The last exterior trim items to
tackle are the bumpers. The rear bumper is twisted
and bent beyond repair, so I see no alternative but to buy a
replace- ment. After shopping around a little, I ordered a new chrome
rear bumper from King Parts.
The bumper actually ships from Goodmark,
but King Parts has a better
price. The bumper is a GM Restoration item and comes with a
The license plate bracket on the
original rear bumper was
slightly bent and had a lot of surface rust, but other than that it
appeared to be restorable. I removed the bracket from the
bumper, removed the license plate light, then used a sledge hammer to
straighten it out. These brackets are made from really thick,
stout metal and it took a lot of pounding with the sledge to get it
After straightening, I removed the
rust with a wire wheel on
my bench grinder, wet sanded it smooth with 200 grit sandpaper, and
wiped it down with lacquer thinner. I then put on two coats of
rust-preventative primer and two coats of silver enamel. As you
can see in the above photo, it looks really nice. It actually
turned out much better than I had anticipated.
The metal housing for the license
plate light also had a lot of surface rust. The bracket turned
out so nice, I didn't want to put the rusty old license plate
light bracket back on without sprucing it up also. I removed
most of the rust with the wire wheel on the bench grinder. The
areas I couldn't get to with the grinder, I attacked with the
Dremmel. After the rust was removed, I wiped it down with lacquer
thinner and used my tin zinc electroplating
kit from the Eastwood Company
to give it a new zinc
coating. I couldn't figure out how to remove the wire pigtail
from the bracket and I was afraid I might break it, so I just wrapped
it with duct tape prior to dipping it into the zinc plating
solution. I taped off the light bulb socket to prevent it
from being zinc coated also. The screws
that hold the assembly in the license plate bracket were also rusty,
so I zinc plated them at the same time. After plating, I buffed the housing and screws with a wire wheel in the
Dremmel, washed and replaced the plastic lens, then reinstalled the
license plate light assembly back into license plate bracket.
All that remained was to reinstall it into my new rear bumper.
I was a little apprehensive about
installing the license plate bracket in my new bumper. I've had
some bad experiences with reproduction
parts in the past and I was afraid I would have the same problems with
the bumper. After all of the work I had done restoring the
bracket, I sure didn't want to have to beat around on it to get it to
fit the new bumper. All my worry was for nothing,
however. The bracket fit perfectly in the new bumper and all of
the bolt holes lined up. The only "snag" I encountered
was that all four of the chrome-headed bolts used to hold the bracket
on the bumper did not match. I had two of the original
chrome-headed bolts. The other two had been replaced with
regular hex-head bolts when the previous owner (Mr. ABB) had a trailer
hitch installed. I ordered two more chrome-
bolts from Classic Parts but the
heads on these are much bigger than on the originals. Maybe someday, I'll
look for two that match the originals, but they're okay for now.
On to the front bumper.
In general, the front bumper was in
great shape. There was absolutely no rust on the outside and the
chrome shined up real well using 000 steel wool.
However, there is an
area that has some deep scratches on the bottom of the bumper. It
looks like it was scraped up against a high curb or something.
I've said this before, but it bears
repeating -- 0000 steel
wool is absolutely
marvelous for cleaning and shining chrome. Here's a before and after
photo of the front bumper. I think these photos really
how well it works. The only thing that was done in these photos
was buff with 0000 steel wool - no soap and water and no metal polish.
The inside of the front
bumper did have a little surface rust so
I decided it could use a little paint. As I did with the
license plate bracket, I wet sanded
the inside of the bumper with 200 grit sandpaper
and wiped it down with lacquer thinner.
I then masked of the front of the bumper to
keep from having to steel wool in again to remove overspray.
I then sprayed on two coats
of rust- preventa- tive primer and two
coats of silver enamel. Right before I
started to spray my wife come out and she "sug- gested" that it
might be a good idea to back her car out of the garage before I
painted. I always listen to good advice, lovingly offered
and I did what see suggested.
After painting the inside of
the bumper I cleaned all of the rust from the scratches
on the front of the bumper with a wire brush,
wiped them down with lacquer thinner. I then plated the scratches
with the "touch up" brush that came with my zinc electroplating
kit. The plating doesn't make the scratches disappear
, but they are much less noticeable, and hopefully they won't rust for
a while. I may eventually replace the front bumper but I've decided to
"make-do" until I see how much I have to spend for the paint
and body work.
The only trim items remaining to
restore were the side moldings. I had hoping that the majority of
the molding could be restored and I would only have to replace a few
of the pieces that were dented/bent/scratched beyond repair.
After careful inspection I determined that there were only 4 or 5
pieces of molding that were in good enough shape to restore.
Since it is cheaper to buy a whole set of molding than it is to buy
the same pieces individually, I decided to just replace all of the
molding. Also, I was worried that replacement molding would not
match the original.
I am now done with restoration of
the exterior trim. I will chronicle putting it back on in a
latter episode. The next episode will describe the
restoration of the exterior lights.