When building an old car, you always want to complement the paint with nice chrome trim. Commonly regarded as the first parts to show wear and tear on classics, the trim usually includes wheel wells, grille, trunk, front and rear fender areas, and door guards which endure the majority of the dents in a car’s lifetime. Selling replacement parts for these pieces used to be a profitable enterprise for manufacturers, who peddled them through their dealerships. As time passed on, these parts for the classics disappeared and got more expensive, thus the art of molding repair really took off. The art of metal finishing is not an easy endeavor and isn’t for everyone. The process of straightening aluminum or stainless moldings requires a lot of patience and diverse skills, requiring the finisher to use different types of hammers, dollies and repair techniques.
We had the chance to visit with Gonzalo Esparza Jr. of G.E. Auto Antique of Santa Fe Springs, CA to get a bit of insight on metal finishing from a true veteran. G.E has been around for over 25 years, running his own family business, until the resent passing of his beloved father, Gonzalo Esparza Sr. Gonzalo Jr. took time with us to shed some light on his history in the business as well as the changes its faced and how much it has grown.
“It started with my father in 1955, he was working for a company in North Hollywood, doing the same type of work that we do now,” he says. “In 1982, he finally got tired of the wages so he opened up the business part time. His former employer use to tell him ‘You’re not going to make it just doing moldings, you will starve’,” laughs Gonzalo.” In 1986, my dad decided to go for it and opened the business up full time quitting his 9-5 job.”
“I was only seven when I started hanging out with my dad at the shop,” explains Gonzalo. “I started working here full-time in ’92, one week after graduating from high school. A watchful father noticed his son’s interest and issued him a choice. “My dad was like ‘do you want to go to college or do you want to try your luck in the family business?'” he says. “I told him ‘let me try it for the summer’ and I never left! I always liked working with my dad and using my hands to form metal,” Gonzalo says beaming with pride. “We both worked side by side like a super father and son team. I learned everything that I know from him, I just wish I would have learned more as he use to surprise me with some repairs that he use to do,” Gonzalo says with a touch of melancholy. “I don’t think my Dad could have ever imagined that people would be mailing us parts to repair from all over the United States, yet alone from different countries like Denmark, Germany, Japan and Mexico,” he says.
“My father and I considered this work an art form because you can’t hide any imperfections with bondo or body filler,” he notes. “Your parts need to be worked right and polished the right way, if not, your parts will come out wavy or dull. This art form is not something that you can find in the yellow pages, it’s just not something that comes with an owner’s manual,” he says truthfully. “Every molding has its own contours and shapes, and is worked similarly. No matter if its aluminum or stainless, it just takes a little patience,” he remarks. “You can’t rush these jobs and our customers know that. We have had to do re-work on moldings that were worked on by other people, those are usually the worst and more time consuming.” Despite the time frame necessary for quality work, Gonzalo prides himself in still executing perfection in the most efficient manner possible. “Depending on the job, our normal turnaround is two weeks on moldings,” he says.
While visiting G.E. Auto Antique, Gonzalo showed us a common repair done to convertible trim, as it usually breaks or cracks from the same area. Here ‘s the inside look on trim repair, as Gonzalo Jr. fixes some classic convertible trim.