Spring is here-it's time to get your Pontiac out of its winter hibernation to prepare for this year's upcoming car shows and drag races. If you live in a perfect world, you had your faithful hired servants meticulously detail your Pontiac before winter came, following all of the storage procedures outlined in "35 Winter Storage Tips" (HPP, Feb. '09); then you stored your Pontiac in a climate-controlled, space-age bubble that even the H1N1 flu virus couldn't penetrate.
Let's face it, though, you probably don't live in a perfect world. At the first sign of sub-freezing temperatures, you quickly put your Pontiac in the garage or under its car cover and said, "There's plenty of time later to take care of those storage steps." Then came Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, and before you know it, it's spring and your Pontiac is in the same condition you parked it in last fall-if time and climate have taken their toll, it may even be worse.
That's why HPP brings you two checklists to follow before you bring your Pontiac out for the 2010 season: a Car Show Preparation Checklist and a Drag Racing Preparation Checklist.
For car show participants, we asked Trans Am Nationals judge Scott Scheel to give us a 15-point checklist of what you should do before you take your Pontiac to the show field after its winter nap, even if you put it away fully detailed last winter.
For the drag racers, we asked Pure-Stock racer Mark Weymouth to give us a 15-point checklist on what you should do to your Pontiac racecar before taking it to the starting line for the first time this year.
2010 Car Show Preparation Checklist
By: Scott Scheel
• Safety first! Check belts, hoses, fluids, filters, tires (air pressure, tread depth, sidewalls for cracking), lights, wipers, and horn for proper operation. Change and/or top off fluids and replace wear items as necessary.
• Thoroughly wash the vehicle. Pay special attention to areas where dirt tends to collect: door jambs, cowl/firewall, fenderwells, ahead of the core support, radiator/condenser, inside bumpers, trunk surround, and undercarriage-especially in the rear around the springs, axle, and gas tank. This is a good time to put a little clean engine oil on hinges and latches. Wipe up drips and runs.
• Spend some time on your back removing tar and road debris from the vehicle's lower extremities.
• Touch up any rock chips or scratches. The main problem areas are the rockers, the lower half of the quarter-panels, and the front fascia/header panel, as well as the front spoiler and air deflectors on Trans Ams. If you are up to it, you can build the touch up in layers and color-sand it smooth.
• If you drive your Pontiac (which we always strongly encourage!), you will likely want to use a quality swirl remover and foam pad to remove any film or fine scratches from last season. Follow that with a good coat of your favorite wax. Wax everything that's body color, especially door jambs, rocker panels, and spoilers, as these attract dirt and are much easier to keep clean if protected by a layer of wax.
• Grab some old toothbrushes and/or cotton swabs and remove the wax from all the crevices: hood, door, and trunk-panel gaps; around moldings, nameplates and decals. Follow the toothbrush with a clean microfiber towel to pick up the residue left behind.
• Pull the wheels and thoroughly clean their backsides, especially if they are visible through the spokes. This is also a good opportunity to clean up the lug nuts. Coat the wheels with wax or use a product formulated to repel brake dust. Dress the tires with your preferred rubber treatment, front and back. Adjust the center caps so that the emblem is upright when the tire valve stem is at the six o'clock position.
• Thoroughly clean the wheelwells. Many people coat them with protectant, but that can attract dust and dirt, which leaves a brown hazy appearance over time.
• Polish all the exterior and interior chrome: bumpers, trim, moldings, mirrors, exhaust tips, valve covers, air cleaner, and wheels.
• Vacuum the entire interior and trunk, all around and under the seats (especially between the seats and console), the footwells, and under the dash and pedals. Use crevice tools to vacuum along the base of the windshield and package tray for dead bugs and lint.
• Wipe down all vinyl, plastic, and rubber surfaces with a general-purpose cleaner, followed by a protectant if you desire, but go easy on the protectant. The dripping, wet, greasy look will often cost you points.
• Finally, clean the glass using a microfiber towel. Repeat with a clean towel if the first pass leaves streaks.
• If you've completed all of the above at home beforehand, you should merely have to quick detail the vehicle upon arrival at the show (assuming you didn't drive through a monsoon on the way). Chamois off dew or rainwater each morning to avoid sunspots. Touch up wax and protectant as necessary.
Be Prepared When Displaying Your Vehicle for Judged Competition
Know the show's rules in advance and follow them. Some shows require convertible tops remain up and T-tops be left in place, while other shows require you to perform a safety check of lights, wipers, and horn-so be ready. If you have an unusual vehicle, have your documentation ready for tech and/or judges. Remember that they are not there to be critical of your vehicle-most are Pontiac hobbyists themselves. The point of any car show is to be among other car lovers and have fun!
Walk your class and look at your competition. Take detailed pictures of vehicles you like and take notes. When you see something you like, ask the owner how it was done. Most owners will gladly share their experiences with you.
During judging, the car should look like it's being photographed for a sales brochure (or a magazine! Ed.): steering wheel straight, wheels upright, underhood filler caps right side up, dash vents straight, seats adjusted equally, knobs right side up, seatbelts displayed neatly, and floor mats straight.
Original owners' manuals, sales brochures, and literature may be neatly displayed on an open glovebox lid or in the trunk-avoid putting them on the seats or console as it appears you are hiding something. Leave the stuffed animals at home for the same reason. Keep conversation with judges to a minimum.
Do not assume you are a shoe-in for a trophy. Your competition is working just as hard to win as are you. Win or not, request your judging sheets (if available) and be objective when reviewing them.
If you have a negative experience at a show, contact the host club by mail or email. Be sure to explain the situation objectively and try to offer reasonable suggestions for improvement. If you are so inclined, volunteer to work the show-it will give you an amazing perspective of the effort required to put on a large event. Conversely, if you had a great time, contact the host club and tell them. Your comments will likely be printed in its newsletter.
Remember that this is your hobby, which you do for fun and relaxation, so relax and have fun!
2010 Drag Racing Preparation Checklist
By: Mark Weymouth
• Remove winter-storage antifreeze and replace it with track-friendly water. This is an important safety issue for racers. Antifreeze is like hitting black ice when laid down on a track, and it takes a lot of time to clean the track afterwards.
• Change the oil and review the condition of the old oil and filter. It's a good idea to cut open the filter and look for metal in it, as a precaution.
• Check the trans and differential fluids and levels.
• Go over your tires, carefully looking for any unusual damage or wear; then inflate them to your base settings for the track.
• Put a wrench on the lug nuts, suspension components, or any other critical safety items such as U-joints to ensure they are properly tightened.
• Check the brake system for wear and function. Those without climate-controlled storage may have picked up moisture or pitting in valves and pistons. This will cause pressure or leakage issues, harming their power and consistency.
• Freshen or replace your fuel as it has bled off octane during its slumber. We do not want any burned-down motors to start off the season.
• Check the battery charge.
• Check for animal damage to wiring and nests in the air cleaner.
• Prime the oiling system in the motor to prevent added wear at startup.
• Start the car and monitor all the systems during warm up, looking for proper oil pressure, voltage, and temperature. Listen for any new or unusual sounds that may appear. This is not a bad time to double-check your gauges for accuracy. Also look for any leaks that may occur as the gaskets swell and reseat. Confirm proper function of the gas pedal. Having a fire extinguisher nearby at this stage is a good idea.
• Before track arrival and the tuning for that day's conditions, check your timing and base tune to confirm they are what you want.
• Review your safety harnesses/seatbelts, check your helmet, and your fire jacket-when applicable-to confirm they meet the latest standards and rules. Don't be sent home needlessly from the first track day.
• You're now ready for that first test run through the gears. While it's nearly impossible to not give it the raspberries at the first throttle tip in, this should be a metered gentle run, double-checking that all systems perform as required. Once all the functions are confirmed, it's on to the next fun-filled step!
• The last suggestion is to follow Scott Scheel's Car Show Preparation Checklist, so you will be more intimate with the condition of your car. You may find something you missed during your spring preparation. Plus we all love walking away from our freshly detailed Pontiacs when they demand an over-the-shoulder glance of appreciation.
• Now that your race car is clean and ready, get a proper amount of rubber at those quarters and have some fun. Good luck-and may every pass be a new e.t. record this season!