The aluminum trim on the door panels, dash and console on most of these cars gets very dull and even corroded after time. To bring back the finish that was originally intended for these cars I have the following advice. It may not be the best way to gain a concours looking finish however it is very inexpensive and gives an awesome look when done that will keep its good looks for years to come with very little care.
This technique will leave you with the original "brushed aluminum" finish that was there when the car was new.
First thing to do is to remove all the trim from the car. While you can do this resto job while it is in the car, it is actually easier and probably faster in the long run to remove it.
Start by removing the door panels and the rear interior side trim panels, The rear seats have to come out for the rear side panels to be removed. On the back side of the door panels and the rear side panels you will find the fasteners for the chrome strips that run along the edges of this aluminium trim. Remove all of these and then remove the
aluminum pieces. Be careful removing them, they are stuck on there with some caulking that may have dried up over the years. Do not pull or pry on the aluminum. Get something wide and flat to slide in there to loosen it up. A wide putty knife works well.
The trim on the dash and console all along the edges of the aluminium must also be removed to get the alum. Off. There are a few screws on the ends of this trim and then there are spring/wire type clips that snap into the dash and console holding the rest of the strips on. To remove these spring type clips use a wide flat pry tool. Be careful when prying to spread the load of the tool out on the chrome strip and keep it close to
the area where you see the clips. You do not want to damage these chrome strips, nice ones are getting hard to find. Save the clips also as these are getting scarce too. Once the edge trim is off you will have to carefully peel off the alum trim from the dash and console also and this is again held in place with some caulking. Remove carefully and slowly. Sometimes it helps to use a heat gun or hair dryer to soften the caulk and release the trim.
Now that you have all of your pieces off to work on you will need a nice flat surface to work on these with. Remember that they are thin aluminum and will damage easily if you get too carried away.
You will need some Scotchbrite scuff pads, a bucket of water and a bit of detergent of some kind. Dish soap works well. For the scuff pads I like the ones made by 3M and sold at automotive stores. They are color coded by the aggressiveness of the grit. I like the red ones (actually maroon).
OK, got your stuff and your flat surface?
Lay one of the pieces down, get a bucket of water and add a few drops of detergent. Soak the scuff pad and start sanding the aluminum panels keeping the motion in line with the ribs in the aluminum. Dip the scuff pad often to keep it wet and to keep the sludge washed off the aluminium trim. This process will take some time so do not get impatient. If you get tired walk away. If you get frustrated, walk away. If you are angry do not even go near this stuff. Remember, these panels are valuable and hard to come by. You do not want to risk damaging them or making them worse. You will need to spend as many hours as necessary to get the finish that you want. The hard work will pay off. The more time you spend making this part look good the better the finished product will be. None of this will get covered with paint. You will see exactly what you do now so make them as perfect as it takes to please you.
If there are dents in these pieces you can also remove them to a great extent. You will want a couple pieces of wood of different sizes. You will also need some rags to wrap the wood with where it will touch the alum. If you sand the blocks of wood so that they are a bit rounded it will help also. What you will need to do is to use one block to lay the alum. On and the other to press the dent out with. You will sandwitch the alum between a couple pieces of wood and press them together in the areas necessary to remove the dents. Play with your wood blocks, sanding them etc to get them to do the job. Here again, all the effort put into this step will pay off in the finished product.
Once you have the dents out to your satisfaction and then have them all scuffed to the proper finish that will satisfy you. Then you are ready to clean them up and apply a clearcoat to protect them. Scrub them real good with soap and water. Rinse totally with clear water and let dry. I like to actually buff them dry with towels to make sure that they do not water spot. Then use wax and grease remover to prep them for the clearcoat.
Before I forget, if you happen to have one of the cars that had the tinted color in your original alum. Trim you will have to add another step to your work at this point. Automotive paint stores use tint bases to make the paints used on cars. I know that there were some of these birds with a blue tint on this trim and also a rose beige color. If you have this you will have to ask the paint technician at the store to give
you about an ounce or two of the proper tint to get this shade in your aluminum. You will not need much. A few drops in some clear will probably do the trick Keep your clear for this tinting process very thin and apply thin light coats. Make sure you do this very slowly and evenly. The less color you put on at a time the better. The more coats
it takes the better as it will help to keep the coloring even and not blotchy.
If you goof up, don't panic. Some thinner will clean it off and you can start over on that piece. It is a good idea to do all the pieces together at the same time so you get the same amount of tint on each one.
When you have the proper tint to suit yourself (the heck with everyone else - you are the one doing the job and paying the bill and putting in the effort), then you are ready to proceed.
For clearcoat I recommend that you purchase good quality that can be sprayed with a gun. Not urethane or any other 2 part paint. Just a single stage clear. My preference is Lacquer but this is nearly non-existant now. Anyway, reason being, you will want to be able to add a flattening agent to it in an amount that will just take the gloss off
enough to prevent a glare or wet look. The finished product should look just like the brushed aluminum. It should have a satin finish to it. To learn how much flattening agent to add start with very little and do a test panel of some other parts. When you get the right dullness, spray your parts.
You will need to let this stuff sit and dry really good before assembly or you will ruin the finish. Here again-walk away.
After you assemble everything, get your camera and take a picture to share with your buddies who have spent hundreds getting theirs done and stand tall and proud that you did it yourself and it cost way less than $100.00 for all of it.
John R. Draxler, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org