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Overdue detailing a '40 Ford

Work party tackles ’40 Ford cleaning — inside and out!

Story by ‘Rotten’ Rodney Bauman; Photos by Rob Desch and author

Restoration Series
This work party is just getting started. Here, car owner  Bill Spurzem  mingles as early arrivals discuss a pretty loose game plan.

This work party is just getting started. Here, car owner Bill Spurzem mingles as early arrivals discuss a pretty loose game plan.

Back when we were pullin’ up stakes and movin’ to Montana, Mrs. Rotten and I were thinking we’d have abundant shop time, alone, together, as we’d likely be the only gear heads around. Boy, were we wrong!

As a result of meeting one guy, we’ve quickly come to know the hot rod community that we first thought wasn’t here. Among the main characters is area historian Bill Spurzem. For the past 80-some years, Spurzem has lived right here in the Flathead Valley. Just to lend perspective, the covered wagon in which his ancestors arrived is arranged as yard art alongside his garage. If you want to know what’s happened here, Spurzem can tell you. If you want to know about hot rodding here, his friends can tell you that it pretty much began with Spurzem.

Like the pro detailers we know, we’ll begin with the coupe’s interior trim. So far, the parts we see look to be in great shape. Beneath this seat, however, the icky part awaits us.

Like the pro detailers we know, we’ll begin with the coupe’s interior trim. So far, the parts we see look to be in great shape. Beneath this seat, however, the icky part awaits us.

Now before we get too technical, let’s talk about Spurzem’s long-term relationship with a certain little black ‘40 Ford V-8 (Standard) coupe. He’d known of this car for many years as he’d spot it here and there in his travels. Although he’d already amassed a fine collection of “olderly” automobiles, he still had an available spot for a keeper. But alas, the coupe was unobtainable. Finally, in the late ’80s, Spurzem had his chance to purchase the elusive little ’40 and without hesitation, he did so for 900 bucks.

For a year or three, he drove the ’40 darn near daily, still in original condition. Today, in classic gear head style, our friend is still drivin’ the wheels off the very same car.

Down there on the carpet, those are sunflower seeds from a bird feeder near our friend’s garage. Those weren’t dropped there by birds.

Down there on the carpet, those are sunflower seeds from a bird feeder near our friend’s garage. Those weren’t dropped there by birds.

As the story goes along, you’ll likely notice that Spurzem has good friends. Every now and then, they’ll come together to give his little coupe a wash-‘n’-dry once-over, but from the looks of it today, it’s been a while.

Now I don’t quite recall how this even came up, but someone birthed the notion to bring the ’40 Ford “Standard” in for a deluxe detail job — the ol’ once-over twice, if you will. If you’ve ever attended a good, old-fashioned work party, you know the feeling that goes along with it. When we mentioned our intentions to our friends at Mothers Polish, they felt something, too. Compelled to contribute to our cause, they shipped enough product to stock the shelves of a detail shop.

So, what else was under the seat? Well, we do have pictures, but they’re not very pretty. Let’s just say there’s been a whole bunch of rodent mess vacuumed up.

So, what else was under the seat? Well, we do have pictures, but they’re not very pretty. Let’s just say there’s been a whole bunch of rodent mess vacuumed up.

Although I have worked closely with a couple of good ones, I don’t claim to be a detailer. Truth be told, there are no detailers among our volunteer crew. There are, however, a couple painters onboard. Since we do possess the know-how to create a quality finish, we might also be qualified to restore an old one. From there, continued maintenance wouldn’t be rocket surgery. Perhaps we should schedule Spurzem for a once-a-year wash-’n’-wax touchup. This time we’ll work our buttocks off.

Tackling the interior

So, as this “complete” (that’s detail talk) gets underway, where should we begin? The pro detailers we know like to begin with interior trim. We will, too, but this won’t be a typical inside job. In fact, our first step will be rodent abatement!

The next obvious step is removal of the interior trim panels. The trim job is old, but very well done with hidden clips to keep the panel centers tucked in tight. We see ’em now.

The next obvious step is removal of the interior trim panels. The trim job is old, but very well done with hidden clips to keep the panel centers tucked in tight. We see ’em now.

In the country, in the city, or inside a finished ’40 coupe, rodents make themselves at home. For our friend, the trouble began years ago, almost immediately after leaving the trim shop. Chances are you’ve fought this sort of battle, too. If so, you know it’s not easily won. Here we’ll begin at the beginning, with particle masks for those who’ll wear ’em and a fresh box of nitrile disposable gloves — the kind we’d find at Harbor Freight.

In order to discover nesting places, we’ll remove the car’s seat and trim panels. After vacuuming, we will mix up a bucketful of leading-brand dish soap for initial sterilization before switchin’ up to sweeter-smelling Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner. Either way, we’ll try to observe the detailers’ rule: Always test a small, inconspicuous spot — especially when working with interior trim. This rule also applies when using products that are specifically designed for certain fabrics, so test for colorfastness before you let ‘er rip. A good detailer might also tell you to apply interior products via terry cloth or microfiber rather than direct squirts from the bottle.

Once again, there are no detailers among our volunteer crew. There are no trimmers either, so apart from cautious  cleaning, this is how we’ll fix the holed-up headliner.

Once again, there are no detailers among our volunteer crew. There are no trimmers either, so apart from cautious cleaning, this is how we’ll fix the holed-up headliner.

OC-000000-DETAIL1-16
We have no conclusive evidence that this actually works, but many do believe the scent of Irish Spring bar soap or dryer sheets will keep pesky rodents away.

We have no conclusive evidence that this actually works, but many do believe the scent of Irish Spring bar soap or dryer sheets will keep pesky rodents away.

What’s about to happen may resemble a free for all. As this story goes, it’ll be partly how-to and partly why-to from a bunch of gear heads here to share a good time while helping a friend.

As we go here, you, too, might be thinking of a friend. Is there someone close to you who deserves a good old-fashioned work party? If so, we encourage you to stick around and see how an age-old finish and same-age upholstery respond to our tag-team efforts — and, of course, modern chemistry — as we give our friend’s ’40 some needed attention.

Michelle Desch begins initial cleaning for the vinyl-upholstered seat. She’s taking a shine to Mothers VLR, formulated for use on vinyl, leather and/or rubber. As the vinyl is dried with a microfiber towel, it’s looking and smelling real nice.

Michelle Desch begins initial cleaning for the vinyl-upholstered seat. She’s taking a shine to Mothers VLR, formulated for use on vinyl, leather and/or rubber. As the vinyl is dried with a microfiber towel, it’s looking and smelling real nice.

Making use of Mothers Carpet & Upholstery cleaner, VLR, and the appropriate brush, the Colbys collaborate to save soiled carpet and kick panels.

Making use of Mothers Carpet & Upholstery cleaner, VLR, and the appropriate brush, the Colbys collaborate to save soiled carpet and kick panels.

This is indeed a party, catered to boot by DeSoto Grill. Here at break time, one crewmember works straight through to speed the drying of the coupe’s clean carpet.

This is indeed a party, catered to boot by DeSoto Grill. Here at break time, one crewmember works straight through to speed the drying of the coupe’s clean carpet.

Exterior: From gray, back to black

On the day we focused on detailing the coupe’s interior trim, we counted 14 in attendance. Most of us worked on the car. We all enjoyed the day, but no one more than our guest of honor, Bill Spurzem. As our friend sort of supervised, he was noticeably moved at times. If you’ve attended such a party, you likely understand.

By the end of day one, the inside job was completed, but this party wasn’t over yet. This time around we’ll tag-team exterior detailing chores. The little black coupe looks gray. Scratched up and dried out, the existing finish is a quarter-century old, but it doesn’t have to look that way. We’re pretty optimistic that we can revive it.

With eight years’ experience, Carter Colby assists Scott Christensen with bumper removal. Those’ll only be in the way when buffers come out later.

With eight years’ experience, Carter Colby assists Scott Christensen with bumper removal. Those’ll only be in the way when buffers come out later.

Like most painters will tell you, the key to a paint job’s longevity is acceptable mil thickness. Here in the summertime, temperatures can reach 90 or so. Magnified by the sunshine, black can be cooked upon. Then, come winter, the same black finish is then subjected to frosty-freezing temperatures. Visual inspection of our ’40 Ford’s paint reveals no cracks, so we suspect the primer-surfacer and topcoats are thin and elastic enough to expand and contract with hot/cold steel. Spurzem has confirmed our suspicions. Back when his little coupe was painted, it was properly stripped to bare steel, which makes its finish worth saving today.

If we could meet the painter, we’d tell him that he did a bitchin’ job. It would also be nice if he could give us a clue or two we could use, but that meeting won’t take place today.

For a good clean start, it’s time to wash the car.  Before we wet anything down, let’s blow away the loose dust ‘n’ dirt with clean compressed air. Below, this’ll be the first time we’ve washed a car inside the shop. A detailer I’ve worked with inspired me to purchase this little garden sprayer. For wetting and rinsing, it’ll do nicely.

For a good clean start, it’s time to wash the car. Before we wet anything down, let’s blow away the loose dust ‘n’ dirt with clean compressed air. 

A detailer I’ve worked with inspired me to purchase this little garden sprayer. For wetting and rinsing, it’ll do nicely.

A detailer I’ve worked with inspired me to purchase this little garden sprayer. For wetting and rinsing, it’ll do nicely.

So, knowing what we know, how deep should we delve? Because the paint is likely thin, we’d rather not color sand — especially since we know it’s been buffed twice before. We have a magnetic mil gauge which would tell us (give-or-take) what filler, primer-surfacer and topcoats add up to, but it wouldn’t tell us how much of it is black. For this paint job, a non-sanding primer-sealer may have been used. If so, it’ll be the first thing we discover if we color-sand and/or buff too far. Whatever is down there, we don’t want to see.

The crew you’ll meet today will include two painters. We’ll be dealing with the aforementioned unknowns as we follow our own painterly instincts. The plan, as it stands, will begin with a bath. From there we’ll employ two types of clay to smooth away surface impurities.

Beginning with the roof, Willie Steele is taking a shine to Mothers products. We’ll rinse as he goes, but he might not stay dry.

Beginning with the roof, Willie Steele is taking a shine to Mothers products. We’ll rinse as he goes, but he might not stay dry.

We’ve been loaned a fancy, German-made Flex buffer (favored by pro detailers) that we’ll want to try out, along with an assortment of pads from Lake Country. Those are recommended for use with Mothers products. Since we’ll have more than one buffer running, we may have opportunities to compare equipment.

Among the clays, compounds, polishes, waxes and cleaners we’ll be using, you’ll notice products from Mothers professional line. Those aren’t so commonly found in auto parts stores, but they’re always available directly from Mothers.

The following tech might resemble a free-for-all, but again, we’re here to have a good time. Like our interior detailing, this’ll be partly how-to and partly why-to. In the big picture, it’s really about our deserving friend. If by chance you have a friend who deserves a good old-fashioned work party, by all means, try this at home.

Here’s Mothers 2.0 clay, which we prefer for flatter expanses. Mothers Instant Detailer is the recommended lubricant for either clay, and this step is going quickly.

Here’s Mothers 2.0 clay, which we prefer for flatter expanses. Mothers Instant Detailer is the recommended lubricant for either clay, and this step is going quickly.

As the car drips dry, Andy Tweet joins us for clay time. Mothers’ moldable clay bars are well-suited for compound curves — and they’re smoothing away red over-spray.

As the car drips dry, Andy Tweet joins us for clay time. Mothers’ moldable clay bars are well-suited for compound curves — and they’re smoothing away red over-spray.

For the next step, I could use a hand. While my buffing buddy is on his way, I’ll be masking moldings so compound won’t accumulate in crooks ’n’ nannies.

For the next step, I could use a hand. While my buffing buddy is on his way, I’ll be masking moldings so compound won’t accumulate in crooks ’n’ nannies.

Working our way down from the roof, we’ll try to keep pace. Both buffers are variable-speed. Following painterly instincts, we’re taking a spin at 1500 rpm.

Working our way down from the roof, we’ll try to keep pace. Both buffers are variable-speed. Following painterly instincts, we’re taking a spin at 1500 rpm.

Working our way down from the roof, we’ll try to keep pace. Both buffers are variable-speed. Following painterly instincts, we’re taking a spin at 1500 rpm.

Working our way down from the roof, we’ll try to keep pace. Both buffers are variable-speed. Following painterly instincts, we’re taking a spin at 1500 rpm.

By this time, we’ve buffed as much as our biggest buffers can reach. A spritz of Instant Detailer, wiped away with a microfiber towel, reveals improvement.

By this time, we’ve buffed as much as our biggest buffers can reach. A spritz of Instant Detailer, wiped away with a microfiber towel, reveals improvement.

The next step involves Mothers Professional Foam Pad Polish and compatible Finishing Force pads from Lake Country. For this, we’ll use dual-action buffers.

The next step involves Mothers Professional Foam Pad Polish and compatible Finishing Force pads from Lake Country. For this, we’ll use dual-action buffers.

One buffer is from Harbor Freight. The other  is the German-made Flex. Sure, there’s a  difference, but there’s also a price difference — and either one will get you there.

One buffer is from Harbor Freight. The other is the German-made Flex. Sure, there’s a difference, but there’s also a price difference — and either one will get you there.

In the end, our results are the same. Polishing with dual-action buffers has blackened this finish. Now, by hand, let’s apply an appropriate wax.

In the end, our results are the same. Polishing with dual-action buffers has blackened this finish. Now, by hand, let’s apply an appropriate wax.

While crew members polish bright work, let’s finish up inside! Like the pros we know, we’ll squirt Mothers Revision onto clean microfiber, rather than directly to glass.

While crew members polish bright work, let’s finish up inside! Like the pros we know, we’ll squirt Mothers Revision onto clean microfiber, rather than directly to glass.

When we started, the coupe’s deck was the worst-affected area. As excess wax is wiped away, we clearly see our gain. This finish is once again deep and black as pitch.

When we started, the coupe’s deck was the worst-affected area. As excess wax is wiped away, we clearly see our gain. This finish is once again deep and black as pitch.

For all the right reasons, this is rewarding work, and we’ll see about annual maintenance from here. All our friend needs to do is drive the wheels off his coupe.

For all the right reasons, this is rewarding work, and we’ll see about annual maintenance from here. All our friend needs to do is drive the wheels off his coupe.

Learn more about the products used above at...

Harbor Freight Tools
800-423-2567
www.harborfreight.com


Mothers Polish
714-891-3364
www.mothers.com

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