A Man Who Makes Data Plates for Antique Autos

Nostalgic Reflections isn’t just unique to just the Spokane, Washington, area, it’s unique to the world. This company, according to it’s owner, Jerry Turner, is the only company in the world that makes custom “one off” medallions and data plates for antique cars, bicycles, airplanes, boats and just about anything antique (and sometimes not so antique) used for transportation.

Nostalgic Reflections makes these parts the way they were originally made. Acid mixes are used to etch the design into the data plates instead of lasers or anything a modern company may use.

Turner started Nostalgic Reflections in 1972 in Salt Lake City. He had acquired a 1936 DeSoto he wanted to restore. But he couldn’t find all the parts he needed. Instead of slapping the old parts back on, Turner decided he would try to reproduce the parts he needed. He started with the instrument faces. He examined the faces and decided they needed to be silk screen printed. He had learned this process years before but had forgotten how it was done.

“The only way I could think to relearn the process,” Turner recalls, “was to go to the library and check out books on silk screening.” This wasn’t easy. Turner has dyslexia. He struggled through the books with the help of his wife until he had relearned the technique.

Turner’s next project was to reproduce the firewall, distributor, generator, and starter data plates. A trip to the library didn’t generate any books on how these plates were originally made. His only alternative was to experiment. So he scrutinized the plates and decided they were silk screen printed and acid etched.
Turner learned the acids had to be mixed with an agent to slow the cutting. Otherwise, instead of cutting straight down, they undercut the artwork and destroyed the data plate.

“I learned these mixes by trial and error.” Turner reminisces. “I burned myself several times learning how to use these acids.”

Each type of material, copper, brass or aluminum, uses a different acid and a different mix and has to be monitored closely or they will undercut the artwork.
Turner could have slapped a silk screen print on a piece of metal but that would have wore off or faded in a month or two. He wanted the plates to look and last like the originals. The only way that could be accomplished was to make them the way they were original made.

Turner’s most complicated task was reproducing the porcelain (also known as cloisonnÃ?©) grill and trunk medallions.

He started by examining the medallions under a microscope. Next, he chipped the porcelain out to see what it was made of. This left him stumped. He had no idea how it was made.

Turner decided he might find his answer at a hobby store. The clerk suggested he read books on copper enameling. Once again, he found himself struggling through books. But another surprise awaited him. The process used for copper enameling was not the same process used for the medallions.

The porcelain used in copper enameling is different than what is used in a medallion. It took trial and error to find he had to use a porcelain which was grounded into beads. This porcelain had to be placed into the backing plate (Turner used the originals plates) one at a time with a pair of tweezers. Then he discovered they had to be fired at a different temperature than copper enameling.
The DeSoto, once Turner got the medallions perfected and onto it, appeared as if it had just been driven off the showroom floor.

Turner was asked by car enthusiast where he got data plates and medallions in such good shape. Once they learned he had made them, they begged him to make one for their car. It wasn’t long before museums were calling. Then came calls from England and Japan. Turner found himself making parts for people throughout the world.

Turner soon branched out to airplanes, boats and bicycles. He had six employees working for him at one time, but they didn’t have the enthusiasm Turner did, so he eventually let them all go. Even after this disappointing event, Turner still hires an occasional employee or two. He has had a total of 32 employees over the years. Only two has had the interest and dedication to do a good job.

There are usually only two of each part made. One is for the costumer and the other is for Turner’s showcase, which he takes to swap meets to show he can do the job.

Nostalgic Reflections biggest order came in 1998 when Turner was asked by Roadmaster to make 6,000 bicycle head badges for their 50th anniversary bicycle.

Most parts are ordered by individuals and only one is made. On occasion, a few extras are made if he thinks they’ll sell.

Turner moved his business to the Spokane area in 1980 when he lost his job at a major airline in Salt Lake City.

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