How to restore the taillights on a ’67 Shelby GT350

A dozen years ago, when we first went through our 1967 Shelby GT350, we skipped the rear lights and panel. They were deemed good enough for the time and money we had allocated to the project then.

Today, they looked worse than the rest of the car and perhaps more importantly, they also were not very bright. It was time to dig in.

A 1967 Shelby Mustang uses 1967 Cougar taillights without the grilled bezel that goes over the lights. These lights are mounted on a fiberglass panel that elegantly and cheaply hides the taller Mustang taillight holes and also provides the flat surface the taillights need to mount correctly.

In addition to this fiberglass panel that is bolted to the body, the taillight assemblies consist of the lens, the mounts, or light fixtures themselves, and a box that goes behind the mounts inside the trunk. This metal box is riveted to the rear body panel and then the taillight assemblies are bolted to these boxes to hold everything together. From there, you have the surrounding aluminum bezels, that bolt into these boxes, that hold the lens in place.

If this seems to you a bit like a backyard, small company way to gussy up a Mustang, you would be correct. Hats off to the Shelby design crew, as the whole idea worked and looked pretty cool.

To fix things, we first switched the bulbs to LED #1157 style bulbs available at any auto parts store. We then cleaned and polished the lens to make the lens look better and also to let more light through. While new lenses are available from NPD and other Mustang parts suppliers, the more we could keep parts original on our Shelby, the better.

Our biggest issue was the taillight mounts. While made from plastic, they had once been chromed, which would reflect a lot of light. That chrome had dulled tremendously. While we did not have a way to easily chrome plastic, modern chrome paints work pretty well, so we cleaned, sanded, and painted the taillight mounts using one of these products we picked up at our local Ace Hardware.

Next, we would need to deal with the polished aluminum bezels that surround and hold the lens in place. As they are made from aluminum, they could easily be buffed to shine as they did originally. We asked our friends at Geoff’s Restorations to buff these bezels. As always, they came out perfectly. Our Shelby is not stored outside or driven much in extreme weather, so with a little polish and wax we can keep them looking that way for years.

We also asked Geoff‘s Restorations to match our Lime Gold paint and repair and repaint our fiberglass tail panel that covers the entire taillight area.

With our new light bulbs in and the rest of the pieces fixed perfectly, we reassembled and sealed everything back together to keep water and tailpipe smoke out of the cockpit. NPD had both the taillight lens and housing-to-body seals in stock for this project.

While the whole job took a few days and cost us close to $1000 (mainly spent with Geoff’s Restorations), we were pretty thrilled that the tail end of our Shelby was now the best, and not the worst, -looking part of our car.

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