If you plan on driving your ride on the street you gotta have a tag. Of course, license tags are ugly and we would all prefer to keep ‘em off, but no dice. At the very least, you can do something cool with it- French style.
If your ride was built anytime during the 40’s or 50’s, chances are the tag is on the trunk lid, just flopping around, looking lame. The best thing to do with a tag like that is drop it in, say 3-4”. It is not as hard as you might think, especially if you use a kit like the one from RPPG. RPPG makes a ton of cool stuff for us rodders, the Kool Tag is no exception. Built from 16 gauge sheet metal, the Kool Tag is a complete drop in, frenching bucket. It even comes with a light so you are perfectly legal in those states that require inspections.
The process is easy and only requires a few tools you probably already have. It can be done with a sawzall or a jig saw, but air-tools are better and will cause less destruction of the surrounding metal. The trunk of my 1951 Ford Custom had been hit pretty hard and the lock was rusted shut. We had to cut the trunk open to begin with, so I cut it under the tag with a sawzall right there in the field. Then, using a combination of metal shears, a nibbler and a cut-off wheel, the trunk gets flayed open like a sardine can.
I like things to be exaggerated, so I only trimmed the bare minimum off the bucket to follow the curve of the trunk. This yielded a 4” deep french that looks really nice. After welding the bucket in, I finished it off with a little body filler and smoothed out the job. I also fixed all the dents and primered it up. All in all, there are about 3 hours in the job.
1. With the trunk lid removed from the car, the original tag holder was removed. Note the large open area where the tag was, the trunk was rusted shut and had to be cut open to release it.
2. We removed the old lock which will be replaced with a new latch from Autoloc later. All the rusted metal needs to be stripped clean and protected against future rust.
3. The tag bucket was placed on the lid and held in place with a couple of welder’s magnets. Then the bucket was centered side to side, measuring carefully.
4. The height of the bucket was determined for looks and fit. Each side was measured to assure the bucket was level.
5. Then a sharpie was used to mark the outline of the bucket.
6. Using air shears, the straight lines were cut.
7. The corners were trimmed out with an air nibbler. Both the shears and nibbler cost less than $80 together, well worth it. Of course a plasma cutter would be better.
8. With the hole open, you can see the support structure underneath. This needs to be removed as well. The trunk was in bad shape, as evident by the warped lines.
9. The bucket was test fit in the hole. Any clearance issues were taken care of.
10. The rear structure covering the latch mechanism was cut out in the same manner as before. There was a large plate that needed to be torched though.
11. Using a few screws and a dent puller, the trunk was straightened out. If you are using one of these, don’t pull too hard, you will cause a different problem!
12. The bucket was placed in the hole. A straight bar magnet was used to hold it square. The edge of the bucket was marked to show the curvature of the trunk lid.
13. Using a die-grinder and a cut-off wheel, the bucket was trimmed to match the trunk.
14. A Roloc sanding pad was used to even up the edge and keep it clean.
15. The bucket was once again placed in the trunk lid and held with the magnets. A wire-feed welder was used to tack weld the bucket in place.
16. After completing the stitch weld process, the welds were ground flush.
17. The entire area was cleaned and prepped with thinner then wiped with body filler.
18. Using a DA sander, the area was sanded with 36, 80, 120, and 220 grit paper. A board sander is a great tool to use for this as well.
19. The finished repair job. Yes, that looks like a lot of filler, but the trunk was not in great shape and had lots of little dents and waves. It is ready for primer now.
20. The trunk lid in primer. Next is paint, which will come well after the rest of the car gets built.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).