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Illuminated Rear Panel Modification:
Let me start off by saying this is a time consuming and delicate project. If you don't have patience or the understanding/approval of your significant other to use their kitchen, don't try this. Pay someone to do it for you. I broke two panels before I got this right and spent a lot of time that I could have used to do other things. For those of you that don't like the EL panels, this how-to can also be used to paint your 300ZX logo to match your custom paint, same amount of work, just cheaper since you don't have to buy the EL panel. 

The reason I recommend Jspec is that the black paint on the OEM panels is not thick enough and the EL panel shines through, the Jspec has a thick enough coat you don't need to mess with it. 


1 rear center panel (jspec preferred)
1 3" by 11" EL panel from (tell him I sent you please!)
2 feet of 1/2 foam weather-stripping
Electrical tape
The finest sandpaper possible, I used some from my body shop used for wet sanding
Black primer spray paint (only if using the OEM panel and not Jspec)
   CAUTION: Some paints may cause bubbling and lifting.
   Plasticote has been used successfully without causing any problems.
Standard oven with temperature gauge 


1. Take off the snap retainer, foam gaskets, and light housings by removing the two screws (3.). 

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (clearing taillights calls for 450, but the lenses in the reverse lights are a bit thinner and start to melt at 450). 

3. Take a sharp knife and cut around the four screws in the rear top of the panel (4.-6.). They might be covered by plastic and they have no heads on them. Use small pliers and unscrew them. Do this while the oven is heating up. If they are not removed, there is a risk of cracking the center panel. 

4. Place the center panel between the open oven door and the top of the oven (7.) for 8 minutes. Then remove the panel and slowly start pulling the two pieces apart. Be very careful, it doesn't take much force to crack the panel, it isn't near as sturdy as the tail light panels. 

5. Once the panel is separated turn off the oven and let the pieces cool down. If using the OEM panel, tape off the reverse lights and paint a good coat of black primer over the 300ZX logo before sanding. I used gray on an old panel here for pictures (8.), there is a coat of black under it. For those with Jspecs, skip the primer step. Also note regular enamel paint can react with the factory paint on the panel and will bubble up. If this happens remove all paint and repaint the entire panel, doesn't sound fun does it? I found this out on an already broken panel so it wasn't that big of a deal after I tested with standard enamel paint. 

6. Tape off around the 300ZX logo as close as possible with electrical tape (9.). I recommend at least 1-2 inches away from the letters, because after an hour or so there will be a slip with the sandpaper. 

7. Now the hard part, I cut my sandpaper into 1/2 inch strips and started sanding away the paint on the 300ZX logo. I tried a dremel and it melted the plastic even on low setting. I also tried a small 1/4 piece of wood with the sandpaper on it. The wood doesn't work as well since the panel is curved. So I ended up just using my finger and the strips of sandpaper. I sanded the entire logo with just one sheet, so there's no need to buy a whole package. If when holding the panel up to the light there is any light through anything other than the logo, use black touch up paint or electrical tape to cover these areas. 

8. Once all the paint is sanded off and it looks satisfactory (pick a background color for a computer's desktop and hold the panel up to the monitor to see if all the paint is off). Start on the EL panel. I picked the Ice Blue and the Blood Red for my testing here. Be warned the Blood Red looks very very very orange when not lit, the Ice Blue is white when not powered and sort of an Indiglo color when powered. For this reason I went with Ice Blue instead of the Blood Red. The EL panels consist of two individual panels, one positive, one negative. I was told the length can be modified as long as both panels are the same size overall. They can also go as much as 25% difference without being able to see any fading. This is good because the keyhole will need to be cut around (10.). Just make sure to tape the panel after cutting, otherwise there is a risk of being shocked. There is power running through these things. 

9. Once the panel is cut and fitted, use strips of electrical tape to hold the EL panel to the logo. Since the panel is curved I also put two strips of foam weather-stripping on the back of the EL panel to make sure it stayed flat against the logo when put back together. My EL panel is stuck to the back side of the plastic panel and not the logo. This happened because I painted the chrome inside the back piece of my Jspecs to give it a darker look and the foam weather-stripping stuck to the paint. For good fitment/placement I would tape to the logo first. 

10. Drill a hole in the back plastic piece to run the power wires (11.). At this point start heating the oven up to 400 degrees again. Put the two pieces of the center panel back together as best as possible without heating them up, then put them back on the oven door. This time around I heated the pieces for 3 minutes and then used my handy clamps to squeeze the two ends together. I then let it cook for another 3 minutes before removing from the oven and squeezing the rest back together (12.). Depending on how well it came apart it might take several trips of cooking/cooling before the panel is all the way together. Don't get in a hurry here as a poorly sealed panel will let water in. No telling how that EL panel will react to moisture. 

11. Once the panel is back together and cooled off reinstall on the Z. I wired my inverter to my license plate light. The main reason I did this instead of parking lights is that there are sensors for bulbs to tell if there is a bulb out. By using the license plate light there is no chance of triggering this sensor and lighting the annoying light on the dash. Put the interior panels back on.

Originally published 12-04-01


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