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Frosted hub cap restoration


Shawn Piper

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I've been really inspired by Mike Self's 2002.  I really like the original hub caps and driving lights.   Its a look I want to replicate with my car. 

 

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Hub caps in 1969 were painted with a matte silver paint and didn't have an independent valve stem hole.  I wanted to restore this detail on my car but the original hubcaps had been lost.  

 

I wasn't having luck finding restorable hub caps despite posting several 'want' ads and diligent eBay browsing for about 12 months. Sure, dents can be removed, but the stainless on these earlier hubcaps wasn't very good and the hub caps were prone to significant rusting. The retaining clips were also prone to significant rusting and damage too.  

 

As a last resort, I went to La Jolla Independent in Bird Rock.  I brought with me a particularly beaten example for reference, which Carl Nelson (the owner) immediately recognized as a special item.  He said "I might have a few of those" and then lightly quizzed me to see if I had the right car for the hub caps.  After convincing him of my good intentions, Carl had one of his employees go upstairs to sort through his presumably vast hoard of 2002 parts.  Fortunately for me, Carl had 4 (and only 4!) decent hub caps and we made a deal.

 

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The hub caps started like this

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Its hard to see in the photo, but someone had previously sprayed them with a clear coat.  I don't believe this was original since other hub caps I found were not painted in this way.  Under the clear coat, and especially on the back, were streaks of rust. 

 

I started the restoration by stripping the clear coat, then the silver paint, and cleaning the hub caps with degreaser.  Once clean, I sanded out the pitting and then took the hub caps to Polishing Proz in Santee.   I asked them to keep the painted areas in a rough finish so that the paint would adhere better.  This is how they came back:

 

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The hub caps themselves were quite dented and Polishing Proz took care of that as evidenced by the marks on the back.  Good luck if you're precious like me and don't want to scratch up the back of your hub caps.  I initially tried a dent pulling service and they wanted an absurd amount of money plus they also wanted to scratch up the back of the hub caps in their process to assure the dent was removed.  

 

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Once polished, I then cleaned the hub caps with acetone to remove any polishing compound (there was quite a bit).  A side effect of polishing the exterior was the removal of the cad plating on the brass rivets.  To be fair, there wasn't much cad plating left (it was mostly tarnish).

 

Anyway, the brass didn't look quite right so I decided to paint this using a steel colored Eastwood caliper paint.

 

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Then the hubcaps themselves were painted with a lighter silver.  You can use Eastwood 2K Aerospray Aluma Blast.  This same paint is great for the backside of re-chromed bumpers.  

 

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Finally, I installed the emblems. If you're curious, the emblems are the same as the later (70+) hub caps and can be bought new from BMW. The emblem should be oriented so that the M is facing the valve stem hole on all years of hub caps.  

 

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Et voila! 

 

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And of course, a before / after... 

 

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I think these will look nice on my restored wheels (yes I know they are not 69 dated) and new tires 

 

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Edited by Shawn Piper

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