Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
12/4/20 8:20 a.m.

LED bulbs aren’t just the future, they’re the present–and Little British Car Co. carries the lighting hardware needed to update older machines. The company’s catalog includes LED conversions for everything from gauge lights to turn signals. We installed its 7-inch LED headlights and LED taillight bulbs in our Sunbeam Tiger.

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wrenchklutz
wrenchklutz New Reader
1/27/21 8:58 p.m.

I looked at doing this with my Alfa but after doing some research, I decided to go with halogens and relays.  The buckets and lenses for our incandescent or halogen lights weren't designed for the way LED's are made.  It's like trying to wear somebody else's eyeglasses.  The only way to get proper throw of light down the road is to replace the entire light with a unit that was designed to work together.  There's a thread on Jalopnik that was basically written by Daniel Stern, an expert on car lighting, that goes into great detail about all this: https://jalopnik.com/why-most-led-headlight-upgrades-dont-really-work-an-ex-1843070472

One upgrade that does work is installing relays to supply the power to the headlights.  On lots of older cars, all the power for the lights goes through the headlight switch.  By changing that so that the headlight power goes through relays, the output will be better and you might save yourself from having to buy a new headlight switch ($400 from Centerline). 

malibuguy
malibuguy GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/27/21 9:40 p.m.

Yeah aftermarket PnP LEDs in halogen housings almost never work as well as they should, usually kinda pokey beam pattern, often increased glare and alot of foreground, which is amplified by the bluer light.  Which makes it harder to see down the road.

Some of the higher-end PnP LEDs work pretty well, such as the Morimoto 2stroke 3.0, Diode Dynamics (which are American made) and GTR lighting.

Usually a reputable full LED replacement housing ( like JW speaker) is your best bet for a substantial light output upgrade in terms of pattern and lumally just do not look right in a classic car.

I built a set of HID projector retrofits for my old Malibu Im not a fan of the look as I rather have fluted lenses but not much you can do with 4x6 aftermarket or not, let alone have classic looks.

paddygarcia
paddygarcia GRM+ Memberand New Reader
3/22/21 3:05 p.m.

Even if the performance were good, I think most inspection stations here in Virginia will fail these since the bulb won't match the lens.

On the other hand, the LED tail and signal lamps are a great thing - brighter than incandescent and noticably quicker to light which might help keep the guy behind you from ending up in your trunk.

Turn signal relays may need changing.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/22/21 3:37 p.m.

There's a company that does stock-looking 7" LED retrofits for those who don't want weird bug eyes on their classic but want modern lighting.

https://www.dapperlighting.com/products/oe7

They don't have a set of 5.75" lights in that style yet, but when they do my Cadillac is ready.

stafford1500
stafford1500 GRM+ Memberand Dork
3/22/21 3:43 p.m.
paddygarcia said:

Even if the performance were good, I think most inspection stations here in Virginia will fail these since the bulb won't match the lens.

On the other hand, the LED tail and signal lamps are a great thing - brighter than incandescent and noticably quicker to light which might help keep the guy behind you from ending up in your trunk.

Turn signal relays may need changing.

Virginia has some non-typical regulations about headlights. They were a particular challenge to deal with when I worked for Saleen. All of the headlight changes had to be adjusted to pass the VA rules. Several cars were effectively impounded before sale/delivery due to headlight issues...

7aull
7aull New Reader
8/20/21 4:28 p.m.

I dropped a set of BEAMTECH LEDs into my H-4 Hella 7" lenses in my 1980 RX7 and the results were transformative! Clean, bright, white (not blue!) illumination that makes night driving a pleasure. Again.

Its like my eyes just instantly became 40yrs younger! All this and NOT baking my 40yr old tiny headlight swithc wires. Oh, and under $40 on Amazon. INsane. Best lighting upgrade you can do...

Stu A

80 Mazda RX7, Sedona, AZ

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UberDork
8/20/21 8:50 p.m.

How well do LEDs take... oh something like headlight rollover? Like on an Opel GT. Been considering lighting updates on mine. Concerned about the jarring of opening and closing the headlight buckets. They do take a little force to click into the lock position, both opening and closing.

o2bdriving
o2bdriving New Reader
10/27/21 5:53 p.m.

In reply to paddygarcia :

I put LED's in my 67 Sunbeam that's tagged historic here in VA.  No inspections and no issues with local LEOs.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/27/21 6:49 p.m.

I really, really dislike LED headlights on old cars, but I love, love, love LED tail lights. 

Howie1937
Howie1937
8/10/22 11:25 a.m.

I bought 7"LED headlights from Amazon for my modified 1961 Jaguar E-Type and installed them with a relay and they work beautifully....I had to snip a minimal bit of clearance out of the buckets and plugged them in....best highway lighting this car has had since it was built on my 23rd birthday back in October 1961.....HB

Howie1937
Howie1937 New Reader
8/10/22 11:25 a.m.

I bought 7"LED headlights from Amazon for my modified 1961 Jaguar E-Type and installed them with a relay and they work beautifully....I had to snip a minimal bit of clearance out of the buckets and plugged them in....best highway lighting this car has had since it was built on my 23rd birthday back in October 1961.....HB

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/10/22 11:34 a.m.

In reply to wlkelley3 :

A little late - but I've been running Trucklites or GE Nighthawks on Miatas for a while with no problem.

Since last we discussed this topic, Holley has come out with a vintage drop-in 7" LED headlight. They even come in warm white for those who don't like the visibilty that comes from a cool temperature :)

Coupefan
Coupefan Reader
8/10/22 12:04 p.m.

I see the mention of irregular light pattern when placing an LED bulb in a lens housing made for a halogen or incandescent.   Some LEDs are a two part housing, sandwiched with a o-ring.  It allows some rotation to fix stray light and correct for 'issues'.  I did this in two conversions.  Luckily, the kit I purchased for my X1/9 was the easiest and came with new glass, cut to work with the LED.  

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia UltraDork
8/10/22 1:42 p.m.

There are also 12v flashers made for LED turn signals so they blink at the correct rate.

Parker with too many Projects
Parker with too many Projects Dork
8/10/22 3:54 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Those Holley/Morimoto RetroBright housings are incredible! From what I understand, it's the best beam pattern (by far) of all the reflector LED replacements. 

sdg
sdg
8/13/23 11:38 p.m.

In reply to Howie1937 :

Howie1937, what about your car's positive ground?  Did that make a difference with your LED conversion?  I have a 1961 XK150 and would like to upgrade the headlights.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
8/13/23 11:55 p.m.
Parker with too many Projects said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Those Holley/Morimoto RetroBright housings are incredible! From what I understand, it's the best beam pattern (by far) of all the reflector LED replacements. 

I would expect that, based on the cost. $179 each, and I would need four for my GMT400. 

84FSP
84FSP UberDork
8/14/23 8:14 a.m.

So happy with this upgrade on my rabbit.  Even hotter incandescent bulbs were like candles in the wind.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/14/23 10:06 a.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:
Parker with too many Projects said:

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Those Holley/Morimoto RetroBright housings are incredible! From what I understand, it's the best beam pattern (by far) of all the reflector LED replacements. 

I would expect that, based on the cost. $179 each, and I would need four for my GMT400. 

Compared to the stock headlights on my E39 M5, that's a steal.  It's probably cheaper than stock headlights for my Dodge 2500. 
 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/14/23 10:09 a.m.
sdg said:

In reply to Howie1937 :

Howie1937, what about your car's positive ground?  Did that make a difference with your LED conversion?  I have a 1961 XK150 and would like to upgrade the headlights.

That's an interesting question. It may be as simple as switching two wires, but maybe not if they expect a shared (negative) ground and there may be some electronics inside.
The good news is that converting to negative earth is comically simple. I did it on my '67 Land Rover a couple of decades ago. 

russelljones48
russelljones48 New Reader
5/27/24 9:45 a.m.

IMHO everyone should read Daniel Stern on this topic.  What's shown in this article as a test, may show "better" lighting subjectively but you might hate being an oncoming driver..  Looking at the photos here I would also say that they original headlamps are actually better - look carefully - but the distance seems the same and the right side actually seems better.   Unless the headlamp/bulb combo is well designed (and I hate to say this: DOT approved) they could be dangerous.  My research indicates that the JW Speaker LEDS are among the better ones on the market but they don't fit many buckets - didn't fit my '70 Camaro.   Also, I was hopeful but Daniel has recently commented to me that he's disappointed in Holley's new offering.  

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