Piston Slap: Of HID-retrofit Hatred, Panther Love

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap of hid retrofit hatred panther love

Robin writes:

So when I get my next big check I’m getting me a Panther. On this you can depend. You’ve talked me into it! But that’s not the point of my email. Rather, I’ve seen these HID light kits and wonder if it’s a lot of hype or if there is some veracity to the upgrade?

Sajeev answers:

Oh yes! How lovely to hear you will be joining us enlightened American auto-connoisseurs in the Land of the Last Land Yacht: Panther Love…Son!

Like I mentioned in the last Piston Slap, HID retrofits are usually a terrible idea. Aside from their durability and inherent poor value, they are not a “bright idea” (sorry) when performing a headlight retrofit/upgrade to your non-HID car. A few notable exceptions include me, when I upgraded my 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII’s headlights with the factory HID system used on certain 1996 models. It was all factory parts, and worked great… until time and orphan parts reared their ugly heads.

Long story short, there is no real scientific benefit to HIDs if you don’t have a headlight assembly designed for the HID bulb. And sometimes, depending on headlight lense design and bulb choice, it’s more of a detriment. And the only Panther that can safely run HIDs are 2003-2011 Town Cars with the (optional) factory-installed HID lenses. Everything else throws out a ton of glare and is dangerous for fellow motorists. And yourself, if you encounter a lot of reflective signs on the road or drive in thunderstorms at night in urban lighting conditions.

Plus, most of these aftermarket kits are quite unreliable: from the quality of wiring, durability of relays, and design of bulbs, calling these HID retrofit vendors “hit or miss” would be an understatement.

Plus again, many of these kits are downright illegal. Even if they are DOT approved, are they legal for use in your state? Better find out before you buy.

One last remark: the non-HID’s on my father’s 2006 Town Car are disturbingly close to the general lighting quality of the HID’s in my 1995 Mark VIII. Who says these Panthers are old school? Their lighting pods are pretty darn high-tech!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Join the conversation
3 of 69 comments
  • Spartan Spartan on Jan 11, 2012

    HIDs in reflector housings designed for halogens are a terrible idea. Mostly because people get on eBay and buy 10000k temp bulb kits that emit this awful blue lighting that is just awful on the eyes. I wish the cops would crack down on that more because they're damn near always aimed like high beams. I have a Taurus SHO and a G37, both with HIDs and projector housings. Even at the factory temp bulb of 4300k, my eyes get tired if I'm driving for along distance. The halogens in our 08 Explorer with yellow fogs are much easier on our eyes at night.

  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Jan 11, 2012

    I'm in complete agreement with others here that say, don't convert to HID kits without proper research. As stated, using these bulbs in a parabolic optical reflector type of headlight is asking for potential trouble as a lot of these systems are not well designed to start with as their beam patterns can vary greatly from excellent to pretty poor. I know as the beam pattern in my 1992 Ford Ranger truck leave a lot to be desired. The beam pattern is pretty spread out and not very bright, no matter what and leave too many areas kind of in the dark. These are NOT composite plastic, but are of actual glass so they aren't fogged up and used regular 9007, I think bulbs, forget now since I've not had to replace one in a few years. I've done some research and have concluded that projection headlights are MUCH better at light distribution than most parabolic optical reflector systems as they rely on the orientation of the bulb for proper dispersion, and even then, the design may leave a poor dispersion and potentially increased glare, despite adhering to headlight regulations here in the US. Fiat offers the Infrared H1 bulbs, ie, the H1R2 bulb in particular in what is known as a bi-halogen projector setup whereby the shutter moves up to block the lower portion of the light to create the low beam, and drops out of the way to create the high beam. I hear they work very well. As Sajeev says, if you have projector units, using HID bulbs is less an issue but then again, the laws in your particular state may say otherwise about their use. I'm thinking of going with the infrared halogen bulbs in my next car.

    • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Jan 12, 2012

      Can you put those infrared halogens in standard halogen reflectors without annoying other drivers? Or does the light have to be specially designed for it?

  • Arthur Dailey So how much more unreliable is a 50 year old Italian made vehicle in comparison to a 5 year old Italian made vehicle? After 50 years wouldn't most of the parts and areas most prone to failure have been fixed, replaced and/or addressed?Asking for a friend? ;-)
  • Pig_Iron This is happy news for everyone in the industry. 🙂
  • Dukeisduke Globally-speaking, in August, BYD was the fourth best-selling brand name. They pushed Ford (which had been fourth) to sixth, behind Hyundai.
  • 2ACL Some of the reported issues sound expensive for all but the most committed wrenchers. Scant documentation on some of the previous work is also a minus. I wouldn't mind something like this, but whereas the seller is trying to make room, I don't have any for something this intensive.
  • Merc190 Any Alfa has a unique character built in, so there's that, once you get it running properly, until it doesn't...