How 37 Years of Debris Is Deep Cleaned From an Abandoned Sports Car



  • This 1978 Sterling Nova was abandoned in a barn 37 years ago.
  • Inside there was a mouse nest, mouse carcass, and decades of dust and debris.
  • The car has no doors, which created a unique challenge for the detailers.

Following is a transcript of the video.

My name is Brent Dicesare. I’m one half of WD Detailing. And today we’re going to be cleaning a 1978 Sterling Nova that sat in a barn since 1985. So, a Sterling Nova is a kit car which is on a Volkswagen Beetle chassis and engine. And it’s really unique because of the way it looks and the way that the top opens. There’s no doors on this car. The way that you get in and out is literally by the whole top lifting up. We had to take the top off of this car because it actually couldn’t hold its own weight up and we didn’t want to risk it falling on one of us.

As soon as we took the top off of the car, we found this mouse nest right on the backside of the dash. It was made out of insulation or carpet or parts from the seats. Any random fibers that they can find in the car they’ll take and make a nest out of. And then we sanitized the area afterwards with TriClean, which is a cleaner that will kill all the bacteria. Cars attract mice because they know that it’s a dark space, and when these cars sit in a barn and nobody’s touching them for 30-plus, 40-plus years, they’re not going to be bothered, so they’re going to take advantage of that. And then after that we were able to take the seats out and really get in there and clean everything.

We found that these carpets were completely disintegrated, and they’re definitely going to have to replace them. And we actually haven’t really seen carpets this bad before. So if I had to make an assumption on why this happened, it’s a combination of them sitting over time and the mice getting into them and eating them up. And under the carpet, as soon as we pulled it out, I looked down and found a nice surprise of a dead mouse. We disposed of it off camera, but we just had to pick it up with our gloves and toss it in the garbage can. There’s no nice way to throw away a dead mouse.

We started vacuuming the floor pans, and then we sanitized them again with our TriClean. And then we used our steamer behind it to kill anything else. And then we wiped it all away with microfiber towels. So, this dashboard was covered in dust completely. And at this point we’re still using TriClean to clean the interior, because we want to disinfect everything. We knew that this car isn’t going to be started for quite a while, because it doesn’t run and it needs a lot of repair work, so if cleaner gets inside the buttons or inside of the switches, it’s not going to be the end of the world, because it’ll definitely dry up before there’s any kind of electricity running through this car.

So, if you want to get a barn find, a good way is searching on Facebook Marketplace. The people that we work with specifically search for these cars, and then they bring them to us because they sat for so long. A lot of it’s word of mouth.

So, for these seats, they were covered in anything that the mice could put on them. So the first thing that we do is vacuum them, and then we’ll go ahead and extract them. So we use our extractor soap, and then we’ll use our drill brush to agitate the soap and really work it into those fibers. And then we’ll use our extractor, which shoots hot water into the fibers and also sucks it away at the same time. So it’s a vacuum, but it’s a vacuum with water.

The exterior of this car was covered in dust from front to back, and then there was some wood chips and other stuff in the headlight crevice, which, I’m pretty sure on this kit, there’s supposed to be a headlight cover, but for some reason they were missing on this specific car. And here we’re vacuuming out some of the jambs, which we like to do before we pressure wash off the car, because if there’s any wood chips or anything, it might scratch the paint.

So, on the wheels, they were covered with some sort of green substance, which, I don’t know if it was mold or not. And to clean this tire, we’ll go ahead and pressure wash everything off of it first. And then we’ll use our P&S Brake Buster on the tire and the rim, and then we’ll use an assortment of brushes, usually soft-bristle brushes and a tire brush. And then we’ll pressure wash it all away. The paint on this car was in pretty good condition. The only thing that we noticed was deteriorating was the black paint.

So, what we’re spraying on this car is a paint-safe degreaser so we can loosen up all that dirt before we pressure wash it away. And what that’s going to do is minimize any kind of swirl marks or scratches.

Paint chips can be damaging to a car, only because it can cause rust to form if there’s metal underneath where the paint was. But there was no rust on this body at all because it’s made out of fiberglass.

So, we’re starting to foam the car here using our pressure washer and foam cannon. And this is the part that a lot of people find the most satisfying in the whole process. And there’s two reasons why people use foam cannons. The first one is as a presoak, so they can loosen up all the dirt that’s on the surface of the car. But also, instead of just putting soap in a bucket, it helps you put soap over the entire car, which makes the process safer for the paint and easier. And after foaming the car, we’ll use microfiber mitts on the entire car to wash it down.

And now we’re using our Rupes buffer to take any of the oxidation off the top layer of the paint, which will make it a lot shinier, less dull, and give it that overall wow factor at the end. So this is just, like, a paint correction.

And when it came to the black paint, we didn’t even polish it at all, because it was starting to come off of the car and we didn’t want to ruin or take away any of that paint that was already there. There wasn’t too much that we could personally do. It’s something that would have to either be redone or just left as is.

And after the whole car is cleaned and we’re ready to do the finishing touches, we’ll do a tire shine. And as that dries, it leaves the tires looking nice and matte black, and it just gives it that overall wow factor for the customer. And the absolute last thing we’ll do is spray a ceramic sealant over the entire car. It’ll protect the paint just a little bit, but it’ll also give it a nice shine and just complete the detail. And that’s it.

I was super happy with the way that this car turned out. I actually personally want to buy it myself. We’ll see how that goes in the near future, when it’s done being fixed up.

When it comes to cleaning barn finds, if I can give any advice, it’s just to take your time and really do your research. That way, you don’t make any super-detrimental mistakes. Because the last thing you want to do is find something that has original paint or an original interior and damage it. But also, have fun with the process.



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