Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Don't You Be All Gettin' Up In My Grille, Dude

The paint prep is going well on my truck. I'm taking my time and doing it right. I used to paint cars for a living but, to be honest, I was never very good at it. I am good enough to do it one more time, I think. Aside from the peeling paint, the chrome on the grille surround has bubbled badly and begun to peel, as well. The surround is made of plastic with a "chromish" finish on it. It held up OK, I suppose and, probably, better than the cheap plating that is used on most steel parts these days. Thanks Erin Brockovich. I could have opted for a replacement from the dealer, But I have heard that they begin to bubble pretty quickly since they've been on the shelves for years. The other choice was a cheepo, eBay, Pacific Rim, knockoff. Yeah, right. So, with a plan in my head and a song in my heart, I went to the metal supply and picked up half a sheet of 14 gauge steel. Back at The Fongderosa, I took some cardboard and duct tape and made a mock up grille surround, Pleased with the way it looked, I transferred the patterns to the sheet metal and cut out the pieces with snips and a circular saw with a metal cutting blade. I made up some tabs that bolted to the hood where the original grille was attached. I then formed, with a hammer and dolly, a little bump up in the center of the surround to match the profile of the hood. I then tacked the new upper portion to the tabs, working from the center to the outside edge of the hood. Two separate pieces were welded to the ends of the upper and bent down, vertically to the top of the bumper. This completed the upper and side part of the grille. Using the same cardboard patterns, I cut out the face of the surround. I cut it in two matching, mirror image pieces. They were then tacked to the completed upper and side portion. Once everything was straight, level and even, I finish welded everything together. I worked an inch at a time and skipped around to keep warpage at a minimum. Once I was finished, I reinstalled it on the truck to check the fit. I needed to grind and file the edge, a bit, where it meets the hood. At this point, I am pleased with the look and the fit. After some thought, I have decided to weld the new surround to the hood. This should give it a custom look and confuse onlookers who, if they know the Dodge trucks, will realize that something is different. My plan, all along, was to paint it the body color, so why not make it all one piece. The actual grille, itself, will be some simple expanded mesh, left over from the barbecue build. Hey, Left over parts from a grill to make a new grille. Seems fitting and the price was right. The mesh will be powder coated in a matte black finish that will match the new front bumper. What bumper, you may ask? Stay tuned, the old factory bumper is headed for the scrap heap. I have a plan, again in my head, for a new bumper that will be very purposeful looking without being overly huge and off roadish. Something that hits a happy medium between stock wimpy and ten ton, Baja 1000, giant winch, overkill. It will have provisions for some high intensity driving lamps. The stock headlights never were, especially, bright, so they will make our roadtrips more pleasurable since my night vision isn't what it one was.

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