Jeep Sign Restoration

Duncan Jeep Dealership Sign - As Bought


On July 2, 2009, I won an ebay auction for a Jeep sign from the late AMC/early Chrysler-era.  The sign was from the old Duncan Jeep dealership in Blacksburg, VA.  It was on the building for over 20 years.  When Duncan Jeep moved down the road to Christiansburg, VA in 2007, they wanted to put the sign back up, but local zoning wouldn't let them put it where they wanted to display it.  It remained in storage until sadly Chrysler closed the dealership on June 9th, 2009.

The letters mounted directly to the dealership building. Although there were provisions for neon in the sign, the sign was never lit. Being out in the elements for many years, the gold trim started to delaminate and the white paint on the letters became chalky.  There also was a crack in one of the letter "e"s.

(* Click on image to see larger versions. *)

Jeep Sign Side View - As Bought

Jeep Sign Side View - The letters are 6 inches thick
J Letter - As Bought

J is 27" tall 20" wide
First E Letter - As Bought

e is 19" tall 18" wide
Second E Letter - As Bought

e is 19" tall 18" wide
P Letter - As Bought

P is 24" tall 18" wide
Jeep Sign Rear View - As Bought

Jeep Sign Rear View
E Letter Rear View - As Bought

e Letter Rear View - The sign originally could be set up for neon, but it never was.
E Letter - As Bought

One of the "e's" had a crack.
E Letter - As Bought

The Gold Trim on most of the letters was deteriorated.
J Letter Rear View - As Bought

The gold trim on top of the J was coming apart and the rivets rusted.
P Letter Rear View - As Bought

Even inside the P the gold trim was delaminating.
E Letter - As Bought

Edges of trim near letters cracked.
I decided I wanted to restore the sign as a lighted sign to hang up on the wall. I contacted Affordable Signs and Neon of Frederick, MD to see if they could restore the letters and mount them on a raceway so I could hang them up. They said it wouldn't be a problem and that they could replace the gold trim, cut new plastic for the letters, sand and paint the housings and make up a custom raceway with a pull string to turn the sign on and off. I asked Jason Beaucage of Affordable Signs and Neon if they could take some photos of the sign at various stages. Here are the photos:

The first job was to strip the sign down. Even though the housings were made of aluminum, the white paint on them was chalky.

The screws that held it on to the dealership building were still sticking out of the sign and they needed to be removed.

The gold trim was in pretty bad shape as the gold plastic was delaminating from the aluminum. It needed to be taken off.

Some places needed a little more persuading!

All gold trim removed was saved in case the next owner wanted it for some strange reason!

All trim removed from the plastic letters along with the housings!

The housings were pretty dirty from hanging on a building for years.

Housings ready to be hosed down!

Letter e being cleaned probably for the first time in decades.

Letter e drying on a cart.

Letters cleaned and ready to be sanded.

There were quite a few areas where whoever painted the dealership building got paint on the letters. These areas needed to be removed with a chisel.

Sanding down the outside of the letter J.

Sanding and more sanding.

Is this sanding ever going to be done?

More paint from the sloppy building painter.

Making up a custom aluminum raceway to mount the letters.

Inside the raceway.

Bending the glass tubes for the neon. Even though the sign did not have neon inside it when it was mounted on the dealership building, it did have provisions for it. I wanted to have a lighted sign and the guys at Affordable Signs and Neon could do that for me!

Splicing of 2 glass tubes.

Because of the size of the letters, it was recommended that I go with a double row of tubes. The layout of the tubes were drawn out on paper first.

Working on one of the neon tubes for the "p"

"p" neon tube complete!

"p" housing with a nice coat of white paint.

The rest of the letters with a coat of white paint.

"Cutting new letter plastic - One of the letter "e"s was cracked and some of the other ones had scratches. Since I was going to be mounting this on the wall in my basement, I wanted it to look nice. The old letters were used as patterns to make new plastic that matched the original.

Carefully cutting out one of the letter "e"s.

A new letter "p" cut from new plastic.

The protective paper was removed from the letter after it was cut.

Starting to make a new gold trim for the letter "p"

Nails are hammered in to make sure the trim stays tight around the letter.

Straight edges are done, now for those tricky curves and corners!

Trim is completed for all the letters.

Letters are drilled to be mounted on the raceway.

Installing the glass tube supports in the letter "J"

Glass tube support mounted.

Back of letter "J" with glass tube supports installed

"e" housing mounted with glass tube supports and ready for neon!

Inside the raceway with high voltage connectors for the neon for each letter.

High voltage transformer installed and wired up to the high voltage connectors for the letters.

Hooking up the letter "J" neon!

3 of the letters now have neon

Closeup of the letter "e" neon.

Duncan Jeep Dealership Sign - Restored


The sign came out beautifully! If you are looking to have a sign restored (or even have one made), I highly recommend Affordable Signs and Neon at They do great work! And I want to thank Jason and the guys down there for helping me save a piece of Jeep history!

Willys/Jeep Signs Wanted!

I am looking for other Willys and Jeep signs (neon or not). Some of the ones I am looking for:




Willys-Overland Administration Building Sign Information/Photos Wanted!

I am looking for information and photos of the sign that was on top of the Willys-Overland Administration Building that was at the factory in Toledo, Ohio. I am in need of a good straight on shot of the sign. Any information on the company that installed it would be appreciated. Thanks!

Copyright 2009 - Todd Paisley (
Last updated 17 August 2009