Imperial Home Page -> Imperials By Year -> 1968 -> Bronze Restoration
Imperial for 1968 introduced bronze as an accent metal in place of the wood veneer that was previously used. The instrument panel, door switch control panel and door trim panels are adorned with a combination of brushed bronze along with polished and brushed chrome. It is a gleaming combination of metals that provides a truly unique look.
This is a three part series on the removal, cleaning and installation of the bronze metal plates that line the interior of the 1968 Imperial. The process is not complicated but prepare yourself to be extremely patient. Bronze, a combination of copper and brass, is a soft metal that will bend and scratch easily. Care must be exercised in the removal of the trim because kinks and bends are difficult to repair. Since the metal is also easily scratched take care to place the metal in a flat container with adequate padding to keep the pieces safely protected from each other. If possible a shallow box or drawer will work well. Door trim pieces are especially susceptible to bends because of the thin width of the metal plate.
Imperial used less bronze trim in the four door models than in the two door coupes. Additional trim was added to the door panels and rear seat side panels of the coupes. This is one time when a sedan or four-door hardtop is an advantage. All models, LeBaron to Crown, use the same amount of trim on the instrument panel.
I will do my best to explain the process I used to restore the trim from my Crown Coupe. I have used experiences gained from other members of the Imperial Mailing List along with guidance offered by several professional painters. My own trial and error will be shared with the hope that you will not have to suffer the same mistakes I made. The process of restoration is not all that complicated. It is a labor of love and a test of your patience. Prepare to allow a good deal of time for the project in order to maximize your results. Once the bronze is fully restored and installed you will be amazed at the brilliance it adds to the interior of your Imperial!
In most cases the bronze trim will probably have loosened from time. The adhesives used in 1968 were not as advanced as some we have today. Many of the pieces in my car were totally unglued while others were securely fastened. Many had a corner or an edge that was somewhat loose so that I could work at removing the piece without damage. Several tools assist in the removal of the bronze.
- Flat dull 1 inch putty knife
- Razor blade
- Butter knife
- Dentist tool
- Hair dryer
The key to removing a securely glued piece of bronze is to find an edge that you can get a tool under. Extreme care needs to be used when working on the trim. It is very easy to gouge or deeply scratch the metal. Some of these marks are nearly impossible to remove. I found that a dull razor blade, the kind used to scrape paint from windows, worked well to initially get under a piece of metal. I used the hair dryer to heat the metal to soften the old adhesive. My guess is that contact cement was used. Heat worked well to loosen the metal. Caution, the metal and surrounding surface will get very warm so be careful not to burn your fingers or the surrounding plastic! As you are heating the metal slowly work the razor blade under the trim. Try to work the blade as far under the piece as is safely possible. Move along the edge of the trim piece in order to loosen as much of the glue as possible. Once the piece has begun to lift you can insert the putty knife or a butter knife to lift the piece. The key here is to work slowly! Use as flat and wide a blade as possible. Avoid lifting the metal at a sharp angle. The idea is to keep the piece flat and supported so that you do not bend or kink the bronze. It is easy to create a dimple from the blade and the lifting pressure so go slow, use the hair dryer for heat, and work the piece free from one end to the other. I found wider pieces easier to work than the thin door trim items.
Door trim strips are particularly delicate due to the thin width of the metal. Extra care must be given to these items. And pressure in removing them will show as a wave in the metal once it is removed. Straightening these pieces is quite difficult. The lights on the sail panels (C pillars) are also thin and will need extra care when removing.
Most pieces on the dashboard are unique enough so that they will not require marking. Door trim, door mounted ashtray covers, and other pieces that look similar are best marked so that they can be returned to their proper location. As an example, the thin side strips on the door may look the same but one is a little shorter to accommodate the taper of the door. Attention to detail is what makes the Imperial an outstanding automobile. Marking pieces will ensure they return to the correct place in the car.
Generally I was able to remove my trim using heat and a flat knife. There were a few instances when the dentist's tool came in handy. This is the tool the dentist uses to clean your teeth. Each end has a hook of a slightly different shape and size. Using the curved part of a hook allowed me to get under a stubborn trim piece or to pry up a corner. This tool can be a real asset but if not careful it will do real damage. The hook end is sharp so be careful. Avoid using screwdrivers because the blade is too thick and will cause marks in the bronze.
Take care not to damage the pieces once they have been removed from the car. It is best to place them flat in a box without stacking. I would suggest the small spacer from the dashboard be placed in an envelope so that it does not get lost. It's a major annoyance to find another should you lose the one from your car! It is also an easy piece to damage when removing. Be patient and use care. It will come free with the right amount of coaxing.
The most challenging pieces will be those on the spokes of the steering wheel. My coupe has the standard wheel so there are two pieces on the spokes. There are horn buttons riveted through the bronze so I chose not to remove the horn buttons. I chose to tape off the area not to be restored and carefully worked around the silver trim. This may also be the case with the tilt wheel models. I was able to remove the horn ring from the car to do my work. Tilt wheels are not that accommodating. If you have a tilt wheel you will have to see what works best for you to refinish those pieces if you choose to do them.
Congratulations! You have completed the removal of the trim. There will be glue residue on the bronze as well as on the metal packing. Most of the metal backing in the car can be scraped clean using the putty knife. I also used a citrus stripper to clean some of the more stubborn old glue. I will talk more about this as part of the installation process. On to step two, refinishing the bronze. Good luck!