Radiator Slats

The assembly doesn't work very well. I'll never be able to move the slats from the dashboard control the way it is. There is an annoying asbestos woven packing riveted to each of the rails, with rust and corrosion solidified like cement into a shape that traps the ends of the slats and retards their smooth rotation. The mice must have peed on it because the action was full of upholstery fluff, walnut shells and pine needles. After a lot of cleaning and scraping, I can move the rails with a pry bar, but I have to be careful because the upper rail sheet metal is rusted through it many spots. It looks to be difficult to take apart and replace because the pins at the ends of the slats have been widened with a stake so they won't pass through the holes in the bars.

How have others remade this action and slat control? What materials did you use to replace it? Does anyone else have this mess to contend with?