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Get The Looks You Want

Simple Projects to Help Your Car’s Appearance

Andy Bolig and Larry Jewett - July 18, 2013 10:00 AM

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ART NOTE: There are two separate yet related articles within this story. Images 1 to 9 go with the first part on emblems and images 10-17 with the second part on headlight restoration.

 

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1 In the early years of production, everything was bolted, including this Bowtie. The Filling Station offers reproductions. Threads speak a universal language, but the down side is they can rust or you can overtighten them, damaging the panel.

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2 Many manufacturers began using die-formed nuts. They cut their own threads onto the studs of the emblem. They strip out if overtightened and the studs could break off if you tried to remove the nuts.

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3 You may encounter these one-way push nuts behind some emblems. They push on quickly for production, but they can be a bear to remove. They are designed to push on easily, but cutting them is usually the best way to remove them. The Filling Station has replacements.

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4 A later-style of push-on fastener are these inserts. They are designed to go into the hole first, then the emblem studs simply push into the insert. Sometimes you can pry the emblem up and remove it or you can push the stud through from behind.

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5 These “CHEVROLET” letters each have at least two retaining pins. They’re robust and compact, so lifting them is not as fragile as a long, thin, multi-pinned example. The Filling Station has replacements if yours still succumb to oxidation.

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6 There will be several push-type studs on an emblem, like this replacement “Chevrolet” unit from The Filling Station. Make sure you know how many fasteners are used to hold on a particular emblem.

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7 Many emblems are quite thin with several pins. While they have a classic look, they are also quite fragile. When lifting the emblem, be sure to lift all areas equally. When installing, be sure to equally support the area in front so not to bend/break the emblem.

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8 If your car was built post-pot-metal, you most likely will have some form of plastic emblem, like this factory-GM “Corvette” version, available from Mid America Motorworks.

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9 Double-sided tape replaces threads and inserts in most applications. We’ve used strong fishing line to cut through the adhesive length-wise, the pins make getting the entire emblem tricky. Prying on these emblems is a guarantee to breakage.

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10 3M technician Todd Mathes shows how easy headlight restoration can be.

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11 For the purpose of the demonstration, we masked off a small area of a headlight that was removed from the car. Headlight removal is not necessary.

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12 Using the drill, Todd gets to work on sanding the surface of the headlight. A hand kit is available for those without access to a drill.

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13 The pad is pliable enough that it will follow the contours of the headlights with a little pressure from the user. Take your time and do it right.

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14 After going through the three sanding steps (four in the hand kit), the foam buffing pad takes over and results begin to show.

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15 There is an obvious difference in the luster of the treated side versus the original side. A typical headlight can be done in about 20 minutes with the drill kit, longer for the hand kit.

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16 Everything you need (except the drill) is provided in the Advanced headlight restoration kit. There are also kits that do not include the tape.

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17 The hand kit with all of the goodies. The foam pad (right) is also the sanding pad as the discs are pressed against the black area. When time for buffing, use the orange side.

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The true auto enthusiast has pride in the ride. There are few details that are missed in the quest to be the best.

It’s more than the highest horsepower or the best stereo system. It gets right down to the nuts and bolts of it all.

We’re going to offer up some information about a few things that might have been overlooked. Properly installed emblems may not seem like a big deal, but ask any judge who knows his or her craft. As for cars that get a lot of use, like your daily driver or frequent driver, those plastic headlights that came into vogue are often the first line of defense against elements and face the brunt of it all. Replacement is an expensive option when restoration will work just fine.

Let’s start with the emblems. We know new emblems can make a big difference in your car’s appearance, but how do they stay there? Everything about our autos has changed over the years. That even holds true to the ways that the OEMs have used to keep their nameplates secure.

Believe it or not, adhesive is a relatively new concept in automotive assembly. Before there were globs of glue flowing within factories, there were scores of screws, bolts, fasteners and fender-washers that held everything in place.

Whether re-painting our rides, or in preparation for installing new emblems, removing the old emblems is the only way to ensure a quality job. Replacing the brightwork can have an exponentially rewarding effect on the appearance of our rides, but trying to figure out exactly how the old parts are held in place can be quite frustrating. Knowing what type of fastener is used can help you tackle the task at hand, but that requires you to get behind the fender, door panel or various other body part in question. Sometimes, you’d wonder if the OEMs EVER intended for a human being to exist there.

Over the years, manufacturers have changed their fastening agents in the name of quicker production. Occasionally, quicker assembly equates to equally quick removal techniques, but not always. As engineers try to find new and exciting ways to save weight and money, sometimes, a rugged construction has to give way to simpler processes and lightweight materials. Cases in point are the plastic, lick-’em, stick-’em emblems used on almost every car manufactured today.

But what could possibly hold those beloved chrome characters that denote the pride of the make and model we hold so dear? We’ve taken some photos of a few “classic” emblems as an illustration of what you might encounter on your way to updating the shiny stuff on your ride. Sure, there will be variations and in fact, there are as many different ways to hold emblems as there are emblems themselves. If you have the basics of what might lie behind that body panel, you are well on your way to updating your brightwork, without losing your mind.

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