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  • Rebuilding an old license plate to run on a classic car

    I just finished up rebuilding an old plate to run on my 1950 Champion. It took me a while to track down a 1950 Oklahoma plate that wasn't a complete disaster, but I finally found one that wasn't in too bad of shape. It had a little rust, but overall was relatively solid. I thought I would add this on here in case anyone else wanted to take on the same. I have done one before, but did it with a brush. With my shaky hands, this was was MUCH better in the end.

    Here's what I found and was able to start with:

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    It wasn't bad. No bad holes or folds in it. Dents were minimal. I had found one other, but it was roached out pretty bad and the price was pretty sticky.

    At first, my plan was to give it a rust bath in Metal Rescue to remove the rust and then clear coat it for protection. I didn't want to use sand, pecan, or any other media to blast it since these were so thin and only meant to last a year anyway.

    I learned a valuable mistake by using the new bath treatment though.

    This is Metal Rescue: http://www.metalrescue.com/home.aspx

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    I've used this to remove rust on everything from toys, scales, inside engines (to free them up), just about anything really.... I will stand by this stuff always. I made a mistake though and didn't want to make the drive to where it was sold here in Oklahoma since I was out.

    Instead, I went to a local auto parts store and bought Evapo-Rust. (I won't be using it again though)

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    While this stuff DID clean the rust, it was also (even though it said it wasn't) corrosive (chemically) enough to strip the old paint as well.

    So when I placed the plate in the bath and checked on it in the morning, I was left with this:

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    I couldn't do anything now but rinse it off and use some '0000' steel wool to prep it for primer. It wanted to start oxidizing fast, so I had to clean it well and then hit it with an etching primer to seal it quickly.

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    Now I could start painting. I decided to use an enamel paint so that I could bake it in the oven and heat treat it in hopes of making it more durable. The police generally don't bother since most of them weren't alive back then and it 'looks' authentic enough.

    I started with an antique white since it was originally white with black lettering. I ended up hitting it with about 4-6 coats of white letting it dry about 20 minutes in between.

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    Once that dried, I let it sit all day in the sun to really give it a nice set before using any tape on it.

    Now that the plate had a good base on it, I decided to mask it off with painting mask (blue tape). My hand is a little shaky and I didn't like the look of uneven lines on plates I had seen done with a brush. The old way the plates were painted was with a roller machine that rolled over the high areas and colored the tops of the plate numbers/lettering. I thought about building something to do this, but figured I could just cut out the mask while I watched the news or something.

    Here was the mask once I got it all covered and pressed around the letters and numbers:

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    I started with an exacto knife, but found it much easier to just use a regular blade to trim out the letters and numbers. I cut the mask just over the edge so I had a small lip to paint past the top surface.

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    Now that this was done, I repeated the same process as the white, only with the black instead.

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    Once the black sat over night, I picked all of the tape off and removed the entire mask so I could hit it with a few coats of clear enamel. I didn't worry about that drying completely since I was baking it in the oven to set it. I propped the plate on four screws as risers and baked it on a cookie sheet in the oven on about 220 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Once I took it out and let it cool, it cured nicely.

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    Overall I am pretty happy with the outcome. My dad has a 1944 Oklahoma plate, which is pretty rare due to the war. It was yellow with black. I am redoing it next. He is just displaying his, so this method should be fine. Only time will tell how the enamel holds up to daily use.

    Maybe this will help someone else. Who knows. I enjoyed the process though and am now on my way to the OTC to register this plate for my 1950 Studebaker Champion!
    1950 Studebaker Champion 4 Door Sedan

  • #2
    Very nice! Thanks for sharing your process!
    Dean Seavers
    Sacramento, CA

    Comment


    • #3
      Very nice DIY restoration. I am a little bit confused though on the rust remover product that you usually use. Does the "Metal Rescue" stuff not remove the paint as well? I though all of those products were supposed to strip the item down to bare metal. I used that "Evapo-Rust" to clean and prep a pair of exhaust manifolds for a 232 V-8 once, and it seamed to do a hell of a job, brought it back to it's original cast iron appearance.
      1947 Studebaker M-5
      1946 Studebaker M-5
      1948 Studebaker Land Cruiser
      1961 Studebaker Lark 4-dr. Sedan
      1951 Studebaker Land Cruiser

      Comment


      • #4
        Will the DMV in Oklahoma allow you to run another plate besides the one that was issued for your vehicle? Or will they let you register your vehicle using the restored plate?
        Ed Sallia
        Dundee, OR

        Sol Lucet Omnibus

        Comment


        • #5
          Looks very Good!

          I guess your method is one of 3 possible methods:


          1) Paint the Background Color and mask it to do the raised Numbers/Letters as you did.

          2) Paint Raised portion Color first, then Paint it the Background Color, then after drying scuff off the Background Color.

          3) Paint the Background Color and devise a Pan just deep enough to try to lower it LEVEL into the Bath of Raised area Color Paint to "Dip" it on there, very tricky without a little tooling!
          StudeRich
          Second Generation Stude Driver,
          Proud '54 Starliner Owner

          Comment


          • #6
            Looks good, I've done a few also. I paint the whole plate letter color, then background color, wet sand through to letter color on letters and then clear coat it all. I use automotive paint as spray can doesn't last long in the sun ( I did my house number with spray can and it lasted about 1 year before fading). The last 2 pics are before clear coat. I had a friend use a product called frisket film, it works like your tape but it's in a single sheet.

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            Last edited by 1oldtimer; 05-31-2016, 03:13 PM.

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            • #7
              Looks very good! I was able to find a set of 1953 New Jersey plates in good shape for my car that I planned on using. It took a few years to find the right set, they were issued by County and I wanted the same as where the car was sold. At the time I started looking I contacted the DMV and they said all I had to do was have them inspected by the State Police and I could use them but now a few years later of course I can no longer use them because the plate readers in the police cars cant read them. Oh well at least I have them.

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              • #8
                double post.

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                • #9
                  Nice work Brian.

                  Yes, Oklahoma allows you to run vintage plates. You have to keep the other tag in the car and display a sticker in the bottom right corner of the windshield.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I found the original plate from Arizona still on the front of my car when I bought it about 8 ears ago. Rusty and beat up. It took me 2 weeks to restore it. I first stripped it with Evapo-Rust perfectly clean. By the way there is no etching by Evapo-Rust as it is a chelator and contains no acid. The reason your paint came off was because rust had crept under the original paint and got lifted by the solution. Any paint that is properly adhered to the metal will not lift off. Evapo-Rust only attacks rust, iron oxide and nothing else. The reason that it will start to oxidize imediately after rinsing is because the bath has also cleaned the metal to virgin material and the moisture in the air will stick to it very quickly and start the oxidizing process all over again. If you are not prepared to dry and coat it with something then just dip it back into the solution and let it dry on it. That will protect it from the humidity until you are ready to finish the job. I have been involved with Evapo-Rust for over 10 years both mixing/blending it, bottling it and selling/demonstrating it in Canada. You would be hard pressed to find a better and safer product.
                    Back to my license plate, Mine was all bent and beat up from sitting on the front of that car for all those years since it was installed when the car was sold new. After cleaning and straightening it out I made a bunch of punches from hardwood to match various curves and shapes of the numbers/letters etc. and got them back in shape the best I could.
                    I then primed and sanded it over and over until I had reached a fairly smooth surface before applying about six coats of the black paint sanding between coats until I was satisfied with the finish. Then by hand I painted the white on the raised parts with a brush. That is why it took me 2 weeks.
                    I will attach a before and after picture.
                    Nick
                    Click image for larger version

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 1oldtimer View Post
                      Looks good, I've done a few also. I paint the whole plate letter color, then background color, wet sand through to letter color on letters and then clear coat it all. I use automotive paint as spray can doesn't last long in the sun ( I did my house number with spray can and it lasted about 1 year before fading). The last 2 pics are before clear coat. I had a friend use a product called frisket film, it works like your tape but it's in a single sheet.

                      [ATTACH=CONFIG]54720[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54721[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54722[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54723[/ATTACH]
                      Nice! I like this process too. I wasn't sure on the paint. I wanted to try the baked enamel and see how it holds up.

                      - - - Updated - - -

                      Originally posted by 1oldtimer View Post
                      Looks good, I've done a few also. I paint the whole plate letter color, then background color, wet sand through to letter color on letters and then clear coat it all. I use automotive paint as spray can doesn't last long in the sun ( I did my house number with spray can and it lasted about 1 year before fading). The last 2 pics are before clear coat. I had a friend use a product called frisket film, it works like your tape but it's in a single sheet.

                      [ATTACH=CONFIG]54720[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54721[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54722[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54723[/ATTACH]
                      Originally posted by 61LaRk4dr View Post
                      Very nice DIY restoration. I am a little bit confused though on the rust remover product that you usually use. Does the "Metal Rescue" stuff not remove the paint as well? I though all of those products were supposed to strip the item down to bare metal. I used that "Evapo-Rust" to clean and prep a pair of exhaust manifolds for a 232 V-8 once, and it seamed to do a hell of a job, brought it back to it's original cast iron appearance.
                      The Metal Rescue doesn't harm anything. It leaves the metal, plastic, even labels and stickers remain. Nothing but rust is removed.

                      Check out this video here for a demo:

                      https://youtu.be/JAI5SF3NBqg
                      1950 Studebaker Champion 4 Door Sedan

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 1oldtimer View Post
                        Looks good, I've done a few also. I paint the whole plate letter color, then background color, wet sand through to letter color on letters and then clear coat it all. I use automotive paint as spray can doesn't last long in the sun ( I did my house number with spray can and it lasted about 1 year before fading). The last 2 pics are before clear coat. I had a friend use a product called frisket film, it works like your tape but it's in a single sheet.

                        [ATTACH=CONFIG]54720[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54721[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54722[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54723[/ATTACH]
                        Originally posted by 61LaRk4dr View Post
                        Very nice DIY restoration. I am a little bit confused though on the rust remover product that you usually use. Does the "Metal Rescue" stuff not remove the paint as well? I though all of those products were supposed to strip the item down to bare metal. I used that "Evapo-Rust" to clean and prep a pair of exhaust manifolds for a 232 V-8 once, and it seamed to do a hell of a job, brought it back to it's original cast iron appearance.
                        Originally posted by Lynn View Post
                        Nice work Brian.

                        Yes, Oklahoma allows you to run vintage plates. You have to keep the other tag in the car and display a sticker in the bottom right corner of the windshield.
                        Like Lynn said... Oklahoma allows it. I didn't get ahold of the tax commission today, but I'll post the full process tomorrow. Supposedly, all you need to do is take the plate to the OTC and let them assign it after inspection. They will also provide you an entire ownership history on any vehicle by title assignment for $8.50.
                        1950 Studebaker Champion 4 Door Sedan

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 1oldtimer View Post
                          Looks good, I've done a few also. I paint the whole plate letter color, then background color, wet sand through to letter color on letters and then clear coat it all. I use automotive paint as spray can doesn't last long in the sun ( I did my house number with spray can and it lasted about 1 year before fading). The last 2 pics are before clear coat. I had a friend use a product called frisket film, it works like your tape but it's in a single sheet.

                          [ATTACH=CONFIG]54720[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54721[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54722[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54723[/ATTACH]
                          Originally posted by 61LaRk4dr View Post
                          Very nice DIY restoration. I am a little bit confused though on the rust remover product that you usually use. Does the "Metal Rescue" stuff not remove the paint as well? I though all of those products were supposed to strip the item down to bare metal. I used that "Evapo-Rust" to clean and prep a pair of exhaust manifolds for a 232 V-8 once, and it seamed to do a hell of a job, brought it back to it's original cast iron appearance.
                          Originally posted by njonkman View Post
                          I found the original plate from Arizona still on the front of my car when I bought it about 8 ears ago. Rusty and beat up. It took me 2 weeks to restore it. I first stripped it with Evapo-Rust perfectly clean. By the way there is no etching by Evapo-Rust as it is a chelator and contains no acid. The reason your paint came off was because rust had crept under the original paint and got lifted by the solution. Any paint that is properly adhered to the metal will not lift off. Evapo-Rust only attacks rust, iron oxide and nothing else. The reason that it will start to oxidize imediately after rinsing is because the bath has also cleaned the metal to virgin material and the moisture in the air will stick to it very quickly and start the oxidizing process all over again. If you are not prepared to dry and coat it with something then just dip it back into the solution and let it dry on it. That will protect it from the humidity until you are ready to finish the job. I have been involved with Evapo-Rust for over 10 years both mixing/blending it, bottling it and selling/demonstrating it in Canada. You would be hard pressed to find a better and safer product.
                          Back to my license plate, Mine was all bent and beat up from sitting on the front of that car for all those years since it was installed when the car was sold new. After cleaning and straightening it out I made a bunch of punches from hardwood to match various curves and shapes of the numbers/letters etc. and got them back in shape the best I could.
                          I then primed and sanded it over and over until I had reached a fairly smooth surface before applying about six coats of the black paint sanding between coats until I was satisfied with the finish. Then by hand I painted the white on the raised parts with a brush. That is why it took me 2 weeks.
                          I will attach a before and after picture.
                          Nick
                          [ATTACH=CONFIG]54724[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]54725[/ATTACH]
                          Nice job... I did one that way. My hands are just too shaky any more.
                          1950 Studebaker Champion 4 Door Sedan

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hi
                            Just checked out what Metal Rescue is.
                            SURPRISE, Metal Rescue is exactly what Evapo-Rust is. A chelating agent with exactly the same ingredients as Evapo-Rust and if you go to their web site you will find that they actually use the same words that they copied from Evapo-Rust for their description. As a mater of fact I would almost bet that they get their product from Harris Laboratories the same as every body else does as David Harris holds the patent for it. It is just simply re-branded. All the things you described as being good about Metal Rescue hold true to Evapo-Rust. Anything water won't damage Evapo-Rust wont either, whether metal, wood, leather, plastic, paint, rubber, etc. As a mater of fact about 20 years ago Chrysler had a problem when they didn't get the bottoms of their car doors primed right and started having rust problems with their door bottoms. They did a recall on those cars and the way they started was to sand blast them and then had to repaint the entire door. Then they discovered Evapo-Rust. They used a tray filled with Evapo-Rust strapped to the door and after that they just had to redo the bottom of the door without having damaged the out side finish. That saved them several millions of dollars. The US army before shipping equipment over seas sprayed all of their equipment with this product to keep salt vapor from damaging their equipment only having to rinse it off with water. Even electrical equipment is not damaged by this product. I submerge starters, generators, distributors. regulators, wiper motors, heater motors, solenoids etc. in this product without harm.
                            The US army uses it to clean their simulators ( Hoffman Device) used in training with their M1A1 Abrams Battle Tanks. These use Black Powder which is highly corrosive and must be cleaned after every session.
                            Also this is probably the only product approved for cleaning and de-rusting food contact surfaces in the food industry. The only requirement being proper rinsing with clean water..
                            I will try to find a link to the military use. Here is the link <http://www.corrosionvci.com/pdf/Clean-Tech-Rust.pdf>
                            Nick
                            Last edited by njonkman; 06-01-2016, 06:10 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Looks nice, but i could have saved you the trouble, i have several 50's plates from Pryor OK that look brand new, but if you wanted a 9- for the first number it would be wrong, Was 9- for Edmond Ok?
                              101st Airborne Div. 326 Engineers Ft Campbell Ky.

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