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How to Clean your Vintage Magnesium Parts

April 15, 2007

cleaning your slot cars Typical aspect of a distressed Cox magnesium chassis. Not very appetizing…

Many Cox slot car owners are often asking me how to clean the old Cox chassis parts and magnesium wheels. I really do not recommend lemon juice as it blackens the magnesium. First, lemon juice is for spicing your salad or drop into your tea, not to clean your magnesium parts. Each product for its own use. In my book, there are only two proper ways to do this right:
1/ You don’t care about original look and just want the wheel to be cleaned from the corrosion and protected against further corrosion.
2/ You are a discriminating collector and want the Cox original look (flat pinkish hue over the magnesium parts). In both cases, we have the solution for you!

cleaning your slot cars Typical disgusting mess, and this is not the worst.

In the first case, use “Scrub-Free” bathroom cleaner that has an acid less harmful to the magnesium than the one in lemon juice. Spray or dip the parts in a tank filled with the stuff, use a toothbrush (NOT a metal wire brush!!!) for very heavy white deposits. Wait about 30 seconds and rinse in very hot water. Dry with compressed air. You may then polish rim edges or whatever cosmetics you wish to apply, then coat the parts with a clear urethane spray. Future Floor Finish, commonly used to seal decals on slot car racing bodies, will work but not as well as an actual spray coating. In the second case, use a bead blaster filled with VERY FINE sand or glass beads.

cleaning your slot cars
Glass-beaded pieces cleaned from all corrosion, are now awaiting their new protective coating.
cleaning your slot cars
Once the parts are shiny silver, spray a mix of 90% clear urethane with 10% candy-apple red. Once dry, spray a coat of Testors “flat” clear. You are done, and the parts will look just like when they were new.
cleaning your slot cars
After and before treatment of a typical Cox TTX250 chassis.

Pink, you say ??? How is this possible when all the Cox chassis around are gray?

cleaning your slot cars
Some vintage collectors or racers have never seen this color because the parts were already corroded by the time they got in their more humid state… Younger slot racers never had a chance to see the parts when they were new. Perfect proof is in this picture of a sealed Chaparral 2D chassis, kept in humidity-controlled circumstances over the past 38 years.
cleaning your slot cars
In fact ALL Cox magnesium parts were treated to the same Aludyne dip and dried before packaging. Magnesium begins to corrode at the contact of air immediately after casting. Aludyne (in various colors from gold to aluminum to pink etc…) is a way to coat the metal to avoid immediate corrosion and is commonly used in aircraft parts. Problem is, as soon as in humid circumstances, the Aludyne literally peels off as the metal corrodes from underneath, and the gray color surfaces. After a while and depending on the humidity, it begins a process of oxidation where white deposits replace the metal surfaces. If well preserved and sealed in original packages in desert-like climates, the color seen on this 2D chassis (above) stays intact. Forget it in Ohio or Maine. I have dozens of products NIB showing a perfect pink color all the way to others with only traces of the pink coating, literally falling off the parts.


2 Responses to “How to Clean your Vintage Magnesium Parts”
  1. Tim Wondergem says:

    Very helpful Doc. While performing this technique my Cox Lotus 40 chassis broke off it’s rear right (driver’s side) axle holder; is there any reliable means of re-attaching? The car is not raced, only run on occassion on a home track.

  2. Dokk says:

    I guess the only possible repair is a proper dose of Cyaoacrylate glue, as long as you never dip that chassis in acetone in the future!

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