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Removing stuff for chroming

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  • Removing stuff for chroming

    A friend has offered that his friend, who owns a plating company, will chrome my bumpers for me "for a drink". I trust the guy and to be honest the bumpers are so bad he can't wreck them any more

    He also said to get everything else done, which I am very tempted to as a) it needs it and b) it just may give me the opportunity to work on "er indoors" along the lines of "everythings off, its the perfect time for a respray"

    Anyway ... yada yada... couple of questions...

    Is there an easy way to figure out what is chrome and what isnt, probably a dumb question, but hey, I'm dumb at this.

    Also, are there any pitfalls to be aware of when removing it all, snapping pins or shearing bolts etc. ?

    Thanks again guys for all your help ... I literally couldn't do it without you !!!

  • #2
    Removing stuff for chroming

    Hi Dave, I will let our guys with a lot more experience in this reply to your questions, but I will make a few comments based on my experience. Take a lot of pictures of what the chrome looks like in place before you take it off. Take a lot of pix of what each area looks like once you have the chrome off. They will help you figure out how to put things back on again. Bag all the bolts, nuts, washer, and small parts that you dont want to have chromed so you wont lose them. Record on the bags where they came off the car from so you know what goes on the front, the back or other areas. I made the mistake of having my bolts chromed which some of them they lost... As to what is chrome and what is pot metal... The air scoop, headlight covers around the headlights, the spear points on the doors, the curved tail fin pieces are all pot metal, and I think the eyebrows over the tail lights also pot metal. The air scoop and the curved tail fins are easily warped if they do not watch what they are doing. The bumpers, front and back are chrome, as I recall. I hope this helps!

    Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
    '59 Tbird "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" aka "Tweety Bird"
    "It's Hip To Be Square"
    Thunderbird Registry #33025 VTCI #11178

    Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or (Cell) 210-875-1411 (Home) 210-674-5781


    • #3
      I have a different year so my chrome parts are all different but the concept is still the same.

      The bumpers are relatively easy to take off since the bolts are accessible. Since they are steel the old pitted chrome can be ground off, any dents removed by heating and hammering, the steel smoothed with progressively finer paper, polished, and then plated.

      The door handles, emblems, and decorations aren't so easy. Lots of the fasteners are hidden by interior parts. For example roof rear pillar moldings require removal of the headliner. Door handles and mirrors require removal of the door card. Then the real problem starts, because all this stuff is "pot metal", a mixture of aluminum and zinc, a soft alloy, plated with hard chrome. Once you grind on the chrome, you'll work hard to wear it away and then dig quickly into the soft base metal. Then to remove pits you'll have to grind a lot of base metal away and you'll destroy the shape of the part, so you have to add more metal on....

      Suffice it to say it's a job for a very talented and patient person: an expert. Most of us just buy reproduction parts. Some guys sand the chrome, fill the pits with "Lab Metal" and then powder coat. But no powder coat can reproduce the shine that chrome does.

      There is a process for interior pot metal using "spray chrome", which is basically a silver process used on glass mirrors. Coat the finish with clear enamel.

      Long exterior trim pieces, such as window surrounds, are stainless steel. Be careful when removing so you don't bend them. Dents can be removed using hammer and dolly techniques, and there is enough thickness to sand smooth, then progress to finer parer, and finally through high speed buff polishing to make them shine like mirrors.

      Long interior trim (at least on my '64) are anodized aluminum. They can't be fixed and polished like stainless. If the piece is straight you can lightly polish with a fine grade buffing wheel and you'll brighten it up a bit. A coating of WD-40 will brighten it up a bit more. If you polish through the anodizing on one section you'll reveal shiny aluminum underneath and end up with a fish eye effect. If that happens all you can do is remove all of the anodizing (heavy duty oven cleaner and Scoth-Brite pads), then advance through the buffing wheels to a mirror finish. To keep it shiny coat it with clear enamel.
      Last edited by Yadkin; May 16th, 2014, 04:20 PM.


      • #4
        Steve (Yadkin) did a very good write up on the parts. I did buff through some of the anodizing on the interior door panels and now I know how to fix that.
        As for any of the pot metal parts being replated, be very careful. They can easily be destroyed and here a lot of shops won't even touch them anymore. If they do, it is quite expensive to rechrome, which is why I chose to buy the reproductions where ever I could (emblems, door handles, roof trim etc.)
        If you want to get into your window frames, they are a bit tricky. The frames need to be completely disassembled, glass removed, and then pot metal parts sent to chrome. The upper and rear window frame pieces are stainless and can be polished. The vent main frame and front "L" frame of 1/4 window are pot metal and would need to be chromed. I spent $700 to have the 4 window frames rechromed.
        The bumpers are pretty standard. They just need to be removed and taken apart, so each piece can be chromed. The front will take you a while. All of the front bumper inserts are mostly anodized aluminum. The center insert on a 60 can be purchased new if needed. As for the rear squared screen, I am planning on having mine powdercoated vs. chrome or polished. Others here have already done that.
        If you get into the rear tail light assemblies, these parts are again pot metal. The waffle or back plate and bezel that goes around the lenses usually get pitted badly. My shop wants $1200 to restore the 4 pieces. No aftermarkets available for these pieces. Ouch. Still working on this one.
        All of the chrome pieces around the headliner are steel and can be replated reasonably. I've already had mine done and they came out pretty nice. I did return 2 pieces and asked that they be redone. Came out nice the second time.
        I have lots of pictures if you want to send me a private message and I can forward to your email, rather than jam things up here.
        Attached Files


        • #5
          Thanks Nyles.

          When I redid my window frames I left the glass in and just polished the stainless surrounds. Since on my car the pot metal is below the window opening I just cleaned it. If yours is partly exposed, I'd suggest powder coating with "superchrome" which will give it a polished aluminum appearance.

          Here's another trick for pot metal that is lightly tarnished. Wash it with phosphoric acid and a blue scotch-brite pad. Phosphoric is a mild acid that is the ingredient in soft drinks that gives it tartness. The blue pads are scratch-free and designed to clean teflon cookware. I found that this combination takes out the haze around the pits. It won't remove the pit but without the haze your part will shine a lot brighter. To cover bigger pits I then touch them up with silver nail polish.

          I forgot that I discovered a product recently that cleans anodized fairly well. I's called Nevrdull and is available at most auto stores.


          • #6
            Hi Dave. My advice to you, would be to leave well alone, as the car is a recent acquisition you need some time to acquaint yourself with your T. Bird, spend some time cleaning, detailing, learning about, and just enjoying Bird ownership.

            The problem with improving selected items, is that they will always make another item look tatty, good chrome shows up bad paint, new paint shows up an old interior, and so on.

            A car that has general patina, is an every day, go to work, go to the supermarket, usable motor car, over here in the UK it can still be enjoyed and admired despite its flaws, as it is so far removed from the blandness of the modern automotive offering.

            If you want to see how things come apart, come up and look at my car, i can show you the salient points, and go through the various issues with refinishing the numerous types of materials used in construction of our T.Birds.

            With regards to chroming bumpers and other large items, very few people do this sort of work now, and even fewer have baths big enough to accommodate the front bumper, i have known platters suggest cutting such items down in size,not an ideal solution, so be careful.


            • #7
              from modest experience:

              * the pot metal reproduction parts are superb. Conversely getting potmetal restored is tricky at best, an inexact science.

              Examples are door handles (Dennis Carpenter) and outside roof pillars.

              * if your bumpers are damaged as opposed to poor chrome only, consider finding some undamaged ones to use instead. This saves a lot of work and possible flaws. The chrome is the easy part - the preparation is much more difficult.
              1958 Hardtop
              #8452 TBird Registry



              • #8
                Hi Marc. Hows it going ?

                Its just too good an offer to pass up. I'm only going to get the bumpers done as they badly need it. The rest of it isnt too bad at all, and sure as **** doesnt justify all the other disassembly to get them off.

                Should get my reg this week then I can drive her on the road instead of around a small yard.


                • #9
                  This is just for reference, but I got a quote today to do the backing plate and lens bezel for my tail lights. $1200 per side. I sure wish someone would start making repos of these parts.


                  • #10
                    John G offers the REAL expense; polishing and buffing.
                    On regular steel, only nickel and chrome need electroplating. That's how Ford did it, but in mass quantities.

                    Whatever surface condition you start with, WILL show through the plating. If it is mirror smooth, you will have a good job. If not, don't even bother.

                    Most USA chrome shops have a larger polish room than the plating room. There are also more people working in the polish room because each plating step requires buffing before you get to chrome. Big American car bumpers are heavy, cumbersome and hard to manhandle against a huge high-speed polishing machine. This takes a lot of practice and skill. Believe me, I've tried and failed miserably. Polishing compound doesn't work until the friction temperature raises (especially on stainless and mild steel). But if you come down hard on the edge of a buffer, it will dig in and leave a nasty mark that shows right through your chrome.

                    Anyone who claims to GIVE you a chrome job is either trying to gain experience or he has no clue as to cost.

                    After plating, our Environmental Protection Agency demands samples of neutralized chemicals. They also charge for this test. Potassium cyanide is used in the chrome process, and is rinsed off. It cannot be buried or washed down the drain. - Dave
                    My latest project:
                    CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                    "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                    --Lee Iacocca


                    • #11
                      The whole plating process is hugely toxic. If one tried to introduce the process for cosmetic purposes for the first time today it would never get past the EPA. Here in the LA basin IIRC all the existing platers are grandfathered in and you couldn't hope to open up a new shop today. Even cadmium platers and anodisers have a lot of similar hoops to pass through to get approval. Only the fact that such processes are indespensible to modern industry keeps them from being banned entirely like asbestos.


                      • #12
                        There are two types of chrome, hexavalent and trivalent. This is due to the number of electrons in the atoms, hex has six and tri has three. Another distinction is, hexavalent chrome looks creamy and lustrous.

                        Trivalent chrome has a bluish tint that some folks can spot right away. Trivalent chrome is environmentally safe and easy to deal with.

                        Back in the day, all of the auto companies used hexavalent chrome. Today, none of them do (and they stand very firm on this). If parts come in with hexavalent chrome, they get sent back to the vendor or a ' specification deviation' must be written and approved (nobody wants their name on this).

                        So if you see chrome on a modern car, it is trivalent with rare exception. Tri is still very beautiful but not considered, 'show chrome'. - Dave
                        My latest project:
                        CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                        "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                        --Lee Iacocca