Cougar Reverse light lens restoration - TCCoA Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 01:19 AM Thread Starter
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Cougar Reverse light lens restoration

*I wrote this article in 2012 but never got around to posting it for some reason*

This is for Cougar owners to do and Tbird owners to admire


Starting with the 1994 MY, the Cougar received an all new set of taillights that lasted to the final 1997s. The panel abandoned the early 90s Mercury trademark black/red pattern "laser stripe" pattern established by the 1986 Sable in favor of an all new panel with a more stylized monochromatic scheme (although still retaining subtle laser stripes). With the addition of the Bright spear trim/emblems below, the overall look was a pretty dramatic looking departure from 1993 and gave the Cougar more obvious full width taillight assembly than it previously appeared to have prior.

One aspect often overlooked by most is that the panel was intended to have its reverse lights blended in. For reasons not quite clear, the actual production application of this detail seems to be either a quality control hit and miss. Some taillights had them, others not. Some Cougars even seemed to have rolled off the showroom with one red and the one white! The factory paint does seem prone to fading off too however, so that may be the actual culprit too(my memory of how Cougar's looked brand new in 1994-1997 is fuzzy at best), either way you don't want to be like this poor guy who will remain anonymous!

In any case, the lack of this detail takes a surprising amount of the intended look out of the taillight assembly and the car itself. If you're like me(picky, anal, finicky, insane), knowing your boring clear reverse light lenses could be more than what they are might drive you to great lengths to compensate. You might even end up building up an engine jam packed with thousands of dollars worth of thermal and antifriction coatings just to take your mind off of it!


Repaint them. There are several red paints available from hardware stores, hobby stores and autoparts to choose from. The factory used(or was supposed to use) a fairly generic semi-gloss red so you don't have to be too picky about shade to get the factory look. Generic Krylon banner red is very close to the factory color and looks best on 94/5 non-metallic reflectors, while some sort of metallic candyapple red might work better on the silverbacked 96/7 lenses. The hard part as you might expect would be masking, and indeed if you were doing this with tape you'd have a very frustrating experience. That's where petroleum jelly comes in(no butt jokes). When applied it will prevent anything from sticking to the surface it's over and with the right preparation, it makes an instant masking tool.

Supplies needed:

• Petroleum jelly
• Masking tape and paper (I used garbage bags)
• Paper towel
• Adhesion promoter(I used duplicolor)
• Red paint - I used Tamiya translucent red model car paint in rattlecan form. I do not recommend translucents since it ends up looking very pink. All all brands should be adequate for the job, enamel seems to work better than lacquer though.
• Clear coat. Match it to what you used for the red
• Toothbrush

1. Remove the reflector assembly from your car. Start by twisting off the two reverse light holders and proceed to removing the several 10mm nuts. The assembly will lift right off the trunklid without any resistance. If it doesn't lift right off easily double check that you removed all the nuts, the assembly will crack if you're not careful!!!

2. Lay the reflector assembly down on a clean workbench and begin masking off the reverse light lenses. There's a small gap around the perimeter of them where you can slip the tape into, use smaller pieces of tape to fill the corners.

3. Wrap the reflector assembly in masking paper

4. Take a dab of Vaseline and run it up and down the channels of the lens with your finger. Use light amounts though and take your time, you just need enough to fill the channels with the light refractors. Excessive amounts will only make cleaning the top ridges more time consuming.

5. fold up a single sheet of paper towel into a 3" or so square and lightly wipe off the excess petroleum jelly on the top ridges. Do this a few times until the excess has been removed (run your finger over it to see if it's slippery) and move on to wiping it the same way but with a fresh damp sheet(use warm or hot water). You can wipe it with alcohol sheets as well, anything to get the Petroleum jelly off the top ridges.

6. Place the masked/jellied assembly into a well ventilated area and apply a coat of adhesion promoter to the lens. After a few minutes follow that up by a light coat of the red, followed by a 2-3 heavier coats every 10 minutes. Let it dry a few hours before applying the clear, then repeat the same process.

7. After about a few hours of drying(I suggest a day to be safe) you should be ready to unmask. Before doing so though, start by pouring some warm water over the lens and wipe the jellied inner ridges vertically with a toothbrush. The brush will quickly remove the paint from the vaselined areas leaving the top ridges red.

And there you have it, a new look for your cat with about the least exotic materials imaginable.


Last edited by XR7-4.6; 03-10-2015 at 01:41 AM.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 01:38 AM
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I'll have you know that tail light panel has long since been replaced by a matching one lol.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by XR7-4.6
This is for Cougar owners to do and Tbird owners to admire

That's interesting Ford would paint those lenses..I suppose to keep the continuity of the rest of the Tail Light Panel..

Depending on which State you live in..Certain state laws require that the Back-up Lamps emit white colored light only..

Nice job on the write-up..


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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-10-2015, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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They emit white light when lit up. The lens is ribbed from the outside and the red paint is only applied to the outer most ribs, leaving the set in ones clear which also contain the fluted texture to spread the light.

It's definitely done for continuity, the 89/90 LS/XR7s were done the same way, only in black rather than red(the process used in this article will work on them too)

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-14-2015, 09:31 AM
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I don't care so much if mine are red or clear; either way looks good.

But to have mismatched lenses, one red one clear-- that would drive me up the wall!

1996 Thunderbird LX (4.6), previous daily driver

1995 Mustang GT (5.0), daily driver
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 04-14-2015, 04:37 PM
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Mine were red when I got the car. I thought that was sort of weird so I took some rubbing compound to them. They're clear now.

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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-06-2015, 07:24 AM
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Got my car nearly new and can remember taking a brush or rag to the back up lamps to remove some tree "soot" that had built up in there. And watching the paint start to come off. What ever they used is not very durable.

Visually I like the car both ways. Clear or tinted. I do agree that it's important they match though

Nice write up and I'll probably re tint the daily drivers at some point.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 08:57 PM
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I used rubbing compound like BlackCat94 only but mine had only the RH side painted.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-26-2016, 12:11 PM Thread Starter
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Updated the article. With so many choices of red I felt that I should probably narrow it down to the best, and I've been wanting to redo mine anyway(previous attempt turned out too orange for my liking, and before that too translucent), so after much comparing the absolute closest I found to the surrounding lens area was Duplicolor BGM0388 Bright Red, a GM color.

Even though the name of the color is "bright" red it's actually the darkest non-metallic red Duplocolor makes, biased a bit more towards the violet end of the spectrum. Perfect match IMO

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-26-2016, 01:22 PM
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Awesome. Now that you got that figured out I can do mine . I've wanted to do mine since you wrote this. Maybe I'll finally get around to it now.

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