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Smart as Dirt

Smart as Dirt


By Lance Lambert

In the olden days, or over ten years ago, an owner of a collector car could go into any auto parts store and choose from a dozen different types of car cleaning and polishing products. Major and minor car magazines had a few advertisements for well known products that had proven themselves reliable in getting the old ride to sparkle. These days the car cleaning world has changed.

Every large car show always has a booth with a fast talking barker spreading some miracle goop on the hood of a car. Pick up any car magazine and you will find numerous pages of car cleaning product ads and an article or two on how to properly make your car shine “Like spit on a bunny’s butt”. Yes, someone actually said that.

I have been washing cars for the past fifty years and I’m now going to share some of my secrets with you. Please feel free to patent, market and sell any of these secrets. You can send any royalty checks to me through this publication.

Dirt based polish: My first car was a 1947 Dodge that was dark in both color and disposition. It was sitting on blocks, sans tires, the day my dad gave it to me and was still on the same blocks the day I sold it. This neighborhood eyesore, due to the lack of tires, was unable to reach the driveway for a bath. The garden hose was too short to reach the car and this 14 year old was too broke to buy a longer hose. For every problem there is a solution and mine was a dirt based product better known as dirt. Any rag or towel will work and it makes no difference if it is clean or dirty. Take the rag and begin shoving the dirt off of the car’s surface. Be sure to shake out the rag at least every half hour. What you will end up with is a car that looks clean from 50 feet away and looks like your 97 year old grandfather’s face from five feet away. People usually don’t want to get any closer than 50 feet of a 1947 Dodge so it is no big deal.

Abrasive based cleaner: The second car to enter this cleaning research scientist’s life was a 1948 Chevrolet. It had been repainted bright yellow and the exterior appeal was improved by spraying a couple of areas with gray primer. Trust me, this was a cool thing to do in 1963.

How did I keep this now age spotted chariot clean you ask? Easy, with Comet. Yes, the same product that you use to get your pots, pans and children really clean. The application consisted of spraying water on the car, shaking on some Comet and scrubbing with a sponge. Believe me, the car ended up really clean. The driveway looked great too with its new layer of paint particles that, just a few moments ago, were securely adhered to the car. Current hot rod & custom car owners are applying what is referred to as suede paint, a paint that appears dull. I guess the car hobby can thank me for being a pioneer in getting rid of that distracting shiny surface on cars.

One step cleaner & polish: Car number three was a very nice 1954 Oldsmobile that was lowered three inches, shod in chrome reversed wheels and sounded like a yodeling Darth Vader. I had matured to a wise 17 year old that knew what cars needed were cleaning products that cost a lot of money, or at least more than a can of Comet. The latest rage was a product that claimed you did not need to wash your car before applying: it would wash and wax your car at the same time. What the product did not mention was its ability to wash the paint, wax the paint and remove the paint all in one application. The surface of the merry Oldsmobile always looked great until one day I noticed that the underling primer coat was looking back at me. The cleaner worked so well that it cleaned and waxed my paint until it was gone. Oh well, soon I was moving to an exhotic foreign country (Hawaii) and I needed to sell the car anyway.

My final cleaning and polishing tip is to hire a professional to detail your car, park it in the garage under a car cover and keep it clean by never driving it. Then drive your spouse’s eight year old station wagon and keep it sparkling by occasionally running it through the automatic car wash at the gas station.