View Full Version : To See or Not to See - The Headlight Controversey


chuckspeed
12-25-2006, 11:38 AM
Kirk!'s recent post about headlights got me to thinkin'...

Most of us weren't around when prewar/postwar rods were out runnin' the streets the first time around, so we're left with the knothole in the fence of history to look thru while we decide what makes our cars look 'right'. As a result, we're influenced by other folks' cars and pictures taken back in the day, which are literally snapshots of time.

Seems to me that rodders subscribed to 'run whatcha brung'. The headlight most commonly seen on a rod would have been a King Bee or a Dietz - not because they were cool, but rather they could be bought in the farm implement section of the local hardware store. They were cheap, small, and shiny - all decent attributes to a rodder.

I'm pretty sure the dry lakes crowd drove their cars around town with headlights attached, as law enforcement officials were itchin' to find a reasont to pull any and all miscreants over. Pop (now in his mid 70's) loved to tell the tale of how the cops stood in the muffler shop and watched as the Hollywoods and cutouts were torched off his buddy Chuck's Merc and were replaced with factory cans. Anyway - as much as I like the look of a headlight-less car, it's a safe bet they were gutted at the lake for all those killer pix.

After that came the 'looker' lights - the Edmunds and Jones (is that right?) alloy torpedoes normally found on Jordan Playboys and the Woodlites used on custom Auburns. Kids from the 20's and 30's were influenced by the gentleman's sportscars of an earlier age; hangin' lites from a prewar sports car was an easy way to jazz up your ride.

As for location - up, down, in, out...seems to be a function of owner preference, tempered by the mood of the local sheriff. Too low, and you're busted!

Guide lights (which fetch some silly prices these days) weren't as popular then as they are now - as far as I've been able to determine. In poring thru literally several hundred old rod pix from the rags of the day, i've only seen a couple of cars with Guide 592 J's, and even fewer with 592 C's (the ones with the turnsigs on top.)

Why?

The only thing I've not seen much of is the use of an A headlight bucket on a rod. I asked Pop about that once, and his explanation was that all the guys wanted to run sealed beams on their rods - and the sealed beam converson kits looked goofy inna A bucket, as the bucket is lots bigger than the headlamp. It was just as easy to go to the hardware store, buy a set of tractor lite buckets, and hang them on yer rod. Besides - they were brighter than the 'A' lites, which meant less of a chance of being stopped by an overzealous cop.

Dunno if this makes sens to y'all - just wanted to get it right in my head befor hangin' lites on my car. What are your thoughts?

40Vert
12-25-2006, 11:51 AM
I'm partial to the stock-style headlights like the 32 Fords and 33-34 commercial lights. I also have a pair of electroline headlights, they have great deco themes. As far as period goes, I believe if it was available at the period you built your rod, then anything goes.

Automotive Stud
12-25-2006, 12:20 PM
Chuckspeed, I think you just about nailed it. The popular thing was sealed beams, King bee, Deitz, and Arrow lights were probably the most common because the local parts store or JCW catalog had them cheap.

My Dad put Arrows on his A in '63 because they were small, all chrome sealed beams he could buy at the auto parts store. They're still on the car.

Bib Overalls
12-25-2006, 12:23 PM
Well, I'm going to use a set of 30/31 Model A buckets and rings with a halogin lamp kit on the Model T sedan I am building. They look stock and put out good light. And I am mounting them a little higher than most might. It is first a function of the integrated uper shock mount/headlight stand that I fabricated. But this additional height will also increas the amount of road that the lights illuminate. A couple of inches up make a big difference out front.

My 32 has 7" Arrows on SoCal stands. On high beam, the illuminate less road than my Dodge Dakota on low beam. Safety is important and functional lighting is right up there on my list with good brakes.

California has/had a rule requiring headlights centers at, I think, 24" above the road surface. The lowered VW crowd took a real beating. But from a safety engineering standpoint it made sense.

choprods
12-25-2006, 12:54 PM
Any early Ford H/lite bucket and reflector is good looking and will work fine if polished up a little and install a Halogen bulb...
My A Roadster had 31 Chwvy buckets and reflectors with a set of $10 WalMart [latemodel]Halogen bulbs installed and worked fine.....

Flipper
12-25-2006, 12:59 PM
Any early Ford H/lite bucket and reflector is good looking and will work fine if polished up a little and install a Halogen bulb...
My A Roadster had 31 Chwvy buckets and reflectors with a set of $10 WalMart [latemodel]Halogen bulbs installed and worked fine.....


So, what exactly do you have to do to mount halogen bulbs?

chuckspeed
12-25-2006, 01:24 PM
Any early Ford H/lite bucket and reflector is good looking and will work fine if polished up a little and install a Halogen bulb...
My A Roadster had 31 Chwvy buckets and reflectors with a set of $10 WalMart [latemodel]Halogen bulbs installed and worked fine.....

Funny you mention the Chebbys...

Just bought a set off of Ebay for the express purpose of being 'different'. Dunno if I'll like them or not - won't know until they show up. they're shallower than the A buckets, and have a ridge on the bucket which makes them a bit more visually interesting.

As for halogens inna older headlight:

I did this swappie on a vintage headlight bucket recently. Bought a halogen headlight bulb and cut down the flange until it fit in the socket; then hardwired up to the bulb spades. Worked fine and threw tons of light!

FWIW, the halogen bulb supposedly draws less amperage than its vacuum incandescent cousin - about an amp, I'm told.

jusjunk
12-25-2006, 02:10 PM
ive had 28 29 headlights with halogen and turn signal conversions on 2 cars now and im gonna use em on my 32 roadster next. The newer sealed beam stuff is ok cause you cover em with a stock lense but the way to go is with the halogen kit. There is sumpin bout the 28-29 lights with the fluted lenses. Jusst the shape of the bucket is cool.
Dave

DrJ
12-25-2006, 03:11 PM
Kirk!'s recent post about headlights got me to thinkin'...

Most of us weren't around when prewar/postwar rods were out runnin' the streets the first time around, so we're left with the knothole in the fence of history to look thru while we decide what makes our cars look 'right'. As a result, we're influenced by other folks' cars and pictures taken back in the day, which are literally snapshots of time.

Seems to me that rodders subscribed to 'run whatcha brung'. The headlight most commonly seen on a rod would have been a King Bee or a Dietz - not because they were cool, but rather they could be bought in the farm implement section of the local hardware store. They were cheap, small, and shiny - all decent attributes to a rodder.

I'm pretty sure the dry lakes crowd drove their cars around town with headlights attached, as law enforcement officials were itchin' to find a reasont to pull any and all miscreants over. Pop (now in his mid 70's) loved to tell the tale of how the cops stood in the muffler shop and watched as the Hollywoods and cutouts were torched off his buddy Chuck's Merc and were replaced with factory cans. Anyway - as much as I like the look of a headlight-less car, it's a safe bet they were gutted at the lake for all those killer pix.

After that came the 'looker' lights - the Edmunds and Jones (is that right?) alloy torpedoes normally found on Jordan Playboys and the Woodlites used on custom Auburns. Kids from the 20's and 30's were influenced by the gentleman's sportscars of an earlier age; hangin' lites from a prewar sports car was an easy way to jazz up your ride.

As for location - up, down, in, out...seems to be a function of owner preference, tempered by the mood of the local sheriff. Too low, and you're busted!

Guide lights (which fetch some silly prices these days) weren't as popular then as they are now - as far as I've been able to determine. In poring thru literally several hundred old rod pix from the rags of the day, i've only seen a couple of cars with Guide 592 J's, and even fewer with 592 C's (the ones with the turnsigs on top.)

Why?

The only thing I've not seen much of is the use of an A headlight bucket on a rod. I asked Pop about that once, and his explanation was that all the guys wanted to run sealed beams on their rods - and the sealed beam converson kits looked goofy inna A bucket, as the bucket is lots bigger than the headlamp. It was just as easy to go to the hardware store, buy a set of tractor lite buckets, and hang them on yer rod. Besides - they were brighter than the 'A' lites, which meant less of a chance of being stopped by an overzealous cop.

Dunno if this makes sens to y'all - just wanted to get it right in my head befor hangin' lites on my car. What are your thoughts?

All of what he said.

Stock pre-sealed beam headlights were virtually* non existant on hotrods till about the late 60's when guys started putting all the Brass on Fad T's and guys wanted their Resto-Rods to look as restored on the outside as possible.
Then there were what I'm going to call the "Hippie Rods" of the '70's that were funky modifieds typically with a luckily found set of Buffalo wires and Brady Bunch refrigerator Orange and Goldenrod paint and some Poindexter's goggle-glasses looking huge headlights on the front, sometimes doubling as gravel scoops.
Not.
King Bee or Dietz were the most common traditionally used hotrod headlight from the '40's on till just recently.

About headlight height, as said by Chuckspeed, someone driving a hotrod to the lakes or track only put headlights on it to get it there without getting a ticket, if they weren't legal height, what would be the point of that?
It's 22" off the deck now, I think it was 25" in the 50's. (Your State laws may vary)
What looks "right" on a traditional hotrod is what was typically done on them during that time.

That is assuming you are attempting to build something that looks like a period car.
If not, jut put some molded in small Halogens, or better, projector beams on it to cut the wind better







*"virtually" used here to mean of course you can find some case of someone doing just about any deviant behavior imaginable, but that doesn't mean it was "what everyone was doing" and a part of a tradition.

Ole don
12-25-2006, 03:23 PM
The real reason most rods of the 60's were converted to sealed beams is, there were no replacment reflectors for the model A headlights. Now, Speedway has new reflectors, halogen bulbs for guys with alternators, and "Bright bulbs" for guys like me with generators. I light up half the county after dark with A headlights I picked out of a garbage can, and new parts from Speedway.

Gator
12-25-2006, 03:53 PM
Another great post!

I'm at this stage on my Rod. I have three pairs of lights so I will be able to check out different looks. First are a pair of 5 inch motorcycle lamps off of an old unidientified bike, then a pair of 7 inch sealed beams with a shallow bucket like a King Bee, and finally about a 10 inch set from Ebay that I think are late 30's Auburn or Terraplane lamps (I arrived at that by the numbers on the lenses)

Anyway, I figured I'd mock it up with all 3 types and see how it looks. Maybe I'll even make it a HAMB poll.

From my first quick looks I'm leaning toward the 7 inchers.

tommy
12-25-2006, 04:15 PM
The real reason most rods of the 60's were converted to sealed beams is, there were no replacment reflectors for the model A headlights. Now, Speedway has new reflectors, halogen bulbs for guys with alternators, and "Bright bulbs" for guys like me with generators. I light up half the county after dark with A headlights I picked out of a garbage can, and new parts from Speedway.

That's how I remember it. It was expensive to send your reflectors out to be re-silvered. Ron Francis developed high candle power bulbs to get close to what a sealed beam would put out. It cost big bucks compared to a set of King Bees to restore a factory headlight.

I never liked the small chrome H/Ls. I always felt they looked out of proportion to the rest of the car. JMO.

39delux
12-25-2006, 04:28 PM
The Guide headlights were too big for most people's taste back then and the ones with the turn signals (actually just park lights) on top were just too ugly for words. I can remember otherwise decent cars being ridiculed for the use of those big lights when I was a kid. Truck lights, as we called them, had no place on a hot rod. Also the big stock headlights were for the restorers, not the hot rods.

It seems like a lot of the parts and even cars that we thought too ugly to mess with back then are finding a popular following today.

Tom

Reprisal
12-25-2006, 05:29 PM
Not trying to hyjack the thread, but since we've got all the headlight experts in one place.... What are these form? old? new? no one I've asked knows....

39delux
12-25-2006, 05:48 PM
Those look to be the Woodlites found on some Auburns. I have seen them on some other higher priced '30s cars too.

Tom

Fat ASS Whitewalls
12-25-2006, 11:51 PM
I originaly built my car with the Dietz style lights, then changed to E&J lights. The E&J lights worked good when I lived in Calif., but I went back to the Dietz lights here in MO. It's to dark here in the country.

Fat ASS Whitewalls
12-25-2006, 11:57 PM
Here's the pictures.

hot rod wille
12-26-2006, 12:18 AM
I thought about just the same thing when I was building my 29 highboy roadster.I had a pair of 31 model A lights--a pair of early Cessna landing lights (small 5 1/2 in lights--kinda like King Bees only smaller) and a pair of generic 7 in sealed beam aftermarket lights.
I used So Cal headlight mounts and tried each set of lights on the car --then stepped back like 50 feet to really get a good look.
Final decision: I liked the generic lights best---stripped and painted the buckets body-color for a more "early" look---the model a's looked too big---I think on a 32 they would look better---and the landing lights were too small---not the proportions I was looking for.

Just my opinion----but you know what they say---opinions are like assholes---everybody's got one!

SUHRsc
12-26-2006, 05:53 AM
maybe someone can photoshop them on for you?
remember this car is pretty short in the front so guides and the like would probably look huge up there?
Zach

http://i94.photobucket.com/albums/l114/suhrsc/12%20B/12Bdetail007.jpg

glenn33
12-26-2006, 07:14 AM
No headlites is a really cool look, but not practical for the street, as we all know. I remember Dad talking about all the $10 T's and A's that they used to buy and modify, and way back then the choice seemed to be lights from the bigger more expensive cars like Auburns and Hudsons when they could find them.
As a kid in the early sixties I lived in a small town in northern Indiana and we had a great junkyard named Dewey's where we used to search for parts. Another source was Western Auto...they had great stuff (lots of chrome) and great prices...Then there was JCW, but you always had to wait for your order.
If you are trying to build a period Rod, choose something from that period or before, always a safe bet....but most important is to pick what you like.

www.carartonline.com (http://www.carartonline.com)

39delux
12-27-2006, 05:30 AM
Would that be Dewey's in Angola?

chuckspeed
12-27-2006, 08:37 AM
thanks for all the input!

tommy - really appreciate your opinion on this; means a lot to me.

I've grown up around A's, so the relationship between rad shell and headlight bucket is fairly fixed in my mind - yet it goes counter to what most folks do with a trad rod.

Here's what's gonna show up at my doorstep inna week or so:

The step on the bucket makes it look smaller, IMHO. Don't know what they'll look like when they arrive, but if they look ick, they won't go on the car. Meanwhile, repop 'bees are $65 a pair.

gashog
12-27-2006, 11:01 AM
Here's a picture of a set of 28/29 lamps on a traditional headlight bar mount I just did for my 29 coupe:
http://members.cox.net/detailshop/pictures/Front6.JPG


I picked up a set of the Speedway halogen adapters for the original 2 lamp reflectors and am using the top bulb for turn signal/park lamp.

alchemy
12-27-2006, 11:12 AM
Here's my take on headlights: If an oldtimehotrodder was gonna remove his stock headlights he was not gonna put something older or heavier on. He put some smaller sealed beam lights on the car.

They (back in the day) did NOT put Model A headlights on 32's. They did NOT put big truck headlights on their Model A. Why would they? That would be moving backwards.

IMHO headlight size and placement is just as important as stance and wheels in the look of a car. Don't screw it up using the current fad light. Do your research in the archives (1950 Hot Rod Magazines).

39delux
12-27-2006, 12:58 PM
I think that the A headlights go with the banger on this car.

BTW gashog, is the Sunfire Yellow '67 coupe a 400 or 435?

Tom

coop31
12-27-2006, 01:26 PM
I am a BLC fan all the way, just look at the rolling bones cars they look perfect.

4woody
12-27-2006, 01:36 PM
Those changing to halogen would do to remember that they get VERY HOT compared to standard bulbs. Be sure everything in the immediate area can handle some heat.

gashog
12-27-2006, 06:51 PM
You have some mighty sharp eyes 39delux :)
I finished the 435 horse about ten years ago. The car sold new at Peyton Cramer's Dana Chevrolet and was retained by the dealership for their use until they closed in 1972. The original owner pulled the big horse tri-power and put in an over the counter L88 but that was long gone til I got a hold of the Corvette. Here’s a couple better shots:
http://members.cox.net/detailshop/pictures/sreng.jpg (http://members.cox.net/detailshop/pictures/sreng.jpg)
http://members.cox.net/detailshop/pictures/srext.jpg (http://members.cox.net/detailshop/pictures/srext.jpg)