Open Menu
Open Menu

“Hey Jim, can you do me a favor?”

Published in

Before: The dash trim pieces await clean up. Photos by author.

Next time I hear those words I am going to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. An acquaintance contacted me about seven months ago looking for 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 parts. I linked him up with a few of the appropriate retailers to get the items he needed, however, there was one that none of our advertisers (and a few sources who are not advertisers) could not come up with: the three-piece interior dash aluminum insert.

After some further digging, I found that the long piece that frames the dash knobs and radio was fairly easy to find, but locating one that hasn’t been butchered by the owner adding a different radio is almost impossible. The glovebox trim and the last small curve at the passenger end of the dash were also tough to locate. Finally, I found a decent trio available from salvage yard I do business with in Western Canada. I say decent because the radio insert was uncut (yes, it looks that funky behind the radio trim) and the glovebox insert still had the original emblems, but that is where decent ended. All three pieces needed major cleaning and polishing before they could be used in any show car, or even a 30-footer.

All three pieces were boiled in a hot tank for a few hours and rinsed, this did absolutely nothing towards making them any more presentable. I then thought using some rouge on a cotton buffing wheel would help, but the effort didn’t even touch it. Next, Steve Adams in our Facility Department suggested Zep sprayed on a cotton Never Dull pad. Steve knows his stuff, because it worked like a charm on the glovebox insert and the end cap, although it also removed some of the trim stripe. It did nothing on the long section though, which led me to investigate further and contact a few restorers.

They told me it wasn’t cleaning the brightwork because of the clear coat they overspray on the aluminum at the factory to prevent corrosion and dulling. My contacts claimed if I took off the clear with some oven cleaner, I could get down to the nitty gritty, but the long piece, once cleaned, would not match the other two. They also said you can’t just clear coat over the cleaned surface, because the factory finish had some dullness to it that kept down glare, but it wasn’t a semi-matte finish either.

I opted to strip the clear anyway, and once that was completed, I was able to remove most of the grime using a fine hand sanding pad and some 0 (and later, 000) steel wool drenched in the aluminum brightener you can buy to clean diamond plate or aluminum wheels. The surface came much cleaner, and though far from perfect, was passable for this vehicle’s owner.

After: The Galaxie’s dash trim post cleaning, striping, and clear coating.

I then had to address the black strip that was removed during cleaning and sanding. The easier solution to repainting was to use vinyl pinstriping, but the top of the trim has a 1/4-inch stripe and the lower edge was 3/8 inches. After pinstriping the top strip, I used the same 1/4-inch stripe on the lower, but some of the original paint stripe was showing, so I added a second application of the 1/4-inch and overlapped it to get the desired width (I wasn’t about to buy another 150-foot roll of 3/8-inch striping just for this project). Once the pinstripe was done, I applied standard rattle-can clear coat over the long piece of trim, so the shininess of the three pieces was consistent and they will dull and/or age at the same rate. The color difference doesn’t look too bad either.

Now, mind you, I started this project seven months ago and I have my own money invested in it, but that didn’t stop the car owner from calling me every 10 days or so to see how I was coming along. I have been working on it in small bits at a time between my other responsibilities here at Hemmings and on the homestead,  but it seemed that the more he called to check up on it, the less enthusiastic I was about finishing it. There were several times I almost threw up the surrender flag and presented him the lot in as-is condition, but I am happy to report that the project is finally done and will be out of the back seat of my truck this weekend. I might actually get my original investment on the trim pieces back.

Of course, I realize that I won’t get back whatever I invested in steel wool, pinstripe, sweat, aggravation, oven cleaner, and sandpaper, but I am at a point where I really don’t care about that. But for future reference, the next time I need interior trim refurbished, I’ll send it to a professional; also, the next time an acquaintance asks me to do him a favor, I’m hanging up.