There have been lots of posts every year about the best polish or how to polish the brass on our cars. I thought I'd be the first this year to offer My "xpert" advice...hee hee
Uncle Stan and I spent the day yesterday driving just over 100 miles in some foggy mist, sprinkling rain, freeway drizzle and a some heavy down pour.
My '12 Torpedo has the normal brass radiator, lights, horn, generator and mirrors. I expected the brass to be really trashed after the days abuse. While sitting in the parking lot before the start of our tour I noticed all the brass had beads of water except the radiator, of course. I didn't think anything of it but after going out and looking at it today I'm surprised how nice the brass still looks!
I'd really like to say it was because of the Mothers Billet polish that I had used because of the support to many of our tours and events that Mothers has provided us But most of the brass was last polished with Prism Metal polish and Fiberglass Deoxidizer! I think I had tried every brass polish known to man, maybe not homebrewed types but I think instead of spending a day polishing I just might put the covers back on and wait until just before the next tour or show where I want a fresh shine! I really had expected to have to go out and do a major clean up after a nasty day of rainy driving.
I do a two step process when I polish my brass about twice or three times a year. Usually I start with Brite Boy. It is very liquid and should be applied and wiped clean before it drys. I cleans the tarnish very easily with little rubbing but it doesn't leave that nice lustre shine that we expect. It's a product used in the janitorial service. Next I apply the Prism and buff off right away and walla it leaves a nice shine! Now I realize it, like the Mothers, leaves a film that Helps protect the brass.
In the rain I made the joke about my favorite saying, "That'll leave mark or fingerprint" when somebody puts their hands all over the brass. Instead I said, "I guess we don't have to worry about any fingerprints today!"
If you haven't tried the Prism maybe next time you need to buy polish try a small jar. The Brite Boy is really nice stuff as well.
Who would you ask about what brass polish to use?? Ask the people who polish more brass than all of us put together. Who is that? How about the "Brassworks" in Paso Robles who make antique brass radiators and a host of other brass parts for antique cars. They have been doing this for decades.
That's what I did. It just made good sense. The owner at the Brassworks, Lee Chamberlain, told me that they have been using "Blue Magic" for years. It smells like crap (ammonia) but it polishes like the devil, and holds a shine long after polishing.
Don't get it from Lee, you can get it on line for about half of his price.
Yes Jon, I have a jar of Blue Magic and I like it but I think the Prism is a little better. Neither will cleanup dirty brass half as easy as the Brite Boy but of course the Brassworks guys mostly are using new brass stock and not badly tarnished old parts I would think.
Someday I should do a side by side test of the Mothers Billet, Blue Magic and the Prism. I have tried one headlight with one and the other side with a different but I never remember which one I used... I know there are other good polishes but I heard about the Prism from someone here and was impressed enough to try it.
One thing I have wondered with Model T Brasscars is - did they polish it back in the days?
If you had a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost you also had a chauffeur that had nothing else to do than polish the car when he was not driving, but average Joe with his model T had to do it him self. Did he?
I would guess that it is the same as modern cars are treated today. Some folks wash and wax their cars regularly. Others just drive 'em. Most people clean them up if they are going someplace where they want to make a good impression. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that cars are first and foremost, a transportation appliance. Having cars as a hobby (old or new) changes one's perspective on them.
The RR would have had a "German Silver" radiator tank. German Silver isn't silver at all, but a white brass and polished looks like nickel plating.
From the many pictures that we see it doesn't appear that any get very much polishing.
When I acquired my '14 the brass had not been polished since maybe the very early 2000's. I haven't touched it. It is very liberating to not be a slave to luster. Please don't misunderstand me as I do enjoy seeing highly polished brass on someone else's car and I applaud the efforts of the Buffers.
I suspect, as Gene does, that back in the day the brass seldom saw polish after the car was a few years old.
I have had more than a few folks come up to me and comment about how they like the appearance of the unpolished brass.
The day I picked it up:
It is in the garage at this minute, but it looks like this now:
Our '14 was also removed from a garage where it had been covered up & not touched since 1976. We ended up purchasing that T from the second owner who had passed away. I did some work on it for him quite a few years ago and got it up & running for him. When we ended up purchasing it from the family I opened up the garage door and to my dismay, he had polished only the Brown headlamp doors & bonnets - crap ! Lots of folks ask why I don't polish her up but we like it just the way it looked - now I ask people to go ahead & touch the headlamps !
You can't have it both ways. Old brass does have a charming look to it. I wanted a brass car because of the shine but after polishing it for several years I'm afraid inertia has gotten the better of me. A quick polishing job leaves the white stuff in the corners and bothers me more than the tarnish. Some Spring I will do the disassembly necessary to do a proper polish and then enjoy watching it tarnish all over again.
The old days had lots of choices for polish too
Just like today, snake oil polishes that work well and some don't as well.
Yep, 'Monkey Shine' was the choice, that's where the term came from, fooling around shining the brass on that T, as Momma said to Papa.
And cloths too, so you didn't use Mama's dish towels.
Now in 1916 more choices!
I would say back then lots of owners shined up the T and the brass!
I researched this photograph a while back because I have access to early Minnesota automobile registrations.
This Ford touring was owned by Samuel Gibeau of Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.
Mr. Gibeau was a very prominent and accomplished businessman in Red Lake County and was involved in a number of endeavors including banking, commerce and government. In 1912 he was elected Vice President of the Minnesota State Automobile Association (note the "AAA" badge on the radiator).
The serial number of the Ford is 15480 which corresponds to January 1910.
The license plate is a Minnesota 1912-13-14 (three year plate). Therefore, the car in the photo is two to four years old.
As you can see, the brass is nice and shiny. However, given his station in life, I would say that Mr. Gibeau most likely paid someone to keep his car in tip-top shape and probably never polished the brass himself.
Whoever did the polishing also polished the studs on those nifty tire covers too ! I've never seen anything like that !
Erik, mighty nice you have access to those records, it makes pictures like this even more interesting to know who, and when. Much obliged !!
I too have tried a gazillion brass polishes. Finally I decided to just stay with Brasso for tarnished brass and whatever for regular polish to shine it up. Prism is good, but so are others.
I believe the answer to the 'what is the best brass polish ' question is, 'whatever works for you!
two of us spend 8 hours polishing this one of the 5 trucks we maintain for southampton fire dept with blue magic we are happy for the fact that it does keep it looking better longer than other polishes on the market
Bill, Just to let you know I'm a FAN. Your car should never have polished brass. Yours looks so true to it's age and I for one appreciate it that way!!
Thank you for your kind acknowledgement. I realize that the day will come when the original radiator will need replacement (it still cools well, so far) and when the new radiator comes out of it's box, well, I may have to experiment with "forced" or "accelerated" tarnishing.
One headlamp door has a repaired split, one headlamp door hinge is badly damaged and hanging by a thread, several of the hubcaps (correct early)are beat up, but all of the brass is correct for the car and likely is original to the car. It will never see polish by my hand. Bill
I like that look too. That is what I would have if I could afford a brass car. I don't want one for the brass. I want it for the acetylene headlights. Also, it must have the carbide generator. A presto lite tank would take the cool factor away for me.
Thank you for nod.
At the risk of increasing the Thread Drift (this DID start out about polishing brass):
I too, am intrigued by the acetylene lamps on all of the early cars, not just Fords. I had been wanting a brass T for a while and finally had scraped together enough money to consider looking for one. This car came to my attention thanks to Don Lang.
So, I'm inspecting the car in a barn in upstate Vermont (I had seen a few pictures earlier which warranted a visit) and everything is looking good, or at least acceptable, until I get to the headlamps. They had been ELECTRIFIED! Horrors! I ALMOST walked away from the car. I calmed down, considered all of the pluses and the few minuses and bought the car.
The lamps were upgraded with a period correct kit which likely was installed by the original owner. They were wired by a recent owner to be powered by a 12 volt battery. I now have them running off the magneto. I was conflicted about bringing them back to gas or keeping them electrified. I have (pretty much) decided to keep the original owner modification as it is part of the history of the car.
I have acquired another car with unadulterated gas lamps, so my acetylene fixation is satisfied.
The kit in the lamps, the central ad: