Sometimes Car Restoration Includes Trying To Wash Paper

Sometimes Car Restoration Includes Trying To Wash Paper thumbnail

Photo: Andrew P Collins

Original paperwork is an important part of a car’s value… when you’re talking about a unique or irreplaceable classic. If I were to sell my ’98 Montero I don’t think too many people would care if it had a factory owner’s manual or not. But I do. Hence, my quest.

You can usually grab owner’s manuals to common cars for reasonable coin on eBay. Or, if it’s a relatively new car, a dealership or part supply site could sell you one. But after about a six-month search I can tell you that nobody seems to have the manual or related paperwork that came with a 1998 Mitsubishi Montero when it was new.

Which is too bad, because I want it. Not so much for reference–most info on the care and feeding of the car is available online–just for the sake of completeness.

Anyway, this weekend I was hanging out with my bud and fellow Montero-enthusiast Jamie at our mechanic Chai’s Mitsubishi shop. We were going to change some of Jamie’s O2 sensors on his rig but were actually sitting around eating chili burgers, watching Chai’s off-road videos from Thailand.

Chai usually has a few Monteros and 3000GTs in various states of dismantlement. This time he had a white facelifted second-generation Montero, almost identical to mine, sitting awkwardly with its engine yanked and crippling body damage. A donor, for sure. I walked over to investigate.

“Hey Chai, how much do you want for a fender splash guard off that thing?”

I got permission to harvest parts from the car’s corpse, climbed inside, and discovered a treasure trove of documents. Not just an owner’s manual, but the accompanying dealer directory, quick-start guide, window sticker(!), all the papers that would have come with the vehicle when new.

Unfortunately, they’d all been exposed to rain and were absolutely disgusting.

Not so much “booklets” anymore, they had been transformed into brittle bricks with the consistency of a slice of pizza that’d been boiled on one side and deep-fried on the other. Hmm.

I laid them out to dry more and have been very, very carefully picking at them but generally, they just seem to deteriorate more every time I look at them. They’re much nicer looking in this photo for some reason than they are in person.

Photo: Andrew P Collins

All this to say: I’m now trying to figure out if paper can be restored.

I think my plan is to go really Extra on the owner’s manual and try to make a leather binding for it. Maybe inlay a Mitsubishi emblem to the cover? That’d be classy as a silk pocket square, and some YouTube guides make it seem possible.

The rest of the stuff seems pretty cooked, but I’m hoping the commenters here have some ideas on how I might attempt to rescue documents that have been soaked and dried. The window sticker, I think, I’m just going to re-create completely with my vehicle’s VIN.

Photo: Andrew P Collins

Stay tuned for those exciting updates, and a writeup on a custom center-console project that’s actually almost done, coming soon.

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