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 lifetime warranty.  

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 straight again.  

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- headed 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 demon- strate 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.  



Copyright 2001-2006 by Johnny M. Patterson
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