Feature: Moulding Repairs and Polishing

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Thomas Wielecki

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Beautiful exterior trim is the finishing touch for any classic car

Feature: Moulding Repairs and Polishing
Feature: Moulding Repairs and Polishing

 

Moulding Repairs and Polishing

THE JEWELLERS

Repairing the shape, detail and shine on the decoration that adorns just about every classic car can be a particularly daunting part of any restoration.

No wonder the long-established Moulding Repairs and Polishing, on Sydney’s outskirts, is flat-out. This modest concern, consisting of husband and wife team of Allan and Irene, daughter Donna and staffer Henry, specialises in the art of restoring classic car trims and trinkets.

It’s a blend of passion, skill and logistics for the small team that accepts work from enthusiasts and restoration shops all over Australia and New Zealand, many of whom book in jobs up to three months in advance.

Allan learned his craft while apprenticed as a panel beater for Sydney’s Stack & Co., which ran several Holden and GM yards. In the heady days of the 1960s, there were long delays and significant costs in sourcing components to fix American cars (Chevs and Pontiacs) so repair – rather than replacement – was routine.

It can be a painstaking process and the alloy trims used on many 1960s cars can be particularly challenging: alloy was loved by vehicle stylists of the era given it could be shaped and detailed easily and exquisitely.

But that’s not so good for longevity. "Some of them have had the crap belted out of them over the years," Allan says. "Maybe a decade of kids … then more abuse as the next owner’s daily driver before someone else decided the car is desirable, cool or rare enough to restore." After delivery from the customer, each trim component is taken through three steps – clean, repair and polish. A clean start is critical – something that many customers don’t realise.

"We get windscreen trims with sealer all over them and that have been painted," Allan says. "Sometimes it takes hours to get the gunk off them." challenging, but most of the work these days is rewinding hundreds of thousands of kilometres of wear and tear from once-glorious decorations.

Using a variety of traditional techniques and tools – and with referral to an array of carefully-crafted jigs – dents are carefully tapped flat and fatigue cracks and tears are delicately welded before being ground and the whole item polished.

Henry is the bloke trusted to do most of the polishing. Trained in old-school polishing in Nigeria – yeah, he can’t believe some of those Nigerian money scam stories either – he’s one of only a few blokes over the years to possess the skill and display the dedication to make the grade.

"I’ve had a few panel beaters work for me but this can be difficult work," Allan reckons. "Many tradies are used to roughing out panels and using bog before paint, [but] this stuff needs to be perfect so we can put on a shine."

"There are hazards every step of the way," Irene adds. "Some of the trims end So, customers, do your best to bring ’em in clean!

Accident damage can be particularly up quite thin after we’ve repaired them. Gutter moulds, for instance – there’s no space to build up the back surface as they need to sit tight on the car’s drip rail. So extreme care must be taken – you have to be real careful otherwise you can dent the trim again, or fry it due to heat build-up."

Sometimes, a job comes along that ‘takes the cake’. "I was at a swap meet and a bloke started asking about fixing his gutter trim," Allan recalls. "He was a bit hesitant, asking questions; ‘how badly damaged can it be before you can’t fix it?’

"I said, ‘Well, I’ve done some pretty badly damaged ones,’ thinking of a few car-park scratches, and then his mate fell over laughing in the background. I asked him, ‘what’s so funny?’ and he said, ‘Mate, I’ve seen it!’"

"What the bloke had done was try to polish the trim himself – fair enough – but it had grabbed and wrapped around the axle of the polishing wheel. It was shaped like a corkscrew!

"It was from a Renault Gordini and he couldn’t find a replacement anywhere  – France or here." The outcome for the budding Renault restorer could have been disastrous but Allan took on the challenge of un-screwing it.

"We drew a template from the car and we managed to get it fixed." So, what about the growing range of reproduction parts and trims? Will they make Allan’s work obsolete?

"Some of it is good, some of it is junk," Allan reckons. He shares the story of a Mustang owner who brought in a grille badge. He could buy a new repro badge for $25; to repair the original, Allan and Irene’s quote was $60.

"For some people quality is a problem – they don’t want to pay for it. They may say ‘Oh, but that’s more than double the price!’ while a car enthusiast or serious restorer will realise the value in restoring the original."

In this instance, the Mustang owner gladly paid the $60 for the original component to be restored rather than be replaced with a $25 repro. Put into perspective, those 35 extra bucks are around one tenth of one percent of the cost of a $30,000 restoration for a very visible component of the car.

"Panel shops can make mistakes, too. Cars will be presented for a restoration and the staff will damage stuff during the vehicle strip-down. That’s why repair is so important."

 

Moulding Repairs & Polishing

184 Garfield Rd West

Riverstone NSW 2765

Ph: (02) 9838 1175

 

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