Intro: Hack Your Hood Ornament
Make a unique hood ornament out of a recycled trophy!
I did a similar mod on a friend's old Chevy truck several years ago, so when I came out one morning to find that someone had broken the hood ornament off the front of my stationwagon, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Instead of the standard hood ornament, I've installed a chromed angel off of a thrift-store trophy. It's cheap, easy, makes me smile, and gets noticed everywhere. I once had a park ranger in Utah ask me for bolt-cutters so that she could steal it. I figure that counts as a compliment.
Step 1: What You Need
Check the hood ornament fitting on your car. On mine (1985 Crown Victoria), the hood ornament sits in a base that's bolted in front of the hood and fastens by means of a wire threaded through a spring. The spring gives the ornament a little wiggle room and serves as a break-point when the ornament is struck. If your hood ornament is removeable, has a base with a ~1/2" center hole, and uses this kind of spring attachment, you're in luck.
Go out and get yourself a new hood ornament! What you're looking for is the figure from the top of an old trophy -- a winged-lady-with-torch, a bowler, a diver, a soccer player, whatever. You want a metal figure, not plastic, and one with a base slightly larger than the fitting of your hood ornament and a base-screw long enough to extend through the base & the hood of your car.
What you need:
- car with an appropriate hood ornament fitting
- metal figure from a trophy, with a base larger than your hood ornament fitting and a ~1/4" base screw long enough to extend through the fitting and the hood of the car
- good strong ~1/6" diam. wire
- very stiff spring, ~1" long, either from the original hood ornament apparatus or scrounged up elsewhere
- silicone adhesive
- chrome spraypaint
- adjustable wrench, small pliers, wire snips
Step 2: Dismantle Your Hood Ornament
Dismantle your hood ornament. On the Crown Vic, there's a bolt to unscrew fastening the fitting to the underside of the hood. Once this is loosened, the hood ornament (with spring and wires attached) slides out, and the fitting can be detached from the hood.
Note: The underhood photo here is of the new hood ornament setup, so the spring and wires are a bit larger, and have to be removed before the fitting can be separated from the hood. For these photos, I just left the fitting bolted on.
I picked up a replacement factory-model hood ornament at a pick&pull yard recently, so click through the photos in Step 1 and Step 2 to see details of the original setup and what the hood ornament fitting looks like when it's unbolted.
Step 3: Drill Through the Base-screw
Drill through the base-screw of the trophy figure. The idea here is that you need a hole to thread wire through, and the wire-loop needs to be low enough to not interfere with the fitting on the hood. Clamp the figure in a vise if possible to hold it stable, and drill a perpendicular ~1/6" hole through the center of the screw.
Step 4: Make It Shiny!
Time for painting! Prop the trophy figure up so that you can spraypaint all sides of it evenly, give it a solid coat of chrome paint, and leave it to dry. I'd suggest looping some wire through the hole you drilled in the base-screw and hanging it upside-down to paint and dry.
I didn't let my angel-with-fire dry quite long enough (what with doing this mod in the middle of a cross-country roadtrip and all), so her paint got a little wrinkled and crackly. When I get around to it, I'll pull her back off and add another coat or two of the shiny silver.
Step 5: Adapt the Trophy-figure Base to the Top of the Hood Fitting.
Obviously, the base of the trophy and the top of the hood fitting aren't matched. On mine, the trophy base is round and ~2" across; the hood fitting is rectangular and smaller. I needed some way to fit the two together so that the figure had a stable base that could deal with vibration and wind on the road. To solve this problem, I used a silicone adhesive to fill in the hollow base of the trophy and essentially mold it to the hood fitting. It's waterproof and flexible, and seems to work well enough so far.
I filled in the base of the trophy figure with silicone adhesive, then slipped the base screw through the hole in the hood fitting, pressed the two pieces together, fixed them in place so that the figure would stand vertical when on the hood, and let the two pieces dry together. This took a day to dry, and probably could have used another 24-48 hours to fully cure. As it was, the hood fitting peeled off, leaving a matching mold on the base of the figure. Not bad.
Step 6: Installation
Ok, now you've got a shiny chromed-up figure that matches your hood fitting. The last step is installing your new hood ornament.
First, bolt the hood fitting back onto the car, tightly.
Next, thread the wire through the hole in the figure's base-screw. Make a loop such that you have two 4" lengths of wire extending down from the base-screw. Then thread the ends of the wire down through the hole in the hood fitting and set the figure upright, matching its base to the hood fitting. It helps to have a friend around to hold the figure upright while you finish the attachment.
Under the hood, fit your spring over the two lengths of wire that extend down out of the bottom of the hood fitting. Mash the spring down tightly and bend the ends of both wires up, fastening the figure tightly down to the hood ornament. You should have a little bit of flex, but not too much; you don't want the hood ornament to be flopping around in the wind on the highway.
Step 7: Done!
All done! Your vehicle is now suaver by at least one order of magnitude. I've had my silver-flaming-angel on the car for a year now, and it's still in good shape.
It might work just as well to simply bolt the trophy figure directly to the hood, removing the hood fitting entirely. The silicone adhesive could be used to form a similar gasket, protecting the car's paint from being scratched. On my car, though, the angle of that section of the hood would make the figure tilt more forward than I wanted, so I used the hood fitting as a base and just adapted the same attachment system as the original ornament.