Making a 3rd eye centre brake light for a Hotrod coupe

For the rear of my 1930 Ford coupe hotrod, I wanted to fit a belt-line centre brake light. A narrow light is needed as the belt-line is only about 3/4" (19mm) wide.

This is not an easy thing to make at home, because you need a recess formed in the belt-line to take the lense. My solution is shown here, made from wrecking yard parts. The panel I found was bent, but as only one slot is required, that did not matter. In fact, the wrecker even gave me these parts, asking "what the hell are you going to do with that junk?"

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Last modified August 13, 2010

Here are the parts I was given. The taillight in this case is from a Holden (GM) Commodore and was broken but the there is enough material left for this purpose. A fairly flat lense is needed.

The panel is from an early (1983) Nissan and is the panel which fits at the base of the windscreen where the wiper arms are mounted. (large hole in centre)

In the wreckers, there were many cars with similar panels, all having a series of punched slots for the fresh air intake. These slots were about 7mm x 85mm and seemed suitable for my purpose.

Several of these slots could also be used for custom tail lights.

Here is a close-up of the panel showing both sides.

When punched, there is a lip on both sides of the slot. This is important for a brake lamp as it gives a nice edge for appearance and some "depth" for the lense to fit into.

A section of the panel was carefully cut out with an angle grinder with cutting wheel fitted. This is actually a little too wide but as the material is very thin, it was reduced in width using a pedestal grinder. Go very slowly, as it is very easy to distort the metal. (This is the second one I made!)

A piece of the plastic lense was also cut from the old tail lamp assembly with a hacksaw, slightly oversize, then carefully filed to fit the slot.

Here is the finished centre stop light, ready to be fitted to the belt line of my coupe.

A suitable slot will now be cut in the coupe body and the stop light housing welded in.

I plan to weld a small "bridge" of wire across the back of the slot at each end, so the lense will seat down. The lense will be carefully glued in after painting is finished.

Great care will be needed as the material is very thin.

A suitable bracket needs to be made on the inside to attach the actual lamps. I will be using hi intensity LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) but 2 small auto lamps should work pretty well too. I will detail this later.

I tried oxy/acet welding on a practice piece, but got a lot of distortion so I decided to use a 130A MIG, on the lowest setting. For best welding results, the body slot should match the new piece exactly.

I did not weld it continuously, just small spots, letting it cool between welds. After cleanup with an angle grinder, I will put a little plastic filler on.

Dec 2001, Updated August 13, 2010