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Technical Can Paint Make Bad Chrome Look Better?

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by jjhoneck, Jul 4, 2016.

  1. jjhoneck
    Joined: Mar 18, 2016
    Posts: 10

    jjhoneck

    I've been working on our '52 Chieftain, and have brought it back from a "20-footer" to a "3-footer" -- except for the front bumpers, which need rechroming.

    In the interim, while I save my nickels for that job, I've been trying various methods to make the parts look better. Step One was to remove the corrosion with aluminum foil and Diet Coca Cola (thank you, YouTube!), which worked great.

    Step Two was to try applying chrome paint to the fugly parts. I used the top-rated chrome model paint designed for plastic, and that has not survived subsequent cleanings. Results were unsatisfactory, anyway, so I'm not heartbroken that it's slowly rubbed away.

    Is there a metal "chrome paint" that can help camouflage bad chrome? I'm not looking for perfection, just a better presentation.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 14,538

    Squablow
    Member

    Not really, paint looks like paint. But from a distance, it does look cleaner than just leaving pits and scabs. Medium silver metallic touch up paint does better than "chrome" paint, but only touch up the areas that have no plating left on them. Old worn thin chrome will still present better than paint. If you've got a big scab of plating missing, a piece of peel and stick HVAC tape (basically aluminum foil with a sticky tape back) works to cover it up.

    If your bumpers are just worn and don't have any "open sores" so to speak, the best you're going to get is just a polish and a wax job.
     
  3. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 14,538

    Squablow
    Member

    If you look close, you'll notice that the whole driver's side end of the bumper on my girlfriend's '51 was peeled off to bare steel, we filled in the missing area with the HVAC foil tape. Not nearly as good as a nice bumper but from a distance it's still shiny and even, and much better than just an open chunk of rusty steel or a huge paint spot. We sanded it clean and primered it with Rustoleum to keep it from trapping rust underneath, has held up great over the past couple years, although her car is garaged.

    The small pits we just touched in with some silver metallic touch up paint and anywhere any chrome was still intact we polished it up and left it alone. I see a lot of people paint their whole bumpers when they are in poor shape like this but to me this is so much better looking than completely painted bumpers.

    03-31-15 001.jpg
     
    Bruce Fischer and 302GMC like this.
  4. Sauli
    Joined: Jul 16, 2008
    Posts: 499

    Sauli
    Member

    Sounds like You tried "Alclad"..?It does look very presentable applied over a smooth gloss-black surface in plastic model applications, however isn't durable to touch or handling of the component even in the realm of model kit assembly.
    I've looked into the option of "chrome paint", the type often seen on motorcycle helmets, fuel tanks etc. that You seem to refer to. From what I've learned, not many paint&body men deal with it, and it's just as demanding/unforgiving on the surface prep as chrome-plating is, so from what I understand, this may not be a substantially lower-cost alternative for chrome-plating steel, at least not where chrome-plating is still available locally.

    Sent from my SM-J500FN using H.A.M.B. mobile app
     

  5. There really isn't any 'chrome' paint or coating that looks like the real thing. There's a few that photograph well, but in person it's obvious it's not the real thing. Best luck I've had with 'restoring' chrome is by buffing it with a loose cotton buff using white rouge compound. This will remove smaller imperfections, remove corrosion from most of the pits and restore the shine, but places where the chrome is missing or heavily pitted will still be noticeable, although the pitting can be disguised with some silver paint. I'll 'dust' the paint on, then 'polish' the excess off with chrome polish. It may take more than one application until you get the 'feel' for doing this. I've made some pretty nasty looking motorcycle exhausts look very decent with this method. You do have to exercise some care when doing this so you don't buff through the 'good' chrome. Time consuming and a dirty job, but it works well.

    You might look at vinyl wrapping the bumper; there's a 'chrome' wrap that looks about as good as anything else you could try.
     
  6. Flathead Dave
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 2,971

    Flathead Dave
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from So. Cal.

    If you want, and it costs less than re-chroming, there is chrome powder coating. Get an estimate. As soon as I can get my garage set up, I'll be powder coating small to mid size items in my garage.

    They also have black chrome powder coat. Looks awesome.
     
  7. Don't waste your time or money.... At best it looks like polished aluminum with a milky coating over it, and surface finish durability is poor. Still have a jar of it around someplace....
     
    Squablow likes this.
  8. Flathead Dave
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 2,971

    Flathead Dave
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from So. Cal.

    Must have been a crappy powder coating job. Lots of pros make it look like real chrome.
     
  9. bchctybob
    Joined: Sep 18, 2011
    Posts: 2,482

    bchctybob
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Just take 'em in and have them replated. I don't know where you are located, I'm guessing outside of California. Those bumpers can't be that expensive to do if you shop around - prices do vary. These days most shops even offer "driver" plating vs the high dollar "show quality" plating. Ask around, ask other car guys.
    There is no real replacement for chrome plating..............
     
    Chili Phil likes this.
  10. 'Chrome' powder will never look like real chrome. On some items it can get very close (generally items with 'detail'; I did a set of motorcycle carbs that looked very good) but on larger parts it will be obvious it's not real chrome. The other issue is the higher the reflectability (and the more it looks like 'chrome'), the more fragile the surface is. You can clear-coat over it for protection, but that reduces the chrome effect markedly. For 'show' use it can look pretty good, but in daily use it just doesn't hold up.

    And if you do want to plate later, getting the powder off is a PITA....
     
  11. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 46,851

    squirrel
    Member

    yeah, it can be that expensive to get chrome done. Last ones I had done was six years ago, $800 for the pair on my 55, and the rear is peeling already....

    This is one of those things where you either step up, or you live with it looking crappy.
     
  12. CowboyTed
    Joined: Apr 27, 2015
    Posts: 340

    CowboyTed
    Member

    I've never found any paint that makes bad chrome look better. The most effective way I've found to make pitted chrome look better is simply rubbing it with fine steel wool. It makes an amazing difference, and it's cheap and quick too.
     
  13. Flathead Dave
    Joined: Mar 21, 2014
    Posts: 2,971

    Flathead Dave
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    from So. Cal.

    True. Never as good as real chrome. I see what you are saying about the larger parts. Most of the parts that I have seen with chrome powder coating were small.
     
  14. steinauge
    Joined: Feb 28, 2014
    Posts: 1,507

    steinauge
    Member
    from 1960

    No substitute for chrome.That being said if you peel the bumper down to bare metal,prime properly and paint it with silver brake caliper paint it looks pretty decent and stays on quite well.Does NOT look like chrome.That paint has been on there for two years now.IME "chrome" paint is in the same category as free sex and self cleaning rifles-fairy tales. DSCN1303.JPG
     
  15. chevy57dude
    Joined: Dec 10, 2007
    Posts: 5,771

    chevy57dude
    Member

    Never have shopped for '52 Pontiac bumpers. Are they so scarce that a good, driver quality original is out of the question? So many people complain re: chrome shop cost, quality, today's chrome vs. old chrome. If you spend say, $500 on such a bumper, it's a better deal. If that's even possible.
    Be glad "Dontfitchuk'' doesn't make a bumper for yours.
     
  16. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 7,115

    jimmy six
    Member

    My vent window frames are needing plating. Since they are one of the few chrome pieces around the windows ( the rest is polished stainless) I was wondering about HVAC tape or vinyl. Some vinyl on race car #'s sure looks good. They only 1" wide on the front and 1/2" on top. Any other ideas?
     
  17. Torchie
    Joined: Apr 17, 2011
    Posts: 1,032

    Torchie
    Member

    I have used the HVAC tape before on my daughters beater 60 Chevy trim. As has been posted it looked better then silver paint and held up well. The biggest problem is applying it with out any wrinkles in it as it is fairly thin.
    I have no experience with vinyl but have seen some chrome wraps that look petty good.
    What ever you use clean then smooth the surface as well as you can as any blemish or pit will transfer thru.
    Torchie
     
  18. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,793

    tfeverfred
    Member

  19. 55Brodie
    Joined: Dec 15, 2008
    Posts: 746

    55Brodie
    Member

  20. slowmotion
    Joined: Nov 21, 2011
    Posts: 3,204

    slowmotion
    Member

    Nope.
    But.....if I were in your position, I'd be tempted to sandblast 'em, sand 'em smooth as a baby's behind, and give one of those vinyl pro's a shoot at it. No it wouldn't look 'just' like chrome. But better than paint, or HVAC tape I bet.
     
  21. Ya know what looks like chrome....chrome! There is no substitute...which is why it's expensive and we all lust for it!

    Crappy chrome is better than "painted or powdered" chrome any day
     
  22. Hdonlybob
    Joined: Feb 1, 2005
    Posts: 3,907

    Hdonlybob
    Member

    Most folks here do not like painted bumpers.
    I however do, based on the alternatives.
    Re chrome is very expensive.
    A good non shiny aluminum or light grey looks good.
    Also depending on the car, painting the bumpers a different color can be very effective.
    I chose to paint the bumpers a satin black on my car, even though the chrome bumpers were in very nice shape.. Biscayne Computer screen  pic.JPG
     
  23. Hdonlybob
    Joined: Feb 1, 2005
    Posts: 3,907

    Hdonlybob
    Member

    On Edit,
    Here is a picture of my Nephew's '55 Buick with painted silver bumpers... Chads 55 Buick Century 001.jpg
     
  24. I have in the past painted my fiberglass bumpers to look like fake chrome. and lettered them caution fiberglass. . a friend of mine did his steel bumpers the same way and lettered his the same way. It depends on the look your going for. Carl
     
  25. jjhoneck
    Joined: Mar 18, 2016
    Posts: 10

    jjhoneck

    Thanks for all the suggestions, guys.

    My front bumpers are a mix of great and terrible. You can see where water must have run down the seam between the fenders and the hood, and dripped on the bumper for many years. In those areas the chrome is gone, and I've abraded it down to the smooth base metal with a smooth, gradual edge between "no-chrome" and "chrome".

    In other spots, you can see where the bumper was hit hard enough to crack the "shell" of chrome, without denting the bumper. In these areas, the chrome is missing in a star-shaped pattern, with nice, sharp edges.

    Neither types of damage look good with the modeling chrome paint I applied. As I said, I'm looking for an interim solution while I save up for chroming. The nearest chrome shop is 2+ hours from here (in San Antonio), so just getting the parts to the shop is costly.

    I'm going to try a metallic paint made for metal next. I don't expect miracles. lol
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2016
  26. 1-SHOT
    Joined: Sep 23, 2014
    Posts: 1,909

    1-SHOT
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

     
  27. Bandit Billy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2014
    Posts: 6,867

    Bandit Billy
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    They do have chrome paint on the market that looks pretty much, well like chrome. I have also heard of guys painting their bumpers with it and not being satisfied witht he durability and staining. No personal experience...yet. Check out his link
     
  28. jjhoneck
    Joined: Mar 18, 2016
    Posts: 10

    jjhoneck

    That stuff looks great, but it doesn't sound like something I can do myself.
     
  29. 79mbu
    Joined: May 3, 2011
    Posts: 39

    79mbu
    Member
    from australia

    Save your money. Those faux-chrome sprays look wonderful for about a year. The base is powdered aluminium with several clear or candy coats to create the shine. After a while, the clear coat will crack at a seam/edge and air will begin to oxidize the aluminium powder, turning it dull white. The oxidation spreads slowly under the entire clear coat. Bumpers, grilles etc are subject to minute stone chips and each one will spawn the oxidation process. Ask me how I know!
     

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