By Steve Silverstein in the October 2001 RootesReview:
(Cleaning and polishing old cars is something that should be as basic as washing your face or brushing your teeth. But it is remarkable how little most car owners know about the process of restoring a paint job that has lost its luster. TE/AE member Steven Silverstein of Marlborough, MA (he’s the owner of the classic Alpine racer featured in Rootes Review’s July issue as well as an Alfa) has done some research and experimentation. Here’s a brief summary of his findings. He uses 3M products as an example. There are, of course, other brands of cleaners and rubbing compounds on the shelves of your friendly neighborhood parts store.)
First determine if your paint has clear coat. If it is clear coat, you have to be careful because you can remove the clear coat if the rubbing compound is too harsh. Second decide if you’re going to use an orbital machine polisher or if you’re going to do it by hand. I prefer to work by hand-it takes longer but you can observe more closely how the paint is responding to the treatment.
Let’s assume you have a non-clear coat car with paint badly oxidized. Start in an inconspicuous place. I start with 3M’s Imperial Glaze, which is really a cutting compound. You will quickly see the oxidation disappearing, but be careful not to work through the paint layer. Soon you will see the original color, but it looks dull.
The next step takes care of that. I follow up with Finesse-it II but 3M also recommends the Perfect-it rubbing compound. Both are very mild and will take out the faint scratches. Keep working from front fender to back fender – you should be sweating heavily now. Notice how much oxidation and dirt is coming off the car? I usually do the whole car, front to back, before following up with a thorough waxing. 3M makes a very good wax but Zymol cleaner wax scored better in Consumer Reports and I like the results better.
The end result will be an excellent original finished for not much money. It may have taken a tremendous amount of work, probably an entire day, but you will find this shiny finish will last the year and simply needs a quality waxing before the car is put away for the winter. Remember that, if you were on the brink of having your car painted anyway, then you can’t go wrong by taking a chance and buffing it yourself.
A web site with valuable information on it is: http://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/automotive-us/
Steve used his technique on his racing Alpine which was featured in our July (2001) issue. Although there may not be a direct connection, it should be noted that the car was invited to be shown at this year’s Castle Hill concours in Ipswich, MA one of the snootiest and most prestigious of American car shows. Looking around at the Bugattis, Jags and Ferraris, Steve noted that he had the cheapest date there .. .the Alpine Cinderella goes to the Ball.