Just about all Vanagon models from 1980-1988 were outfitted with "chrome" molding around all the windows. For most U.S.-delivery vehicles starting in 1989, this molding was omitted. Curiously, VW kept using it on most Canadian-delivery Vanagons through the end of production in 1991.
This "chrome" molding is purely aesthetic. Vanagons that came with chrome molding had it installed in all six rubber window seals: windshield, rear hatch, and all four side windows. This molding is commonly referred to as "beauty trim" and "window trim." Vehicles fitted with this type of molding were also outfitted with a bright metal trim around the front roll-up and wing windows (although it's a totally different type of trim than the molding we're discussing here).
This "chrome" molding is not chrome at all. It is just a plastic trim covered with a foil laminate that looked shiny and pretty when it was new. Eventually, though, all that is left is a yellow plastic that looks terrible. When this happens, most folks decide to pull the molding out, clean up their seals, and run their vans with this "blacked out" look (sometimes called "California" style). Contrary to popular belief, removing the chrome molding does not change the function of the seals—they'll still work just fine. This is good not only because the stuff looks so crummy... but also because new molding has been obsolete for several years.
The bright trim around the wing window and roll-up window in the front door is actually very high-quality, polished stainless steel that does not fade. However, once the rest of the molding is deleted, this stuff sticks out like a sore thumb—aesthetically-speaking, it's nice to remove it, as well. Unfortunately, this stuff is not such an easy task to omit. It requires disassembling the front doors, including the removal of the front roll-up window, all the channels, and the wing window. Then you've got to replace the original seals with ones that are "without groove," meaning they are designed to fit without the molding. Most of the time, it's a good opportunity to replace very worn-out rubber... although the wing window seals are a serious pain in the you-know-what, but that's the price you pay for beauty, right?
When you are purchasing new window seals, we strongly recommend switching to the non-grooved type. Ultimately, it will give your Vanagon a more modern look, and they'll last longer, too.