Aficionados of old toys, particularly building kits like Erector and Meccano, or prewar tinplate trains made by companies like Lionel, American Flyer and Marx, know all too well that the tin plating on unpainted parts can wear off with time, and with it, bring unsightly rust.
When restoring a piece, they’ll often use a replating kit to apply a new coat of tin. But sometimes you want a piece to look better but can’t justify the expense of a replating kit, or the piece is too badly pitted to replate well and need an alternative.
To get something that looks better than rust on the cheap, you can find everything you need at the nearest auto parts store. Remove the rust with a rust remover, such as Evaporust, then let the piece dry, fill in any severe pits with some Bondo if it needs it, file or sand it smooth, then spray the repaired part with the aluminum paint (or silver if you like that look better), and let it dry again.
From a distance of a few feet, the part will look nearly as good as new, and then you’ve given a vintage part new life instead of letting it go to waste.