Entire Universe of Chrysler Products Available For Replacement Headlight Switch On A100 Hell Project

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

When we last saw the A100 Hell Project, I’d junkyard-engineered a new gas pedal as part of my “get this thing on the road as quickly and cheaply as possible” initiative. The lack of headlights, due to a corroded-by-12-idle-years switch, was the next big annoyance I needed to tackle.

It appears that Chrysler used the same headlight switch for damn near every motor vehicle they built from the time of the Bay Of Pigs to the time of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The knob changed over the years, but the low-bidder, 11-cent guts remained the same. You can buy new replacement switches pretty cheaply, but I shudder at the certain horribleness of a Chinese-made knockoff of a component that started out as a hammered-together-by-drunks piece of crap. Fortunately, the late-70s camper van that provided the donor gas pedal was still at my local self-service junkyard, so I headed over there. This intriguing business is a block away, so I’ll be paying them a visit soon.

Before I grabbed the switch from this van, I decided to snag the driver’s seat as well; it’s the correct size for the A100 and will serve as a functional butt-rest until I can get the factory seats recovered in red metalflake Naugahyde with maroon piping. You think I don’t have that much style? Think again, sucka!

The original 1966 A100 switch looks like this. No touchy-feely European-style graphic symbols for those who don’t know English here! This one is frozen completely solid; even in Denver’s bone-dry climate, 12 years of inactivity don’t do low-end electrical components any good.

Here’s the switch from the ’78 van. The big “L” has been replaced by a tiny-font “Lights,” but otherwise not much had changed during the preceding 12 years.

Back at my garage, I contemplated just swapping the switches straight across, but I really wanted the headlight switch to match the “W” wiper switch. Knowing Chrysler, there’s probably a Neanderthal method that allowed the Imperial assembly line to swipe switches from over on the Valiant line.

Hmmm… what’s that little button for?

Yep, pushing the button makes it possible to remove the knob and shaft, though not without a lot of persuading and cursing.

And here we go! The quality of the components makes even 60s GM stuff look sophisticated (though, to their credit, Chrysler didn’t use cardboard gloveboxes in their vans), but who cares?

Ever wonder where the term “Mopar” came from? Yeah, we all know, but it’s still cool to see it as two words.

The new switch works just fine. Next step, now that winter is here: fix the heater!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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3 of 22 comments
  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Dec 12, 2010

    My 92 Ford Ranger uses the pull switch as well and also powers the driving lights, when on. There is a separate rocker switch for those, however, Ford wired them to ONLY work with the low beams. That said, Ford now uses a rotary switch in roughly the same position and GM has used and may still rely on push button style switches for their lights. Most others use the turn signal stalk. Now I've never understood why Ford thought it was cool to put the horn on the turn signal stalk on the old Fairmonts, what a stupid idea.

    • MarcKyle64 MarcKyle64 on Dec 15, 2010

      I think the horn on the turnstalk was a cost cutting measure of the aborted late 70s airbag adventure at Ford when they first decided NOT to install horn buttons on the steering wheel airbag. THEN they decided not to go with airbags yet.

  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Dec 19, 2010

    "the quality of the components makes even 60's gm stuff look sophisticated." The shaft looks almost exactly like the headlight switch shafts that gm and ford used. It's not at all unusual that a switch from a 70's van fit your 66. GM, ford and chrysler used lots of parts from the 60's clear into the 80's. Gm and ford even used parts from the 60's that were outwardly visible into the 80's, like window cranks. I owned an 86 F 150 and 89 econloine, both used the same brake pedal pads from early 60's ford trucks and econlines. GM used the same ignition switches from 69 until at least 88 , ford and chrysler did the same. the list goes on. It makes for great parts availability when needed such as in your case.

  • Tane94 If there is market demand, build the vehicle. That's what Ford is doing. Kudos
  • Cprescott Looking like that? Egads
  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.