This 10 piece Black grille brace / straightening kit was designed to properly align any 67-68 Cougar grille. This is simply another version of our straightening kit which comes with black spacers and screws, which allows them to be easily hidden, as opposed to the way the white spacers from our other kit stand out. In addition to realigning your grille, this kit also works as preventative maintenance to keep your NOS or restored grilles from relaxing back to their "default" misaligned position.
In the 1980's a man named Victor Yarberry solved the single biggest obstacle found on the 1967-1968 Cougar and came to the rescue by bringing to the market the plug and play solid state sequential units. The second biggest challenge every 67 - 68 Cougar owner faces is the crooked, sagging grille. Since the first press release photos of the 1967 Cougar were released, owners have had to come to grips and admit "It's just the way they are, there's not much you can do about it..."
The Thunderbird looks like a bloated land yacht but at least the grille is aligned properly!
We now carry the elongated adjustment bolts
and hard rubber stops
so you can get your eyelids in proper adjustment but the challenge has still remained; How do you deal with the misaligned vertical gaps on either side of the eyelids? After more than two years of trial and error we finally got it... The answer so simple it is amusing that nobody had thought of it sooner! Patent is pending on this system.
This beautiful black GT-E actually has several known cracks in the grille. We will still install the kit and hope for the best.
The first step is to disconnect the vacuum and cap it off until the kit is removed. You don't want to forget about the spacers and accidentally turn on your headlights. The grille castings are made from Zamek number five and as most know, "white" metals like these do not respond well to flexing hard and fast. This procedure relies on time, pressure and heat to work its magic, not unlike braces you would have on your teeth. We actually had multiple conversations with an orthodontist when trying to come up with the perfect fix. You would be surprised how many similarities there are between this procedure and the one you may have experienced as a kid!
The second order of operation is to get your eyelids to the proper height. I have seen several methods over the years that ranged anywhere from gluing nickels to the spot in which the bumpers make contact on the grille to installing elongated screws at the corners of the headlight doors to act as a stop. The easiest, most correct way is to install our elongated bolts and rubber stops. The rubber bumpers everybody else sells just do not work, they have the consistency of marshmallows and a wad of electrical tape at the ends of your adjustment bolts would be more effective.
The original bolts just are not long enough, they do not have the length needed to properly adjust a grille that has relaxed over the years. The new bolts install in minutes with a 7/32" socket.
The kit consists of nine Delrin spacers and one pair of modified snap ring pliers. Only eight spacers are needed (four per eyelid) but since you will want to use these many times over, we added an extra in case you lose one. This is high grade Delrin so it is unlikely you will wear them out. If you are thinking "No way do a handful of white blocks and a pair of cheap snap ring pliers cost that much!" you would be correct. Even though high grade sheets of Delrin are rather expensive (and not found at your local hardware store) the real money is in the development of this kit. Tooling is always expensive even for the most simple procedures. It took thousands of dollars to come up with this end product. The first contraptions we developed required removing the grille, dismantling it, attaching it to complex jigs, using a butane torch, turn buckles and, and, and... The amount of reject inventions we tossed would not make it to the land fill in one trip! The hours spent were ridiculous.
The next step is to place the spacers in all four corners of the eyelids. Start with the worst area using the spreader tool. If you have a NOS grille or one of our Plug And Play grilles, you may want to put a wrap of electrical tape on the ends of the spreader tool to protect the paint. We had Alek (age 8) install this kit to show just how easy and low tech this procedure really is.
Once all eight pieces are securely placed it is time to start spreading them. Only two of the 16 fasteners will require the use of a 1/4" box end wrench. All the others can be spread with a ratchet and 1/4" socket.
This is where you may need to assist your 8 year old. The outer upper corners tend to misalign the most and that means more force has to be applied with the spreader tool and more pressure applied to keep the spacer in place at the same time the screws are being tightened.
Notice that after all the spacers have been spread, the edge upper corner of the grille is almost touching the inside of the fender extension. In two or three weeks when you remove the spacers this tolerance will of course be increased.
Just like after you get your braces off your teeth, a retainer is often used to keep them from reverting back. My daughter will keep her lower inner retainer in place for life. We suggest you put these spacers back in place when the car is put away for prolonged periods of time. Letting them get really bad and then using them will of course weaken the metal over time.
The more you tighten the screw, the more the spacer expands.
Notice the placement of the lip over the grille casting. These are pretty much fool proof. You will get the best results if you leave them in for a few weeks and drive the car on warm days. We do not suggest installing these for the first time in the dead of winter. When you store your car for prolonged periods of time put all eight of the spacers back in place. This kit does not work well when the grille has been removed from the car. It is designed to be installed on a complete grill mounted to the core support via straight, solid grille mounting brackets.
Here is what you can expect after a few weeks. We will be posting pictures of the black GTE in June when we pull the kit off.
Here is a picture of the grilles at the end of June. This Cougar owner drove this car several times during the straightening process. He kept in mind that the headlights were deactivated, so the car only saw day time use.
Now we will start removing the braces. Center lower braces first, then the center top braces.
The outside lower corner is slightly out of align as shown, this is due to the worst crack in the grille.
We did do some additional fine tuning of the headlight adjustable stops to achieve these results after the removal of the braces. Being that this is a GT-E, which has the center grille bars. It really shows reference points that would normally not be as noticeable on all other 1967 and 1968 Mercury Cougars.