View Full Version : Reproducing rooftop light pods/tunnel lights

Dave Lisiecki
01-26-2016, 10:20 PM
Hello all. I haven't posted (or even lurked much) in a long time, but if I wait until I'm 100 finished with this little project it will take a lot more time. So I decided to share with my old friends here a 70% update on the de-mountable Richard Brothers Briarean light pods I've been working on for what seems like forever (especially to the person who loaned me his). Perhaps this will help someone out there with a similar task.

A fellow member graciously loaned me a pair of left and right pods to pull molds from. There are a lot of sources these days for mold-making and casting. And rather than pay too much at a local marine supply store I found a composite resin/fiberglass supplier in the industrial part of town, and they helped me a lot. My long learning curve would have been twice as long without them.

The original pods look like this, and use a pair of '58 Impala taillight assemblies.

The originals I had to work with need a LOT of work to bring them to a point where they were smooth enough to pull a mold from. And artist/sculptor friend recommended using a mold-release and Fix-All as an inexpensive mold material. It actually worked pretty well.

I didn't know how many sets I'd get out of the plaster molds so I set them aside for possible future use while I tried making flexible molds. I prepared the left and right pods by mounting them on foam core and filling modeling clay around the bases.

Here's where I stopped taking enough photos, but I used Smooth-On brand brushable mold-making material (tinted red/pink in the photo), and their brushable support-shell material.
Here I am putting them to the test, brushing (not the best method) two coats of gel-coat into the molds, followed by two layers of fiberglass mat and stiffening material.

A rigid mold may have been better - As you can see I had some filling to do where the mold pulled back a little from the support shell. And a few, especially the early ones, just came out bad. Someone who really knew what they were doing would have no problem. Perhaps in a few years 3D printing will be the way to go. For now I have a set for me and a set for the person who loaned me his. Next is to mount the hardware, drill the holes with the template I made, then save up for eight Impala taillights. I guess I'm working on the car from the top-down.

I better get working on the hardware so I can post a follow-up. If anyone wants to attempt this I can share some of the pitfalls I had. Or if anyone has some suggestions for improvement, I'd be interested.

Dave Lisiecki
01-26-2016, 10:28 PM
By the way, after purchasing a vintage motorized flasher years ago, but never having found evidence of one on mine, I'm thinking each light pod was individually flashed. Has anyone seen this done? The reason I believe this is the case, is that in the parts associated with the original pods that were loaned to me, is a common, but specific little Tung-Sol flasher. While they wouldn't flash in unison, I wonder if each pod had a flasher inside. Or maybe a few were wired to this flasher. Has anyone seen flashers done by this method, a simple flasher inside the actual pod? I think it would have to be a specific resistance, or one of the modern solid-state versions.

John ED Renstrom
01-26-2016, 10:59 PM
they most likely would not be independ. but could have been in any pattern they wanted the flasher in one pod could control one right and one left same as the one in the other.

nice job on the castings a large one like this is a lot of work

Paul Steinberg
01-27-2016, 12:33 AM
If the company was attempting to save some money, using individual flashers was the way to go. The double sided spotlights also use a integrated flasher as you have described.

John ED Renstrom
01-27-2016, 11:54 AM
right now the 3d printer is not all that practical. it's not as simple as they make it out to be. when I checked on the price to reproduce a set of taillight bezels for my Pontiac I would first have to send the original to a service that would map the part out write the program. then as any of the parts you wanted could be printed at around 50 bucks each. as it will run me at least $130.00 x 4 to get a original set redone ,that price was attractive. but they would be plastic and not plated so you would have to do the silver nitrate on them. more money for not as good a product. but still the option of making another rather fast if broken was attractive. the big catch was the 800 bucks to write the program.

Dave Lisiecki
01-27-2016, 04:27 PM
Thanks guys; thanks Paul - I didn't realize the flashing spotlights used a similar flasher.


John ED Renstrom
01-27-2016, 09:58 PM
the one with the red light in the rear does. with only one wire in and out they must have done each light seperate

Keith Snyder
01-28-2016, 03:46 PM
In the black and white photo of the light pod, those look like 1960 Pontiac taillamp assemblies to me. I could be wrong but, sourcing lenses and lamps from other cars was common practise. As I said, the lenses and bezels look like 1960 Pontiac parts to me.