Early on in the restoration process, I removed the delicate aluminum cowl tag. It was, and remains in perfect condition. I wanted to keep it that way, so I drilled out the original factory hollow rivets. These are special rivets used just for the purpose of attaching cowl tags on GM cars. Fortunately you can buy new ones. I found mine on eBay.
I stripped the paint off the tag, applied some JB Weld to the back of it for extra secure attachment, then inserted the rivets. Since I didn’t have the original style tool to press them in, I just made due with a punch, then bent the back side of the rivets over. Turned out nice!
The original paint, being lacquer, it didn’t come off with paint-stripper like you’d expect. It just gets wet again, but never curdles or bubbles up. I scrubbed the now-wet paint off and wiped it clean with lacquer thinner. The primer is more durable and resistant than the paint, so it’s still mostly intact. I figured I’ll leave it on there… its stayed on this long, I don’t think it’s going to come off without extra effort at this point! The tag and rivets get painted with the car, just like the factory did it. I see restorations where people have the cowl tags polished like a mirror… that’s fine if you like it. I prefer to keep it stock and inconspicuous. Why bring attention to it? It’s not really a showcase piece, is it?
Speaking of cowl tags. There is a film produced by General Motors in 1960 titled Up From Clay – A Car is Born that shows a worker putting the appropriate trim, paint and accessory codes on a cowl tag, then installing it on a fresh body at the Fisher Body plant. Here are some frame grabs from that film: