Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Brushed Aluminum Finish for Center Console and Door Panel Trim

In my opinion, wood trim accent pieces and sports cars do not mix. Especially when the "wood" is nothing more than a sticker that mimics the look and feel of the real thing.

Granted, Chevy designers did a pretty decent job of imitating nature, but after a few years the fake wood finish tarnishes and does not look as nice as it might have almost 40 years ago.



Brushed aluminum, on the other hand, is more of a contemporary finish, which can also liven the interior of a C3. Alas, hand-cutting sheet aluminum for it to precisely fit the console and door trim pieces is close to impossible, and having them machine-cut is not only involved but cost-prohibitive when you're talking about having just one piece made.

So what can you do?

If money is not a problem, you can always buy pre-made pieces from Mid America Motorworks (MAMO) since they offer a dash kit for $169.99.

I did not see a kit for the door panel trim pieces, so you'd still need to make something for those, and I've never seen the dash kit in person, so I am not sure about the fit or quality.

Plus, you also have options beyond the brushed aluminum finish, such as faux carbon fiber and yes, imitation wood in either burlwood or rosewood.

I do like the fact that the MAMO dash kit includes a piece for the gauge panel, since that's something that Chevy designers fail to include and that would dress up the interior nicely.

Making one from scratch is quite a challenge, since you will need a thin piece of plastic or aluminum to stick the vinyl to—so all surfaces match—plus a way to attach the aluminum base to the gauge panel. Not to mention ensuring all cut outs line up properly, and there are lots of them.

As far as the rest of the trim pieces, I had fortunately saved a couple from my '75 Vette project when I restored the shifter console and door trim pieces. In order to give them a nice finish, I removed the fake wood trim and sprayed them with texture paint, but I saved the aluminum overlays in case I would need them as templates. And I am glad I did so.

In order to make new overlays, I carefully traced the outline of the pieces onto the paper backing on the vinyl, and then used a utility knife with a new blade to, again, carefully cut it. I also used a metal ruler for all of the straight line cuts.




The shifter console screw holes at the bottom of the trim plate were a little trickier, so I used a hole punch to make those.




You can see how the "wood" fades, stains and deteriorates after four decades, but luckily the aluminum backing of this piece was sturdy enough and served as an excellent template. Another option would be to remove the faux wood trim off the car, cover those pieces with the vinyl, and then glue them back in place.



And here are the before & after photos.






If you are a stickler for details, then you probably noticed a couple of spots where the imitation wood trim shows, and I will address that problem when I redo these pieces.

As the photo below shows, the gray aluminum is a bit too dark when compared to the natural brushed aluminum on the steering wheel and so I went ahead and ordered another roll of vinyl, but this time I chose the silver brushed aluminum vinyl wrap. And for only $5.75 why not?

Hopefully that one will match natural aluminum better.



The door panels are a lot easier to do, and actually you could probably take care of those pieces without a template since you can cut the excess easily.

I did use the same approach of tracing the outline to the vinyl, making sure I had one for the left door and one for the right door, as they are mirror images.



And this is the before & after.





Again, you can see a bit of the fake wood trim edges under the vinyl, but that can be easily solved by applying a thin line with a Sharpie® marker to the perimeter of the trim before applying the vinyl wrap, which would totally eliminate this problem.




This is a very easy and inexpensive way to modernize the interior of your C3 Corvette, and the color as well as finish options are endless. Your could, for example, choose a carbon-fiber finish in natural, dark, light or in practically any color you like, and the same goes for the brushed aluminum.




I am very pleased with the results, but since my door panels are showing their age, I decided to go ahead and order a new set of reproduction door panels, and I purposely chose the basic panels since I can reuse my own trim pieces.

But now that I look at them, I am really liking the minimalist look, so I am not sure I want to add a lot of bling to them.



Thank you for reading.