Polishing the Aluminum Rocker Panels

I thought this was going to be an easy DIY project, so I got my electric sander ready and started prepping my Corvette's rocker panels for polishing.

When the electric sander overheated and failed the task, I turned to water sanding. However,  thanks to this approach, I ended up overheating and totally frustrated.

It was a total FAIL!

These panels came from the factory with some sort of plating or anodizing that made them durable in order to withstand regular use. In other words, sanding that finish off takes forever.

The reason I decided to polish my car's rocker panels was two-fold.

Since one of the original panels had, at some point in the past, gotten mangled by a close-encounter with a curb (and I am totally guessing since the damage was already there when I got the car), I was forced to find an OEM replacement piece.

The photo below shows the RHS panel after I did the best I could to straighten and repair the damage. However, the aluminum had several deep gouges and had stretched and creased to the point of no return.

Luckily, I found a factory-original replacement in great overall shape which basically means straight and dent-free, on eBay. And I only paid $100 which is a good price for an original part. However, the factory finish had seen better days.

The photo above shows the overall condition of the exposed surface which had all sorts of nicks and scratches after being pelted by road debris and weather for years.

After my failed attempt to polish the panels (a.k.a. side skirts or moldings), I decided to let a professional do the job, and the pictures below show that it was the right thing to do.

After removing the original right-hand side rocker panel, I had to drill out a couple of broken screws, so out of the original six that secure the molding to the body, only three were there.

I then dug through my Vette parts stockpile and found NOS screws that would do the job.

The one task I had to do was to mask the panel so I could respray the accent channel black. When that was done, I reinstalled the rocker panel with the new hardware.

The results are amazing! Having them polished to a mirror-like finish gives my Vette that new-car feel. It actually makes the car look newer.

Like any polished aluminum component, the rocker panels will require attention and polishing from time to time. I do plan to wax them soon in order to help protect and preserve the finish.

The total cost for this project was $150 ($75 per panel). I consider it a fair price since I did not have to deal with removing the original finish and I could've never achieved the kind of results a pro can get with the right tools.

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog!


Southbound Polish, Ocala, Florida

Product Links... (#sponsored)

1970-1977 Corvette Rocker Molding (Pair)