Custom Grilles & Emblems
Why Investing in an Aftermarket Grille is a Must
A Custom Grille Helps Define your Truck or Jeep
Before we help you define your rig, though, let’s come to terms with some definitions. First, what is a custom grille? What types of grilles can I choose from? And what’s the main reason to purchase a custom grille in the first place? And why does it have an “e” on the end of “grille” anyway? We’ll make it all make sense, except maybe that spelling question, in this Midwest Aftermarket guide to all things grilling.
A Guide to All Things Grille
What is Grille?
Well, that’s actually a little harder than you might imagine. Let’s start with the simple version. A Custom Grille is any replacement to your stock grille. That helps lots, right? Doubtful.
Okay, so the Grille is that mesh or barred piece at the front of your vehicle that allows air to flow through your radiator and cool your engine. We should have started there. So technically, the most important function of your grille is just to let air pass through it. Seems simple enough.
Alright, so that’s the mechanics behind this non-moving part of your truck or Jeep. So what makes a custom grille so special then? It isn’t that a custom grille will really make your engine be cooler per se, but it will make your truck or Jeep look cooler. See what I did there. So custom grilles are really all about looks. So when it comes down to selecting a new custom grille, you will want to consider which one is more pleasing to the eye.
Secondly, back in the day the grille discussion typically revolved around a debate about whether you should just get new inserts or go for a full shell or kit replacement. The full shell or full kit replaced the whole damn thing. If you were looking for a completely different look, this was probably the way to go. If you liked the logo for your truck for instance, like the Ram symbol or the Ford or Chevy logo in the center of your grille, though you might just opt for inserts. These pieces would slot into your OEM grille shell, so to speak. Some customers just wanted a slightly different look than the stock grille, so this option was popular.
On older vehicles, pre-2000’s, you might still have these two options: inserts or full shell replacement. However, these days most aftermarket companies focus on a full grille replacement. Some inserts are still out there, but especially in the truck and Jeep community, many aftermarket enthusiasts seem to be looking for a completely new look to your front end. If you weren’t you’d likely just stick with the OEM grille, right? Furthermore, since you can now buy logos and emblems that match or mod your stock ones, the need to keep those grille shells has kind of gone by the way side.
So Today’s Custom Grilles Styles
These days, you’ve got options. In fact, the reality is that there are so many options, from elebarote laser cut designs to more classic billet grilles, that they are super hard to put into simple categories, but since my boss asked me to try, here we go.
In general, custom grilles can be broken down into roughly four or so different styles. And again, before you get up in arms, let’s assume that each of these categories can likely be further subdivided and then maybe even separated yet again into further minute styles. I’d agree with that, but for simplicity's sake, when you’re shopping for a new grille for the first time, these are the big umbrella terms you’re likely to come across:
Classic Billet Grilles: Aluminum Horizontal Bars or Spokes
Wire Mesh Grilles: Criss-Cross or X-Pattern Formed Metal Mesh
CNC or Laser Designed Grilles: A Vast Category Covering Everything from CNC to Laser Cut
LED Light Grilles: A Subcategory within them all; Any Grille that has an LED LIghting Option
Again, I realize this is a huge oversimplification, but still, you gotta start somewhere. I realize words don’t really help you picture these styles that much, so I’ll include some pics below as examples. A lot of my examples are from T-Rex and that’s not cause I’m biased. Honestly, they just have some sweet pics. But I’ll pepper in a few other great pics from other manufacturers we love and promote here at Midwest Aftermarket, including ICI, N-Fab, Smittybilt, and Rigid, just to name drop a few.
A Brief Semantical Rant: Grille, with an “e”
So here’s the deal. If it is “grill” without the silent “e” on the end of it, then that’s the thing you put over the fire so you can cook meat on it. I love grilling. It’s good times. I grill out all the time, year round even. Often you can find me grilling outback in the middle of winter in the damn snow. We aren’t discussing these kinds of grills here today, though maybe at another time in another place… Don’t get me started on tenderizing!
No, we are talking about “grille” with the silent “e” on the end. A Grille is a noun meaning a grating of sorts, typically made of metal, that goes over and protects a window or that covers the front end of an automobile. And technically, both versions are protective. The grille on the front of your truck or Jeep is designed to prevent your radiator and fan from getting damage from various things including large bugs, bouncing rocks and pebbles, and the occasional misguided bird who thinks he can make it across the road in front of me before my truck hits him. Stupid birds. They never learn. And they never will learn. Thanks, Huxley.
Anyway, both kinds of grilles are great, but we are focusing right now on the protective kind that makes your front end look cool. So technically this aftermarket part should be referred to as a grille (singular) or grilles (plural). A lot of us in the aftermarket community tend to talk about grilles, plural, I think for just this reason. It gets kinda confusing, right? Anyway, now that you’re over my semantic nonsense, let’s look at some cool pics of actual grilles. Plural. See what I did there.
One More Thing Before We Style It Up
Inserts and Replacement Logos
As already mentioned, there is the option, especially with sports trucks and cars to go with inserts for some makes and models. Since a custom grille or a custom insert is going to be… well, for lack of a better word, “custom,” you’ll need it to be specifically made for your make and model vehicle. So when you start shopping for a grille, you’ll likely want to type in your vehicle info to make sure you get a part that is going to fit and make your truck or Jeep look sick.
As mentioned before, some aftermarket enthusiasts prefer to keep the center cross bar or stock grille shell, so inserts aren’t a bad option for these individuals. An insert will replace the previous insert parts and often comes in two pieces, either a top and a bottom or on some trucks a left and a right side.
T-Rex’s Sport Series, shown above, offers a number of Insert options for your truck or Jeep.
Of course, if you are looking at inserts because you want to keep your logo or emblems, keep in mind that many companies offer replacement or accent emblems. For instance, if you want a new matte black Chevy logo, Check out T-Rex Emblems, shown below.
These days, while some sports car drivers still go with inserts, most truck and Jeep owners opt for the full replacement grille. I suppose it is a question of style really, but if you want full customization, on a truck or Jeep at least, you kinda gotta go all in with the full custom grille.
Here’s another insert on a sports car, another T-Rex Sport Series:
And here’s a Monster full custom replacement grille with custom Monster Logo, on T-Rex X-Metal:
Now you decide for yourself which you prefer. Honestly, they are both pretty sick looking, so I suppose it depends on what you are driving and what look you’re going for. The Sports Series inserts look great on a sports car, but they might look out of place on a truck. Likewise, a full replacement might not work out as well on a car. We specialize in trucks and Jeeps here, and likely for that reason, we lean a bit more towards full custom grilles. But again, you should choose what fits your ride and aesthetic best. This grille should be all about you and your rig.
Full Replacement Custom Grille Styles
Your picture guide to all things grilles: let’s give you some examples of the various four main types with some sub-options in each. While many of these styles can be found as overlays and inserts too, most of our focus and images will be full replacement grilles. Here we go. Why not start with the classic style?
The Billet Grille
Billet style involves horizontal bars that run parallel to the ground. This is known as a more classic design because back in the day, this was about it as far as custom grilles went. Often times you could get the billet grille style as an insert or a full replacement. The key difference on a truck in particular is this: do you want a center bar dividing your grille in half or into quarters? If you do, go insert. If not, full replacement is best, cause then the bars will run the full length of the grille. Personally, that’s my jam, but if you want your grille to be symmetrically divided in any way, inserts work great.
A third option, pictured here, is known as an overlay. These are very similar to an insert, except that they don’t slide into the “shell” but rather attach to shell and ride over it or extended slightly in front of it. Here’s a Billet Series, Overlay:
A full billet replacement runs the full length of the grille. T-Rex has a Laser Billet, shown below, that is precision cut using “frickin’ laser beams.” Some companies do a similar style but use CNC technology to do the design and make the cut instead of lasers. Either way, you can think of this style as a subset of Billet. If the billet just wasn’t enough, make it even more tiny and sharp with advanced tech. This ain’t your grandpa’s billet grille, sonny:
Note also that Billet Grilles can come in various finishes, including Stainless Steel, Chrome Finish, or even the Matte Black Powder Coated style shown above. There really are a lot of customization options when it comes to custom grilles.
The Wire Mesh Grille
Many of our customers ask us for a more rugged or angry look. And we often turn straight to Wire Mesh style. I suppose it just makes sense that after having only horizontal bars for so long as grille options, manufacturers got the crazy idea of criss-crossing those lines! Woot?!
Just playin’, cause these Wire Mesh Grilles look sick. Let’s start with a stainless steel finish from T-Rex called the X-Metal series. This style comes in full replacement and overlay, but we prefer the whole package, and think you will too:
If you are looking for a similar style but want some large metal bars in play with your mesh, check out the Stealth Metal series. This one comes only in Black powder coat ‘cause it’s stealthy. Duh! I’m a fan of the blacked out look, myself:
Want something a little more refined? A little less rugged? The smaller you make those mesh cross sections, the more regal it seems to look. Case in point, T-Rex’s Upper Class series. This is actual a blend between traditional wire mesh style and a laser CNC design, because the cuts have to be so precise, only a computer could pull this one off. They use 304 stainless steel in this example, but I’m told you can also get her in a matte black powder coated finish. Here’s the shiny version:
CNC & Laser Cut Grilles
Besides being able to make more precise cuts, CNC and Laser Cut Grilles can include all sorts of elaborate cut outs and designs. Some companies will even let you create your own custom logo or etching, though that tends to cost a bit extra.
These designs can vary from traditional mesh with a special overlay to a honeycomb style cutout. For instance, take T-Rex’s Grunt series, which includes everything from a skeleton to a grenade design:
If you don’t like this, check out the Laser X-Metal honeycomb like grille. If you like the X-Metal wire mesh design, check out this more unique pattern cut out of steel:
LED Lighting Options
Let’s say you found the style you want and you think you’re ready to order. Slow down, Bro-sephiroth! You’ve gotta consider whether or not you want any lighting options. And there are a plethora of options. Maybe you just want a single auxiliary light bar? Check out the Torch Series from T-Rex, with it’s X-metal mesh plus a cool light bar:
Want four separate smaller light bars inserted into your custom grille? Check out Revolver:
Looking for something like the Torch Series but with two slightly smaller light bars? ZROADZ is a great choice:
With all these options, you’ll want to pick the grille style that you like and then start considering LED options too. We have tons of options, so if you find something you like or have an option you want to try out, give us a call. We’ll find you the perfect custom grille, just for your ride.
And let’s not forget our Jeep loving friends. We’ve got tons of options for Jeeps too. I realize I mostly focused on Trucks for this guide, but nearly everything shown above has a Jeep version too. Here’s one of my personal favs, T-Rex’s X-Metal Jeep Grille:
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