The Art of Rechroming

chrome bumper and headlights on classic car

Source/Baher Khairy/Unsplash

Next time you’re checking out all the hot rides at a car show, ask yourself this question: What makes these cars look so amazing? Often it’s the perfectly smooth, impeccably polished chrome. You’ll see it shining under the hoods of all those old American muscle cars. Check out the bumpers, too, and you’ll see mirror finishes front and back. Bottom line? You’re not gonna win any prizes if your chrome’s not correct.

If you want to fix up your chrome from time to time, the process is called re-chroming, and it’s something every classic-car buff needs to know about. Whether you’re in the middle of a bumper rechroming or just learning about rechroming for the first time, here’s our Rechroming 101.

How do they do it?

Classic GM car

Source/© Copyright General Motors

Chroming, or technically chrome plating, is just a particular way of finishing a surface. The craftsman starts by cleaning the part’s existing surface thoroughly, and then he “dips” the part in a chrome-plating vat that’s filled with a chromium-based solution. Through a process known as electroplating, electrical current is used to dissolve the chromium atoms and “plate” them onto the surface. The thickness of the plating is determined by how long the craftsman leaves the part in the vat. Once the desired thickness has been achieved, boom–you’ve got your re-chromed surface.

Popular cars and parts for rechroming

View of a chrome muffler

Source/Eisenmann Andrade/Flickr

Although chrome continues to be featured on some modern cars, it’s more common among the older cars you tend to see at the shows. Chrome bumpers, for example, are pretty much dead and gone these days, unless you count a handful of pickup trucks. And good luck finding chrome headers under the hood; you’re more likely to see a bunch of molded plastic engine covers. Candidates for re-chroming, include Mustangs, Corvettes, Chevelles, and certainly European luminaries like Ferraris and Lamborghinis, if your budget allows.

As far as specific car parts go, you’ve got bumper chroming and headers but it doesn’t stop there. Wheels are a big one, of course, and since they’re so close to the road with all its dust and debris, they’re gonna need more frequent attention than other parts. Chrome grilles, too, are in a vulnerable spot; you’ll often see pitting and tarnishing up there.

But more broadly, just think about that C2 Corvette I mentioned, for example. There’s chrome everywhere! You’ve got those iconic side-exit exhaust pipes, the fuel flap on the rear deck and various other exterior parts, not to mention all the chrome switches and knobs inside. Back in the day, chrome was a much more significant part of car styling. So if you want to make your classic car tip-top, you might have a real laundry list of parts that need to be rechromed.

Have you rechromed any of your car parts before? Tell us any tips you have in the comments.

Comments

  1. John blincoe says:

    I need to get parts re chromed for my 71 Pontiac catelina my grill shell and Pontiac emblem 400 emblem and two tail light bezels

  2. Abby Williams says:

    Indeed, Re-chroming is an amazing way of offering a fresh look to older vehicles. It is obvious that with time, car grilles get exposed to various pollutants for which, they lost their original fresh look. So, this beneficial process can be surely applied to those cars that have lost the classy and clean look. However, for auto owners with the urge of purchasing new grilles, you can get a wide range of options available at Autogrillepros.com.

  3. Neil Wynn says:

    Im trying to find out how would it cost to rechrome all the parts on my 71 buick skylark convertible.

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