By on January 11, 2012

A TTAC lurker writes:

Sajeev, I’m local to Houston and greatly look forward to my daily lurk on TTAC. I just had to respond affirmatively to the latest piston slap about HID’s and Panthers.
I own 2 CV’s, an unmolested 2003 Sport:
…and a 2002 HPP with various mods/tune: you will note the projector headlights in the ’02. I couldn’t agree more with the comments about the cheap HID kits and resulting glare/distraction to other drivers. In my case I went the route of a complete E55 projector retrofit and new wiring harness for a proper and adjustable installation. I’ve included a complete DIY I had posted on under my now-sold PI moniker Blue95 for your reading pleasure! IMO the only way to install HID lighting. Has been installed for about 2 years, no operating issues at all and no problems with state inspection.

Sajeev answers:

First off: you are a hero for preserving a Panther (or any mildly historically relevant car, for that matter) and for doing a really impressive job in your HID conversion on Panther #2.  That said, it may not be to the letter of the law as your new headlight bucket hasn’t been approved by the DOT, but whatever. Best and Brightest, that’s for you to decide.

Second off: I think I saw your 2003 Sport at IKEA about 3 weeks ago, maybe on a Saturday.  You had me drooling as I walked in.  Thanks for that, it sure made the notion of buying press-board minimalist furniture far more enticing.

Third off: upgrading to projector style headlight assemblies makes the HID-hatred far less terrible.  Combine that with an OEM-style bulb rating (no blue/yellow/radioactive rated bulbs) and you are within spitting distance of what Dearborn put in that non-Panther thing they call a Taurus.  It was mentioned in the previous comments by “turbosaab” to the same effect: you will get away with a good projector assembly, conservative HIDs, and quality wiring and relays/ballasts.  I encourage everyone to read the PDF in your letter to see the extent of work necessary to do a “proper” HID retrofit on a car without projectors from the factory.

And lastly, have a look at another excellent post from the last Piston Slap that deserves the oxygen of publicity:

In our first installment, TTAC Commentator jco wrote:

There’s just no way you’ll get acceptable beam pattern and anything less than atrocious amounts of glare if you wire up an HID kit in halogen-designed open reflector housings….so the housing was designed to shape that type of light. And yes, I see junky HID kits in reflector housings all the time. it just looks cheap and wrong. there are usually huge hot spots at the top of the housing, specifically throwing glare at others. i don’t think there are any OEMs using HID in a non-projector housing.

I installed a well-made (it came with a wire harness with in-line fuses and directly plugged into my headlight harness. it takes the stress of the increased startup power away from the factory wiring) HID retro kit in my truck. But my truck already has projector housings for the low beams. though the lenses are not optimized for that type of bulb, they work about 90% as well a true OEM setup. and i spent time adjusting the level on the beams. i have driven another car in front of my truck at night and it’s not glare-y at all.

some people will take an open reflector housing, pull it apart, and install OEM projector components. if you’re skilled with a dremel tool you can probably do that in just about anything. it’s still gonna look weird in there, but you’ll have a better performing light setup. that’s beyond the level of most people who just buy a kit from ebay and plug it in.

In summation: you want aftermarket HIDs?  Get projector housings, make them if necessary. Order HID bulbs that are on par with the brightness of OEM applications.   Put it together with quality wiring and electrics. Aim them correctly.

Easy, right? 

Send your queries to [email protected] . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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17 Comments on “Piston Slap: Of HID-retrofit Hatred, Panther Love…PART II...”

  • avatar

    I don’t see any 2CV

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Nice Panthers. I’d be proud to own either one. (And I could finally take 4 guys to the golf course with their bags all in one vehicle.)

  • avatar

    aw, thanks!

    for those that questioned the utility of HID in general, I believe it’s worth it. once you have a car outfitted with them stock, it’s hard to go back. you get a brighter, sharper more uniform beam pattern. I have also noticed you are better able to see signs and other reflective objects (like.. certain Panthers with writing on them :)) at night.

  • avatar

    Thing is, it is NOT the HIDs that provide most of the improvement. It is the better beam pattern of the projector lenses. If your car was sold in the EU, chances are there are MUCH better headlight assemblies or lenses available for the halogens. I have done e-code conversions on nearly all of my cars over the years.

    US headlights were utter crap for eons. Now there are a few cars that have stock headlights that meet both US and Euro standards and are pretty decent. My Saab 9-3 was like that, and so is my BMW 328i. The Saabs lights were a bit better than the BMWs though – projector vs. regular reflector. Both halogens. I still think that HID lights are the answer to a question that never needed to be asked. Too expensive for too little improvement, when there is so much improvement to be had with the reflectors and lenses.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second this. Both of my Jeeps are running Cibie 7″ round E-code housings with Narva Rangepower +30 bulbs that run stock wattage. These are such awesome headlamps, I can’t really see where HIDs would offer enough of a benefit to justify the cost of a proper housing/installation.

      • 0 avatar

        The brightest Halogen bulbs don’t crest 2000 lumens, and they don’t last long either. HID bulbs are in the 2800-3500 lumen range. They put out more light and that is fact not opinion.

        I think the allure of the e-code stuff is that the pattern may be more desirable, IIRC US-spec requires a more sharp cutoff to avoid blinding oncoming drivers.

        If you guys are using RHD e-code stuff, well you’re just plain dumb. All of that e-code stuff is likely just as illegal as a bad HID kit.

      • 0 avatar


        I think you missed the point of Wheeljack’s comment was that SOME US spec cars comply to BOTH US and EU headlight specifications.

        They really aren’t all that different in their effectiveness as each ends up doing much the same thing through different means.

        Neither is really any better/worse than the other, overall, though the US spec units do allow more glare than the EU ones do.

      • 0 avatar

        I think I understood it, but I didn’t realize a headlight unit could meet both specs, aren’t they sort of opposed specs for cutoff?

        I was just countering the “don’t see the need for HIDs” there does not exist a halogen bulb in OEM wattage that is as bright as an HID bulb. The ones that come close don’t last long.

        I use H9 bulbs in my H11 spec’d WRX, the put out a lot of light, 2100 Lumens but I pay in bulb life, Subaru uses dim 1350 Lumen H11s because they last longer. But still any HID is brighter than that.

      • 0 avatar

        They now have E-code type lights that meet US specifications. I have used both the non-compliant and the newer, compliant ones (Hellas). The only difference is that cutoff on the European ones angles up at about a 30 degree angle to the right on about the right quarter of the span of light output, allowing for roadside sign illumination. I ran these for years on my 1971 LTD (350W total of high-beam light coming out of four 5″ lights on relays, it was a sight to see and was perfect for the deserted nighttime roads of Eastern WA) and I never had any issues with the European cutoff shape (which caused no additional glare to oncoming drivers at all).

        I miss those headlights!

      • 0 avatar


        You do not rememeber correctly. The European beam pattern requires a sharp cutoff to avoid glare. This lets you run higher wattage bulbs without causing glare. It is true that Halogen bulbs do not last as long, but the price difference is greater than the longevity difference, and the HID systems have a LOT more to go wrong with them than just the bulbs.

        US-spec beam pattern with HID bulbs is the absolute worst of all worlds for glare. Particularly when combined with the US fetish for high-riding SUVs. Escalades and Navigators being the worst offenders. The traditional US requirement was for a LOT of light to be thrown upward, the idea being to illuminate overhead signs. But also causing glare, which only gets worse with brighter bulsb. This requirement was relaxed in recent years which is what allows the “combined” pattern that squeaks into meeting both specs. They are not great e-code lights, but they are far better than the old US lights.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for setting me straight on the e-code lights, I understand now why the sharp cutoff is more desirable.

        I don’t think I have a problem with oncoming drivers with my 2100 Lumen halogens, no need to get e-code lights. I too have chosen good Halogens rather than an HID retrofit, it does the job cheap, I just have to buy the lights more often.

        BTW so many seem to be focused on “wattage” which is like rating a car by its MPG when what you really want to know is HP. Lumens is a better measure of actual light output. So many of those “high wattage bulbs” are junk, the major manufacturers aren’t really into making illegal bulbs so you get crap from the bulb makers who are willing, many of those over wattage bulbs don’t actually put out more light than a good quality “normal wattage” bulb. And perhaps some upgraded harnesses and relay.

        I stick to Daniel Stern and Candlepower Inc. for all my lighting needs.

  • avatar

    I installed Sylvania Silverstar headlights on a KIA I owned and I was not impressed so I switched back.

  • avatar

    Thanks for that, it sure made the notion of buying press-board minimalist furniture far more enticing

    More enticing or just less sickening?

  • avatar

    I may be mistaken, but I believe that there are some OEMs who install HID bulbs into housings that do not use projectors. For example the original Lexus IS comes to mind, here’s an ebay link to the headlight:
    Just curious if anyone knows what they do differently in order to accommodate the HIDs without using projectors.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah HIDs in reflectors are fine. The problem is using HID bulbs in a reflector designed for a Halogen bulb, or really just using the wrong bulb in any reflector. The reflector design is highly dependent on the position of the light source, i.e. the filament or the arc.

      Projector bulbs are less dependent on bulb placement, so an HID bulb retrofit to a halogen projector still works ok, thought not ideal.

  • avatar

    Interesting topic that I don’t really know a great deal about. I think here in the Netherlands you’re not allowed to retrofit xenons on cars that don’t have washers installed for the headlights, because even dirt on the lenses can apparently cause a lot of glare.

    I thought most of the people retrofitting these lights did it for style mostly (which is ironic, cause the look is ofentimes not that great). Consequently, a lot have gone to leds now (shiny bright angel eyes in bimmers wih halogen lights and stuff). Sometimes it doesn’t look half bad (sometimes it really does though) but in almost all cases, it doesn’t look OEM and that’s usually not a good thing (tacky, cheaply made).

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