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Daytime lighting options for classic cars


Classic car enthusiasts are increasingly aware that with the growth of bright Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) on modern cars which have become much larger, not least from the growth in new SUVs and 4x4s, the relative visibility of a classic car like an MGBGTV8 is becoming a real concern. Here we review three options for daytime driving: using dipped headlights and fitting DRLs either within the headlamps or as separate lighting units.

See our full article on daytime lighting options for an MGV8: V8NOTE571



Typical bright DRLs on modern cars look like "startled eyebrows"

Concerns with relative visibility of classic cars
See our comprehensive information webpage for useful articles and information on the relative visibiity issues. More

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Concerns over growth of DRLs and "relative visibility" of classic cars on the road
Classic car enthusiasts are increasingly aware that with the growth of bright Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) on modern cars which have become much larger, not least from the growth in new SUVs and 4x4s, so the relative visibility of a car like an MGBGTV8 is becoming a real concern. Mike Howlett has an MGBGTV8 Conversion which he uses frequently throughout the year and he commented on a V8BB thread that "having just driven 400 miles on the M4, M5, M6 and M74 today I can assure you that having DRLs on the front of the car is very valuable in dark gloomy weather even on a dual carriageway. If you want to pull out and overtake you need to be able to see vehicles coming up behind. The current trend for dark grey paintwork on modern cars makes them pretty invisible when you steal a quick glance in the mirrors. I use my headlights whenever I think it makes the car more visible, and on today's drive they were on pretty much all the time". The question for many MGV8 enthusiasts thinking of a DRL upgrade is what are the daytime lighting options? Here we review three options for daytime driving: using dipped headlights and fitting DRLs either within the headlamps or as separate lighting units.

What are the aims?
With any project it is always worth spending time clarifying what are the aims and intended outcomes. Clearly there has been a major change over recent years with Daytime Running Lights fitted to new cars produced by all leading manufacturers and they seem to be getting brighter. In some cases the functional aspect is overtaken by the styling features with some of the recent DRLs looking like startled eyebrows with a slightly threatening appearance - the "out of my way" suggestion! For classic car owners there is an additional factor and that is that modern cars are much larger today than they were in 1973 when the MGBGTV8 was launched, so driving it today you do feel an MGV8 is very much smaller. This contributes to the sense of reduced relative visibility on public roads. So the aim is improving daytime relative visibility of an MGV8 on public roads in the UK retrofitting some form of DRL option.


What are the daytime lighting options for an MGV8?

The three options available are:

1. Dipped headlights
Clearly the simplest option, possibly with the use of upgraded halogen bulbs providing brighter daytime lighting. The additional benefit is that with dipped headlights for daytime use you also have rear lighting so if road conditions deteriorate, from road spray or mist, you will be visible to other road users behind you. See our note on upgrading MGBGTV8 headlamps with replacement H4 Halogen headlamp units. V8NOTE572

2. DRLs fitted in the headlamp
This option for retrofitting DRLs involves using a replacement headlamp kit, comprising a lens and reflector which has provision for a front sidelight bulb, where a DRL bulb can be used as a replacement. There will be a need for a device (relay) that automatically switches off the DRLs when the headlights are turned on manually for driving at night or in poor daytime driving conditions. For rubber bumpered MGBGTV8s, this DRL arrangement will need modifications to provide front side lighting, probably using dipped headlights when the sidelight switch is used.
As DRLs provide no rear lighting, in poor daytime driving conditions when it is prudent to have rear lights on, the driver has to remember to turn on the dipped headlights to have rear lighting. There are concerns that some drivers are unaware that whilst DRLs provide good frontal daytime lighting they can be unaware there is no rear daytime lighting with DRLs.
See V8NOTE573

3. DRLs as separate items, typically concealed in the grille or below the chrome bumper
This option involves retrofitting a pair of DRL units available from Halfords or other autoparts suppliers. The typical location is in the front grille area but with rubber bumper MGBGTV8s alternative locations will be necessary. V8NOTE483

See our full article on daytime lighting options for an MGV8: V8NOTE571
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