Cadillac grillin’ on the 4th of July
I’ve never loved the grill of my ’62 Coupe DeVille. It’s the least appealing aspect of the car’s overall design. A huge missed opportunity… GM phoned it in. In an effort to solve this GM oversight, I’d collected 5 additional center bars from ’62 Caddy grills to build a custom grill that should look factory, but much cleaner/sleeker.
Six months later and I’m moving a few parts around on the back porch and realized I needed to get my ass in gear on this project. One of the reasons I’d put off doing the grill is my lack of knowledge on building such a thing. Only one way to learn I suppose.
Five ’62 Cadillac grill center bars fresh from various junkyards in the southwest. Made a yard guy quite mad by requesting just the center bar and not the entire grill assembly. “I’m going to have to tear apart a perfectly good grill to get that bar out”, said the dude. “Yep”, said I.
Before & After : Some bars cleaned up nicely with a little Never Dull, others required a little mechanical polishing. This particular bar was one of the worst, used a polishing wheel (attached to my drill) and a little red rouge compound.
The stock grill in my Coupe was actually in presentable shape. Decent driver quality. These grills are notoriously difficult to restore, they are pinched and slotted together. Once you break it down in to individual pieces, you’ll never get it back together correctly. Fuckers are impossible to clean as well. After years of attempted cleanings, it looks no better than the day I brought it home.
Took great care in removing the stock “crate”, just in case I need to return to stock. It came out in a two large sections. Once it was out, I was happy to discover there are plenty of mounting opportunities for whatever grill I build. My goal was to build the new treatment as a unit that would slip in, rather than trying to build it on the car. Rasputin came by and gave me a hand. So nice to have a second set of eyes, hands and brains. Afternoon came to an early end when my wife and son came home from a long trip. It would be a week before I could get back on this.
After much eyeballing and head scratching it was determined that using the five junkyard bars + my original bar should fill the space nicely. Using some left over pre-drilled steel stock, two feet of threaded rod and a couple High Lifes; I mocked up the unit. It came together pretty quick. I was pretty fucking excited to test fit it in the morning.
Loose test fit. I was a little disheartened. Six bars are way to many. Not only does it look crowded, but I couldn’t get my hand in there to pull the hood release. I kinda hate it.
Last night, after a healthy dose of spare ribs and kool-aid Ras and I headed out to the garage to make it right. Using threaded rod to build the grill allows for infinite and immediate adjustments, which makes life a lot easier. Because it’s built as a unit that hangs on the car, adjustment can be made without unmounting it, so we were able to really dial it in quick. Moving a bar up or down only took a few nut turns and each side could be altered independently.
We tried a few variations. 6 bars, 5 bars, 4 bars – evenly spaced, two on top – two on the bottom, etc.
4 bars looked the cleanest. And so it shall be. Still needs some finishing: Blackout the supports, final tightening, final polishing, etc. Quite happy with the result. It looks like something GM “could” have done, while looking clearer than stock and still feeling custom.
The next project is to figure out a treatment for around the headlights. The factory “pans” that sit behind the lights don’t look correct with the new grill. Harry and I tossed around a lot of ideas. Def going to run some expanded steel back there, and likely some custom metal work in between the lights. Open to suggestions.
A dremel, a drill, junkyard parts and a $13 trip to ace hardware – If I can do this, anyone can.