My son probably has a couple hundred little toy cars. So much so that those store-bought car storage containers don't cut it. I thought I'd make him a custom storage shelf that he can display his favourites on. This isn't a new idea; I've seen it done a couple of times with different grilles, but I've put my own twist on it with the led lights.
I'm using a Chev grille from the mid-80's (I think) but you can use whatever you like, just make sure your grille spaces are big enough to hold whatever you want to display. Also you may want to consider if your grille is flat or curved/ angled as to how much it's going to stick out off your wall. Mine angles out to the centre point where it is ~2" off the wall.
Hope you enjoy it!
Step 1: Take It Apart...
The first things I did was to remove the lights and bowtie. The bowtie was held on by a couple of rusty fasteners which I just yanked off with some pliers. The lights had more fasteners and needed to be pried out of some clips on the grille.
The depth of the light was too much, and I just really wanted the lens, so I cut the lens from the rest of the housing using a Dremel tool cut-off wheel and followed up with the barrel sander to clean up any rough edges and even things out.
Step 2: Light It Up...
I had a metre of led strip laying around along with the power supply and remote, so just to make it fun I decided to run a line of it around each light. Mine are 5050 RGB SMD waterproof leds.
To hide the leds somewhat and diffuse the light, I sanded the outside of the lens using a palm sander and 220 grit paper until I got a uniform finish.
To make it easier to keep the self-adhesive led strip along the perimeter of lens, I cut my strip down into 3 led sections and reconnected with short bits of wire. This allowed me to bend the wire right into the corners and keep everything right against the edge. Be sure to only cut your strip on the line between the solder pads and carefully score and peel off the waterproofing.
Step 3: Power
Because of where I wanted to mount this, I didn't want to have power cords hanging from the bottom of it so I made it battery powered.
To get my 12 volts DC, I used an 8 x 'AA' battery holder. Alternatively you could use a wall plug for this, just be sure to get the proper one for your lights.
To hide the battery pack but still keep it easily accessible, I used the cut-off wheel on the Dremel tool to cut a section out of the grille that is hidden behind the bowtie. I then countersunk and epoxied in a couple of neodymium magnets into both the grille and the back of the bowtie. To do this, you will first have to grind off the studs on the back of the bowtie.
To keep the lenses in, I epoxied the edges and then clamped them until they were dry. The outside edge of the lenses are tapered, so I used some hot glue to hold the outermost led strip. I could've just stuck it down but then the leds would've been pointing backwards to the wall. I might end up adding some sort of reflector later.
The channels in the back of the grille provide lots of space to run wiring and hide the power supply. I used double-sided tape to stick on the power supply and IR sensor. To keep the wires together and tidy, I used zip-ties and self-adhesive zip-tie anchors.
Step 4: Add a Shelf to the Top
I wanted to finish off the top and also provide an area for my son to put his slightly larger vehicles.
I removed the clips and "bumps" from the top of the grille so the shelf would fit flush to the top of the grille. You may opt to leave them on (they're good to help mount the wood to the top), I just didn't want the extra gap. I considered leaving them and milling bits of the wood out but due to tool constraints it was easier for me to remove the bumps.
In terms of wood, I used a piece of 1" x 3" cut to length. Since my grille isn't flat, I shaped my wood to follow the same contour by clamping it to the top and tracing it with a pencil lying flat on the face of the grille.
Sand it up- I rounded the edges a bit, and then gave it a couple of coats of high gloss red.
I used construction adhesive to attach the shelf to the grille, clamped it, and left it over night. I considered also using some type of fastener, but the glue seemed really solid so I just left it.
Step 5: Mounting
In order to mount it to the wall I made some custom mounting brackets out of 2" L-shaped aluminium I had around. I ended up using 5 in total- 3 along the bottom, and one on each side at the top. These got bolted on to the grille- I tried to use existing mounting points on the grille wherever possible. Since my wall studs are spaced at 16" on centre, I spaced my brackets on the grille accordingly.
Step 6: Hang It and Fill It!
Get all those little cars you've been stepping on and pop them in there!
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