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Covering the Classics

By Matt Stone, Contributing Writer | August 14, 2012

Automotive museum sought partners to preserve historic cars.

Tom Kenney has an enviable job. The collection manager at Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, CA, spends his days surrounded by hundreds of classic cars, taking them to the world’s most significant car shows and representing the museum.
However, Kenney was faced with the challenge of storing and protecting them, battling dead batteries, spoiled fuel, leaking transmissions and flat tires. Managing vehicle storage is a never-ending job. 
While the museum has some enclosed basement space, many vehicles are stored outdoors in covered parking areas, and Kenney and the museum’s curatorial staff are constantly moving cars around the property, in and out of exhibits, and to and from shows and photo shoots.
“In our outer perimeter storage areas, where the environment is less than pristine, we use covers to keep dust, greasy air and particulate matter (from exhausts and general environmental fallout) from settling on the finishes,” says Kenney. “In the past, we’ve relied on the softness of a typical flannel cover, but found that flannel covers allow very fine dust particles to pass through the cover and on to the car.”
After several weeks, the car gets dirty under the cover, and when removed a very fine, abrasive layer of dust gets pulled across the car, he adds. “Some of our cars sit for months, so the accumulated dirt becomes a serious issue. Also, it’s not just the paint that gets soiled, but the chrome and other plated parts begin to ‘bloom’ because of the contaminants in the environment.”
The museum also uses car covers at car shows/concours, as more show organizers are requesting that participating vehicles be placed on the show field the day before the show. “Again, contaminants from the air, trees, birds, etc., can affect our car, and overnight moisture from the ground causes other issues with the car’s cosmetics. A good cover minimizes the risk of damage,” says Kenney.
The Petersen Museum partnered with Covercraft, which claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of custom-patterned vehicle covers. Given the museum’s needs, the partners chose a Kimberly-Clark synthetic fabric named DUSTOP. The product’s four-layer nonwoven construction is specifically designed to assure any car it covers will be as clean when it is uncovered as it was when rotated into storage; it was developed to afford at least double the dust and dirt protection of single layer flannel or cotton covers.
DUSTOP’s outer layer is tough, yet still relatively soft, and underneath it are breathable layers of material designed to keep out dust, dirt, and airborne chemical fallout, according to Kimberly-Clark. Underneath all this is a super soft fabric, to protect the car’s paint and plated surfaces.
The Petersen’s new covers are silkscreened with a variety of sponsor logos, and the year, make and model of each car so the underlying machine can be identified easily by museum staff down in the warehouse, and so the covers don’t get mixed up from car to car. Covercraft has tens of thousands of cover patterns already in house, but given that so many of the Petersen’s cars are specialized one offs or customs, it took a crew of Covercraft technicians several days to measure and template the museum’s inventory. 
The project has so far involved the custom construction of 135 covers, and in as much as Covercraft and Kimberly-Clark wanted to take a sponsorship role with the museum, the companies donated the entire deal at no cost.
“We’ve been using the new Covercraft covers for a few months now and have noticed that the covered cars are remaining much cleaner and our plating is maintaining its finish,” notes Kenney.
“Working with the Petersen Automotive Museum has been a great experience,” says Jay Baxter, business development manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional Protective Fabrics. “We’re proud that our DUSTOP fabric was chosen to protect these classic cars and the automotive passion they represent. We want visitors to the museum to know they too can get the same level of protection for their vehicles, new or old.”
DUSTOP is designed primarily for indoor cover usage, but Kimberly-Clark has developed its EVOLUTION fabric for overall use, and water resistant NOAH is calibrated for outdoor protection and particularly long-term storage.
Matt Stone has more than 20 years of experience as an automotive journalist, author, broadcaster and photographer. He can be reached at;