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JC Boutin

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Guest Paterson Chris

Hi All --

I'll echo the above comments by adding that it seems like just about everyone went from nickel to chrome overnight around 1930. Even with the Indian motorcycles I once rode there was a definite transition in the plating around that year.


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The correct bright finish would have been nickel in 1926. Chrome didn't start until 1927 on some models and by 1929-1930, virtually all went to chrome. Some closed cars stayed with nickel for inside handles, etc for a few more years.

The decision whether to go nickel or chrome is not an easy one. The nickel finish, with its sort of light amber hue, makes that vintage car look stunning. Done in chrome, it sort of looks awkward. Nickel however requires extensive upkeep whereas chrome is easier.

Whatever your decision, make it consistent, either all nickel or all chrome. The one noted exception is the cigar lighter, it should be nickel regardless.

I personally would go with nickel. And make up soft cotton bags to go over the headlights during storage, like the brass era collectors use.

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Sorry guys but you are off base on the first use of chrome...it was the 1926 Oldsmobile! The radiator shell was chrome and they were actually sued over it. The first pieces were done by hand until the automatic process in 1929

A couple of thoughts on the nickel. I have always found the upkeep of nickel to be worse than brass. Two other options would be to seal the nickel after polishing or to convert to German silver which looks a bit like nickel (but expensive). I heard there is a new process as well but not sure what it is. Chrome would look out of place on the Caddy IMHO.

My best friend, Tim Ohlendorf of Ohlendorf Restorations handles nickel in a new way (which I referred to above). I just spoke to him and he told me that he has a plater handle everything including the copper coating and then sends it to a band instrument company that will plate it in a process that he calls "stainless steel nickel". He says it looks just like the real thing but never tarnishes!!! Sounds like a good plan to me!

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I will get you the info tomorrow as I need to check my facts but embarrassing to say I missed on the mark of when Olds first had chrome...it was very late in the 1925 model year! blush.gif There are books that disagree on the exact timing of this but 1925 has been the generally accepted time in the past.

A company called American Chromium sued saying that they had the rights. They wanted money from all the manufacturers. One of Oldsmobile engineers went to AC and basically gave them the process and AC said they had a patent on it. However, Olds was able to prove that they had invented the process and won in court.

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You are not asking the correct questions.

What kind of nickel?

You see there are 3 major variations of nickel. You have what was used around the turn of the century, which was a dull nickel that needed to be buffed. Then you have the dull or Watts process used later into the late 30's or early 40's. The Watts nickel also needed to be buffed before chroming or use. Then it was found if you add organic compounds the nickel will come out of the tank bright and ready for chrome.

The problem comes about at the platers. Many only have a bright nickel tank. This means that items that might have been polished only on one side will come out bright on both sides. An example is the model A Ford bumpers. They used the dull nickel and only polished out the front side and the back would have the look of the backside of aluminum foil. So guys are spending time to make the backside of their bumper look dull.

A problem that has also surfaced with the modern bright nickel plating. I told of someone that got NOS Ford head light rings, but had the buckets plated. Every year they have to polish out the bucket portion, but they go years between polishing out the rings. A plater that has the different nickel tanks believes that the organics chemicals are also oxidizers so they should cause oxidation at a faster rate.

From the Model A Fords, you tend to find chrome (which is really just a clear coat on nickel) on parts that are outside. The interior parts are all nickel.

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