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Breathing New Life into your Old-Timer Auto with New Automotive Lighting
Rubik’s Cubes and Hypercolor T-shirts were all the rage back in the ‘80s, along with boxy, lackluster automotive lights. From the lowliest Honda Accord up to the swankiest Mercedes-Benz, tail lights and headlights on automobiles from this era have about as much flash and eyeball-appeal as a pair of pleated slacks from JC Penney.
Unfortunately, the plague of underwhelming automotive lighting continued on through the entirety of the ‘90s and well into the 2000s. Today, the roadways are still jam-packed with cars, trucks and SUVs that look incredibly dated because of their clunky lighting, which appears even more passé compared to the dazzling new lighting designs on late-model vehicles.
Even if you don’t have the dough to pick up a new car, you can still make your trusty steed look more modern with a few automotive lighting upgrades. Here are some examples of quick, affordable installations that you can do right in your driveway.
Aftermarket Tail Lights
European auto makers like Ferrari had been engineering innovative tail light designs for a long time, but the trend really took off back in 1998 with the release of the first generation Lexus IS (also known as the Toyota Altezza on the streets of Tokyo). These sport cars had groundbreaking tail lights that featured individual round, colored lamps encased inside clear plastic—a radical departure from the traditional solid red and amber brick tail lights. Drivers everywhere were struck with Altezza fever, and Detroit took notice and has now started incorporating these cooler lights into their new model vehicles.
Even though auto makers only recently started including Altezza tail lights in their fleets, aftermarket manufacturers have been building replacement parts for years. In fact, these companies have also been doing some innovating of their own. The recent trends have shifted towards dazzling LED tail lights, which use ultra-bright, ultra-efficient light-emitting diodes arranged in radical patterns.
Installing a new set of Altezza lights onto your senior citizen automobile can shave a good 10 years off its appearance, especially if you pick up the latest LED tail lights. Best of all, they’re incredibly simple to install. Simply disconnect your battery, pop out your factory tail lights (usually just a few screws) and swap them out with your replacements.
Another simple way to restyle your ride for a newer look is to chuck your aging factory headlights and replace them with some contemporary headlights. Like tail lights, aftermarket headlights come in a wide array of technologies that you’ll need to know about to pick the right upgrade for your vehicle. Here’s a breakdown:
Parabolic Reflector Headlights: In parabolic reflector headlights, the bulb (usually halogen) is mounted right at the focus of a reflective, parabolic-shaped housing. Although not the most efficient technology, these are relatively inexpensive upgrades, and they’re available in a number of sleek designs.
Projector Headlights: Projector headlights are similar to parabolic reflector headlights, but with 1 important difference. They’re equipped with a lens in front of the reflector light source, and this lens focuses the light into a tighter, more powerful beam. Most modern vehicles use projector headlights, and the aftermarket parts options are full of trick lighting upgrades for many older autos.
HID Xenon Headlights: The Cadillac of headlight technology is none other than high-tech HID xenon headlights. These high-intensity discharge lights create a powerful electrical arc using ballasts, and the arcs then heat xenon gases inside the arc chamber, which in turn creates that distinctive bluish light you see on newer vehicles. Although expensive, HID headlights make your older vehicle look like it just rolled off the assembly line.