For many older Japanese cars, plastic bits are near impossible to find. Or, if you do find them, they cost a fortune. They’re not like muscle cars, where you can open a Year One catalog and basically rebuild a 1969 Camaro from scratch. JNCers have had to rely on the innovation and passion of individual enthusiasts to make up the gap. For example, look at these beautiful Mazda RX-3 taillight lenses made by an owner from Detroit, Michigan.
Jose Gonzalez is the owner of a 1972 Mazda RX-3 and an award-winning 1972 Hakosuka Skyline. He works in automotive design and has had a hand in all types of production vehicles, including trucks and high-performance sports cars, for an non-Japanese automaker that he declined to reveal publicly. However, that experience helped greatly when he embarked on his plastic lens reproduction project.
After joining communities dedicated to those cars, Jose realized that there were many parts that were difficult to find, including Savanna RX-3 taillight lenses. During COVID-19 quarantine, Jose took the opportunity to create the lenses. “I wanted to try my hand at neutral density [halfway between clear and black] for my taillamps,” Jose told JNC.
“I started with trying to cast lenses in clear. It’s fairly easy to build a mold. There are lots of videos available online,” he explained. “I talked with some of my coworkers about how to make prototype parts. I started with Hako turn signal in clear, then the Mazda Savanna RX-3 teacup and regular taillights.”
“All will be casted in clear or neutral density,” Jose says. So far, the response from the community has been overwhelming. The project started out as a way to make parts for Jose’s own cars, but he plans on branching out soon. “I will also be doing Datsun 510 turn signals in clear, and Hako taillamp lenses in neutral density,” Jose tells us. He wants to make lenses for other Japanese classics, but needs only an example of the original part to create his molds.
As we all know, the automakers themselves are trying to remake parts for certain popular models, but movement on less profitable ones will be either slow or nonexistent. For those, we will have to turn to people like Jose. Prices range from $30 for a Hakosuka turn signal to $150 for RX-3 taillamps. Datsun 510 turn signals will likely run about $125 and Hakosuka taillamps $150. If interested, you can contact Jose at his Instagram account, @72gonzuka.
Images courtesy of Jose Gonzalez.
Parts availability was exactly the reason I switched from a ’77 Datsun 200SX (S10) to a ’77 Datsun 280Z. The Datsun Z is like the ’69 Camaro of Japanese classics in terms of being able to find reproduction or even re-popped oem parts for it. It’s great to see individuals catering to unaddressed markets like this. Now if only Toyota will hurry up in making their announced A70 Supra restoration parts available…
As I recall, non-colored rear lenses are not DOT (illegal?) unless there is some red (like bulb or trim) at the rear. He’ll probably just say “for off-road use only”…
I believe he did the clears only as prototypes to perfect the neutral density casting before moving on to the additional complexities of adding the proper color.
If you use colored bulbs, who cares about the clear lens.
This process (which I have no idea how it works) seems like it would be a boon to replacement emblems of all makes.
I actually have a pair of the round tail lamps for a ’74 RX3 coupe, some leftovers from one of my project cars from the ’80s, in very good condition, too. Spares I picked up at a swap meet somewhere, but never did use them on the car I had at the time. Also have the plastic vent louvers for the C-pillar and the horn button for the original steering wheel (it had a Nardi wheel on it). Might just have to Ebay those items, don’t anticipate buying another RX3 anytime soon…..
What’s the price on lamps?
I have been gathering all the materials to do clear lens… But I was wondering about the neutral density (I did not know the term).
See, I didn’t want crystal clear tail lamps. Being era correct and old school VIP cars had neutral density lens for Celsiors and other cars. They never had them for the F31.
I have a Diana kit in Japan (for the F31) and I wanted to build an era correct VIP car before the bubble flares and heavy camber/tucked wheels.
Super cool build!!!
Neutral density is what we call it in the auto industry. it’s basically a 50% point between clear and black…
I would love to achieve that neutral density look. It’s just era defining imo.