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Stainless Steel versus Chrome Trim

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Posted · Report post

OK this is kind of a nit-picking issue but I tend to suffer from AMS (Advanced Modelers Syndrome; I still shake my head over the time I fabricated homemade wire wheels for a $5 swap-meet SMER Alfa-Romeo kit).

I know that the large shiny trim parts on cars, such as bumpers are usually hard chromed pieces but some of the smaller trim such as drip rails and window frames are actually polished stainless steel. I know how to simulate either one; for chrome I use Bare Metal Foil and for stainless steel I use a Pilot extra fine point silver marker (SC-S-EF).The Pilot makes it easy to apply paint to narrow surfaces and it dries hard to a finish that gives you that shine of stainless steel that is just short of the sort of hard deep shine you get with chrome.

The question I have is what are the guidelines for which to use where? I can't always rely on having access to a 1:1 that I can inspect, and I can't tell from reference photos which goes where on which cars. I have a vague idea that the SS trim did not become common until around the 60's and I think it was usually used on pieces that are thin and have to flex such as window trim.

Any suggestions on guidelines?

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Posted (edited) · Report post

In actuality, stainless began showing up on cars in the '30s. By the late '40s a large portion of side-moldings and windshield / backlight reveal moldings were stamped stainless. It's fairly safe to say that bright parts other than bumpers that could be stamped were often stainless, and more intricate parts like some headlight and taillight bezels and door-handles that had to be cast, were chrome-plated. BUT, some lower-production cars, like the late-'50s Mercedes 220S convertible for example, had some chrome-plated stamped-brass brightwork in locations that would surely have been stainless on a Ford.

Research each particular car is my only real suggestion.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy

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Posted · Report post

And to throw a wrench in the whole gear. I restore cars and in the case of late 40s and 50s cars one side could have stainless trim and the other side chrome trim. I took all the stainless of several parts cars when i restored my 53 caddy so i had stainless trim all the way around. Research, research, but remember keep it fun.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I'd recommend eBay Motors as a good research site. Some sellers post 50 or more photos of a car for sale, and those photos will show the detail you are asking about. I commend you for your quest for accuracy. In 'chrome tones' there is actual chrome, stainless and pot metal.. as well as plastic chrome on later cars. All have their own distinct level of shine. Many modelers don't get that and clear coat over everything, giving their entire model a two dimensional look. To understand and create those tones is what brings a model to life!

Edited by Tom Geiger

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Posted · Report post

When you see old kit chrome that has turned slightly yellow with age, can duplicate the chrome on a real car that has had the chrome plating rubbed down to the nickle copper which has a yellowish hue to it. I agree its little effects that add detail to the cars i see at contests and make them enjoyable to look at.

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Posted · Report post

Good advice. The only older cars I have detailed experience with are my old '57 Fairlane and '68 Dart so I remember from afternoons of washing and polishing that the 60's Dodge had a lot more SS than the 50's Ford .

I think what I might do is use Ace's info on how the material used may be driven by the techniques needed to make that shape. In cases where I can't get the research material I will probably assume thick, rigid, complex shapes such as headlight and taillight bezels and bumpers are chrome and items like window and side trim are most likely SS.

Thanks everybody!

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Posted · Report post

I can only speak for *certain* models of Chryslers here , mostly '67-'80 :

A-Bodies (Dart , Duster , Demon , Scamp , Dart Sport , and '67-'69 Barracuda)

B-Bodies (Charger , Coronet , Satellite , Road Runner , Belvedere)

C-Bodies (Monaco , Fury , Newport , New Yorker )

E-Bodies (1970-1974 Barracuda and Challenger)

windshield trim , drip trough mouldings , backlight trim , wheelwell mouldings .

F-Bodies (1976-1980 Aspen and Volare)

M-Bodies (1978-1989 Diplomat , etc.)

J-Bodies (1980-1983 Imperial , Mirada , etc.)

R-Bodies (1979-1981 St. Regis , etc.)

All had anodised aluminum .

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Posted · Report post

I have found that BMF "matte aluminum" looks much more in scale that the chrome or ultra bright chrome.

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