- Car Transport
There was a time when cars had a lot of personality and much of this came from the use of chrome. It’s not just those iconic hood ornaments adorning classic cars but the overall finish chrome details gives them.
In the States you had the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air that combined eye-catching chrome details and colour combo paintwork to get itself noticed and admired. Back at home you can easily see how chrome can put the class into classic if you compare a pre-1974 MG MGB in all its chrome grilled and bumpered glory with the black bumper version introduced after this fateful year.
Chrome can make or break a car – and it can certainly make or break a classic car restoration. Unfortunately there are many chrome sob stories from restorers who have tried to get it done on the cheap.
A bad chrome plating will only serve up the following less than appetising dishes:
The reason chrome plating costs is that it is a highly labour intensive process that uses expensive materials. It needs careful preparation and nickel (and often copper) layers to protect your steel from corrosion. It needs a waterproof layer between it and the steel or that shiny layer of porous chromium will simply be the kiss of death to your ‘restored’ part.
Most chrome parts that are heavily corroded are best left alone. You simply cannot restore them cost-effectively and are better advised to scout out replacements.
This is especially the case with those pitted Mazak castings much beloved as decorative items on British classics. Light pitting can be polished out but if it goes too deep you’ll simply lose all that detail. There are some tricks of the trade – using layered copper and heavy polishing – that can be employed but these could prove more costly than locating a replacement.
If you’re lucky enough to be placing a shine on a pre-1930s car you should beware that all that gleams is not chrome. Most cars prior to the 30s were nickel plated rather than chrome plated. Your piece will need to bathe in the nickel vat longer to withstand your tender polishing over the years but it is usually a cheaper restore than chromium.
Once it is plated you can keep your chrome looking great by simply using a wax polish just as you would for paintwork. Don’t let the name of chrome polish fool you – it’s far too harsh for the job in hand.
Extra-fine wire wool does a marvellous job of bringing back corrosion simply because the rot actually lies in the steel underneath and has seeped through the microscopic holes of the chrome plating. Once it’s clear apply a liquid rust convertor, leave and wipe off before polishing and waxing.
Restoring the brightwork on your car at home is possible as long as it isn’t too corroded or damaged. Certainly dents, scrapes and scratches are fixable and it can be truly amazing what a concerted piece of buffing can do. For this you are going to need the biggest buffer you can lay your hands on – so call in those favours.
Remove Refer to an assembly manual and remove the brightwork.
Hammer Working from the outside in use a body hammer to gently pick out dents and dings. Rest your work on a small anvil to prevent stretches to the metal.
File A fine file will clean up any pimples but remember – the fewer scratches you make, the less you will have to get rid of. If you discover any low spots tap them out immediately.
Sand Work back and forth across the scratches using 220-grit wet and dry sandpaper. Change to 320-grit when the marks are gone and finish with 400-grit.
Buff On a high-speed buffer attach a sisal wheel and sparingly but often touch it with a heavy-duty stainless steel polishing compound. Applying no pressure work back and forth, avoiding any possibility of excessive heat build-up. Use a piece of wood to back up delicate parts.
After each buffing let the part cool before cleaning it with a lacquer thinner.
Now use a sewn cotton wheel and emery compound and work at right angles to your previous polishing.
Leave to cool, clean and then use a jeweller’s rouge and an open, unsewn wheel.
Fit those parts back and step back to admire your gleam machine. Watch out for the shine – sunglasses may be necessary!