The grille panel as discussed here means the complete front section that bolts to the chassis, front wings and mounts the radiator, fan, oil cooler, lights etc
This panel is essentially the same as the original unit but with one exception. It is exactly 1" (25mm) deeper front to back. This was achieved by welding a 1" piece of box section around the front edge and then copying original the flat sheet work on the front of it.
This was required to be able to fit the necessary cooling fan and oil cooler in front of the radiator, because of the engine now being mounted slightly further forward due to the added length of the R380 there was no room for the fan between the radiator and engine.
You can clearly see the 1" square section a the front here. As it is only 1", I did not need to make any modifications to the bonnet, it just means that the grille does not sit back slightly as it used to. You would not notice it unless you knew the dimensions of the lightweight like that back of your hand.
Rather than use the usual piece of chicken wire over the front as per the original, I wanted, as with the rest of the motor, to make it a little different. So I decided to machine up a piece of Aluminium. I used a piece of 10SWG (about 1/8th inch (3mm) thick). I decided to mill some vertical slots as per a certain other 4 wheel drive vehicle. But as I wanted it to be different I decided to leave the centre section intact to be able to mount a suitable badge. So what I ended up with was 4 long slots and six short ones, as you can see here.
I have had the finish in various guises including polished Aluminium, Painted, Chromed. At the moment it is just black as the rest of the bodywork. The chrome was quite nice but unfortunately as Chrome on to Aluminium is not an easy process, there do not tend to be too many companies out there doing it. Also, as it is liable to stone chips etc being on the front end, it soon deteriorates and the aluminium oxidises and the chrome lifts off.
I have come in for some stick over the grille in the past. With people making reference to me trying to make it look like a jeep! I have never tried to make it look like a Jeep. I have never seen a Jeep with a grille like the one I have made. I suppose I could have machined the slots horizontal instead of vertical then they may have been happy. But as the oil cooler and Radiator fins all run vertically I decided to stick with convention if for no other reason than making the airflow more efficient.
I have even read on one forum that someone thought that it looked like a Mahindra !!! It amazes me that someone can think that a single piece of 3mm thick Ali with 10 slots in it can transform a Lightweight into a Mahindra.
I have decided to get the front grille re-made in Stainless steel. It will be the same as the original design below. Further down you can see the various other designs that I toyed with and rejected. They just don't look as good in my opinion.
Original design - and still the best.
This was a close second, but decided against it as I want to get a Badge in the middle. This would not allow for it.
Another similar design but rejected.
The last two designs were just me playing around with the CAD package they would look a bit quirky, but certainly different.
I fitted the new Stainless steel front grille over the weekend. It was cut out of a mirror polished piece of 1.5 mm Stainless steel. It was cut using Ultra high pressure water jet, the only thing is that this makes the gut edge look almost white because of the rough edge. I will probably look into getting the edges polished too. But I thought I would put it on the motor for now to see what its like.
You can see it here: