Jim’s Blog: Outsmarting Restoration Problems

Old cars offer an un-ending supply of small problems to solve. Figuring out creative solutions — especially for the serious head-scratchers — is one of my favorite things about classic car ownership. Here’s a project I’m working on right now.

 

A few months back, I wrote about finding a cheap set of hubcap wheels for my K10 Chevy. Since then, I’ve had them blasted, primed, and painted white.

 

I found a set of stainless hubcaps that look right but are a couple years newer than the truck. They need a little work, so I’ve been spending time in my garage getting them polished, straightened out, and looking fresh.

 

From the factory, these caps were painted black in places with a yellow Chevrolet bowtie in the center. In ’72 (the year of my truck), the bowties were blue, not yellow. So in order to make them look right, I got some blue paint and redid the centers. Now that original black paint, which was passable before, looks thin and worn. So I need to paint that, too.

 

Here’s the problem: regular masking tape doesn’t curve easily. Straight lines such as the bowtie outline are easy, but as soon as you try to mask around a curve — especially a circle on top of a compound shape — the results are horrible. And I’m not about to spend a lot of time making these things look new just to have curves that aren’t consistent. I want them as close to perfect as I can get.

 

Any paint guy will tell you that the solution here is vinyl tape, probably 1/4 or 1/8 inch wide. It will stretch rather than rip when forced around a corner, and that allows for good, clean paint lines. And yet, from the factory, the hubcaps weren’t done that way — GM must have used some sort of masking template to get this done, judging from the fade visible at the edges of the black. 

 

In a thread on the 62-72chevytrucks.com message board, a user named “oem4me” described making his own template using body filler. He covered the cap with mold release and then Bondo, let it dry, and then popped off the dried chunk. He cut out and exposed the sections of the Bondo hubcap impression that were to be black on the actual hubcap. The result was a perfect Bondo template. And it apparently allowed for just the right amount of factory-style template overspray.

 

Will I do the Bondo? I’m tempted, just to see how well it works.

 

To me, completing a project like this offers an extra level of satisfaction, because you get good results and a great story. Got any inventive solutions you’ve used on your cars over the years? Share them in the comments below.