The restoration, it isn't new, but..
So, more than 2 weeks after I started, with the help of many messages on this forum, the Black Den of Soot is now functional.. It certainly wouldn't pass for new, but it has been power washed, scrubbed, steamed, bar keepers friend, and finally I braved the sandpaper and was quite pleased with the restoration of the finish and the minimizing of the scratches. Question is how to keep it this way. After BBQing last night for the first time, I spent another hour cleaning it today because I couldn't bear to see all my hard work spoiled so soon!
Here is a link that might be useful: BBQ Restoration