Radiator Grill

This is quite a feature on all vintage cars, they are big, flat things that dominate the front of the car. My car sadly was bought with a smashed grill, leaving me with only a badly pitted chrome surround and in the time i have owned the car i have seen only one grill for sale that was anywhere near useable. I should have bought it but i didn’t. Cest-le-vie, this allows me to create my own grill and add another personal touch that simply makes my car ever more unique. The chosen style is along the lines of the classic racing Bentley – that car will always be in the back of my mind as a quality reference point. They used a square wire mesh or a diamond shape depending on the orientation of the mesh. I am going for square i think but that means a vertical alignment is crucial.

I had a fair amount of head scratching trying to work out how to fix it to the inside of the brass shell but then one night a thought came to me that because the shell was brass, i could solder brackets to the inside and simply clip the new grill inside them. That in reality didn’t work although it was a very similar idea to how they did it originally. As an alternative, i sunk stainless steel locking wire into the molten solder and then used that to ‘tie’ the grill to the shell. Being stainless steel it will not rust plus it allowed me a level of adjustment when fitting.

But I am getting ahead of myself, cutting the mesh to size. I created a paper template for this then marked out on the grill the shape it needed to be. I don’t know how many times i measured this, adjusted and remeasured it. I had just once chance to get it right – or risk having to buy another sheet of mesh. Its not that expensive but thats not the point.

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The grill is in fact NOT flat – it is more of a ‘V” shape when viewed from above so I needed to place the shell on the grill and gently roll it onto the flat mesh to mark the edges and to then have any level of confidence that i would not be cutting the mesh a fraction to small. In some places on the shell I knew I had no more than 1/4″ to fix the mesh – so cutting the mesh 1/4″ too small would mean throwing the mesh away and starting again.

The mesh by the way is brass (funny that) – Bentley used a chrome wire and a lot of the chaps use stainless steel wire mesh but that is too bling for my taste. I may or may not spray the grill black like the original race cars – i will have to wait and see what natural brass looks like when its finished.

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Having cut the mesh to shape and size, i now needed to fold it slightly to take on the shape of the shell. Naturally I found the shell is not flat anyway at all, it is a series of complex curves, so in reality the mesh needs to be folded in the middle and the flat ‘sides’ bent into a slight arc as well.

Folding it down the middle was simply a case of clamping it to the bench using angle iron and then with a short length of floorboard pushing the overhanging part downwards until it was at the right angle. Doing this meant that i could achieve a semi sharp fold down the middle (not that anyone would notice this)

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Once fettled into the right shape and a little bit of trimming off the sides of the mesh – i was ready to fix it into place. This is simple using a propane torch and some melted lead strip.

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Then using a locking wire tool to twist and tighten the wire the grill was loosely fitted until it was in the right place – I did this about every 4″ so there are perhaps 16-18 of these ties. The one in the photo would not be secure on its own and on first sight it would like the grill could move about, but realistically when you take  all the ties into account and what you can’t see is the wire is also weaved through the mesh – its really not going to go anywhere!

Below is the radiator ‘grill’ trial fitted. The mesh is I think too bright and gaudy for the style of car i want, I will age it and see what that looks like – but I suspect it will end up painted black then slightly distressed to let a few old bits of brass show through. I can’t decide yet whether it will have a racing number painted on the grill or not… but thats a decision I really don’t have to make for a long time

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The radiator is now in place – the coach builders need that because the rest of the car is built around it… exciting times. December is getting closer.

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