Restoring An Ancient Ragtop with RaggTopp
Factory Original Cloth Top
This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTS has the original factory rag top or cloth canvas top and it shows signs of it's age. As I type this review, it's Monday, December 28th, 2020 - three days away from the start of the year 2021. That makes this canvas top, as I type, 54 years old. In three days though, it will be 55 days old.
The car washing dilemma
One of the things I teach and practice is the Professional Detailer's Oath, which is similar to the physician's oath and that is...
First do no harm when detailing a car
Now allow me to explain what this has to do with washing a car, or at least washing a car in the normal sense most people think of in their brain. Washing a car for most people means getting a water hose, a water sprayer, a bucket, some car wash soap and a wash mitt. Agree?
The above is perfectly okay-dokey for a new or modern car. When it comes to classics, or more specifically, when it comes to OTHER PEOPLE'S CLASSICS - As a professional courtesy to the current owner and future owners, I don't introduce running water to cars where rust can be an issue. I just don't do it. You can do it. Not me. I already know the most expensive part of restoring a car is cutting out rusted body panels, replacing removed portions with new replacement sheet metal and then rust-proofing everything. So as a professional courtesy to the owners of fine automobiles I don't wash them with the traditional hose and bucket method and I teach this in all my car detailing classes for upcoming professional detailers to emulate if they so choose.
So how do you get a car clean without using the traditional hose and bucket method?
Good question and there are a number of ways to do this but for the last few years my preferred method is to use the "Waterless Wash" approach using SONAX Glass Cleaner as my waterless wash of choice.
PREP WASH ONLY
I've seen some confusion over this topic so let me clear it up. I only use SONAX Glass Cleaner when doing a PREP WASH - not a maintenance wash.
What's the difference between a Prep Wash and a Maintenance Wash?
Great question. Thank you for asking.
A Prep Wash is for getting a neglected car clean BEFORE you detail it. In this context, the word detail includes paint correction.
A Maintenance Wash is for carefully taking care of a car when being washed AFTER you detail it.
I don't use any brand of glass cleaner when doing a maintenance wash. In fact my favorite car wash soap, (for most cars), when doing a maintenance wash is this the Wolfgang Uber SiO2 Coating Wash.
So to get this car clean before I start detailing it I used SONAX Glass Cleaner and LOOK at the pictures - PLENTY of clean, inspected, uncontaminated microfiber towels.
The Autogeek Cover-up Towel
I used to use bed sheets and beach towels when doing these types of detailing projects but a few years ago, someone in "marketing" looked at some of the pictures I was posting on this forum where I was using a Pirate Beach Towel and asked,
What the heck is Mike Phillips doing with that damn pirate beach towel?
Someone told him:
"He's covering things up."
And thus marching orders were given and the next thing you know - we have the Autogeek Cover-up Towel. Same idea as a beach towel only soft microfiber for times when you're covering and protecting shiny stuff.
Fast-forward to today and I'm still using the beach towel technique of covering things up only showing the AG Cover-up Towel instead. You can get you some if you want, I'll include a link below. For this particular car I'm using the AG Cover-up Towels to cover-up and shield the paint from any overspray from the RaggTopp Fabric Protectant.
Now follow me.... this is important....
The RaggTopp Fabric Protectant IS HARMLESS. You don't have to cover up surrounding body panels or glass.
I'm just lazy. I prefer to NOT have to wipe any overspray off the car. So instead - I cover it up. Make sense? But if you don't have the AG Cover-up Towels and don't mind wiping overspray off of paint and glass - foget about it. (say "foget about it" in with your best Mafia/New Jersey voice).
And if you look at this related how-to article, you'll see the towels are REVERSED to protect the fabric top when I was polishing out the plastic window. Only I don't cover up cloth tops because I'm lazy, I do it to actually protect them from splatter dots of product.
Let's take a look at the top...
Looks bad. Looks dull. Looks lifeless. Looks old. Looks worn out. Looks hopeless.
Hmmm... is there any hope?
In my entire life I've never tried to restore some semblance of beauty to a top in this bad of condition. I would think that most people wouldn't even try. In fact, most people looking at a top in this aged-condition would simply replace it. But where's the fun in that? And - part of the value in this car is that it's all original and it was owned and driven by a member of the famous Fab 4, aka the Beatles - George Harrison. Who himself was a collector of fine automobiles.
Using quality products and careful technique - I think there's a little life left in this old top - we just have to find it.
How do you clean a cloth top without flushing it with water?
Simple. First you use dry extraction - this is the fancy way of saying use a vacuum to suck out all the dust. Next I use the Tornador Blow Out Gun to blow out any remaining dust and dirt. A two-prong approach that in the context of the Professional Detailer's Oath - the best I can do and the most I can do.
Sorry, no pictures of the top being vacuumed and then blown out - but I was here and it really did take place.
Draining a couple of cans of RaggTopp
This top was so dry and thirsty, it soaked-up every bit of two cans of RaggTopp Fabric Protectant and I started a third can. Now that's one old dried-out cloth top. BUT - the good news is, with time, patience, care and RaggTopp - the beauty came back.
My own technique
Years ago I shared my own technique for massaging in the fabric protectant. The directions on the can say to spray it on and let it dry. Me? I don't want my fabric protectant ON the top - no... I want it IN the top and in INSIDE the fabric fibers. So after spraying a heavy saturation of the RaggTopp Fabric Protectant onto the top, (and also a heavy saturation onto all stitching), I then dawn a pair of heavy duty orange nitrile gloves and work the product over and into the fibers.
If you look carefully, you can see where I've rubbed the top that it's now darker. The opposite side of the top, (opposite of me), there is fabric protectant sitting on the surface and that's why it's a tick lighter.
With most tops these pictures are very dramatic, but there's just not much life left in this old top. In this picture below, I've worked-in the RaggTopp everywhere but this small patch where it looks a little lighter. And "yes" after taking these pictures I rubbed the fabric protectant sitting on the top of the fabric into the fabric. Then let it dry for about an hour before applying the next application.
Second can going on...
I had a fan set-up in the garage to circulate air and this helps to speed up the drying process. Before applying second, third or fourth coats of the RaggTopp Fabric Protectant - you want the previous application to be fully dry. On a warm sunny day you can do this really fast by simply moving the car outside.
Working the protectant into the fabric.
BOOM! There it is!
It took some time and some product, as well as a gentle touch - but the life came back. The top now looks a little darker, a little crisper and overall it simply looks better. This is a good thing because next I'm going to machine buff all the paint, glass and brightwork.
Another top saved by RaggTopp!
This shot was taken to show the top after removing the AG Cover-up Towels.
If you look closely - you can see a layer of machine-applied wax all over the body panels. It's drying.
Here's the final results after a full interior and exterior detail.
RaggTopp makes GREAT products. The only real key to getting great results no matter what you're working on is think your project through and follow the directions on the can. I've shared some tips and techniques above and I share even more in my in-depth article below that also covers how to correctly wash a cloth top. RaggTopp Fabric Protectant uses the most costly UV inhibitor known to man called Ciba Tinuvin. But it doesn't matter how great Ciba Tinuvin is if you don't put some on your car's cloth top.
Here's some advice...
Instead of trying to save the cloth top on your car - be PRO-ACTIVE and start using the RaggTopp system when your car is brand new and the cloth top is still in new condition. Don't wait like 99.9% of the population until one day, you look at the cloth top and say to yourself,
Self - that top is ugly!
Check out my review, "NEW Haartz/RaggTopp Convertible Top Brush - How to clean and protect a convertible top" and follow all the tips and techniques I shared 5 years ago and if you just do the basics - your top will not only remain waterproof and protected - it will look great too.