The icing on the cake for any restoration project is completing the vehicle's external trim.

A task easier said than done for inexperienced restorers due to the large array of challenges it provides, the many different finishes of metal and materials involved and the specialist tools and skills required to complete the project.

When it all works out, renewing a car's exterior trim means seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on any restoration project.

The restore has reached their goal- to return the vehicle's exterior to its original condition or even improving on it.

An expensive and challenging process with lots of traps and potential pitfalls along the way.

Devotees of classic cars produced in the UK and Europe, especially from the late-Fifties and all through the Sixties will be aware that the leading influence in car exteriors was shiny chrome and lots of it.

Influenced a lot by trends in the USA, larger-scale family saloons and most sports cars were garnished with chrome, even though the material used to produce chrome, steel, aluminium, copper and zinc alloys was in short supply during the Fifties.

Despite the shortages and the costs, after the austere designs of the immediate post-war years, the public hungered for chrome and were prepared to pay for it.

More than Sixty years later, the owner is going to have to pay for it again!

The only way to bring a vehicle's chrome trim back to its best is to have it re-plated, a procedure that can only be left in specialist's hands.

That means finding a reliable company that provide chrome plating services, as early as possible so as not to hold up completing the restoration, as these companies are not located on every street corner these days.

Once a chrome platerhas been sourced, most restorers find it most efficient to pay them a visit, complete with all the items that need to be replated for a real-time estimate of costs and time scales.

If the platers are reasonable people who can be trusted, some of the expense of chrome plating can be reduced by determining if there are certain parts, do not need replating, and can be brought back to their shiny best with a simple buffing.

Parts that are missing will need to replaced, although most can be found online as long as the model is not totally obscure.

Although there are several more up to date methods that are often less expensive than chrome plating, it still remains the finish of choice for most professional car restorers.

Another essential aspect of an exterior trim renovation is examining the vehicle's glass to see if it is salvageable.

If the vehicle has been used on the roads, even infrequently, then the glass and the rubber seals keeping it in place should be in roadworthy condition.

In the more likely situation where the vehicle has been in storage, then the chances are that the glass will be cracked, pitted or the surface has become delaminated.

Glass for cars, no matter their age, can be easily sourced although problems can arise when sourcing the rubber seals. Any professional auto-glazier can help but it should take a long time to find the appropriate rubber stripping.

If the glass is not in bad shape but a little lifeless, then a minor investment in a professional glass polishing kit and lots of elbow grease should see the glass back to its glistening best.

Anyone with a sure set of hands can use a simple power drill to remove light scratches and shallow pits from the windshield.

Car manufacturers of the Fifties and Sixties were much more inclined to go for shorter production runs than they do today, meaning that even the most popular models remained in production for just three of four seasons, a situation that would be unheard of today.

Because of their ability to produce cars in short production runs, UK and European car manufacturers were inclined to indulge themselves by producing design variations of their better selling saloon models.

One of these variations was the soft top, where leading UK manufacturers' in particular released a number of soft-topped family saloons in addition to the open-top tourers that so typified UK manufacturers in the period between the wars and were especially popular during the Sixties.

Despite often unpredictable weather, soft tops were steady sellers during those years. Because they are more susceptible to the passing of time, soft tops have become increasingly scarce and thus valuable collector's items.

Anyone brave enough to consider acquiring and restoring a soft-topped vehicle has to take into account that this is a job for specialists only.

If the top has never been renewed during its time on the road, the chances are that even the basic frame has been ruined and the whole apparatus needs to be changed, and more likely the fabric top. An expensive and time-consuming process.

Another of the more obscure concepts that were still available during the Fifties and Sixties were estate cars adorned with a wooden frame.

The concept derived from the famous Woody station wagons, derived from the iconic designs commonplace in the United States during the Thirties to Fifties.

The idea was less widespread in the UK and Europe, with the only major manufacturer offering such a model being Morris, with their Mini, Minor and the larger Oxford Traveller version.

Any car restorer who manages to acquire of these models, with the Oxford being the rarest, will be faced with the interesting challenge of renewing most of the frame.

These attractive frames were rapidly found to be incapable of bearing the brunt of British winters and need to be changed regularly.

Experienced restorers will tell you that going through the external restoration process can be a bittersweet experience.

On the one hand, they will probably have played inordinately minor part in this vital stage of the entire restoration. All they have had to do is reach for their cheque book and pay out some hefty bills.

However, the end result will have been more than worth it.









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