Here is article 4 of the ’32 build, originally published June 6/07.
It took a while, but we finally decided which taillights we’re going to use. You may not like them. This isn’t your car. This is our car. There are so many different taillights on the market now- for traditional there’s the ’38/9 Ford “teardrop” lights, the ’42-’48 Ford lights, the ’37 Ford bullet shaped lights, and then there’s ’50 Pontiac lights. The new ones have a shorter bucket, a glass lens, and the bulb is centered for optimal visibility. Safety is highest on our list of priorities for building this car, along with keeping a common theme. LED taillights, for instance, would not suit this car. ’39 Ford lights don’t fit well below the deck lid on a coupe without cutting into the bottom body line. Plus, we think the Pontiac lights look darn good. Here’s how we installed them.
Once we decided what taillights to use, we had to decide how far out from the center to mount them. We thought that mounting them too far ‘in’ would make the car look thin and tall. There was only so far that we could go ‘out’ before the body curves too much and they would appear the opposite of cross-eyed. The resting spot was decided- in line with the outside edges of the rear window frame. We also needed to center them top-to-bottom. This was done by applying masking tape to the approximate area the taillights would end up in, and then measuring from the trunk lip to the top of the rear body line. We “eyeballed” the light, trying to get it as close to an imaginary line straight down from the outside edge of the rear window. When it looked right, we measured over from the side of the trunk and repeated that dimension on the passenger side. The long horizontal line is so that the mounting holes can be on the same line.
Here I’m measuring the mounting hole position. You’ll want to do this before you drill the hole for the light so you still have a center. We used a meter (or yard) stick to draw the horizontal line – it conforms to the curve of the body.
The moment of truth. Did I do it right? Tune in next week to find out! Or just look at the next picture.
Looks pretty good to me. The lights make it look nice and low.
Before I start this article, I want to say a few things about street rod parts. Most of the time, they are designed by the manufacturer to be installed in a specific orientation. Some parts are not. If the installer wants to mount something in a way not endorsed by, but also not discouraged by, the manufacturer, he (generic “human being”) should expect that the part may not work how it was intended to work. Things may not quite line up, or in this case, headlights may point heavenward … Read on…
We’ve liked this headlight/ shock mount combo from Pete & Jakes for a long time. We didn’t think about installing another bracket, because we like the curves and gracefulness. A stock ’32 headlight (the big one) has the mounting bolt coming out of the bottom at an angle of about 30 degrees towards the back. This means that when the bracket is mounted to the frame, the headlight mounting cone has to be tilted forwards at the same angle. Pete & Jakes designed the bracket to be mounted perpendicular to the ground at ride height. I held it up there, and thought I’d like it tilted back a bit, to match the caster of the axle (about 6 degrees). What I didn’t realize I was doing was bringing the angle of the cone more towards horizontal, and when the headlights are mounted, they’re more effective as airplane landing lights. I tried to modify them to work, but came up with an easier idea. The brackets are also designed to mount perpendicular off the frame rail. Because our frame is pinched, and because I’m kind of a sucker for details, I decided to trim a bit off the back side of the tube so the bracket mounts parallel to the axle (perpendicular to the centerline of the frame). Also, because we have the front c-notched, the bracket wouldn’t go on the back side of the shock because it was right over the c-notch. All that means is that the headlights will be an inch or two ahead of where Pete & Jake meant them to be, which means there may be some tire interference.
So, all that said, these are still great looking brackets. I’d use them again. I didn’t use them as intended, so I spent more time making them work.
Instead of grinding, grinding, grinding, I ordered two new cones from Pete & Jakes and lopped off the old ones. With the die grinder, I notched the end to accept the tapered , angled radius of the cone. I had to keep in mind that the headlight bolt couldn’t interfere with the shock which would be mounted right behind.
I know it looks screwed up. But I tacked the cone with it welded to the headlight, so I knew it was at the right angle. In this picture you can also see how much the front end needs to come down – the shock is set at ride height. Since we’re using the short shocks, and the shock mount bracket can’t come down any further on the frame, we’re going to have to figure out some other way of lowering the front end. I guess we COULD use regular shocks, but the shorties look so much… shorter. And I’ve never complained about having to go lower.
We have these monster 12″ long 5/8″ bolts around that I used to set up the other cone to the same angle as the first one.
While holding the bolt with one hand, and tacking with the other, I got it close and then tweaked them to match. You could use a threaded rod for the same effect.
They’ll look lower when they’re off the lift. Before you finish weld anything, make sure that you can turn your wheels both ways!
This is what I was making when I discovered that the tire was a great bending die for a large radius.
You can see a very slight bend on the horizontal section of tube. Basically, I wanted to give it some shape so it wasn’t straight.
The little stainless piece in the back of the headlight is a piece from the Parr headlight conduit kit. It comes with some braided hose, and two of each frame fittings and headlight fittings. I machined a shoulder on the headlight fittings and drilled them 3/8″ all the way through, for the stainless line. There are six wires in a ’32 headlight with turn signals, which *just* won’t fit in a 3/8″ tube. I took the ground from the turn signal and bolted it to the inside of the light, which is bolted to the frame. Five wires fit very snugly inside the tube, but they do fit.
Even though I don’t understand why, license plate lights are an essential. I have decided to withhold my rant on license plate lights and the frustrations they presented me, the “installer”.
OK, just a little one: Anyone I’ve asked why I need a license plate light has told me one of the following:
“They’re for the police to see your license plate in the dark”
“I think it’s so the police can see your license plate if you’re speeding away in the dark”
“You know, when it’s dark out, and the police like want to see if your license has expired or whatever?”
“If you’re driving all day and you don’t notice the sun has gone down and you don’t remember turning your headlights on but wait they turn on automatically so of course you wouldn’t have noticed and you get to the border at Detroit and they ask what your license plate is but you can’t remember so you get out of the car and walk to the back of the car only to discover that the power has gone out at the border and there are no lights there so you can’t see your license plate so now you’re unable to tell the border guard your license plate so you get turned around and are headed for home again and oh crap there’s a cop behind you with his lights on and he pulls you over for not having a license light but just then his car battery dies and he is unable to shine his headlights on your license plate to check if your tag is expired and he accidentally forgot his flashlight back at the station plus there is a total eclipse of the moon tonight so there is no light anywhere.”
I made that last one up. My point is this: there will always be a light to see your license plate, and any bad guy knows that if the only thing between getting away and getting caught is a license plate light, they would spend the big bucks and snip the wires going to the light, or just remove the bulb.
So why do you think we have license plate lights? You can comment at the end of this post.
These stupid little lights in the spreader bar took FOREVER to decide how to make. Not that it took a long time to actually fabricate them – it took a long time to decide the cleanest/tidyest/smallest way to do it. Here’s what we came up with.
The main reason it took so long is because I didn’t want wires showing behind the license plate and because of how the plate is mounted, that proved difficult. We tried Lite N Bolts, and while nicely made, the wires head straight out the back of the units and I had a hard time wrapping them back and down the back side of the plate. I bought a few LED lights and was going to make up a battery operated thingy that would be almost like a louver on top of the plate, but then “we” decided it would be best to have the lights come on with the tail lights. So then I started on the idea which became the final product. I put a small bend in a piece of 3/8″ stainless fuel line (for a nice radius) then cut out a small section of the bend and notched one end the diameter of the spreader bar. The other end I cut almost square. I laid the two tiny pieces of fuel line on the spreader bar in line with the license plate bolts, marked the position and drilled holes in the spreader bar where the “housings” would be. By this time, we had bought two 12 volt LED lights from Watson’s. I made sure the lights would slip into the housings (and pull all the way through in case of a problem) then I tig welded them to the spreader bar. There are two wires coming out of the LED… one for ground, and one for power… just like every other light. I extended the wires and ran the grounds to a 1/4″ bolt I welded to the inside of the spreader bar at the passenger side frame rail. I ran the power wires through a little hole at about 5:00 on the bottom of the spreader bar, then up into the body and spliced into the tail light wires. I used some silicon “goop” to hold the lights in place.
A/C line clamp/headlight wire conduit/transmission cooler lines All-In-One
Well, it’s finally done! I’m quite proud of this little clamp that does so much more than clamp. A picture is worth a thousand words. Some people get paid by the word, right? Here are some pictures…
These hoses are running up the passenger side frame rail, into the body.
I think you’ll be able to tell what’s going on here… this is looking along the passenger frame rail towards the back of the car. The fittings in the bottom right corner of the picture connect braided lines to the transmission. The Alfred Hitchcock looking thing is just a way to keep the reduced diameter air conditioning lines tidy and secure. There are three of these double clamps along the length of the hard lines. The top hard line is a conduit for the headlight wires, which I wrapped in hockey tape to simulate the texture of the a/c hose. Click here for an earlier article on this clamp.
This is the front end of the top hard line. The bottom two lines curve in the bottom of the picture and connect to the radiator.
Here is a view of the passenger side of the radiator. I attached a junction block to both sides of the radiator for easy wire detachment if it’s ever necessary. The large weatherpak plug is for the electric fan, should it ever need to be removed. The other single plug goes over to the driver side turn signal, just because I didn’t have room on the junction block. The wires coming out of the 3/8″ hard line from the previous pictures are wrapped in heat shrink because they are visible outside the rad shell and I wanted them to blend in a bit. The four wires pointing to the right are the headlight wires, and you’ll see what I did with them in the next few pictures.
First I wrapped them in hockey tape. Not really necessary, but it will keep the group of wires parallel as I’m pulling them through the stainless tube…
…like this. This picture also shows a pinched frame rail. Notice how there is no gap between the rad shell and the frame rail? That’s done by narrowing the front frame rails by 3/4″ per side waaaaay back at the beginning. Here is an article on the fabrication of the headlight conduits. I used the tire to make the big sweeping radius in the tube.
These are from the Parr Automotive headlight conduit kit. I drilled the tapered end out to 3/8″ so the hard line would slip in, then I machined a small step so it would sit into the hole in the back of the headlight.
Slide it over the wires and onto the hard line.
And then attach it to the headlight! I had to remove the ’32 Ford wire bundle (sorry, I can’t even remember what it used to look like!) but the hole that was left was a great size for this little Parr piece.
I used another weatherpak plug so I’ll be able to take the headlight off if necessary.
Here’s the view from the back of the passenger side headlight.
I haven’t centered or aimed them yet, but I think they look pretty good!