sure that the mechanic checks all interior nooks and crannies for dust and debris, eliminates any concealed damp or mildew, and eliminates any fluid stains.


Washing the car and removing contaminants

Cleaning the exterior of a classic car should be done with precision and care, so your mechanic needs to know exactly what they’re doing. You can’t just hose down a prized vintage vehicle, rather, you need to choose the right tools for the job.

You can start with a pressure washer set to the right pressure level to eliminate any dirt and debris and avoid scratching the car during cleaning. Then, your mechanic should apply a snow foam and let it sit to slowly soften and pull off any remaining dirt.

Remember, this is a delicate process because we are talking about used cars that have been in service for decades. To preserve the paint job and avoid leaving any scratches, the mechanic must use a special microfiber cloth and mitt instead of a sponge.


Applying ceramic coating for added protection

Classic cars require modern maintenance and protection in order to retain their vintage look and feel without succumbing to the effects of time. In other words, one of the most important elements of vintage car detailing is applying the right nano ceramic coating to the paintjob to add another layer of protection that will safeguard the exterior from the elements.

Nano ceramic coating is nowadays used extensively to protect the finish of modern vehicles, and you should use it to seal the paint job of your prized classic vehicle. Whether you’re applying the coating yourself or if your mechanic is handling the task, make sure that you’re using only top-quality coating to preserve the aesthetic appeal and integrity of the car’s paint job.


Prepping and cleaning the interior

Of course, it’s not just about preserving the exterior, it’s also about bringing the interior back to its original beauty. Interior elements in vintage cars tend to deteriorate over time much faster than their modern counterparts, simply because they weren’t made with modern nanotechnology and materials that we see today.

With that in mind, start by prepping the interior by dusting and vacuuming thoroughly. Next, clean the vintage leather upholstery with a proprietary leather cleaner and conditioner. Clean it thoroughly afterwards to leave a glowing finish. Repairing cracked vintage leather can be a complicated process, so you should leave those types of vehicle repairs to your mechanic.

Use a detailing spray and a microfiber cloth to clean and restore wooden elements around the interior. Polish the wooden trim to a shine. For plastic, use a proprietary plastic trim restorer. Essentially, every type of material has its designated cleaning product, so you can’t go wrong.


Paying special attention to the engine compartment

Last but not least, you need to clean the engine compartment thoroughly and conduct an annual check-up. While the car colour trends and protection methods might have changed and varied over time, the engine compartment in your vintage vehicle will retain its original look and structure, so it’s important to care for it properly.

This is best handled by a skilled mechanic, as you don’t want to be tampering with the electrical areas of the engine bay with water or other cleaning agents on your own. If you are doing it yourself, it’s best to use an engine degreaser and a hog hairbrush. Go through the engine compartment thoroughly and then wash it all off with light water pressure from a hose.


Wrapping up

As you can see, detailing vintage cars is a delicate process that requires time and skill. You can do this on your own, but you can also find trusted mechanics that use the best tools and techniques for the job.