Jim Smart
August 13, 2015

Classic Mustang fastback air extractor trim panels befuddle restorers because they have never been easy to restore. The die-cast, chrome-plated metal inserts have always tended to pit through the chrome, even in a dry environment. Write it off to contaminated metal and the belief that these cars were designed to last five to seven years. These die-cast inserts are permanently attached to the fiberglass trim panels and are easy to remove but can be darned tricky to reinstall. Laurie Slawson, a Mustang Club of America certified judge and board member, is a dear friend of ours and always forthcoming with tips and tricks designed to make restoration easier. She knows 1967-1968 Mustangs like few others and has owned a 1968 hardtop since new. Laurie is building a 1968 Mustang restomod fastback with 390 FE power and is focusing on her interior at press time, and is going to show you how to restore fastback air extractor interior trim panels.

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These die-cast inserts are challenging to do anything with because they’re finned with all kinds of nooks and crannies that are hard to get to. Most of the time, these inserts must be re-chromed, which for a plating shop is tedious, time-consuming, and expensive. Still, if you’re going to restore a classic Mustang the only way to do it is the correct way. Let’s get started.

01. These 1967-1968 air extractor quarter trim panels are like most out there. The die-cast chrome-plated metal inserts are pitted and in need of restoration. Some you can clean up and return to service, others you will have to take to a qualified plating operation, but just because a chrome shop hangs up a sign doesn’t mean it does good work. Check the reputation of local plating shops before laying your money down. Keep in mind these trim pieces are very hard to strip and plate.

02. Finned trim pieces are permanently fixed to the fiberglass trim panels, which mean their retaining pins were mushroomed for adhesion.

03. Laurie carefully grinds the mushroomed pinheads to remove the trim pieces.

04. These are examples of what you can expect to find for die-cast trim pieces—rare is the trim piece that isn’t pitted. Avoid pieces that are severely pitted, as no chrome shop will touch them.

05. Scrub the fiberglass trim panels with soap and water and Scotch-Brite pads to make the surface suitable for paint.

06. The surfaces are then wiped down with a high-evaporative solvent to remove any impurities.

07. Using adequate lung protection, Laurie applies thin coats of Krylon Semi-Flat Black to the fiberglass trim panels. It is suggested you apply paint in light coats and allow each to dry before the next. Final coats should be wet to where they flow smoothly to perfection.

08. Good die-cast pieces have been sourced for this effort. Re-plating isn’t necessary.

09. Before applying paint, the die cast trim pieces are cleaned thoroughly with metal prep or high-evap cleaner to remove all impurities. You will want to attack this operation with a toothbrush, getting into these grooves as you go.

10. Krylon Semi-Flat Black is applied to the die-cast trim pieces. You may want to use a black acid-etch primer before paint to ensure good paint adhesion. Apply at least three coats of primer and paint.

11. The paint is allowed to dry before finish work is accomplished.

12. Once the paint is cured, it’s time to remove it from the fins using lacquer thinner and a careful rubdown, as shown. Paint remains in the grooves. Swabs help catch the intricate spots.

13. Laurie mixes up a small batch of JB Weld, which works quite well bonding die cast trim pieces to fiberglass trim panels. Apply a dab of JB Weld at each original attachment point on the die-cast insert and the trim panel. Clamp both pieces firmly together and allow them to cure for eight hours before installation.

14. Check this out. The completed restoration looks like new and is ready for installation.