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Polishing Stainless Shiny Bits
on your VALIANT


Okie dokie, now for a few guys in the club, what I’m about to write may only be touching the surface, but guess what ? I’m an absolute “dromedary” when it comes to most things mechanical, and what I have done to the stainless trim on my car is nothing short of a miracle in my books. So I guess in layman’s terms this article is about getting the most out of your decorative trim in the easiest possible way.

Here goes………I used to go to car shows where there were R&S models and say to myself “SELF…..how the hell do those other guys always manage to have their cars looking just that little bit nicer than mine.” The answer my friends was everywhere – it was the “little” things that made the difference, and one of those “little” things was their stainless steel trim. Their trim was absolutely immaculate and it was the closest thing I’d seen to brand new pieces EVER. “How on earth did these outwardly dimwitted individuals achieve this?”, I thought to myself.

The answer……….they gave their trim a POLISH.

Stainless trim – on my S Series at least – runs down the sides of the doors, and along the sides of the rear fins. It is also the gutter mould for the roof. This trim – after years of wear and tear - is either dinged, pretty dull, or both. Now if it’s dinged, well…..you’ll have to get the dings fixed before you can do what I’m about to tell you, and fixing the dings is – in my opinion – pretty much an art. I know there’s guys in the club that do their own, but I was pretty lucky in that all my trim was in pretty good shape to start with. Mind you, I did do my gutter moulds all by myself. I tapped the little dings out, sanded, tapped some more, sanded again until finally I was happy with how straight they were.

OK…..so when do we talk about polishing ??? Right now. You might think that polishing stainless trim is about getting a tube of Solvol Autosol and rubbing the hell out of the trim till your hand falls off.

WRONG.

Polishing is a very detailed little operation that if performed hurriedly will result in your completely destroying the piece you are polishing – believe me…….I know.

To properly polish your stainless trim you’ll need :

A bench grinder
Buffing wheel (cotton)
Metal buffing wheel attachment (do you think I can remember it’s technical name?)
Green buffing stick
Safety goggles (trust me....wear them)

That’s it.

My bench grinder is a very basic Ryobi bench grinder that came with 2 grinding stones. Since then I have bought a wire wheel attachment (absolutely invaluable) and the buffing wheel. The grinder is a 6 inch grinder, meaning all the wheels I buy have to suit a 6 inch grinder (makes sense). When I wanted the buffing wheel I also had to buy the large brass attachment that makes it possible to secure the wheel to the grinder. This attachment has a thread on one end, and a pointy threaded end which attaches to the wheel. You screw it onto one side of the grinder, and then the wheel is hand screwed onto the pointy end. When buying a buffing/polishing wheel you have to make sure you get the right one for the job you’re doing. There’s nothing much to it, but from memory mine is made of cotton fibre and was specifically for polishing metals. The attachment was around $20 on it’s own – the wheel about $20 as well.

As mentioned you’ll also need a buffing stick. This is basically a fine cutting polish for getting all the fine scratches out of the metal. At the time I bought mine, I needed a green stick, which was the one recommended for stainless steel. There are different compounds for different materials so again, you have to get the right one or it may be too abrasive, or too light.

If you’ve been smart enough to get the wheel and attachment on, and you’ve bought the right coloured stick, then you’re ready to polish.

You will not believe the change in appearance this seemingly simple task will achieve. Turning on your bench grinder, you rub the buffing stick gently on the wheel to get some compound on it. Then, taking a piece of trim, you just very carefully let the wheel buff the surface you are trying to polish. Probably the best bits to start with are the side door moulds because they are pretty solid pieces and let you get a feel for how it works. You can’t rush it either. Just gently let the wheel do all the work and watch how the once quite dull piece of trim suddenly begins to shine like a brand new piece.

Probably the most important thing to remember is to not lose control of the piece you are holding. It may seem straight forward, but it only takes a split second for the wheel to rip the piece out of your hand, and in the case of finer trim, absolutely destroy it. This is especially so with the long, thin side trim that goes along the rear fins. This trim is extremely hard to replace and you need only lose concentration for a second for it to be twisted beyond repair. CAREFULLY……..that’s the secret. I think it only comes with practice which is why you should probably start with the more sturdy pieces. Me…..I’m not that lucky. After repairing one of the steel gutter moulds I decided I couldn’t wait to polish it. It was going great too, until I somehow managed to let something else grab my attention and before I knew it, my straight gutter mould was turned into a pretzel – literally. It was unusable.

That’s about it. Like I said it only comes with practice and I guess those of you reading this who’ve done your trim will be thinking “Big deal, who doesn’t know about this stuff ?” Well I for one was someone who didn’t have a clue about simple things like this and I guess it’s because sometimes people take it for granted. All I know is I see a lot of guys Vals here and there, and there’s only a small few who have shining bright trim on their cars. Now, if they’re interested, they can have great looking stainless, and it’s not that hard. If you aren’t that fussed about doing it, then that’s fine too, but I thought it was a lot harder than what it is.

Jump in, give your heart a rub, and have a go.

Peter.


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