The quality of restoration work we are seeing in the VW scene at present is mind-blowing, with the emphasis being placed on keeping as many original parts on the vehicle as is possible. With this in mind, we thought it was about time we showed you what is involved in bringing your ols, original VW quality chromework back upto show standard.

To re-chrome or to replace, that is the question

Marque restore, based in Shilton, near Coventry, are proffessional metal finishers and restorers in the true sense of the word. They've also been in the business for well over 50 years and know everything there is to know about the processes involved and what you can and can't do. So here, as well as well as showing you the preperation and chroming process itself, is some background and helpful advice on the subject, too.
Chrome was used on cars for two reasons - one of them is that it is intenselt hard and resistant to corrosion and the other is that it looks nice.
However the longivity of chrome is dependent on a few variables such as: the quality of the base metal, the quality of the preperation work and the conditions to which the chrome is exposed.
As we've Come to expect, Volkswagen in Germany used very good quality parts and procedures, especially on the cars built in the 1950s and '60s.
Generally, it will pay off in the long run to retain this original chromework rather than replace it wih after market or NOS items (it'll also preserve the originality of the car, too).

If they are available some NOS chrome parts can be extremely expensive. Ridged door handles, for example, used between August 1955 and August 1959, have beenknown to change hands for upwards of 150, each!
We realise everyone has their own budgets and that having your old chrome restored isn't necessarily the cheapesr method, but be aware; while replacement chrome parts can be bought extremely cheaply from some VW parts suppliers and they will do the job,don't expect them to last forever...
Chrome must be put onto metal over a deposit of nickel, and the method in which this is done decides how effective it is and how long it will last. The quick (read : cheap), method is to use more brightening additives in the solution and increase the electrical current in the tank. This creates a very hard, yet brittle finish, which is susceptable to microscopic stress fractures. These will let in water and, ultimately, allow corrosion to form in the base below. This is not good if you want the finish to last

As with most jobs though, the correct way to achieve the best possible finish is also the most time consuming and ultimately, expensive. The parts to be chromes need to be prepared as well as possible first, by skilled metal polishers, then less additives used, the power kept as low as possible and the items left in the plating tanks for longer. Each individual item has a current density. Measured in amps per square foot, and it is this, along with the type of base metal involved, which determines how long each stage of the process should take. Lastly, remember this is

restoration work. This doesn't mean that every part will come back looking like new. Badly rusted or heavily-pitted items may not always be salvageable. Cast zinc was used for handles because it was cheap, but it is very subceptable to pitting (a process where the zinc alloy tries to revert to it's base metal state). This can happen either on or off the car, depending on the conditions in which the items have been stored.
If you're unsure or think your chrome parts are particularly bad then ask the advice of a proffessional chrome platers.

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