We have made the mistake of not restoring one of the most important parts of Project Orange Crush, the grille. The grille is the face of your car and is almost always the first thing that everyone sees. You can tell a lot about a car from its grille, from year, make and model.
Our original 1972 Dart grille was in decent shape and we left it alone for many years. Even after the paint and body were redone, we just stuck the original grille back in. When we restored the Dart almost a century ago, the 1972 Dart grille was not being reproduced at that time. We cleaned up our original grille best we could and put it back in.
Above: Our blacked out grille that has no definition.
It looked OK, but really took from the rest of the car. Everything was shiny and new, yet we had this dingy grille upfront. Although the grille did not have any broken pieces, it still looked bad. At some point we thought about restoring it, but decided to just paint the whole thing black. We saw some examples of other Dart grilles blacked out and thought it cannot look any worse.
The all black grille did look better and worked for us for a few years. Lately the all black grille was getting old and just too much black in our opinion. With the chrome bumpers and stainless trim on the hood, we felt it needed some more color.
Above Left: Pulling the bumper off by ourselves was the most difficult part. Above Right: Using body panel removal tool, we popped out the push pins on top of the grille.
We called on our friends at Classic Industries to help us get a proper grille back in the car. They carry a huge inventory of OER restoration parts for classic Mopars. We started to look through the catalog to see what we needed.
Currently the 1972 Dart grill is in reproduction but we have always had a soft spot for the 1971 Demon grille. From 1970-1972 the biggest changes were grilles and bumpers for the A-bodies. So we decided this would be our chance to change the look of our Dart to what we have always wanted with 1971 Demon grille.
Above Left: We laid out all of the OER parts from Classic Industries and made sure everything was accounted for. Above Right: Looking at the grille we knew it was going to be a much better fit for our Dart.
Searching through the Classic Industries catalog was a breeze. You can buy each individual grille component if that is all you need, but since we were starting from zero, we needed everything. The complete 1971 Demon grille set, part #MA3100, came with everything we needed. It included front grille headlamp bezels, park lamp lenses, park lamp gaskets, new park lamp sockets with pigtails, park lamp bulbs and grille installation hardware.
Once we received the grille set in the mail, it was time to get to work. Everything came individually packaged to keep each component safe during transit. We unboxed all the pieces and laid everything out. We wanted to make sure everything was there before we started to assemble or install anything.
Above Left: The argent paint color and the satin black was perfect. Above Center: You can see the factory Chrysler Pentastar and part numbers molded right into the grille and components. Above Right: Each bag of bolts were numbered so we knew where they went. FYI not all restoration companies do this, some just throw all the bolts into a bag or have them individually bagged and you have to figure it out.
We were blown away at the quality of the grille from the argent paint color to the correctly painted black grille bars. The whole thing felt like an original factory grille. When OER states that their grilles are built to exact specifications as the Mopar original, they are not kidding. There are even factory Chrysler part numbers on each piece.
The ABS plastic felt solid unlike other cheap plastics components we have seen before. There was not a bunch of excess plastic left over from the molds or super sharp unfinished edges like you see in low quality plastic parts. We did not have to touch up paint or modify any part of the grille to make it fit.
Above Left: Comparing the old to the new, we were surprised that the bracketry was all the same. Above Center: Here is a closer look at the brackets from the old vs. the new. Above Right: We wished the new parking lamp sockets had OE style connectors.
Knowing all the pieces were accounted for, we needed to get our old grille out. We first needed to remove our front bumper. With the bumper off, we could remove the old grille. We started by removing the big plastic push pins securing the top of the grille. Then we removed both of the headlamp bezels.
There are just a few bolts holding the grille to the radiator support and front fenders, once they are removed and the parking lamps disconnected, the old grille assembly was ready to be removed. You can see in the pictures that our original grille was on its last leg. The tabs holding it to the Dart were cracked and had been repaired a couple of times.
Above Left: The gaskets fell right into place and snugged down the lens covers on top. Above Right: Even the lens covers had OE part numbers in them.
Before we could install the 1971 Demon grille we needed to assemble the parking lamps. The new lamp sockets are installed with two screws, but just like the parking lamp lenses, be sure not to over tighten the screws. The lens gasket might fight you a little, but that is expected since they are brand new.
Reinstallation of the grille was simple. The new grille’s brackets all aligned with the mounting locations of the old one. No modifying or tweaking needed to make them work. We used all the new hardware that came with the new grille. Once the main part of the grille was installed, we were able to put the headlamp bezels back in and then the bumper.
Above Left: We put the main part of the grille back in first. Above Center: We pushed a couple of the push pins in the top so it would not fall while we bolted the rest of the grille in. Above Right: The last piece was putting bumper back on and try not to scratch the car.
Once the bumper was reinstalled, we took a step back to see how the grille looked. All we can say is wow, this is what we were missing for the last 10 years that the car has been restored. It makes everything on the Dart look better.
We question ourselves why we waited so long to change the grille. Even if we would have used a 1972 Dart grille, it would still have looked a ton better than the all black grille. The new 1971 Demon grille is that finishing touch we needed. Taking only a couple hours, and honestly removing the bumper being the worst part, this was one of the most satisfying cosmetic upgrades we have done to Project Orange Crush.
Above: We like the look a lot better with the Demon grille.
If you have been thinking about restoring your old grille, stop and go check out Classic Industries catalog to see OER has a grille right for you. We understand it is not the cheapest option, but even restoring your old grille you still have the risk of it breaking due to the old brittle plastics. The quality and ease of installation of the OER grille was well worth to money.