January 11, 2000 Grille Fabrication
Several weeks ago, I disassembled my grille to try and polish the aluminum. The pieces were pretty badly corroded, and I knew that I would have to sand the pieces first before I even attempted to polish them. After I got a sanding wheel to fit my grinder, I started sanding a small area of one of the aluminum pieces. I started with a fine grit sandpaper, and sanded the metal smooth. Then I went to a buffing wheel to get the aluminum to shine. After polishing, I realized that there were still small pits in the aluminum that needed more sanding. If I sanded more material off the aluminum, however, the metal would get thinner, and I had not even begun sanding the other side! I asked François for advice, and the news was not promising. Aluminum does not rust, but rather rots. The corrosion permeates the material and weakens the whole structure of the metal. With the flat pieces of aluminum, corrosion has gone straight through the material making it impossible rid it of pitting. This car was probably driven in the winter, and the grille was never protected from the salt and elements, so after many years, it’s become useless! The only way to have a shiny new grill was to get another one! Being a 35 year old car, and a Ferrari, this wasn’t going to be easy, or cheap!
After a few weeks of time to get over this dilemma, I found a possible solution. At CBS we have a construction shop where many things that can’t be bought are manufactured in our shop. Camera platforms, antenna mounts, and audio consoles are all handled by the construction shop. Years ago, before EVERYONE did television, many things had to be made or modified for use in this field. 1000′ cables needed to be wound up at football games, and the construction shop designed special cable reelers. Custom built control rooms that had dozens of monitors, and hundreds of wires needed to be housed in racks, metal shelving, and sound proof rooms, and the construction shop developed ways to do this. These people were the people to ask about a Ferrari grille!
The Construction Shop is tucked away in the bowels of the CBS Broadcast Center. The decor is still 60s modern with florescent lighting, and tiled floors. Among all the huge metal working presses, dies, and cutters is a gentleman my the name of Rudy. He is of German descent evident only by his slight accent. As I showed him my samples taken off my grille, he immediately had ideas on how to fabricate these pieces. I showed him pictures on my web site to explain how these pieces fit together to form the famous egg crate grille. Rudy was reminded by these pictures of an almost identical grille made in his shop just a few years ago! It turns out that a former employee was also a car collector, and before he retired, he had fabricated a Ferrari grille much like the one I need today. “When ee vas done, it vas beautiful!” Rudy explained.
Rudy took some measurements of my aluminum pieces, and went looking for the dies to stamp the notches in the new pieces. We discovered that he did not have the correct die, but when I asked how much it would cost to buy the correct die, he said about $120 or so. Feeling confident in his ability to help manufacture this grille, I felt buying this die would be a cheap investment. Rudy then brought me over to his raw stock shelf and pulled out some aluminum that was the same thickness as my pieces. He cut some samples, filed the cut marks down, and buffed the aluminum to a bright shine. He showed me a machine that he would use to precisely bend each tab to any angle needed.
He even had a machine that could cut the perfectly rounded end of the tabs! Rudy felt that cutting the pieces, notching the strips, and bending them to match the original pieces wouldn’t be a problem. In fact all that work would probably be the easiest part. The hard part will be the many hours needed to file, sand and polish each piece to a mirror shine. Rudy said that he would help me cut the pieces, but all the polishing would be my job.
My first task will be to bring the whole grille to Rudy’s shop so he can assess each piece. He wants to see if the horizontal pieces are perfectly parallel, or is there a slight bow to the pieces. Once all the pieces are at his shop, he can tell how much raw stock will be needed build a new grille. I will then get to work on buying the die we will need to cut the notches in the aluminum, and in a few weeks, we’ll be ready to to start work on a new grille!
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