Danchuk Manufacturing Trimwork Wraps Project Gift Horse 1956 Chevy

If there are unsung heroes of the restoration world, it would have to be the shiny trim-work that adorns our cars. No other item can have such a profound effect on the final appearance of our vehicles, yet garner such a lack of consideration by the bulk of enthusiasts.

No doubt, pitted and bent brightwork can bring down a vehicle’s view in the eyes of the judges. In the same way, clean and sparkling trim can make a car stand out, whether on the show field or as a daily driver. The way the trim bits on our cars inter-mingle with the fit and finish of the build is often taken for granted.

These cars were built when chrome was KING! The Chevrolet script being installed by Justin Cecil was just a drop in the bucket of shiny stuff that went onto the cars of this era, but it wouldn’t be the same without these nice touches.

Mike Hoover of FabAuto (builder of Gift Horse), and Justin Cecil of Cofer’s Classics, who lent a hand on final details, know a thing or two about installing beauty through brightwork. This was not their first rodeo and likewise, the folks at Danchuk Manufacturing know a thing or two about Tri-Five Chevys. Danchuk is the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of Tri-Five Chevy parts, crafting parts for these beloved cars for more than 40 years. It continues to improve and add to new parts. Its website and 750-plus page 2020 Tri-Five catalog make it easy to bring back one of these classic rides.

“I chose Danchuk because they are the leader when it comes to ’56 Chevy parts. Their quality is outstanding, and delivery was quick,” Gift Horse owner Aubrey King says about his experience. Danchuk not only has everything necessary to brighten up the inside and outside of a Tri-Five Chevy, but it also has the parts to update some areas to operate like-new or better. This made the process of rolling back decades of wear and tear from the car’s appearance a one-stop-shopping experience.

“We are very proud to produce parts here in the USA for such a great series of American classic cars,” says Larry Kelly of Danchuk Manufacturing. “We know our customers demand the highest quality. Our goal has always been to make our parts just like the originals and, in some cases, even better.”

Gift Horse had most of its trim, but it came down to whether it made sense to refurbish all of the pieces or just buy new. In the end, the consensus agreed that new brightwork and operating bits would bring the best value. Mike is emphatic about retaining all of the old parts. They still have value, even if they don't wind up in your car. Items like latches will have wear from years of use that is harder to remove than decades-old grease and grime. New latches are tight and designed to work smoothly.

Start Off Right

Project Gift Horse had most of its original trim, and most of that was stainless with a few parts tossed in that are prone to pitting. We asked the guys turning the wrenches on Project Gift Horse what made them decide to go all-new for the project. They explained the car had most of its trim, and while some bits were fairly nice, others were in serious disrepair. Mixing replacement parts with the old, original items quickly show which is which. The cost of refinishing them was about the same as getting all-new.

And, this is where many enthusiasts find themselves early on in the build process — mail-order catalog in one hand, and a loaded gun pointed directly at their foot. Let me explain.

Sure, you’ve decided to replace it. But it still has value! – Mike Hoover, FabAuto

One of the things you can do to make the successful transfer from faded to fabulous happens before most of the work even begins on your car. Many of our vehicles come into our lives as basketcases. Boxes and boxes of parts, sometimes in the form of another enthusiast’s attempt at restoration, make their way to our garages, and we’re full of optimism and joy.


You can save a lot on shipping by doing one, complete order, just make sure you have everything you need, including the clips, screws and mounting bits.

All the hopes and dreams get separated into the usable pile, while those items needing replacement get relegated to another box bearing lower status than the one before. This is the very point where many enthusiasts shoot themselves in the foot. Knowing all of the necessary parts are available and intending on replacing everything, they’ll sell, or even worse, toss all of the old parts!

Some parts will be stainless, while others will be chromed. Gift Horse had some pitting on a few of the cast parts and would have needed re-chroming, which would have stood out amid the old pieces. New parts put everything on a level show field.

Mike Hoover of FabAuto puts it all into perspective. “Don’t toss that old trim,” he exclaims. “Sure, you’ve decided to replace it. But it still has value!” He goes further to say that making sure everything you have fits the car properly will help you determine if everything you get will also fit the car. Having those old pieces can help you solve the puzzle when putting it all together.

The fit of various pieces can change according to the model on which it’s installed. The most obvious would be the difference between two-door and four-door trim, and also coupe, hardtop, or convertible models. If your project came to you in boxes or was previously coming together one piece at a time, perhaps all of those pieces may not be for your particular car. Also, knowing what parts go where can help de-code which fasteners go with which pieces. Adding up the number of holes should tell you how many fasteners are needed as well.

Knowing how each of the pieces fit together will help you when it comes time to install the bits with fresh paint. If you fit everything early on, you can be sure that everything will fit, you won't have to drill any holes, and you'll know the order that parts need to be installed. It IS worth the additional effort!

This step is best done early in the process for several reasons. Firstly, you can do all the fitting before all of the time-consuming finish work has been applied to the paint. Even if the car’s body panels are four different colors, you want to make sure that everything is there and correct. At that point, Mike suggests that you begin ordering the new bits if you have allotted the funds in the budget. And while we’re talking budgets, just think of how much you can save in shipping by ordering it all at one time!

Installing larger bits like the grille and bumper are made much easier when everything fits. A trial installation before finishing the paint can save a bunch of heartache.

Even after you’ve got a tracking number for what will become your trophy lure on the show field, it still pays to keep your trim! Good advice would be to only consider selling it after you give the car its first oil change after hitting the open road. Even then, you might consider keeping it as a bargaining chip, should you ever want to sell the vehicle. Either way, that decision should not be made while shipping labels are still a part of your restoration.

Brighter, In More Ways Than One

Another benefit of using new parts is the availability of upgrades that weren’t even available when the car was first built. Mike and Aubrey used LED lighting throughout the build, and this meant the taillights not only looked brand new but were now using less power and were brighter than the original ones ever dreamed of being. This also had the added benefit of less amperage drawing on the car’s charging system and through the wiring.

Upgrades such as LED lights are one thing that can really add a modern feel without losing that vintage vibe. We installed Danchuk's LED indicator turn signals and LED brake/turn lights out back to make the '56 more noticeable while driving at night.

The only consideration when using LEDs is the flasher needs to be compatible for use with them. Suitable flashers are available at about any auto parts store or online. Due to drawing less current, the old heat and break flashers won’t work correctly. Aubrey also dug those side mirrors with the turn indicators inside the glass and decided running wires to the units on Project Gift Horse was well worth the effort.

Final Fit And Finish

Aubrey’s ’56 was assembled previously, so many of the holes and mounting areas were already determined. If panels had been replaced, having the trim handy to drill the necessary holes before painting is a definite plus. This prevents scratching the new paint while also inhibiting rust because the paint will reach inside the hole, and help seal it. Drilling after paint means you need to touch up the raw metal inside the hole, or the fresh, unprotected metal will be a rust magnet.

As everything comes together, you need to keep in mind how the parts interact with each other as well as the other components of the car. On Tri-Five Chevys, the front and rear glass trim are exceptionally tricky for some enthusiasts. There is a thread on Tri-Five.com, which explains the process well. Additionally, you can always turn to Danchuk’s Download page. It has a plethora of tech articles and instruction sheets, for just about anything dealing with assembling a Tri-Five.

While many other makes and models have similar instances of complexity as Tri-Fives, no matter what kind of trim you are installing, Aubrey gave us the best advice. He emphasizes to take your time and use patience. Many pieces of trim can get kinked from overstressing it to try to make it fit. Don’t let that happen to you.

Chances are if something doesn’t fit right, you may have something aligned wrong, so don’t force it. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and think through it. If that doesn’t work, give Danchuk a call — they are not only experts, they are also enthusiasts. If you take your time and methodically work to see how the bits fit together, you’ll be able to get them all installed in the proper order and have a great looking job when finished.

Aubrey and Mike were able to get Gift Horse finished in time to make its debut at the Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals where Roscoe Thompson of Danchuk was able to see the car first-hand. He says, “What a terrific build. We are excited to see how our parts helped bring Aubrey’s vision to life. It’s a testament to the dedication we all have to keep people’s dream cars alive and looking their best.”

Like Aubrey, once you finish the build, it’ll be time to go trolling your favorite show field or cruise night! So, get out there and see the USA in your Chevrolet! Chances are you might see one of Danchuk’s authorized dealers at a show or two as well.

It’s a testament to the dedication we all have to keep people’s dream cars alive and looking their best. — Roscoe Thompson, Danchuk Manufacturing

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About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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