Upgrading the sealed beam units on the V8

Most V8 enthusiasts who still have sealed beam headlights find the lights wholly inadequate for modern driving conditions. Steve Taylor, who runs the auto electrical supplier SVC at Tamworth in the West Midlands, provides a useful note on upgrading sealed beams so more modern lighting standards can be achieved. The comments from members point to the Cibie replacement units as the preferred option. (Apr 05)

Driving an MGBGTV8 at night on the original sealed beam headlights, you are aware that the level of illumination is not good enough on country roads at even modest speeds. If you have rain as well, then you find yourself straining to see ahead and reducing speed as you simply cannot see very far ahead! Well this difficulty can be overcome by fitting a headlamp conversion kit and good bulbs. The result is better lighting which is closer to the standards we experience in more modern cars.

The latest improved WIPAC Quadoptic 7" lens as it has a moulded reflector and a convex lens is what is needed for your MGBGTV8. This is more accurate than the older pressed steel reflector, but more importantly for you, when replacing the sealed beam light it has a similar "pinch", the thickness of the glass and reflector that clamps the headlight into the "nest" assembly. The older types tended to rattle if not packed out. These lenses can be bought without side light for the chrome bumper V8 and with integral side lights for the rubber bumper models. Both are left dipping units for the UK market.

SVC prices for the left dipping units for the UK market are:
Halogen Quadoptic lenses @ £34 pair
Upgrade Quadoptic lenses @ £46 pair

Prices include VAT, but not delivery which is a further £6.00. Right dipping units are available for the mainland European and USA markets at £40 and £52 respectively. The Halogen Quadoptic units take an H4 halogen bulb and the Upgrade Quadoptic units take an H4 xenon bulb which produces 50% more output.

SVC can supply the standard halogen H4 bulb or an up-rated bulb. They do not supply the high wattage bulbs (which are illegal in any case) as these can put a strain on the original wiring and switches. SVC do supply bulbs having a mix of Xenon and Halogen gasses which draw the same current and the light is brighter as they burn hotter. Osram claims an additional 50% light. Steve Taylor says "I have these on the MGB Roadster although not on the RV8 yet, and they are good! What can one say about sealed beam lights other than the sooner you replace them the better. They were designed in the 1940s when driving was far more sedate. The light output is very poor. We generally say that at 4 mph, sealed beams are just about OK!"

SVC, or Stafford Vehicle Components, was started by Tony Stafford (hence the company name) nearly 25 years ago and Steve Taylor met him when he started the local MG Group as he had an MGTD at the time. Tony sold the business to Steve about four years ago. You can see the SVC website at

Gordon Hesketh-Jones adds - "As I have always used my V8 all-year-round with considerable night-driving plus of course club rallies, one of my
first tasks nearly 20 years ago was to replace the ridiculous sealed beam units with modern units and halogen bulbs. Because by definition these replacements are not sealed, the steel reflectors went rusty and needed to be replaced every four to five years. However the then 60w halogen bulbs produced good quality, useable light so the regular reflector changes were a small price to pay for decent lights. The current replacement units in my V8 set are by WIPAC and I agree that that their convex front profile looks remarkably like the original (Lucas) sealed beam units.

When I bought an 1800 MGBGT for my wife Jennifer in October 2002, one of the first tasks was to fit new headlights plus 60w halogen bulbs. Her replacement headlights are by Lucas and the front profile is quite flat but the 60w halogens in the Lucas lenses give a better light than the 100w halogens I have fitted in my WIPAC lenses at present. So I would hesitate to give the WIPAC
headlights too strong an endorsement, although the mention of non-steel reflectors is very interesting.

With respect to the comment in this V8NOTE324 about the wiring, the headlamp wiring harness is easily able to cope with the load from two 100w headlights which is only 16.6amps compared to the 60w bulbs which draw a total of 10amps. The weak point in the system however is the headlamp switch/dip switch, so I fitted a pair of relays to switch the main load.

I did experiment with quartz-iodine bulbs a few years ago; the light seemed only slightly better but then one failed in less than 6 weeks so I reverted to halogens".

Chris Hunt Cooke, who has a V8 Roadster Conversion, comments "just as an additional thought on headlight replacement, I think it is worthwhile considering fitting headlamp units incorporating sidelights on the chrome bumper cars, and re-routing the cable from the existing sidelights. The MGB side lamp unit is not well protected from the weather and will eventually start to corrode however much Waxoyl is used on it. Experience shows that it is always the sidelight that fails first, being smaller and more delicate than the flasher bulb, so taking it out of service effectively prolongs the life of the whole unit. Since the existing assembly is left in place and intact, this modification is only visible when the lights are in use".

Bob Owen (Blaze 1625) from Hampshire contributed some points as a sequel saying "my V8 has Hella replacement headlights with high output Halogen bulbs - currently road legal 60W/55W Cool Blue bulbs from Osram - with xenon gas (see below). The performance is almost up to the lights on my 1997 Rover 214; however, the beam definition is noticeably poorer".

Geoff King (Tartan Red 4029) from Kincardineshire added "There are replacement headlights available from several manufacturers such as Ring, Wipac, Hella and Cibie. Bulbs too are available from several manufacturers - but they are not all equal in quality. I have a Mini that happens to have a Hella reflector on one side and a Cibie on the other, both fitted with the same Halogen bulbs; the Cibie has a far more defined beam pattern. My MGB originally had one Wipac and one Hella headlight, the Wipac was worse than the Hella for beam scatter and corroded quickly.

Replacement Wipac Quadoptic lens for the MGB & MGBGTGTV8.

A change to Cibie reflectors made a large improvement and with 100/90-watt Halogen bulbs (no longer available) they are as good if not better than any car without HID headlights. In my opinion the best replacement 7" headlight unit is a Cibie H180 with 100/80 Power White bulbs or, if your car needs E-marked bulbs, then 60/55-watt 4000K cool blue. One of the cheapest places to buy them is Classic And Rally Services, Unit 1, Joules Croft, Elton, Matlock". Their contacts are below. Bob Owen responded saying the beam definition information was useful and he will look out for some Cibies.

Les Twigg of Classic And Rally Services (CARS), the online motor sport parts specialists, responded to an enquiry from the V8 Webmaster on the availability of the Cibie replacement units as follows: "The Cibie H180 is available with or without sidelight and has a convex lens that looks pretty much identical to the old Lucas 7" sealed beam units. The best road legal bulbs are probably the Osram Silverstars which are supposed to give a 50% increase over standard Halogen bulbs. The 100/80 Powerwhites are really designed for rallying and although they may have been particularly difficult to get hold of, I spoke with the guy who supplies the Powerwhites and he was not aware there was a problem so he is going to let me know if there will be any supply problems in the future. We also do a Phillips bulb which I understand is similar to the Powerwhite and a 100/80w & 130/90w bulbs which the article says are no longer available - but they are! The Cibie H180 M+D lamps are £19.41 each including VAT and £20.83 with a sidelight. There has been a price rise of around 4% which we haven not got round to implementing yet. Carriage is £7.30 to most of UK but note a price rise is also imminent!"

The contacts for CARS are:
Web address is www.cars-gb.com which should be used as the cars.u-net.com address is likely to disappear at any time as they have changed service providers. Using www.cibie.co.uk will also find them. Telephone number is 01629 650800.

Jim Gibson commented that "if changing headlamps, I would also recommend considering replacement of the short wiring harness at each unit if these have any age to them. The Lucar connectors in these tarnish over the years. They also go brittle, so losing their springiness and can even break - one of mine did. On one occasion, changing my nearside sealed beam unit for the umpteenth time (always the dip that had gone ) I noticed that the male connectors on my spare unit were tarnished, so I cleaned them and then thought of the connectors in the harness. On looking closely at them I saw that one of them was partly broken, so it was possibly making a poor, and maybe intermittent, contact".

For further information on lighting history and terminology, see V8NOTE326.
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