Gas caps and radiator ornaments (or radiator caps)… form or function? Typically little of both I’d say. In our case however they’re nothing but form in that they have absolutely zero function. Much like our exhaust, hood straps, louvers, and well you get the idea.
As with most of the rest of the vehicle, the original Bugatti Type 35 (as seen in the photo on the left) is chock full of form and function goodness. From the aluminum wheels to the boat tail. The leather flight cap and goggles are pretty cool as well but are only along for the ride. You can also just make out the hood/radiator ornament as well as the faint image of the gas cap in the back.
I could have gone hog wild and commissioned a billet piece of aluminum turned down to resemble these pieces but alas I don’t have an endless budget (nor time) for our little project. So my solution? Based on a recommendation from a friend I opted to go the PVC cap route.
Another suggestion I received was to use the plastic decorative cap from a sports trophy. Great idea but I wasn’t able to find something that I thought would be subtle enough, though the idea of having a soccer player in mid-execution of a bicycle kick was tempting I just thought it may be a bit much.
A simple bolt-looking 1/2″ cap for the radiator and a 1 1/2″ rounded cap for the back is what I figured we’d use. So we headed to the local Home Depot and picked them up. I think the both of them were less than a $1.00. When we got home I looked at them a bit closer. I noticed that they each had the manufacturer’s SKU embossed on the top as well as some minor imperfections. I took some sandpaper and removed the embossing and sanded them up a bit here and there. Because every other aspect of our kart was museum quality no reason these shouldn’t be either right?
Once I was satisfied with the sanding down I went ahead and applied a couple coats of metallic silver paint. Although I didn’t go to the effort of using metal here, there wasn’t any reason to not have it appear so. Once we let the spray paint dry for a couple of hours (in the recent heat of the Sacramento valley I think it was dry in about 45 seconds) we were ready to figure out placement.
I wasn’t able to find a precise example of where to place either so I had to wing it. From what I could tell the radiator piece would typically be found directly over the center of the radiator, where the radiator chrome goes over the top. I didn’t quite make our radiator deep enough to accommodate the cap so I went ahead and just affixed it directly onto our front hood strap. That wasn’t going to go anywhere, and besides it’s not like it’s going overheat and I need to open it right? If you squint you can imagine that the cap could unscrew and the hood strap could have a hole in it. How’s that for justifying gluing the cap straight to the strap?
As for the gas cap I placed it far enough behind the seat back that the boys were less likely to break it off. I say less likely because if any of you reading this have boys, you know as well as I that nothing is unbreakable. Your only hope is to reduce the likelihood.
After a few hours I removed the painters tape holding both of the PVC pieces in place to see how it all looked. Not too shabby, though I did realize that the gas cap looked like I had just taken the cap from a spray can and stuck it on. It’s pretty amazing how much adding little items like these give it so much more of a finished look.
In the past as we’ve finished one step, I’ve set a goal for the next stage of our project, be it a window, seat, etc. So far I seem to get sidetracked each time so I’ll just leave a guess as to what our next step will be.
Maybe a seat, maybe a windshield, maybe brakes. Who knows. Regardless it’s an adventure.