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Thread: Chrome plastic tail light accessories

  1. #1
    Registered User moyest's Avatar
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    Default Chrome plastic tail light accessories

    Well, that was the best description I could think of!

    With prices of *NEW* 240Z tail lights so prohibitively expensive, I wonder whether anyone out there has tried restoring their existing tail lights?

    I recently tore mine apart to find that you can easily soak the entire light in hot water, then pull the lense away from the backing. That allows you to get in there with cleaning products and really brighten up the lenses.

    But, the chrome thingies that run across the lenses are the problem. Unless you're lucky enough to have the plastic chrome in good condition (I'm not), then you're left with a problem standing between you and a set of completely mint tail lights!

    I phoned the one and ONLY plastic-chromer in my area, and he said it was difficult because they have to be "electro-formed" with layers of copper, etc, or alternatively vacuum-formed (in which case there's no U.V protection). Then he quoted $90 EACH (so $180 total) for the job! I thought I could probably have them fabricated out of stainless steel for that money!!!

    If only I could get the cost down, I'd be tempted to chrome those thingies, as well as my interior dash vents!

    Anyone got any *bright* ideas?

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    Chillin Inf's Avatar
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    Wow, hot water
    I'll remember that. I had previously read about carefully prying it apart.

    I'll be interested to see if anyone comes up with anything good. I have a new set of 'euro' spec taillights that i'm gonna swap in, then I wanna restore the original US spec tails.
    -Andrew

    03/72 240Z HLS30-70xxx - R.I.P. 2011/01/04

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    Unstockafied Zrush's Avatar
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    I read in a local hot rod magazine that to get the "fogged" look from any type of plastic, like tail lights, take very fine sand paper with with some water and rub the lenses. I would think that this would scratch the lenses but apparently it doesn't. This is simular to wet sanding the body prior to painting I guess. Think this would leave scratches but the more you do this the smoother the finish gets, same for plastic (?). Who's gonna be the first to try it? As far as chome over plastic, there is a place in Florida that does that. We had the hood vents and various other plastic items in the engine bay done. Very expensive and no guarantee that the plastic will not crack or break from the process. Well worth the chance we took in getting it done. Our Z sits in the Florida sun baking at car shows and the chromed plastic never has shown any signs of UV damage at all.

    FWIW

    Vicky
    Zweet

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    Has anyone had any success changing the colour of the taillights? I have a pair of good US ones that are illegal to use over here, and I could do with making them look like euro ones.( ie change the indicator colour from red to orange)

    I have found being able to take the rear lights apart is also useful to be able to swap in a better rear plastic bit that bolts to the car. This frequently gets chewed up or the screws drilled out especially if the llights haven't been removed for 20 years plus.

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    I have seen people use liquid Chrome Polish (or "Brasso") and lots of Elbow Grease to buff up dull Tail Lights.

    I won't be the one to try sandpaper. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

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    Registered User MikeW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zrush
    I read in a local hot rod magazine that to get the "fogged" look from any type of plastic, like tail lights, take very fine sand paper with with some water and rub the lenses. I would think that this would scratch the lenses but apparently it doesn't. This is similar to wet sanding the body prior to painting I guess. Think this would leave scratches but the more you do this the smoother the finish gets, same for plastic (?).
    Obviously any kind of sandpaper will scratch the surface; that's the whole point. However, super fine grades of paper make very small scratches which may be enough to remove the bigger scratches that cause the "fogged" look. On the other hand, there are commercially available plastic polishes that I would try before sandpaper such as those available from Mothers or Blue Magic.

    As far as the chrome goes, mine were so far gone that the pits went all the way through the chrome and into the white plastic beneath. I would think this would be difficult to repair. Since I bought a used replacement on eBay I might see what can be one to fix my old lens since I don't have to worry about damaging it. I may try the metal tape technique that I successfully used on the interior door panel.
    -Mike
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    Registered User Victor Laury's Avatar
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    I use white rouge on a pillow (single stitch flannel) buff to turn fogged, faded plastic to gem stones. Just don't let the work get too hot.
    DatsunVic CZC1303
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    Unstockafied Zrush's Avatar
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    What about clear coating the lenses after they have been shined up? Would the clear coat eventually peel?

    Vicky
    Zweet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zrush
    We had the hood vents and various other plastic items in the engine bay done. Very expensive and no guarantee that the plastic will not crack or break from the process.
    Zrush, do you by chance have any pictures of how the pieces look after being chromed. Also, how expensive was it to get them done? Thanks.
    - Eric

    Series I 240z rolling chassis

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    Unstockafied Zrush's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrcheeze36
    Zrush, do you by chance have any pictures of how the pieces look after being chromed. Also, how expensive was it to get them done? Thanks.
    In our gallery on this site, (when the gallery is up) a few of the engine shots might show the fuseable link covers (I think that's what they are called) with the chrome over plastic. The hood vents are also chrome over plastic. If you can't see them very well, I can ask my husband to snap an up-close picture so you can see how well they turned out. Price was $375.00 (done in 2002)for the fuseable link covers and hood vents. Can't remember if Scott had anything else done, don't believe so. The company name is Custom Coatings, they are in Tallahassee 850-562-0538.


    Vicky
    Zweet

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    That IS pretty expensive : ( Thanks for the reply Vicky!
    - Eric

    Series I 240z rolling chassis

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    Another tip while restoring lenses - paint the backing (where the sockets are)! If you're a stickler I guess you could find a grey to match stock, but I painted them white on my Z and my K and the lights on both look so much cleaner and brighter now. You wont have that left reverse light looking all dull and grey anymore!

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    Default wet sanding patience...

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeW
    Obviously any kind of sandpaper will scratch the surface; that's the whole point. However, super fine grades of paper make very small scratches which may be enough to remove the bigger scratches that cause the "fogged" look.
    Hmmm.... I started off with 600 wet, finishing up with 1500 wet then using a dremel polisher to 'clean up' my sidemarkers and taillights... Plastic became nice and shiny as new (removed the DOT markings in the process), but it looks trick (as in old school trick, street rod style).

    Here's a fuzzy pic since the gallery is down...

    Wayne
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    1977 280Z "Lucy" as of 4/05

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    Yeah, but this thread is about the CHROME! The CHROME!!!

    The plastic lense is easy to clean up, even just with warm water and dish liquid!!! The CHROME is the difficulty, especially if your starting point is not too flash (e.g pitted, scratched, peeling...).

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    Registered User MikeW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moyest
    Yeah, but this thread is about the CHROME! The CHROME!!!

    The plastic lense is easy to clean up, even just with warm water and dish liquid!!! The CHROME is the difficulty, especially if your starting point is not too flash (e.g pitted, scratched, peeling...).
    I agree that the chrome is the biggest problem. A couple of hours ago I tried adding some polished metal tape on top of one of the two chrome strips with reasonable results. The entire "chrome" piece can actually be removed from the rest of the tail light housing but it's hard to do without breaking the two outer plastic pins that lock it in place. As another experiment I'm thinking of seeing how it will look with just some "chrome" spray paint. Once again this is my old beat up tail light so I don't care if I ruin it.

    You can see the difference in the bottom of the two strips in this picture.
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    -Mike
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    Registered User moyest's Avatar
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    But how'd you go getting around the curved ends? Tricky business those curved ends - when I tried "chrome-look" tape it got all bunched up as I tried to turn the corner

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    Default tail lights

    hi all

    what i did with mine was to rub them back with a very fine wet and dry paper
    and then paint them with a coat of clear mixed with a small amount of black paint to put a light tint to mack them come up with a nice look and a shine on them
    aussie rob

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    Deftly daft Alfadog's Avatar
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    Just another note because someone mentioned chrome spray paint - none of the "Chrome" spray paints I've ever used actually look like chrome.

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    Default I didn't start that fire...

    Quote Originally Posted by moyest
    Yeah, but this thread is about the CHROME! The CHROME!!!
    Have you seen these guys? Not sure about shipping to over there... http://www.caswellplating.com/index.html

    Wayne
    1977 280Z "Lucy" as of 4/05

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    G'Day Mike,

    Read this post just now.

    I had the plastic chrome tail light surrounds rechromed and they turned out pretty good. I tried the so called chrome paint and the chrome tape but both were disasters.

    Can't give you the cost as I had the rear bumper done at the same time. Cost was $510.oo plus G.S.T of $51.oo making the total $561.oo (triple coated show chrome). Cost also included frieght to Rockhampton. Paid them by direct deposit into their account.

    On a separate occasion I had the interior door handle backing plates rechromed at a cost of $38.50

    The work was done by;

    Pine Rivers Electroplating Pty. Ltd.
    3/23 Paisley Drive
    Lawnton
    Qld. 4501

    Phone (07) 3881 2018
    Fax (07) 3881 2016

    A word of warning;
    DON"T send anything by rail. The bumper I sent took two bloody weeks to get there.

    Hope this is of some help.

    Regards,

    Rick.

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    Sales person was Steve Campbell.
    Last edited by 1 Bravo 6; 07-27-2004 at 01:59 AM. Reason: Forgot something
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alfadog
    Just another note because someone mentioned chrome spray paint - none of the "Chrome" spray paints I've ever used actually look like chrome.
    That method is called "Polish Chrome" (You know as in the people from Poland, not as in shine)

    Vicky
    Zweet

  22. #22
    Registered User MikeW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moyest
    But how'd you go getting around the curved ends? Tricky business those curved ends - when I tried "chrome-look" tape it got all bunched up as I tried to turn the corner
    I didn't bother because I was really just playing around to see what metal tape might look like. However, it could be done with some careful trimming of the metal tape. You'd need a shape something like what's in the crude image attached. Note that the only thing that would show would be a small split down the middle of each end.
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    -Mike
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    Registered User moyest's Avatar
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    Thanks Rick! That might just be the ticket!!!
    Fortunately my bumper is fine, so it'll just be small items by post or courier to Rockhampton.
    Thanks again for the tip!

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    Default I have a solution, maybe

    I have some billet aluminum replacements. They can be polished easily to look like chrome. If you would like more details email me directly at 280Zone@cox.net

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    Chillin Inf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 280Zone
    I have some billet aluminum replacements. They can be polished easily to look like chrome. If you would like more details email me directly at 280Zone@cox.net
    Could you post some pictures to this thread?
    -Andrew

    03/72 240Z HLS30-70xxx - R.I.P. 2011/01/04

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    Default Tail lights

    To get ride of that foggy haze you can use some wax on the outside and simple green to clean the inside. After washing them out leave the bulbs out and let the sun dry out the condensation. Works best if you take the whole light assembly out, the wax is like the clay they use for detailing cars.
    Last edited by S20; 07-27-2004 at 10:41 PM.

  27. #27
    Registered User moyest's Avatar
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    Default Update

    Well, me-hearties

    I've been busy over the weekend and so I can now share the following info with you:

    The chrome trim pieces come off, as MikeW said, but beware about forcing or pulling them off. The trims are held onto the lenses with little securing thingies at the back (on the inside of the lenses). To remove the securing "thingies", DON'T pull them! Simply CRUSH them with pliers. That is the best way to get rid of them without breaking the plastic pin (very brittle) that secures the chrome trims through the lenses. Make sense?

    I understand from one of those 240Z restoration books that you can buy the metal securing "thingies" at most hardware stores - so don't worry about crushing them beyond repair (however you may want to look for new ones before you actually do anything!?!??!).

    Once the chrome trims are off, you can do whatever you like with them - send them off for re-chroming, paint them with chrome-look paint (not very shiny though), customise them somehow... you name it!

    (Jeeeze I hope all the little bits go back together)

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    Administrator bpilati's Avatar
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    I just had to replace the left taillight housing when the lens just fell out one day and I backed over it. I don't have to tell you what I felt like when I found out what I had just rolled over. I thought someone had laid a soda can behind my tire. Well I looked around and MSA wanted $260 for a set of lens (US or Euro), and I decided I needed to search around a bit more. A friend had a used housing that he sold me cheap and it did the trick. You know those little washers they use with the 5mm screws to secure the housing to the body? Well they're pretty minimal in covering the screw holes in the body, and if one is missing the screw head goes right through the hole securing nothing. So I went to the hardware store and found a better washer. It's a #12 washers with a rubber seal on the back. It's much wider than the stock washers and provides additional seal around the screw and against the inside of the body. You need to buy longer screws at least 5mmx.8x16mm. They work well.
    Bryan Pilati
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    Default http://www.zzxdatsun.com/tailight.html

    Maybe they'll do 240Z tail lights too... I sent an email message to them asking about it.

    http://www.zzxdatsun.com/tailight.html

    260/280 Tailight Panel & Bezel Program

    Taillight panel stripped and repainted the factory original color for $80.00 each exchange.

    Taillight bezel stripped and plated with chrome over nickel for $120.00 each exchange-includes new fasteners.
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    Owning a Z = Longtime Dream Come True...
    (Was) All Stock 1973 240Z eBay purchase in Oct 2005.
    HLS30-163770, 5 spd, # 918 Orange w/Black interior
    1971/72 ??? 240Z HLS30-15987 (donor car - R.I.P. July 09)
    1974 260Z Stock, Orange ext/Black Int. Oct 2007. Sold June 20, 2008
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    Registered User Rockr69's Avatar
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    For the inside of the lens mild soap and water with a soft bristled toothbrush works great. As for the outside, some 1000 grit or finer sandpaper, wet of course, and some Meguire's plastic polish, clear or colored depending on your application and this is what you get..nice and clean and shiny. The chrome I sanded and tried to paint match to the body color. Now my beautiful princess looks like she has her makeup on.
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    Last edited by Rockr69; 08-10-2007 at 06:11 AM.
    Dan

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    Z Addict yor5150's Avatar
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    Default He doesn't re-furbish tail lights any longer

    Quote Originally Posted by yor5150 View Post
    Maybe they'll do 240Z tail lights too... I sent an email message to them asking about it.

    http://www.zzxdatsun.com/tailight.html

    260/280 Tailight Panel & Bezel Program

    Taillight panel stripped and repainted the factory original color for $80.00 each exchange.

    Taillight bezel stripped and plated with chrome over nickel for $120.00 each exchange-includes new fasteners.

    The reply was that the 260/280 program was a bust that it was discontinued a year ago. No chance for a 240 program then.
    Owning a Z = Longtime Dream Come True...
    (Was) All Stock 1973 240Z eBay purchase in Oct 2005.
    HLS30-163770, 5 spd, # 918 Orange w/Black interior
    1971/72 ??? 240Z HLS30-15987 (donor car - R.I.P. July 09)
    1974 260Z Stock, Orange ext/Black Int. Oct 2007. Sold June 20, 2008
    1976 280Z - FEB 2011
    Card-carrying member of the RSPBRC (Rear Spindle Pin Bushing Replacement Club)

  32. #32
    Registered User JimmyZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 280Zone View Post
    I have some billet aluminum replacements. They can be polished easily to look like chrome. If you would like more details email me directly at 280Zone@cox.net
    I do some machining and was thinking the same thing. Looks like you've already DONE it though. It wouldn't be that hard, especially with CNC.

    Check out http://www.alumilite.com/ for another possibility. You could cast your own part and have it plated.

    My trim pieces have begun to disintegrate so making one is looking better. I'm almost to the point where I think it would be nice to make some molds for injection molding new tail lenses. (Not just for my benefeit)
    Japanese car, Japanese dog... Most loyal friends

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