While you get bits and pieces of restoration happenings from Instagram, I realized I’ve never written up in detail a lot of my little fixes and procedures. This is mostly because I tend to get caught up in what I’m doing and end up forgetting to take photos or make notes along the way. I know a lot of you want to attempt these repairs, too, so that’s why we’re going to use Franz as our how-to vehicle going forward. Almost everything I’ve done to the fleet in the past needs to be done to this car – so hopefully this inspires you to attempt to refresh whatever you own, too!
As to not overwhelm myself, and also realizing the need to keep him as a daily driver throughout the restoration, I will limit weekly writeups to 1-3 topics. Obviously, if you want further explanations or just want to chat about what’s going on, message me on Instagram or use the email contact on here.
Overview: A New Chapter
I spent the first week of October 2019 somewhat in a panic. Winter is coming. Leaves are beginning to fall from the trees. My back hurts and I have no heated seats. But minor First-World complaints aside, I have four vehicles that I won’t allow to get salty. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I still had a dedicated winter vehicle. But first Avant Wendell is long gone, Zyg was totaled before he got to play in the snow, and Ottmar did winter duty pre-restoration last season, but now can’t.
Maybe it’s time to get another car. But this time, it needs to be something that won’t be fully restored to a normal T44Brian level. Luckily, I had a few options. I went to look at a couple 20v sedans that week, but for the asking prices, I knew I still wouldn’t be happy unless an Avant was back in the family. My last resort was this Lago Blue 20v Avant in Vermont, which I had been watching for several weeks sit on eBay with no bites. A few weeks prior another 200 wagon (10v, lower miles, but Cyclamen Metallic which I don’t like) went up for sale in the same area, but I missed the opportunity and now the current owner is trying to flip it for double the ask. No thanks, obviously. I had the day off, so I emailed the seller and asked if I could make the three hour trip up to see the car now.
Ottmar enjoyed the trip up, I did my “basic” activities like get a mug of Apple Cider and take pictures of leaves with three layers of fleece on. I hope Ottmar enjoyed the 2.8-mile stretch of unpaved road to get to where the Avant was located – the likelihood he’ll see another dirt road in his lifetime is close to zero.
I think a lot of people were scared away by the fact that Franz was a Vermont car and already visibly rusting. My favorite word to describe new cars that come home is P O T E N T I A L. So any beautiful-but-broken Audi appeal to me, and he was no exception.
It’s probably not fair to say “broken” about Franz, because I’m aware that many of the surviving 20V Avants stateside are really far gone, non-running, or rotting away behind someone’s shop. While the cosmetics weren’t great, mechanically everything was pretty sorted. A newer clutch, winter tires, tons of new suspension parts, G60s to replace the UFOs, and tons of other little things that give me headaches had already been done.
What sold me was when we put Franz up on the lift, and the rust was all purely cosmetic. All the lines and the floors were solid, and otherwise nothing too out of the ordinary for a New England car with this mileage.
I paid for Franz on Thursday and drove him home that Saturday.
If we’re talking “endgame,” Franz is all-encompassing. An Avant is back, and it’s turbo, quattro, and 20v. If I’m being honest, there really isn’t anywhere to go up from here (except buy more of them). My cutoff year is 1991, and I lack interest in C4s and don’t want to begin V8 quattros (yet).
Week 1: Rain, Radwood… Radwagon?
Radwood was next Saturday, and unfortunately the forecast was not good. I was planning on bringing 4000S Erlend up to the event, but I wasn’t into having to get the car super dirty and then spend 72 hours cleaning it back to museum-status. What if we took Franz? Surely he fits the bill. But first, some cleanup is needed. And just like that – my plan to take things slowly with this car turned into a race against the clock to get him presentable. Typical me, right?
After visiting a self-serve car wash to get the majority of the caked-on mud out of the wheel wells and underside, I brought Franz into T44 HQ and began cleaning. First up – the engine bay. With rain expected, the hoods will stay down, so I just did a quick soak and left things as-is.
On hand is Griot’s Engine Bay Cleaner, which I find is great for maintenance cleans either between shows, or for my dailies – between seasons. Even with agitation, it doesn’t have the strength of my favorite engine degreaser made by Sonax, but I’m all out – time to order more!
While that spends some time soaking, I move onto the equally-dirty tires and wheels. Franz needs to be clayed, so I break out the dish soap and the clay bars.
Not too bad for minimal effort. Moving on to claying – which I still find is a misunderstood part of the detailing process for most people. How often do you clay? Only when necessary! If you keep a coating on your car and wash regularly, you may only need to clay every several years.
While I’m usually pickier when buying cars, I really needed something that isn’t going to become an untouchable show car. All of the prior Avants were more for utility and enjoyment, so the next one should follow that, too. I wasn’t immediately on the bandwagon with this car, mostly just due to the corrosion. But curiosity always gets the best of me, so on a whim I took a trip to just see what Franz was all about – and the rust is all cosmetic. After seeing the underside was solid, I figured that this would be the gateway into 20v cars and the easiest way back into an Avant.
I think the only issues we’ll run into with certain items is that I’m mad I junked a couple cars/boxes of parts that could have been useful. For a long time, I didn’t have the space to sit on parts, and always seem to have an image of what’s next in my mind. Therefore, if I think I’m not going to buy a car with gray interior ever again, I ditch the box of parts that has all the gray bits. Well f*** me. But I ALWAYS do this. Half of the challenge (thrill?) Of a project is re-finding items. Even if I’m still a little internally upset.
I always start projects with a wash. Franz had a lot of caked on mud, so before bringing him into HQ I went to a self-serve car wash and got the majority of dirt off the underside and out of the wheel wells.
Noting that this car hasn’t been detailed in possibly a decade or two, it was necessary to break out the clay and get any contamination off the paint. For now, I won’t give a huge explanation of how, when, and why to clay, but it’s as simple as grabbing some Dawn, filling a bucket, and getting to work. I started with the left fender, and immediately the clay picked up what looked to be bits of tar and other imbedded fallout. If not distracted, it takes about An hour to clay a T44, including glass and wheels.
Within this hour I also let the engine bay soak. Today’s degreaser on-hand is Griot’s – which I normally use for in-between car shows and maintenance washes. My preferred engine bay cleaner is Sonax which works better on initial cleaning jobs, but I’m out. I’ll have to add that to supply list.
After rinsing and drying, everything looks better already. I take a quick break to add my beloved stickers. Hiding in the set of manuals is the “OG” silver radio code stickers – which I tend to reserve putting on show cars only. So Franz will have to live with my reproductions which actually came out pretty well. I also add the later European-style sticker next to the alarm on my 1989 and up cars. Maybe a bit redundant, but I’m OK with that.
The next day I rewash and begin to compound and polish the paint. For being a clearcoat metallic Audi from this era the paint isn’t the worst I’ve seen. My last Lago vehicles all suffered from the same fate of breaking-down clearcoat on the top surfaces and general fading of the basecoat. Because the paint is fragile, I’m not expecting to go too crazy and buff out every issue to perfection, just a general clean-up. There are obviously chips, isolated deep scratches, and other defects throughout the body. Corrosion aside, Franz probably splits the difference between my first and second Avants for cosmetic problems – I can live with that. The first wagon had “real” body damage, and the second one had a homemade hood vent (sigh). Thankfully no DIYs or major damages. Just a normal car with 220K miles.
I don’t invest in very high end polishers and pads because a) this isn’t my job and need professional equipment and b) it’s not worth it. I tend to spend more on good quality compounds and polishes that produce better results and are easy to work with. If you’ve been lucky enough to see one of the show cars out and about, you know that swirl marks don’t exist. Everything I use during the paint correction process (except for microfiber towels) can be bought at Harbor Freight. Yes – that place. Don’t sneer – go on over and pickup your $70 DA polisher and $6 pads.