Headlights and Salad bowls
Well, when you find yourself browsing your favorite parts catalogue, salvage yard or restoration web site looking for a replacement bucket for your rusted out original pot, you might want to add your favorite box store to your shopping list.
This is a little ‘Outside the Box’ thinking, thanks to a friend of many years Merv Nichol. Merv has been single handedly building his own collection of cars, all of which are built for driving, not for sitting in a show room or on a trailer. While I was visiting recently to assist in the aquisition of Mervs next project, a 1958 Chevrolet 2 door, we spent a little time reviewing his most recent project completion, a VW Karman Ghia. Merv mentioned he had to replace the headlight buckets, which, as with many vintage vehicle, sit completely exposed to road debris, moisture, snow and worst of all salt, in the wheel well. The Ghia’s had turned into something akin to swiss cheese, but in fact, closer to a form of steel wool barely capable of supporting its own weight.
While replacements were available by mail order in the $35 range, which would come a lot closer to $50 each by the time shipping a taxes are added in, this didn’t slow down Merv browsing around for a suitable replacement. When he found himself in a local ‘Canadian Tire’ store for $3.99, but you can fill in the name of your own local big box.
There, sitting on the shelf was a wonderful assortment of replacement headlight buckets.. I mean Salad bowls.. Better still, they were stainless steel, which would solve the problem more permanently than an aftermarket steel replacement.
In the case of the Ghia, the bowl he selected was a virtual drop in for the original. While you will find some minor size variations from one manufacturer to another, being most vehicles use the same dimension headlight sealed units, it only make sense the buckets would be about the same size as well. You can search a few locations, and you WILL find a bowl with the shape a size for your application. At this one stop, I found bowls starting at 7 inches and increasing by the inch. Depth changed with the diameter, but, remained fairly relative.
Merv was able to remove the old bucket, clean up the mating surfaces and bring the two together in a perfect replacement and upgrade.
In most cases, the factory would have spot welded the bucket to the mating area of the fender. The stainless steel poses no difficulty what so ever in this area. The stainless will spot weld to the mild steel fender without issue. Or, you can MIG weld into position.
If you don’t have welding equipment, or lack the skills, drilling the matching surfaces and either using machine screws, or pop rivits will get the job done. Make certain you use a seam sealer on completion to keep the moisture and dirt out of the finished bucket. If you are riviting or screwing them together, use sealer between the surfaces prior to assembly.