Classically Trained

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

April 3, 2009 5 min read

CLASSICALLY TRAINED

Collectable car care provides inspiration

Vicky Katz Whitaker

Creators News Service

If your heart skips a beat when that gleaming, rust-free 1961 Thunderbird comes up for auction and you raise your hand to bid, put it back down.

Buying, selling, caring for and showing everything from Model Ts to muscle cars can be a pricey and demanding pastime peppered with unforeseen outlays, expensive paint jobs, storage and transportation issues and more. It's not a hobby for everyone -- but the love and care put in to them can inspire any car owner.

Some collectors seek "classics" -- well-preserved foreign or domestic vehicles produced between 1925 and 1948, the most expensive of which are rare, were produced in limited numbers, have a well-documented history and/or once belonged to a celebrity. Others seek vintage vehicles built between 1919 and 1930 or antiques like the mass-produced Ford Model T, first manufactured in 1908.

Still others, like buyer/seller Brent Walker, prefer the more nostalgic "collectibles" -- carefully restored vehicles from the era of big-finned, heavily chromed cars that dominated the late '50s to the high-performance muscle cars built in the late '60s and early '70s.

With some classic and rare vehicles going for well over $1 million, most automobile collectors at that level are truly wealthy individuals, observed Walker. Collectibles, on the other hand, have been comparatively more affordable. "During the past decade, the trend has been toward cars from the '50s and early '60s," he said.

Driven by nostalgia, the vehicles appeal to those who were teenagers in that era who can now "afford to purchase and enjoy the cars of their youth," Walker added. "That desire and the glamour associated with the decade and the flamboyance of the automobile industry of that era ignited a trend that has actually lasted for a few decades."

No matter what they buy or sell, he said car collectors view their automobiles as "rolling art." Some are purists, seeking vehicles in pristine condition. Others prefer buying and/or restoring autos to factory standards at the time of manufacture.

Caring for collectibles is a serious undertaking. The lessons learned from it, however, are beneficial to all car owners, even if you're just babying your late model Honda or the Chevy Malibu that gets you back and forth to work:

* Protection: Automobile collectors garage their vehicles to protect them from inclement weather. "A heated garage is best," said Russell Maas, Hudson collector and parts manufacturer and co-owner of 21st Century Hudson, an online supplier of Hudson engine parts. "It keeps the tires and upholstery from shrinkage and weathering."

* Maintenance: Whether it's a collectable or new model, having a good, trusted mechanic is a must. For collectors, the mechanic needs to be familiar with older vehicles, Walker said. If a car isn't driven often, change the oil every few months and add a stabilizer to the gasoline since it "tends to spoil with current formulas," Walker said. He also recommended keeping a drip pan underneath the engine to protect garage flooring.

* Washing: Since show cars are garaged, they don't pick up extreme road grime or dirt. In most cases, they just need to be dusted or wiped off. But when they need washing, collectors do it by hand using the mildest soap and 100 percent cotton cloths. The vehicles are never run through a car wash or otherwise washed by machine. "Buffers or other electrical devices should be avoided since they can cause swirls in wax, distortion or scratches," warned Walker, who also refrains from using chrome cleaners on newly chromed parts. "Chrome polish has grit in it and will scratch."

* Waxing: Some collectors use boat wax on their cars, Walker added, "since this offers great protection against bugs and grime and wipes clean very easily." Johnson & Johnson paste wax and special waxes made by Meguiar's are also popular among collectors. "Check with the supplier to make sure it will not harm your particular paint," Walker advised. "Technology advances so rapidly, you may not understand some of the new ingredients."

* Tires and Windows: Tires are scrubbed in the washing process. For windows, collectors use the same formula that works best on household windows: an ammonia and water mix.

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