Restoration of rear lights, plus upgrade options

Discussion in 'E9 Projects and Restorations' started by Mo Brighta, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. Mo Brighta

    Mo Brighta Member

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    Hello all, this is a repost of my thread on Bimmerforums (link below, above the pics). I'm kind of a newbie here, glad to be aboard!

    In a kind of long drawn out project between my other projects, I have been restoring a set of lights from the back of my neighbor Wayne's 1973 3.0CS. He and I had spoken about our 2002s, and about lighting improvements I was doing for other models (see sig) to try and keep more of these older bimmers on the road, and fewer in the wrecking yards.

    I looked into commercial electroplating (not a very popular option, couldn't find anyone willing locally), home electroplating (less expensive, but not nearly as good as the original), and repainting with "shiny" silver paint from a spray can. Silver repaint is the method used in my E24 six series projects, and works beautifully. So, repaint it is.

    Next step was cleaning the reflectors to prep for paint- disassembling, scraping, sanding, and buffing to a 'smooth' surface finish, repainting, and then reassembling both of the reflector subassemblies, with some 'magic' in between to enable the socket conversions that would allow use of different (dual filament, nickel base, high output) bulbs for the upgrade.

    Final step (this is the good part) was to convert the bulb sockets to accept new bulbs to increase the visual size, output, and reliability of the lights for two critical functions, tail and brake lights. And what a difference!

    You might know that I have been doing this for over seven years with E12, E21, E23, E24, E28, E30, E32, E36, E39, and other makes and models, but the E9 was a real challenge, and was equally rewarding to see it in action.

    First of all, the E9 coupe has a beautiful shape, and in it's day, was a real high performance car. Today, a nice example is worth a fortune in sheer driving pleasure, with ample head-turning ability. Losing one of these due to a preventable collision would be a heart breaker, not to mention the risk to life and limb for the occupants. Besides, too many parts are 'NLA', so let's not break them in the first place, right?

    Second, any car made in the 1970s is GOING to have fairly dim rear lights - my 1972 2002 was rear-ended five separate times by five idiots, and 'totalled' by five different insurance companies - but that's another story.

    Many vehicles sold in the last ten years are more truck than car, and most drivers would rather be doing anything other than driving. Getting run into (or over) by one of these behemoths would be disastrous, both to the coupe and to the driver and passengers. Best answer is to make SURE the drivers behind you can see you and understand your intentions, helping them react or brake in time, don't you think?

    Remember from drivers ed - driving a car or truck IS MULTI-TASKING BY DEFINITION, no outside activities to disract you are needed. (OK, I'll step away from the soap box now)

    So, what happens after this restoration and upgrade? Well, I took some pics at night from about 20 feet away, with the restored and upgraded tail light on the left side of the car, and the original light with polished reflectors and High Output bulbs on the right. The right side is bright, but the left side is INCREDIBLE, when you see it for real. The camera tries to 'balance' the exposure, so you will have to take Wayne's word, it is VERY much brighter, and bigger too. The upgrade is basically making both the original tail and brake lights into both tail and brake lights, so two bulbs light on each side with the headlights, and both get brighter when you step on the brake.

    Here are some comparison photos, but only the thumbnails.

    For full size, here is a link to another site where they are hosted, Bimmerforums (I will reduce and post here later).

    http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1898825

    This shows tail lights - single bulb on both sides-
    stock on the right, restored on the left, with high output bulb.
    [​IMG]


    Here is brake lights converted (dual bulbs) and restored on the left side. Converted tails look essentially the same, but dimmer
    [​IMG]


    Here is tail plus brake lights, stock on the right side.
    [​IMG]


    Finally, here is a comparison of turns, stock on the right, upgraded and restored on the left.
    [​IMG]


    As I said, the camera tried to outsmart me so the exposures aren't the same as real life. I'll ask Wayne to comment in a reply.

    And by the way, I must thank Wayne for providing me with a pair of lights from a parts car to 'experiment' on, proving the concept before 'messing around' with the lights from his very nicely sorted car. He has the high output bulbs, but still running stock (single) tail and brake lights.

    If anyone wants details, send me a pm or email.

    Please, let me have your replies with comments and questions, and let's see about getting one of these high performance lighting setups in your coupe! (hey, I gotta pay rent, you know)


    __________________
    Andy, the tail light guy, says "Be Seen, and Not Hurt"!
    Lighting Upgrades for 2002, E3, E9, E12, E21, E23, E24, E28, E30, E32, E36, E39 front and back -
    Tail Light Improvements to keep them off your tail.
    Headlight protection to keep your 'eyes' from being punched out.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
  2. HB Chris

    HB Chris Well-Known Member Site Donor $

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    Questions:

    1) Andy who?
    2) I don't feel like registering for Bimmerforums to see pictures
    3) I like the old saying "less is more" but maybe I'm getting grouchy as I age

    Chris
     
  3. Mo Brighta

    Mo Brighta Member

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    Questions, grumpiness?

    1) Andy the tail light guy (LaMorte, if you need my last name).

    2) Don't have to; it seems they link from here as well. IF you cannot go there, let me know and I will repost here. I do not think you need to be registered to view posts, just to make a new one, or comment on an existing post. I logged out, and the pics still appear - but as links, with no thumbnails. I can still get the pic to show even as the anonymous user.

    3) I like that old saying too; can't comment on the rest of it ... :p Don't know you that well, yet.


    So, now that we have that straightened out, any questions on the topic of discussion?

    Anyone?

    I have added a couple more pics over there, so I will add them here too.

    Here are pics of the brake light reflector comparing before versus after repaint, and standard versus high output bulb - it helps with viewing distance and reaction time, reducing rear end collisions. Photos were all taken using the same exposure, FYI, so you can compare the effects of each change.

    Brk-ar-tiny.JPG Brk-repaint-tiny.JPG

    brk-stdbulb-tiny.JPG brk-HObulb-tiny.JPG

    Someone please let me know if they can see the linked pics above, and over at Bimmerforums without being registered, thanks!
     
  4. HB Chris

    HB Chris Well-Known Member Site Donor $

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    Sorry, I meant Wayne who? Is he on this board?
    I can see the photos now, before I got the registration pop up

    Thank you
     
  5. David

    David Active Member Site Donor

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    Im having a little trouble following this. I understand that you modified the lights socket to accept a different bulb. But did this involve separating the outer red/orange lens from the rest of the light , and then reassembling the two parts ?
     
  6. Mo Brighta

    Mo Brighta Member

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    Who?

    Waynesie, that's who, and yes he is on this board.

    He provided two lights from a parts car, and has an HO bulb set in his '73.

    After I compete both of the parts car lights, I will install in his car for more pics.

    Which I will post here, as well as over on the other forum.
     
  7. Mo Brighta

    Mo Brighta Member

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    upgrade question

    David- I know, it can get confusing with all the different things I described.

    The 'outer red/orange lens' stays in the car. Didn't touch, separate, molest, or remove the lens. If you ever do, I recommend getting all new gaskets before you do, as it will leak otherwise.

    The inner part with reflectors and bulb carrier (grey plastic part in the trunk), is removed by unscrewing two white plastic nuts. You tilt it into the trunk without pulling any wires off to change a bulb. Or, you remove four wires, tilt it into the trunk, then remove the ground wire from inside, to remove it from the car. That's what I did to restore and upgrade the lights. You do not normally remove it from the car to change a burned out bulb.

    Anything else, ask away!
     
  8. Stevehose

    Stevehose Well-Known Member Site Donor

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    These are cool mods, especially the 2nd brake light. What did you use for reflective paint? All the stuff I've tried sucks.
     
  9. waynesie

    waynesie Member

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    Andy lives a couple doors down from me. I am the "Wayne" Andy is referring too.

    I knew Andy did tail light refurbishing for 80's BMWs, but at the time we talked about it several years ago I only had my 02 race car and did not really need any thing for it. Last year I final bought a CS after looking for several years, and Andy know I had it. At a summer Bar-B-Q we talked about tail lights again as Andy mentioned never having a set of E9 tail lights to look at.....

    Well I got him some parts as it seams this was a good idea. I really like my car, I drive it a lot, and I don't want some one that is not paying attention to destroy it.

    I remember the posts of adding a third brake light, it too is a good idea, but this is just making what is already there work way better. The stock lights are very dim, and old ones with bad reflectors are even worse.

    Andy's refurb was easy - give him the light / reflector panel - he returns it ready to plug back in. Plus you can up grade light output as you want. His prices for doing this work is very reasonable (I think).

    I will be helping Andy try out some different configurations and try to take some comparitive pictures with my coupe with one light modified and one light as is to see the difference. Just takes time and I have been too busy.
     
  10. Mo Brighta

    Mo Brighta Member

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    paint

    I have two paints, one Krylon, one Rustoleum. The Krylon has a slightly rough surface, which I like for diffusing the light over a wider angle. The perfectly smooth stuff has a tendency to aim the light in a narrow beam, which is not good if you want your lights to be visible by everyone.

    Go with the 'Indoor/Outdoor' application if you find it, it will be shown on the can.

    Don't ask the paint shop guy to recommend a paint for tail lights, he has been told by the lawyers to NEVER recommend a paint for cars, I guess they want to avoid you suing if it doesn't work out and your car gets hit.

    As with any paint, good surface prep is the key.

    Good luck!
     
  11. Peter Coomaraswamy

    Peter Coomaraswamy Well-Known Member Site Donor $

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    Not sure

    If I did this right, but I went round n round with the guy at the auto parts store after reading this thread and came up with a chrome paint from "dupli-color". I prepped the surfaces and did the deed. It will be a while before I install them but does anyone have a comment on painting the inside of the housing-as I did- to hopefully add a little more brightness?

    Thanks
     

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  12. loloe13

    loloe13 Member Site Donor

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    I also did this upgrade with 'chrome' paint, but just on the reflectors part. I think the result is good. At the same time, I also got to remove the 40years old dirt that was on the lens, I am sure that would help too.


     
  13. 61porsche

    61porsche Active Member

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    See the similar thread on mystery tail light. To be authentic, perhaps it's necessary to "candy" color the red refelctor part. There was another article on using model paint from a hobby shop in small spray cans. That gent used it to "tint" his marker covers. Looked nice to me.

    Perhaps others -maybe Chris- can comment on originality of the reflectors and the need to color certain sections for that brighter than new look and safety.
     
  14. HB Chris

    HB Chris Well-Known Member Site Donor $

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    I cleaned my reflectors with bronze wool and applied Mylar reflective tape but chrome paint would work just as well. It is interesting that the brake light reflectors all have traces of red paint on them, every one I've seen that is. I don't think red is needed, just get them as bright and polished as possible with matching silver base bulbs.
     
  15. dang

    dang Administrator Staff Member Site Donor

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    Any issues with the upgraded bulbs melting the lenses? The stock 2002 lenses get melted with the original style bulbs.

    Any LED mods?

    Dan
     
  16. dj_efk

    dj_efk Member

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    The pics aren't appearing for me?
     
  17. rsporsche

    rsporsche Well-Known Member Site Donor $$

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    sometimes you have to login again ... and they show up
     
  18. Mo Brighta

    Mo Brighta Member

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    Update - project nearly complete

    Hello, hope you all had a nice holiday and the new year is treating you well!

    Sorry if I have been MIA, my CP settings did not include notification of new posts; that's been corrected.

    I have been sporadically working this project in between all the E23, E24, E28, and E30 jobs, I'm nearing the finish line!

    I am tweaking the wiring, bulb socket modifications, and re-silvering of the reflectors for a more durable and user-friendly result. After all, someone will have to use and maintain these lights after they are converted, right?

    SOOOOO, since I was waiting for another shipment of HO bulbs, I decided to dig into this again. I was blessed by new ideas in the meanwhile (I guess my brain was stewing on it) - simplification in some case, a different approach in others. However, I kept the user in mind throughout. Don't think the most elegant solution will be useful if it requires a degree in 'rocket science' to change a burned-out bulb ... I have been accused of being a rocket scientist, and with some truth to it, I have to rely on the 'other half' of my brain to keep the KISS principle active.

    Y'all know about the KISS principle, right?

    I'll post more pics soon, hopefully you will see them (my understanding of forum software notwithstanding). I will adjust the camera to show their true appearance by over-riding automatic exposure features, and maybe put my car next to it for comparison. Naturally, it will be Wayne's coupe with the restored lights.

    Hey, after all this research and development, I hope to do this restoration and / or upgrade work for lots of coupes, get them up to snuff, and give you at least a fighting chance out there in the world of pickups, vans, SUVs, Hummers, and other assorted id-jits behind the wheel.

    Couldn't hurt your chances at a Concours d'Elegance either, having rear lights that look and perform like new, could it?

    And yes, I could do an LED conversion, all it takes is 'cubic dollars' - is anyone interested? Send me an email or PM.

    All the best,
    Andy
     
  19. Arde

    Arde Well-Known Member

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    E9 tail lights are a pleasure compared with the E36. The driving and brake light contacts are perpetually intermittent and they like to fail when there is a police car behind you. If you heard Gov. Brown's state of the State speech, he balanced California's budget all right, mostly using the fix it tickets I paid with my E36. I am thinking of soldering the wires to the lamps.

    Maybe E9 tail lights can be made brighter, but I do not see how you can make them any simpler. I am listening.
     
  20. Stan

    Stan Well-Known Member

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    FWIW, I do not believe Gov Brown.....
     

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