By on January 16, 2017

1983 Lincoln Continental Valentino Header Panel, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

My supply of reader-submitted Piston Slap queries is running low! So in the coming weeks, please help re-fill the coffers. Just about anything goes! (Purchase queries go to Ask Bark.)

Email [email protected]com lest I spend the rest of my days updating everyone on my passion project, a Fox-body 1983 Continental Valentino restomod.

While you brainstorm your questions, let’s discuss headlight upgrades — because there’s a right and wrong way! 

That’s the Valentino’s header panel, propped atop my workbench for modification (angle grinder to the headlight buckets, for starters) to fit superior, modern(ish) Hella Free Form assemblies.

I purchased them from Daniel Stern. Those in the know might wonder why I chose an older H4 design over JW Speaker’s LED assemblies. While just as legal as Hella lights, that design is too aggressive, too overtly restomod for my tastes.

But what if subtlety and legality aren’t your style? Swing to the other end of the pendulum!

2011 Ford Ranger LED and regular fog light bulb, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

Just for giggles, I spent a whopping $8 (shipped) on an eBay LED bulb “upgrade” to my 2011 Ford Ranger’s factory fog lights.

Note the (warmer) factory bulb aims a long, slender beam parallel to the ground. The aftermarket, totally not legal LED unit (blue-white) sports a beam roughly double in width with a far brighter circular pattern to boot. More light is a great idea in theory, except most (all?) exterior automotive lighting is designed like a sniper rifle, not a sawed off shotgun.

It’s pretty clear which light is safe for on-road use. Now send me some questions to keep Piston Slap alive!

[Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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25 Comments on “Piston Slap: Submit Your Questions, Keep The Lights On...”


  • avatar
    olddavid

    You have the damnedest taste in cars. I drove those bustle back wanna-be’s as company cars and cannot recall a single thing to recommend one as deserving of your treatment – save, perhaps the rear suspension. Scratch that, I am thinking Versailles. After being on the angels side for so many projects, why this one?

    • 0 avatar

      You are the first Lincoln guy I’ve come across that doesn’t like the 82-83 Continentals. It should probably be illegal to be a Ford guy that dislikes Fox Body Lincolns with a 5.0 engine and a factory coil spring suspension that readily accepts Mustang parts.

      That, and plenty of personal connections to this car are the reason why I am doing this.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        Sorry, but I am genetically resistant to almost all four door cars. You can rationalize all you want, but the time and effort on the Conti would be better spent on an SEC Merc or some other car with lineage. Hell, even the firetrap of an SL sitting in my carport has better potential. I guess the Marks and Fox converts is as far as my loyalty goes. Even with my quarterly pension statements. But I do understand a car that gets in your blood. I own a car that has been in my family since October 1952. Four doors. Go figure.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    It is unfortunate that the bustleback Continental’s did not come with voice computers – program it to Christopher Walken asking if the occupants would like some “champagna.”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Here’s a question- why are dashes and consoles so bulky these days? I went to the local auto show yesterday, and most of the cars had some piece or another banging into my legs. Notable non-offenders were the Prius c, Mazda3, and Chrysler 300c, all of which have a “vertical” dash layout instead of the more typical flying, swoopy style.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Is Daniel Stern selling headlights now? I consulted with him by email about 20 years ago, when I was getting ready to add Saab repeater lights to my ’95 F-150.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I’m having a similar headlight debate for my TJ Wrangler. The stock sealed beams are hopeless. The LEDs just don’t look right on this retro rig, and since they need to be heated to not ice up in my northern clime, the cost of entry goes from high to too damned high. So H4 conversion it is…at least there is a wide bulb assortment.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Speaking of lights, sent!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    On topic, I frankly and tired of these aholes with ebay LED lights being used for headlights. Most of these systems have zero light control and are not only annoying they are dangerous. More and more times than I’d like to admit I remove my foot off the gas and slow when light-challenged jerks get behind me. No matter the lane, off the gas I go until they go around me. If I was a cop I’d pull these jerks over an load them up with violations. Maybe I’m guilty too, as I usually maintain proper lane discipline but there is nobody even talking about doing something about the problem which is IMHO #2 safety issue after texting behind the wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Are these the tools in bro-dozers who have the grill-o’-lights? Or are you talking about something different?

      I see these frequently enough and it hurts my head.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    That is one of the most unique projects I’ve seen in a very long time – and that’s not a backhanded comment or damning with faint praise… I love it.

    A Piston Slap article needs to be about an automotive dilemma for the B&B (and Sajeev, natch) to discuss, correct? I’m debating what kind (or how to implement) a brake booster into an area with not a lot of room for one.

    • 0 avatar

      Hydroboost setups are usually the best there. Email me your specifics so it can be ‘slapped [email protected]

      Of course this project has one, hence why I know they are so compact.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    You bought headlights from that guy who was in Home Alone?

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    I think the auto industry in general has a big problem with headlights. Any car over about 7 years old begins to lose light brightness due to clouding of the outer lens. This has nothing to do with the type of bulb. None of the lens restoration products completely or permanently correct the problem. Replacement is the only option. Unfortuney this requires purchasing the entire light unit since the outer lens is not removable. I’ve replaced the headlamp units on my 07 Impala. Fortunately they were not terribly expensive. But many people driving older cars can’t afford to do this. They are forced to drive around with unsafe lights. I see many drivers of older cars in my rural area driving with high beams on just to be able to see anything at all.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist

      Two things…

      NHTSA doesn’t want the separable headlamp lens and casing in the first place. The nannies at the NHTSA were (and are still) afraid of people touching the headlamp bulb while it’s illuminated and burning their fingers. Hence, the lens glued to the housing.

      In the early 1990s, my friend in Dallas, Texas had a broken lens on his new Audi 90. He was astounded to find out the replacement cost: $400 for the entire unit. In Germany, one could buy just lens for the cost of one tank of petrol.

      Secondly, Ford bullied NHTSA into rescinding its mandate that the ultraviolet protection coating or properties be included in the plastic lens as to offset the yellowing and clouding. Why? The protection would add about $2 to the cost. Ford could get away with it thanks to the ridiculously silly 1972 federal law, Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      There’s plenty of resto kits and DIY toothpaste fixes around, but I’ll just take wet/dry sandpaper starting with 800 grit, end with 2500, then some mild polishing glaze, no power tools. Others will finish with a clear coat, but there’s no need to ever drive around with yellowed or brown headlights lenses. I get impressive results for materials I already had laying around.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    Isn’t the whole problem with headlights that they used to be flat/vertical and partially shielded by a sort of eyebrow hood ridge on every hideous 70s sedan? Now they swoop up and are directly exposed to UV rays no matter what time of day, so they get cloudy from the top down.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Old headlights were… (wait for it) GLASS. Honest to god glass. Glass doesn’t cloud up.

      I’m happy the round headlights in my 1967 Mustang are a match to old glass Wrangler headlights. That should help ensure that I have a steady cheap supply.


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