Dealing with rodent residue and rust on a “barn find”

October 1, 2011 | By Richard Prince


Last week I was very fortunate to tow home a dream come true: a “barn find.” It is a 1962 MGA Mark II roadster that had been sitting for 30 years. It had been painted back in 1979 but was never put back together. It’s not perfect and it still needs some work but my plan is to have it back on the road by next year.

Unfortunately, while the car was in storage some mice made a nest on the shelf above the engine bay. The urine, droppings and nest material were cleaned out but that smell and oily residue needs to be taken care of. The urine had eaten away the paint so it’s rusty but not rusted all the way through.

What do I use to prep the area before I prime and paint it? I plan to just clean it up, brush on the primer and top coat (probably Rust-Oleum).

This is not a concours car; I just want to get it looking presentable. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I figured you guys must have run into this problem before.


I’m sorry to say that I have had the displeasure of dealing with damage done to collectible vehicles by all manner of beast, including mice.

A healthy application of any petroleum-based solvent in concert with some elbow grease will clean away all traces of the mice excrement. Anything from brake cleaner to lacquer thinner or wax & grease remover will do the job.

I never recommend priming and painting over rust that you can feasibly remove, even if you’re working on a driver and not a show car. You should consider media blasting or at least wire wheeling the rusty areas before refinishing them.