You can always polish stainless steel, but chrome rusts if you don’t take car of it. That’s basically the overview of my experience with bright work.
While I’ve been working a lot lately and haven’t had the time these past two weeks to suit up in grubby clothing, get out the tools, and dive in during the evenings, I haven’t been ignoring the Disgustang. A few nights ago I had a free half hour, so I thought I’d take a crack at polishing up the stainless trim.
The great thing about stainless steel is that it doesn’t rust under normal environmental conditions. It can get superficial scratches, or become covered in dust, but in general, you can always polish stainless steel back to a pretty good luster with some elbow grease, some #000 steel wool, and a little bit of patience. In 20 minutes I had all the stainless on the Disgustang (the windshield trim, the drip rails, the roll-down window trim, and the back window trim) looking shiny and clean. In this photo, you can sort of see a before/after comparison. Granted, these photos were taken in the dark, so it’s a little difficult to tell that the after is on the left.
Chrome, however, is much more temperamental. You can ignore stainless steel for 30 years and polish it up in 20 minutes, like I did, but research shows that chrome needs to be kept clean and regularly polished or it will start to tarnish and corrode in about a month. Once pitting and rusting set in, you’re pretty much done for; no amount of polishing will ever restore that perfect mirror finish again. If, you have a 1966 Mustang that’s been sitting exposed to the elements without any real care since 1978, then you should expect that the following parts will need to be replaced or re-chromed: the bumpers, the vent window casings, the divider/window track, the mirrors, the door handles, and a few other various annoying small parts. Since new parts are so cheap, its vastly more cost-effective to just replace badly pitted parts than to try to save them. That being said, chrome isn’t completely unforgiving. If rusting hasn’t yet set in, you can get a decent polish out of heavily tarnished pieces with some #000 steel wool, some metal polish, and a prayer. To demonstrate, I polished a corner of the bumper on the Disgustang that was heavily tarnished but not yet rusted, and here are the results.