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My Rebuild — Modifying the grille


UPDATE: I wrote this post a year ago in May.  A reader recently asked about why my headlights looked different, so I am reposting and have updated it with info from the Classic Oldsmobile Forum.

One of the modifications I wanted to make was to change the size of the headlights from 7″ to 5 1/2″ to give my jeep a little different look.  I’ve only seen these smaller headlights on two jeeps (both of which had fiberglass grilles), one set was on my first jeep, pictured to the right (which shows my first set of lights on the left and then the bigger, standard lights after I switching to a metal grille on the right), and on a jeep called Otis (still owed by the Carter’s, long time family friends who actually named me — that’s another story) pictured below (note that the positions of the headlights seems to have changed between 1981 and 1985, which I just noticed — UPDATE:  Steve Carter tells me the change was due to a rollover involving his mom during a race in 1983.  The wider lights were the result of a new, wider radiator).


One hitch to my plan was that I didn’t know where to find the 5 1/2″ headlight assemblies and Jim Carter couldn’t remember where he got his headlights.

After a good deal of searching, I learned a few things about headlamps.  First, the 7″ lights were mandatory on autos sold in the US starting around 1940.  Then, in the 50s, the laws were relaxed to allow dual 5″ lights.  However, most dual assemblies were combined headlight assemblies, but I needed individual headlight assemblies.  Finally, after roaming a great local junkyard that has a ton of old cars piled two and three high I finally found the individual assemblies, which look like mini jeep headlight assemblies, on an 1959 Oldsmobile dynamic 98.

According to a helpful forum user at the Classic Oldsmobile website, the 1959 and 1960 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 and 98s used the same size bezels and headlights (with the unique aspect that the bezels weren’t connected to other bezel parts, which makes them look like a jeep bezel), but the Dynamic 88s were Anodized aluminum, while the Dynamic 98s (like mine) were chromed.

Now that I understood what I had purchased, my first step was to creat a mockup.  Using some cardboard, I created some templates to see how the new lights might look in the grille.

Satisfied that the look is what I’m sought, over the next couple of days I modified the grille to accomodate the smaller headlights.  The first step was to attach the grille to a flat, waxed surface.

Next, I cut the fiberglass matting to fit the shape.

Then I mixed the resin and hardener, dipped the fiberglass mat into it, and then brushed it as smooth as I could get it, pushing the bubbles out the side.

Then, I added a coat of fiberglass paste to the front and back, filling in some small holes.  Next, I sanded the area and used my templates to outline the areas I needed to cut.  Here’s a pic of the light assembly inserted into the newly cut grille hole on the left.

And here’s the grille with the holes cut and an initial coat of primer so I can better see the small defects I’ll need to patch and smooth.  I’ll also need to smooth out the backside as well and drill the holes for the headlight assembly bolts.

Finally, the grille is complete and painted (and already scratched .. ack!).  The turn signals are a modified Autolamp SL49 glass behive.



One comment on “My Rebuild — Modifying the grille

  1. Pingback: Specs of My Build | eWillys

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