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1970 Opel Gt - Purchased July 1972 - Chartreuse - restored - 3000 miles as of 02-16, 2021 -
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have decided that while waiting to see if the Liquid wrench will loosen the Bolts from Hell, on the front suspension, that I will use the time wisely and polish my aluminum wheels to a luster which should be very similar to the look of chrome. They already look pretty good but I am hoping to take them up a notch or two, after all I have a car show coming up at the Charlotte Speedway in April and want to have everything looking really good. I have studied up on the subject of wheel polishing and watched a couple of videos, that make it appear like a really quick and easy process, I however don't buy into that - it will be a big job, a labor of love, however one with great rewards. And if I don't rush the process should be fun and something that will last a life time, that phrase has a bit of a different meaning to day than it did 48 years ago when I purchased this Opel GT..
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To start with I have laid in the following supplies for this project: From Eastwood I purchased "Eastwood Buffing Kit with all of the items, 17 pieces, in the picture and also a can of the Diamond Clear gloss spray I also ordered an assortment of sanding discs, wet-dry- from Amazon, if memory serves the price was around 17 dollars, much cheaper than Eastwood. The discs range in grit from 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1500 and 2000. 10 discs for each size grit which will give me 2 discs per girt per wheel which I think should do the trick. I also purchased a container of Mother's aluminum wheel polish which may not be necessary condisering I will be using the different rouge from Eastwood.
My plan is to remove any deep scratches, nicks, and then go through the grits all the way to 2000 to achieve the very smoothest possible surface. Then buff using the white rouge which is a medium polish and then the Blue rouge which is for a very, very fine finish. I thought I would them polish using the mothers polish - let me know if anyone thinks this is over kill but I only plan to do it once and then finish with the diamond clear gloss finish spray after properly cleaning the wheel to make sure there is no polish residue left. One of my concerns is how to clean and or possible polish inside of the diamond cuts of the interior of the wheel, see picture.
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While it appears that the original color of the interior of the diamond spokes was a very faint gold color look that has faded over the years and I would be happy just to clean it up or remove that little bit of gold color for even a dull aluminum look as that I believe would only serve to magnify the shine of the exterior of the spokes. Perhaps using aircraft paint remover would accomplish that. The inside of the spokes are of a rough texture so I am not looking to polish them, I don't think that is possible without weeks of work, per wheel, and I just don't see that as a possibility. Perhaps cleaned up and painted a flat black, or perhaps the color of the car, but in any regard I know it needs to be a clean look which right now it is not. I am not necessarily looking to add something inside the spokes rather just to remove the gold tint - I just want the exterior to take center stage and the interior of the spokes to kind of disappear, as again I don't see polishing there as a realistic possibility.

Will publish pictures of the progress as I move forward and what worked and what did not.
 

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1970 Opel Gt - Purchased July 1972 - Chartreuse - restored - 3000 miles as of 02-16, 2021 -
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
As with all projects, for me, it is a learn as you go process and nothing ever seems to be easy, but it is rewarding when the task is complete and I do enjoy the process, but this job calls for a lot of elbow grease. Final product was a combination of effort and experimentation to see what works and what does not work, or in this case what works best. My tendinitis is killing me.
See the before picture below which is prior to any polishing, etc. Second picture will be the finished product...

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So I began the process with a 220 grit to 400 to 600 to 800 to 1000 to 1500 to 2000 which seems to work well in removing scratches and minor imperfections. I will, on wheel 2,3 and 4, pay more attention to deep gashes/nicks to try and get those removed or at least diminished but I can only do so much. I have one wheel that will require a little filing to smooth out a gash or large nick. After the sanding I tried Mothers Aluminum wheel polish which did not take me to the gloss that I was looking for so I used the buffing wheel with course rouge first and then the white rouge which is getting pretty fine and that began to bring out the mirror finish that the Mothers polish did not. I will go back and use the blue which is for plastic or very fine buffing for the final step. I don't know how much of a difference it will make but will give it a try. I am wondering that if after all the rouge buffing if I should finish up with the mothers polish. Will give that a try tomorrow and see if that in fact make any difference. I assume that after all the buffing/polishing is over that I should clean the wheel really well perhaps with brake cleaner spray prior to spraying diamond clean gloss finish. Today was about 4 hours of work, for one wheel and I was really please how well the spokes turned out as before I had only buffed them but the sanding took them to a whole different level, much more smooth and shiny. Before I sanded the spokes they had the original scratches/cuts that were left after the manufacturing process, those imperfections are now gone...

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Does anyone know where I can order new plastic chrome hubs to complete the process. I would also like to get stickers for the middle of the hubs with the Opel Blitz, not the new one but the old one. I am going to get a bottle brush to clean between the spokes or just power wash them. I want to do what ever I can to make that area look really good and I will replace the lug nuts which are starting to show a bit of wear.
 

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Just Some Dude in Jersey
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Measure the millimeters of the opening where the center cap goes, then go to ebay and enter a search for "Wheel center caps / Opel / ????mm" or just "Opel Wheel center caps". Most of what will come up will be from China. Avoid the ones that are clear and glossy with the emblem embedded in them, they look really great, but they don't stand the test of time. Try to find ones that are solid plastic with a raised blitz. There's not a lot of choices, but those will last forever. For example, this would be a good type:


The most important thing to do when you're done polishing is to coat the wheels with some sort of good tough non-yellowing clear coat, otherwise your polishing won't last a year before they're dull again and you will have wasted all that work. And the clear may even make your wheels appear even chromier than they do now. I used Eastwood Diamond Clear on my wheels, but there may be better/tougher clear paints out there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Gordon....................looks like a lot of choices, great. I ordered a can of the diamond clear gloss to use on my wheels. Wheel number 2 tomorrow.........................I will have to order a measuring device to be sure I get it right. The wheels were purchased sometime around 1980 but I have no idea what brand they are. Seems like the hub had an American flag
 

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Dang Carl talk about spit shine those cleaned up great
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
25mm per inch, 6mm per 1/4", is close enough for a guesstimate.
Based on my measurements the hub opening, is 66.67 MM which is based on 2.50 inches plus 1/8 inch which comes out to 66.67 MM. I have been checking available, as per your recommendation, on Ebay and there is interestingly a lot of availability. I am not finding any exact fits so I am assuming that a slightly smaller center cap/hub would be the way to go. The closest thing I have found is 68 MM with 65 MM Clip. Seems like I could make that work. What do you think Gordon.
 

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Just Some Dude in Jersey
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Yeah, that sounds right, the clip part has to be a fraction smaller than the opening. The various standard size center cap openings in wheels out there usually differ by about 1/4", so as long as you are in the ball park you probably have the right size. 65mm sounds like the size for you to look for. I typed in a search parameter of "65mm wheel center caps" and 1500 choices came up on Ebay, so that must be the standard size. You don't HAVE to only get Opel ones, you could have some fun and check out other styles that are chrome domes, or carbon fiber, etc. Since this is your first venture into this sort of thing you'll probably be perfectly happy with Opel ones, there's some real nice ones being offered.
 

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Just Some Dude in Jersey
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This center cap thing got me to thinking if I could find replacement HUGE 150mm(6") center caps for my 1989 American Racing vintage wheels:

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Holy Cow! There were 100's of them and all in slightly different sizes, many with a retaining bolt. There were all sorts of cool possibilities, but the price for them was $12-$50.......EACH......USED.......No Returns. I did find exact used replacements at $25 a cap. Holy schitt! Nope, mine are good enough. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Update - Wheel sanding and polishing/buffing looking for that chrome like finish - not an easy project, but with that said I have yet to find a project that was in fact, easy...... but with hard work comes reward.
I have spent around 4+ hours a day for 4 days sanding my 4 aluminum wheels down to a very smooth finish. Starting with 220 grit to 400-600-800-1000-1500-2000. Then Brown buffing rouge followed by white and not sure it will make a difference but will add a final buff using the light blue rouge. When I am done with the rouge and or polish I will remove any residue with acetone which seems to easily remove any remaining residue that may interfere with clear coating.
Today I ordered brushes, plastic bristles to get in between the spokes on my wheels more for basic cleaning and I also ordered metal brushes that fit in a drill that measure 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, in diameter, to get in those tight areas to get them close to perfect prior to clear coating. So I have to wait for the brushes to arrive and all things considered it will be a couple of weeks before I am finished. The plastic bristle brushes will be more for final cleaning and re-cleaning in the future. The metal should remove any remaining gold paint or oxidation, etc. Once I have power washed everything and masked the tires I will them spray them with a couple light coats of Diamond Clear from Eastwood and I hope, in addition to protection from future oxidation that it will add just a little additional shine. Upon completion I will update with some new pictures. Holding that orbital sander for 3 disks per, for almost 4 hours per day, well -The tendonitis in my elbows is on FIRE. Not getting any younger but hey, its still fun.
I also ordered new lug nuts which have arrived and new center hubs which will not be in until March/late. So they should be like new wheels, actually even better as you could see the cuts in the spokes from the manufacturing process but now they are smooth with an unblemished shine. So remember this tired old scratched wheel hub, pictured below as a comparison, of course I picked the worst looking one. But what is amasing is that scratch is gone. I did not however go after the deep nicks, next time. Actually that will be something the new owner talkes about the PO not really finishing, oh well.....Until then......................................

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Just an update - I am still polishing, no kidding, wish I wasn't. Couple things that I have learned.
  • Sanding aluminum down to a super smooth finish is a long and tiring process- really
  • Polishing with rouge is a long and tiring process
  • The supplies to do all of this are a lot more expensive that I thought - not a big deal as this is just an exercise in staying covid sane and there is no where else to spend money now - can't travel, hell can't even go to the movies - one of my favorite things to do
  • I have tried the Mothers aluminum wheel polish and for some reason it turns the center hubs a shiny gray but does not do that to the rims???? - so I had to redo the hubs with white then blue rouge and yes the blue does make a difference - I did discover a great way to clean the buffing wheel is to keep an old towel handy and run the wheel on the towel, cleans it really well as compared to using a rake that just creates more dust and crap that the towel does not - try it works great
  • Polishing the spokes with rouge is a very necessary step to get the shine and that as you can imagine is also a long and tiring process
  • The best example of a mirror finish are the hubs see before and after - the first picture is actually after all the sanding and first attempt at buffing - the second picture is after a rebuff using white then blue rouge
  • And the lug nuts are new and fit perfectly, unfortunately the new chrome washer that came with them are way too big so now I have to fine new washers that will most likely be more expensive than the new lug nuts with the new chrome washers were together - Purchased from the lug-nut guys on Ebay for like 22.00 and free shipping. Great deal.
Be
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After:
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Time for an update on the wheel project.
So the Wheels are now sanded and polished. I estimate around 50 hours of hard labor, really hard labor. I am waiting for a warm day to apply the diamond clear coat to complete this project. Also purchased new lug nuts as unfortunately the washers, that came with the lug nuts, were way too large so I purchased one of those electronic caliper measuring devices and found the washers that I needed on line. The good news is the original washers, that came with the wheels, were aluminum and the replacements I found are chrome that fit and should look really good with those newly polished wheels. Got a good price as well, the only reason I mention it is the first place wanted around 3 dollar per washer and the lug nuts with washers were only 22 dollars with shipping. Now that I am learning about sanding and polishing aluminum I decided to sand and re-polish my valve cover. I just never realized what a poor job I did the first time. Having done it before in the old days and prior to you tube was not an educated attempt, however this attempt is going to be a much more successful story. Look at the pictures below. While the valve cover looks a lot better that that old worn out gray color of oxidized aluminum it really has no shine. I am only half way through with the project, started today and have 7 hours into it and if the weather is nice tomorrow I hope to finish. Started with 120 grit to 220 - 400 - 600 and tomorrow 800 - 1000- 1500- 2000 then white rouge and perhaps jewelers rouge. Then clean with acetone. I am doing this outside to cut down on the dust and it was in the low 60's today so was nice to be outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the high 60's so I will be out there finishing this up and will post an after picture. Got to tell you this is hard work and the tendinitis is screaming at me but that second beer helped, Cheers.
I just cannot believe how rough the aluminum is in these pictures....again live and learn.....


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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Don't forget to go back and look at the before pictures - I was amazed at how much a difference the sanding made, something I did not know about the first time. I am really happy with the outcome of both the wheels and the valve cover gasket, not perfect but pretty nice - got good reflection - The valve cover took around 18 hours of hard labor spaced over 2 and a half days. I learned a lot.



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Just Some Dude in Jersey
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VERY nice! Nice shiny parts make you appreciate and take pride in your car so much more. Doing projects like this keeps the Opel hobby interesting and "in the moment", especially for long time owners who are verging on the edge of boredom with their cars.
 

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dang Carl,
I can almost see your face in it.
And if it was your wife taken the pic, Well, tell her I apologize
 
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