Aligning the new tail light panel

In my last post I talked about making the tail panel corners.  but i did not cover how I got the tail panel placed correctly on the car.  In this post I’ll go over the procedure I used to set the position, height, and depth for the tail panel.

Installed the trunk lid and end caps

Installed the trunk lid and end caps

Way back in May 2013 before I cut out the original rear quarters, I aligned the trunk and marked it’s installed position.  Once I had the trunk in the right spot, I drilled a 1/8″ hole through each side of the trunk and the hinge to serve as an alignment pin location.  The next step was to find the center of the car lengthwise. I used one of the laser levelers mount on a camera tripod for this.  The laser levelers are nice.  They will draw a straight line across practically anything.  I lined up the red line on the front of the dash mounting area, and the rear of the car.  This gave me a line that ran down the length of the car and divided it in half.  You can see the line in the photos below.  Sorry for the shaky cam shots.  My tripod was in use holding the laser steady.

Now that I had a divider line, I marked several spots on the trunk, and the body of the car to help me get everything back in alignment later.  I also took a horizontal marker line and measured relative to the gas tank opening and the quarter panel body line that runs the length of the car.  Now that I had x and y placement marks for the trunk and the tail panel I could cut out the quarter panels and replace them, knowing that when I reinstalled the new ones I could get them in the same placement.

The panel aligned

The panel aligned

Fast forward to now.  I used the same alignment pins, measurements and marks to get the trunk in the correct place.  Then from there I positioned the tail panel, so that the gas tank opening was in the correct place.   This placed the tail panel vertically and horizontally.  To set the depth correctly, I remounted the trunk and checked to make sure that the flat portion aligned correctly with the gasket on the trunk lid.

You can see in the photos below, that I mocked up the trunk latch too.  so everything that needs to be in place for the trunk to operate and seal was clamped or Clecoed in to check for placement and fit.  I also installed the original trunk lid to check for gasket seal, and the new trunk lid.  Lastly I used clay cones to check the gap and make sure it was close to consistent all the way around the trunk.

As you can see a little prep and pre-measurement before you remove any parts, really helps to ensure that the new parts go in the exact same way the old ones were installed.  Next time I’ll modify 68 coupe trunk top corners to fit on my car,