How To Restore Trim Pieces On Your Classic Car

DIY Trim Piece Restoration For Your Project Car

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography By the Author

When it comes to the final details of a project car, the trim piece can be one of the most tedious parts of the process. Even if the trim is in good shape, polishing it and reinstalling it can present challenges. Some applications have a huge selection of aftermarket replacement parts, but many purists would rather repair an original piece. In some cases, like our 1966 Chevy II project car, the trim pieces simply aren’t available, so you must repair the original parts if they are damaged or scour swap meets to find suitable replacements.

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02 1966 Chevy Nova project with freshly painted car and rough trim pieces
Our 1966 Chevy Nova project isn’t a show car, but these upper door and quarter-panel reveal trim pieces are too rough to reinstall on a freshly painted car.

Read More: Chopping The Buick Coupe Top

On the 1966 Chevy II, the trim is made from a variety of metals. The side trim is aluminum, while the hood and trunk trim pieces are diecast (pot metal) with chrome plating. Pieces like the rear window molding and upper door and quarter-panel reveal moldings are stainless steel.

03 Comparison of stainless steel and thin aluminum trim used in the 60s and 70s
Stainless steel is stronger than the thin aluminum trim used during the ’60s and ’70s, but any trim piece is susceptible to dents or damage.

We were unable to source new upper door and quarter-panel moldings, so we needed to repair the four pieces. There are polishing shops and plating shops that take on jobs like this but we wanted to try our hand at repairing the trim in our garage. For this, we needed some specialty tools to make the job a little easier. We picked up a Dagger Tools Trim Repair Kit from Summit Racing (PN CTI-TR-KIT-II), which features multiple hammers, dollies, files, and other tools to help straighten the trim. After we pecked around and got all the dents hammered out, we moved onto polishing. We also used various grits of wet or dry sandpaper to sand out any scratches or imperfections and a bench grinder/polisher to bring it back to a nice shine. We used a Summit Racing Polishing Kit (PN SUM-905027), which comes with a total of three 6-inch buffing wheels of various constructions and four compound bars to allow us to perform a multistep polish.

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04 Challenging dent on the end of a Chevy Nova door piece
The most challenging dent was on the end of a door piece. The dent doesn’t have any sharp areas, splits, or creases, so we should be able to straighten it.

Read More: Kevin Hart’s 1969 Pontiac GTO

We spent several evenings in the shop pecking and polishing the four pieces. The process is much quicker for pieces that only need polishing, as the damaged areas certainly slow things down. Follow along as we remove dents, sand out scratches, and buff the pieces to a mirror-like finish, providing an excellent finishing detail for our 1966 Chevy II project car. MR

05 Overspray from previous paint job on flipped trim piece
We flipped the trim over and found overspray from a previous paint job, which is a good thing because that means someone didn’t try to pry the trim off the car. That is usually when most damage is done.
06 Cleaning trim with wax and grease remover before dent repair
Before we get started, we wipe the trim down with wax and grease remover and make note of the dents and problem areas that need to be addressed.
07 Trim Repair Kit from Summit Racing with variety of hammers and dollies
The Trim Repair Kit from Summit Racing comes with a variety of hammers, dollies, and other tools that come in handy for trim repair. We start with the small hammer and use flat aluminum stock as a dolly.
08 Using hammer handle to press down large dent on stainless steel trim
The larger dent requires a larger surface area, so we used the hammer handle to press downward into the dent and eventually used another hammer to lightly bump the dented area. Again, the flat aluminum stock is used as the dolly since the top surface of the trim is flat.
09 Flipped trim piece with dolly underneath for straightening bumps
The flat stock is also useful to transfer the blow from a hammer and spread the load across the entire area. Here, we have flipped the trim and have a dolly underneath to straighten out the bumps from our previous hammering.
10 Flattening dings from hammer strikes with careful hammering and dollying
When a dolly isn’t used to spread the load you’ll end up with dings from the hammer strikes. These pimples can be flattened out with careful hammering and dollying.
11 Using a file for fine tuning dent repair on stainless steel trim
A file is only used in extreme situations where dent repair needs fine-tuning. The variety of files in the Trim Repair Kit allows for different cuts, but any file work requires a tremendous amount of sanding to remove the marks.
12 Small easy to use files from the Trim Repair Kit for low spots
The files that came with the Trim Repair Kit are small and easy to use. Notice the dark areas, which are low spots. We can continue to peck those low spots out and file the metal down for a slick finish.
13 Using a dual action sander with 80 grit to remove harsh file marks
We used a dual-action sander with 80-grit to cut into the harsh file marks. We only used the sander in the affected area.
14 Wet or dry sandpaper for polishing stainless steel trim
Next, we used a variety of wet or dry sandpaper. We start with 180 on the areas that saw file work and start with 400 on the areas that simply need to be polished. The stainless steel dulls the paper very fast, so get plenty.
15 Using flat aluminum stock as a sanding block for dent repair
Once again, we’re using the flat aluminum stock that came with the Trim Repair Kit. This time, we’re using it as a sanding block. We wrap the paper around the block and sand over the previously dented areas to ensure it is straight.
16 Lubricating sandpaper with water for stainless steel trim restoration
Water is used to lubricate the sandpaper and wash away debris. It makes a mess, but it’s a crucial part of a nice result.
17 Hand sanding stainless steel trim for scratch removal
Hand sanding requires a lot of patience, as stainless steel requires intense sanding to remove the scratches from the previous grit of sandpaper.
18 Using 3 000 grit sandpaper for final sand before polishing
Finally, we make our way to the 3,000 grit, which starts putting a shine on the stainless steel. Even finer grits are available, but 3,000 is sufficient final sand before polishing begins.
19 Inspecting sanding scratches on cleaned stainless steel trim pieces
After sanding, clean the trim pieces again and inspect the problem areas. A closeup shows the light sanding scratches, but you can also see the gloss is already starting to show.
20 Using a bench grinder with buffing wheels for stainless steel trim polishing
We used a bench grinder with three levels of 6-inch buffing wheels, which were part of Summit Racing’s Polishing Kit. We start with the yellow Sisal cloth wheel with black emery cake compound. Then, switch to brown rouge compound on the same wheel.
21 Polishing stainless steel trim with a muslin buffing wheel and white rouge compound
Next, we swap to the other side of the bench grinder, where a circle-sewn muslin buffing wheel is used with a white rouge compound. This starts bringing a shine to the stainless steel.
22 Final buffing of stainless steel trim with a cotton wheel and red rouge compound
The final buffing wheel is a one-row sewn cotton wheel, and we dress it with red rouge buffing compound before making our final passes on the trim.
23 Final round of hand polishing with liquid compound on stainless steel trim
We used liquid compound for one final round of polishing by hand. This is the area that had the large dent, and it now has an excellent reflection without any signs of our intense work.
24 Polished door and quarter panel pieces ready for installation on Chevy Nova
The two door pieces and two quarter-panel pieces are polished and ready to install on the car. We ordered new clips from Classic Industries for an easy installation.
25 1966 Chevy Nova with newly installed and polished stainless steel trim
With the trim in place, the 1966 Chevy Nova has a great look. The many hours of tedious work resulted in a great final product on our driver-quality Chevy.

Source
Summit Racing
(800) 230-3030
summitracing.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Peck & Polish.

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mr march 2024

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