If you are performing a restoration, somewhere along the line you will get to the plastic pieces in the interior that were originally chrome plated. Like, your armrest bases, instrument panel trim, even items like the faces on convenience panels and speed control heads. The long standing correct way to refurbish these parts was to send them out to be replated. Places like Mr G’s or Chrometech USA will replate your plastic pieces, and they will look factory chromed. What I didn’t like about sending the parts was that some places will take your part and send a different one back that has been already replated. This may be fine, but I prefer to have my parts back. I also didn’t like the possibility of parts getting lost. That may not be such a traumatic event if you are only rechroming armrest bases, as they were available on all 66 Galaxies. But, for parts like speed control boxes or convenience panels it would be more difficult to locate should you lose one. This is not to mention the last price I checked to rechrome was $35 per armrest base.
Plastic Rechroming with Paint
by Tom Volpone
Being interested in painting, I am aware of the custom paints that are available. You’ve seen the flop paint that changes color depending on how the light hits it, or the different color hue on cars when the light hits it due to pearls and candies. These paint places recently came out with a chrome paint. This paint isn’t like those rattle cans that you find at Wally world. You know, the ones that have the perfect looking chrome cap on them but when you spray them it looks like a cloudy aluminum at best. I had seen pieces painted with this new stuff, and it was amazing. It looked like chrome in its brilliance and reflectivity. So, I decided to get some and give it a try. At $50 per pint, it was a minimal risk which would be a benefit should it prove to be as good as it looked from the supplier’s literature. Anyways, this paint is called Motostorm Chrome, and is available at places like innate.com. If you go to the website, they have an online tutorial on it, and a full length DVD is available for more instruction.
To use this product, you need to have the ability to spray paint using spray equipment. The best equipment for it is fine spray equipment, such as an airbrush or mini HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray gun. You will need a compressor as these guns work on compressed air. I will assume that if you are interested in attempting this, that you have the equipment and experience with paint that you understand this. If you do not have equipment or experience, it would be best to use the traditional chroming methods from the platers, or find someone that does painting.
Typical paints rely on two methods of adherence to their substrates; chemical and mechanical. Mechanically, paints are applied over a scuffed (not glossy smooth) surface that gives it something to “bite” into. This is why you scuff your surfaces with a fine grade grit sandpaper or scuff pad. Combined with that, paints chemically bond to the substrate by the solvents penetrating and “melting” into it. This is typical of epoxy primers that give you a certain topcoat time window that they need to be coated over. The epoxy coats all get too hard after a period of time for the topcoat to chemically bond. With this chrome paint, it is a chemical bond only. The paint is a transluscent dye with fine aluminum reflective particles. When sprayed over a gloss black substrate, the reflective particles give it the mirror effect. So, when you apply this paint, it will be over a gloss black surface, as smooth and glossy as you can make it. The finished surface is only as good as the underlying conditions.
My armrest bases were pretty typical. The reflectivity was all but gone on most surfaces, with worn out, chipped and dull areas.
I also intended to chrome the face of the speed control box, which also was worn and faded.
The first thing to do is to degrease & wash your parts. Chances are your armrest bases were exposed to Armorall or some other vinyl enhancer / protector from the owner keeping the door panels and arm rests protected. Armorall does not provide a good surface for paint. It will cause your paint to fisheye terribly. So, it must be removed/deactivated. You can start first by wiping your parts off with a degreaser, such as PPG DX330 Degreaser. Wipe it on with a clean towel or paper towel and immediately wipe it off with another clean towel. Afterwards, pour some warm water with dishwashing liquid in a bucket and wash all your parts thoroughly with a sponge. Dishwashing liquid is a degreaser that works well. It removes any wax or oils from what you are washing. This is why you don’t want to wash your car with dish soap, as it removes any wax you’ve put on it…unless you are going to paint it.
Next, you will need to prepare the surfaces for the substrate paint. To do this, you will need to scuff the surface for that mechanical bond the paint will stick to. The first substrate can be a primer coat, or the gloss black surface. I used a wet/dry (w/d) 400 grit sandpaper and sanded the parts wet. Mix in some of that dish soap in a bucket and dip your w/d paper in it as you wetsand. You can use a small sanding block to keep a uniform surface as you sand, or fold your paper over a couple times to give you a flat sanding piece. The target is a smooth, evenly sanded surface, make sure to sand the entire surface to be painted. When it is dry, it should look rather dull. Dry your parts off. Then wipe them down with degreaser again as described above.
Once parts are dry, you are ready to spray your substrate coat. Primer coats provide a better adhesion surface for topcoats, and also are good to seal any contaminant or disagreeable materials from the topcoats. Since these parts were not previously painted, I elected to spray the gloss black over the scuffed parts instead of priming them. Wipe the parts off with a tack cloth to remove dust.
I elected to use a single stage urethane high gloss black paint. You could also use a two stange (base coat / clear coat) system. The single stage means I can spray it once. The gloss of the single stage is excellent. Base/clear systems are great as well, and are better if you need to do repair work or do color sanding & buffing. I did not intend to do any of that, so went with the single stage. I prefer PPG products, so I used Omni MTK 9700.
I sprayed two coats of the Omni, using a Sharpe Mini HVLP siphon gun. The parts were then very glossy black.
Armrest base after applying black substrate
Make sure you spray black over all the areas that you want to be chromed. Let the paint cure for 24 hours.
The Chrome paint works by chemical bond only. You don’t need a scuffed surface, as previously indicated. The paint is supplied as spray ready. This means that you do not have to mix it with any reducers or catalysts, you just put it in your spray equipment and shoot it. Application of this paint is by applying 4 to 5 mist coats. By mist, I mean a very slight misting over the black, applying it uniformly. I used an Iwata Eclipse airbrush with air set at 35psi. Your first coat will barely look like you’ve applied anything. Wait 5 minutes between coats, and keep applying mist coats until you reach a point where you can see reflection in the paint. The surface at this point will not be the high luster chrome look, but will have reflectivity. Once you’ve achieved this, stop painting. Let the paint cure 60 to 90 minutes, then rub down the surfaces with a clean, dry cotton cloth, such as an old t-shirt. This is where the high gloss chrome look will come out.
Nice reflection of me holding the camera
Chromed speed control unit box
Restored convenience panel
The paint system also came with a clear coat. This is an optional step to apply if your parts are to be exposed to elements; like being outside, or exposed to fuel or other caustic fluids. I originally attempted to use the supplied clear coat, but was not happy with what happened to the reflectivity. Basically, the surface appeared to be from one of those cheap rattle cans after adding the clear coat. The product does indicate that you lose 15% reflectivity by adding clear.
Armrest bases after clearcoat added.
I’m very pleased with this product. It was well worth the investment.