Other than a really nice paint job, nothing does more to dress up a classic vehicle than the shiny chrome trim.  The big difference between yesterday's classics and today's vehicles is the amount of bright trim that was a standard feature on the classics.  The amount of trim on these classics was a direct indication as to whether the vehicle was a low-priced "base model" or one that was "top-of-the-line".  The level of trim on today's vehicles might differ between various model levels, but not to the extent that it did on these classics.  A base model pickup might not have any chrome at all (even painted bumpers, wheel covers, and grill), while the top-of-the-line model for the same pickup would have enough chrome to blind a person.

The Sierra Grande was GMC's top-of-the-line model and it had a lot of chrome and bright trim.  This is both a blessing and a curse when restoring a vehicle.  When fully restored, the bright, shiny trim can make the vehicle look like a million bucks.  But when the trim is shabby, it can make the whole vehicle look shabby.  Restoring the trim can also be very expensive if a lot of it has to be replaced.  If all the trim on a Sierra Grande had to be replaced, it could cost nearly as much as a good paint job.

A lot of classic pickup owners choose to remove the original trim and give the pickup a "shaved" look.  Nothing wrong with that.  If it's done right, a shaved vehicle looks very sharp, like this 1970 Chevy.  But, nothing says "classic" vehicle to me more than lots of trim - it's what makes the old vehicles unique.  That's why I decided to restore the trim on Maych .  I also wanted to keep as much of the original trim as possible, only replacing those pieces that were beyond repair.

Restoring the trim is not really difficult, but it is very time consuming.  It's mostly, cleaning, polishing, painting, and sadly, in some cases, replacing.  If I were forced to choose only two tools I could use use to restore the trim, those two would be, without a doubt, 0000 steel wool and an air brush.  Of all the tools and supplies I used during the restoration of the trim, these two items were, without a doubt, the most useful.

I have a whole basketful of metal polishes, compounds, buffing pads, etc.,  but nothing removes rust, cleans off grim, and shines chrome like 0000 steel wool -- NOTHING!  And I'm talking by hand.  No hard rubbing, no buffing, no mess, and it's dirt cheap.  A $3.00 bag of 0000 steel wool will do an entire restoration job.  I still use the metal polishes, but primarily to protect the chrome and other bright trim from the elements, not as the primary cleaning agent.

The other indispensable item is an air brush.  A lot of the trim on classic vehicles, especially the emblems, have painted details.  You can paint these with a paint brush, but it tends to always look like it was painted with a paint brush.  Rattle cans will work, but the spray mechanism for aerosol propellants just isn't made for painting very small details, like those found on most emblems.   

You don't need an expensive air brush to get good results.  The expensive models are great if you're going to be painting pictures on T-shirts or doing other fancy "artistry".  But, if all you need to do is apply layers of paint on an object, a cheap model works great.   I bought my air brush at a model train store, but most hobby shops carry them.  Expect to pay between $15.00 and $20.00 for one of these types of air brushes.  I bought a Badger model 250.  Nothing fancy about this model.  Just pour properly thinned paint into the jar, hook up to compressed air, and start painting.  NOTE - If you use Badger's Modelflex paint, it comes pre-thinned for spraying and the bottles the paint comes in screws right onto the air brush.  Another plus with these air brushes is  you don't even need an air compressor.  You can buy cans of compressed air that are especially designed to work with these air brushes.  I've even heard of people using a spare tire as an air source.

The next several episodes will describe the restoration of the exterior trim items. 



Copyright 2001-2006 by Johnny M. Patterson
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