Showing Off Your Vintage Vehicle — It’s All In The Detailing  

Showing Off Your Vintage Vehicle – It’s All In The Detailing

Standridge Auto Sales 1962 Rambler Classic

1962 Rambler Classic

Owning a vintage car is a responsibility. It’s a piece of history, maybe even art, and it’s your job to keep it looking good. You want to have pride in your ride whether enjoying a Sunday cruise or showing it off at the auto show. Do this well and you’ll be showered with compliments, you might take home prizes from local car shows, and best of all, you’ll increase its value.

In this blog we’ll explore the most effective and satisfying ways to get the exterior and interior of your vintage car into show-ready shape. Following the steps listed below will separate your ride from those that are merely clean. Let’s begin outside, followed by the interior, before finishing with the windows.

Detailing Supplies

You wouldn’t attempt an oil change without the right tools, and the same should apply to detailing. Set yourself up with:

  • Car wash liquid
  • Automotive glass cleaner
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Tire cleaner
  • Polish or clay bar set
  • Wax
  • Carpet shampoo
  • Leather conditioner
  • A selection of absorbent and microfiber cloths
  • Large bucket with grit guard
  • Wash mitt
  • Q-tips


Park in the shade and while the paint cools, fill a bucket with warm soapy water. Always use proper car wash liquid — never dish soap. It might work on your plates, but it’ll damage your paint!

Completely rinse your ride. Then starting with the roof, use the wash mitt to slather on the soapy water. If you’re doing this properly you’ll work from top to bottom making three circuits: one for the roof; one for the hood, windows and trunk; and the last one for doors, wheels and lights. Rinse the suds off your vehicle with clean water. Then take an absorbent cloth and dry the whole vehicle, again working from the top down.

Polish and Wax

If your vehicle was painted any time after 1980, there’s probably a clear film covering the paint itself. This clear coat keeps corrosive elements like tar, tree sap and bird droppings from damaging the paint. Polishing helps to smooth and remove swirls and minor scratches. You can use a buffing ball and polishing compound for this, but don’t do it too often, as you’ll rub away the clear coat. An alternative is to use a clay bar to remove grit and grime adhering to the surface.

Waxing adds a protective layer on top of the clear coat. First, apply an initial coat with a microfiber cloth, using a second cloth to buff the finish to a bright shine. Microfiber cloths saturated with wax make the job much easier. They’re the kind of product to keep in the glove box for a final clean after driving to a car show.

Wheels and Tires

Brake dust takes the shine off the smartest wheels and isn’t removed by washing. Instead, you’ll need a spritz of wheel cleaner followed by a good rinse. Dry with a clean absorbent cloth and use Q-tips to get into the tightest corners.

Tires tend to dull over time. Bring back the shine with some foam cleaner. Spray evenly over the sidewall, then wipe or rinse as the instructions direct. If you want sidewalls to look like new, a tire dressing will do the trick.


Remove floor mats and vacuum them thoroughly. To give your mats a showroom ready look, use a carpet shampoo product to remove stubborn dirt. Once finished, spray off the shampoo with water and mop your mats with an absorbent cloth. Wipe hard surfaces with a soft microfiber cloth — rather than interior wipes — which can leave a glossy sheen. Finish by vacuuming seats and carpets before putting the mats back.

Most fabric upholstery stains can be removed with upholstery cleaner. Leather should be treated with a leather conditioner. These cleaners will have specific instructions on how to use them properly.


Always use an ammonia-free automotive glass cleaner together with a microfiber cloth. To clean the top of the window, roll the windows down to remove the border of grime that builds up over time. Then roll the window up to clean the bottom. Windshields and rear windows are hard to reach, but they’re easier with a microfiber cloth over the back of the hand. On the rear window be careful not to damage any heater elements.

Detailing takes effort, but the reward comes from onlookers’ admiration, car show prizes and higher resale value of your vintage vehicle. Plus, even if you have no intention of selling, it’s satisfying to know you’ve helped preserve a piece of automotive history.

Author Bio

Carmen Fiordirosa is the Director of Marketing at CleanTools. When not at work, Carmen is busy cleaning her own home and taking care of her four children. CleanTools produces a variety of drying and polishing products for home use.