At some point this Tropic Turquoise 1966 Malibu will be transformed into a real stunner with a proverbial who’s who list in new restoration parts, but in the meantime I wanted the car to look as good as it could as easily as possible. I took the fast track to cherry it out by using Mothers and Eastwood products to restore the brightwork’s original brilliance.
A benefit to using detailing products in the course of restoring an automobile is one has to realize when they send an original part out to be rechromed there’s always the chance the chrome shop will ruin it. Ruined as in polishing the fine details off of a pot metal part, disfiguring it so bad Vincent Price would scream like a girl upon seeing it. And then imagine the horrors of trying to find a replacement for that ruined part that no one in the aftermarket reproduces.
In light of where collector car values have gone in recent years with a mint survivor fetching as much money as a prime restored example there’s a lot to be said for that old adage, “they’re only original once.” And only original once can also apply to chrome that has been replated and then improperly cared for or mistreated, meaning it will never look as good as it once did.
What all of this means, whether a car is a survivor or a nicely done restoration, is that care has to be taken not to scratch the surface. The best way to restore the brilliance of any brightwork — whether it’s chrome-plated, polished aluminum, stainless steel, or anodized — is to start with the mildest method first. For example, washing automotive brightwork with a mild pH-balanced car wash will begin the detailing process, but it’s likely more aggressive steps will have to be taken until the job is completed satisfactorily.
After the brightwork has been brought to its most brilliant state, the next stage is to preserve the brilliance with a wax or polish protectant. The good news is just like after going to the dentist and having an intensive cleaning done all it takes to keep the brightwork brilliant is to follow with scheduled upkeep.
1. For this 1966 Malibu, spending its entire life in California’s high desert was a blessing and yet a curse. The dry heat kept the chrome from rusting, but cooked the anodized aluminum trim.
2. The mildest approach and best way to start preparing chrome and anodized aluminum trim for polishing is by soaking off years of dirt and grime with a good pH-balanced car wash like Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax. Harsh detergents can further haze anodized aluminum trim.
3. The best trick in the world to polish and clean chrome, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum is with super-fine 0000 (four ott) steel wool. Or better yet, fine grade bronze wool because it resists rust.
4. A heavy concentration of Mother California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax soap makes heavy bodied suds that cling. The super-fine steel wool makes a good wash mitt, but throw it away directly after using.
5. Nothing blasts off the soapsuds and further flushes out dirt and grime like a good old-fashioned high-pressure garden hose. We followed up with blowing compressed air to ensure no water pockets were left to create rust.
6. It doesn’t hurt to experiment with different products to see what works best. We used Mothers California Gold Chrome Polish and Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish along with fine-grade bronze wool to handle the heavy rust.
7. The same process used on the front and rear bumpers worked great to restore the Malibu’s chrome horn ring, shift lever, and turn-signal handle.
8. It’s very important to note that steel wool, bronze wool, or chrome polish should never be used on clear plastic parts like the horn button. Mothers Plastic Polish was used on the clear plastic horn button.
9. Reflective metallic stickers that get cooked on after awhile can be a real bear to remove without using a good chemical dissolvent like Eastwood PRE.
10. We sprayed (soaked) the wretched sticker with PRE and then worked a single-edge razor blade underneath to lift it off.
11. Afterwards, Mothers California Gold Chrome Polish was used to remove the rust and blend the exposed chrome into the chrome dulled from exposure to the sun and elements.
12. Mothers California Gold All-Chrome is a great new product that in addition to adding a brilliant shine, effortlessly removes smudges, fingerprints, dust, insect guts, and even light water spot formations, leaving behind a lasting protective barrier.