It's one of the most outstanding exterior features on vintage muscle cars and was used to help distinguish one model from another: body accent trim, or brightwork. From a full-on restoration to a Pro Touring build, if the body trim is anything less than spectacular, it can distract from the overall appeal of your finished ride.
Brightwork originally installed by the General is either stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum can be the most difficult to restore, as most of these parts were anodized by the factory for protection and shine. Over time, this protective barrier weathers, cracks, or peels, allowing the elements to attack the surface and do their worst.
While much of this brightwork is available today from specialty suppliers-and that comes in real handy-many prefer to restore the existing trim. In some cases, replacement pieces are simply not available, as is the case with our '64 Chevelle's problem piece, the hook, found on the rear quarters. Ours would require a bit of elbow grease to salvage.
Before you begin to repair dents or scuffs in the not-so-bright brightwork, you have to remove the anodized coating. You can either send the pieces out to specialists, who will dip them in a solution of caustic soda, or you can do what we did here on an already mangled piece: careful sanding. Heed our warning: Take your time, carefully monitor your progress, and stop as soon as you break through the coating. You want to remove as little aluminum as possible to retain strength and integrity.
All said and done, repairing trim is just like straightening any body panel (on a much smaller scale), requiring significant patience. And to get the job done right, you'll need an assortment of body dollies, hammers, hard (steel) and semihard (wood) flat surfaces, a buffer or grinder with buffing wheels, and various sandpapers and buffing rouges. Other less-common tools that prove useful for detail dent removal in tight areas are a regular screwdriver, a needle-nose pliers, a small chisel, and a center punch.
Follow along as we straighten a piece of body trim from our Chevelle. Give it a try and you'll certainly appreciate the sense of accomplishment in saving a piece of abused trim and bringing it back to looking factory fresh. The time and energy spent here will not only save you money, but also untold hours searching for a replacement.
What We Did
Revived a piece of body trim from an early A-body
A little time and effort go a long way