Tail lights

While in between bigger projects, I have been doing little things like the tail lights. It would be nice to see the whole rear exterior together again, and looking like it should.  At least then when the garage door is open, people may think its a finished car. If they don’t notice the lack of wheels under it.

So far, I have the trunk lid on and the latch assembly complete, with a new lock. I have a new GT gas cap of the same style as the original, though the filler tube is not screwed in yet since I don’t have a gas tank yet. Today we finally got to assemble the tail lights and install them. This part has taken a couple cycles of waiting for parts, so its been a bit.

The assembly isn’t all that complicated, and there are only a few parts. Unfortunately, most of the parts are expensive enough that when they all add up, its not something I want to rebuild with cash. My frugal tendency meant I am going to do some cleaning.

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I started with the bucket assembly. Here is what it looked like when done. In the picture, its hard to tell before or after from this angle. That is partially because I reused the pad. I cleaned up the housing by first scrubbing all of the over-spray from several previous paint jobs. It appears to be originally just bare metal. I ended up painting them black to blend in with the trunk better and to hide some of the years of staining on the metal.  One was looking a bit rough, but still structurally sound. It’s the interior of the trunk. Black works just fine.

I was going to stick with the original lenses as well, since they were not in bad shape, and they are original Ford parts. Then, when looking up some of the other parts, I see someone is reproducing the lens from the original tooling and they are cheap, so I went ahead and replaced them. The new ones are more clear and bright. Good call, and not a time for being (super) cheap.

I thought of all the things I would have to replace, it would be the foam rubber housing pad. That’s the black filler around the raised lens. It wasn’t bad, with only a little surface rust from the edge of the housing kind of embedded into the side of it. When I was reassembling, I couldn’t believe the new pad. it was solid rubber, and much more dense than the original. The real issue was that it didn’t even fit.

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You can see from this picture that it has about a 3/8″ gap on the side. There is no way it’s going to properly seal the housing like that. The bigger part was that the side on the narrow end of the lens was too deep. It wouldn’t seat properly. I couldn’t even use this. To top it all off, the holes didn’t line up properly so I couldn’t mount it even if I wanted to.

With the housing cleaned up, new lenses and gaskets and the original pad back in place, they are good as new and ready for mounting.  The last piece of the puzzle was the bezels. I thought I could rechrome the originals so I called a local plating shop. It turns out that rechroming is pretty spendy. With the need for 6 bezels and them being $10 each, it was about a third of the cost of getting new chrome on the originals. Original parts are nice, but that’s money better spent on other parts. I saw that Scott Drake had some reproduction bezels, and they have good quality, so I got a set of those and they look good. To save another week waiting, I remembered to get the bezel nuts with the bezels.

When it’s all said and done, this was pretty straight forward. There was an opportunity to learn something about the economics of chrome and cheap parts. Lesson well learned. In the end, the price of getting these back to new was a little higher than I thought it would be, but fortunately my housings were good or the price would have doubled.

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The chrome looks real good. I was a bit worried when I took them out of the box since they were lighter and felt a little cheap compared to the originals. In the end, they were lighter, and slightly thinner, but still a good part. And with today’s standard, I should be glad they are metal and not plastic.

I am going to have a tough time with this rebuild since it will never be perfect. I see that I will need to clean up some of the cheap gasket edge that slipped out of the side of the bezel.  And I still need to do some fitting on the trunk to make it seat correctly. It’s close, but not perfect.

The next step is to get the bumper replaced. The valance is painted and ready to be installed. To finish it up, I need to figure out what to do about the reverse lights and it may fool the neighbors into thinking its a real car.

Parts list:

I was able to reuse the original pad and housing.

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