photos/text: Holley and Evan Perkins

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Driving a classic car is a powerful, soulful experience. For some, it’s a window to days gone by. For others, a portal to a time before theirs. Memory, emotion, and the thrill of the open road blend and bind us to these machines.

We restore, maintain, and upgrade them lovingly, often balancing modern improvements on a razor’s edge to maintain the nostalgic charm these vehicles have in spades. The look, the sound, and the feel crave harmony. However, when the sun sets, a woeful, dimly lit inadequacy, too often overlooked in our vintage rides, appears. The tired, sealed-beam headlights struggle to deliver more than a few car lengths of highway glow.

Holley RetroBright headlights incorporate modern LED technology into a direct-fit, easy to install housing that looks right at home on a classic vehicle.

Headlights that were once a touted advance in automotive evolution leave much to be desired by today’s standards. A simple swap to a brighter bulb seems obvious, but previous solutions to the problem have been clunky and aesthetically out of place.

Ill-fitting aftermarket housings welcomed moisture, required substantial mounting modifications, and many Jeep-sourced lights had a look unbecoming of a classic car. Then there was the issue of wiring, which often required cutting, splicing, and sometimes even greater surgery to yield a mediocre result.

To deliver a better solution for improved lighting and visibility, perfect fitment, and plug-and-play installation, Holley teamed up with industry-leading LED lighting designer Morimoto. The result: Holley RetroBright, a new line of LED, sealed-beam-style headlights in round and rectangular  styles that deliver a classic look with modern illumination.

LED vs Halogen

Shown is a RetroBright light (left) as compared to a conventional sealed-beam headlight (right). Unlike retrofit headlights sourced from Jeeps, RetroBright housings are intended for OEM, shallow headlight buckets and don’t require any modifications to install. RetroBright lights are also constructed from durable polycarbonate which is much more durable than glass.

Halogen sealed beam lights were the industry standard for the better part of half a century, but much like the rotary dial telephone or the typewriter, they have been superseded.

Halogen headlights contain a tungsten filament in a glass housing that is filled with inert halogen gas. When the light is on, electricity flows through the tungsten filament inside the glass capsule. Electrical resistance in the tungsten filament causes it to heat up, to approximately 4500º F, and glow. This is referred to as an incandescent process– hence, the term incandescent bulb.

An LED, or light emitting diode, works in a completely different manner. Electrical current passes through a diode, a semiconducting material, which then emits photons (light). LEDs do not rely on heat to create light which makes them run cooler, and last considerably longer than a comparable incandescent bulb. A typical incandescent bulb lasts about 2,000 hours whereas an LED has a lifespan of 50,000 hours.

The light generating process of an LED is also much more electrically efficient and draws roughly half as much current. This is a major win for vintage vehicles that are still operating OEM style alternators where amperage capacity is often in short supply.

Plug and Play

Previous LED headlight conversions fell heavily into the universal category. That typically meant cutting and splicing in new connectors and even wiring in current-limiting resistors, which if left out could cause the LEDs to burn out. There’s always a place for universal products in our hot-rodding hobby but for the brunt of enthusiasts, a direct-fit option is the most convenient, easiest-to-install route. RetroBright’s OEM connectors allow the factory wiring to plug directly into the new housing. Adapters for non-standard H4 wiring plugs and pin outs and splitters for quad beam hi/lo set-ups are also available (PN H810 for splitters and PN H820 for non-standard H4 adapters).

RetroBright Sizes and Colors

Holley RetroBright lights will be available in 7-inch round, 5.75-inch round, and 4×6-inch, 5×7-inch rectangular sizes which encompasses a huge expanse of American, European, and Japanese vintage automobiles. The lights will also be available in two different color temperatures: 5700k, which is a modern white, and 3000k which delivers a more nostalgic warm classic yellow color, without sacrificing any brightness. Lights will also be available with clear or yellow “euro-style” lenses.

Classic Looks Meet Modern Performance

At the end of the day, there is no beating the look of a classic vehicle, and RetroBright offers the rare chance to add significant performance, safety, and modern convenience without losing that classic charm.

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