Monday, April 16, 2012

Installment #3 – Headlights

Most European 1969 Porsche 911/912 models had really bright headlights which, unfortunately, were not legal in the U.S. at the time. 

“U.S. Legal” 1969 Porsches were equipped with standard U.S. sealed-beam headlights available from your local auto parts store.

Above:  The 912’s front left side lights, including an unused provision for one more below the trim line.

In 2006, I replaced my U.S. sealed beam headlights with street-legal Hella H-4 headlights from Germany.   

The Hella H-4 produces a light that seems “crisper” than what I saw with the U.S. sealed beams.  But they are still perfectly legal in California and have not proven a bother to oncoming traffic.   

The H-4s are not the brightest headlights out there, but that’s not the point.  Some of the brighter ones, especially the blue-white L.E.D. variety, are a bit extreme for my older car and others simply aren’t legal for highway driving.  Why tempt fate?

Kevin Mentzer of Automotive Innovations and Restorations in Van Nuys, California did the body work on the 912’s 2005-2006 rehabilitation (not “restoration”).   

Between coats of hand sanded primer, Kevin came upon two sparkling new Bosch driving lights which he said were OEM optional lights for the 1969 911S.  

Kevin diplomatically suggested he install them in lieu of the Lucas Model 5-LR “Ranger” driving lights I put atop the previously described front bumper horns in 1969.

This sounded like a good idea since the Lucas lights could not be re-installed (they are too large) in the horn grilles on either side of the hood opening.  Surprisingly to some who may have other experiences with Lucas electrical products, the Lucas “Ranger” driving lights worked perfectly and are now safely stored in my garage.

I had black vinyl covers made for the new Bosch lights which are not legal for street or highway use in California.  The covers are easily removed and protect the lights from bugs, blowing sand and all but the biggest rocks.  The covers also protect me from possible accusations that I might have been using the lights improperly.

While we’re discussing headlights, it’s appropriate to remind readers that proper aiming of car headlights is an important safety item.

It’s a lot easier to hit something at night because your headlights aren’t properly aimed.  Improperly aimed headlights can also be a hazard for other drivers, too.  

Finally, on headlights, beware of driving “faster than your lights”.  

If you can’t safely stop your vehicle within the area illuminated by your headlights, you’re driving too fast.  

This rule about never driving “faster than your lights” also applies to rain, fog, snow, smoke, blowing dust, etc., just as it does on a dark night.

Adding realism to this principle, I was driving alertly, in daylight, at legal speed and in clear weather when I encountered a herd of cattle on the roadway in eastern Oregon.  

The cows were not near the highway, or beside the highway or close to the highway.  

Many of them were ON the highway!

Above:  My daylight encounter with a herd of cattle on the highway in eastern Oregon.

I slowed down, way down, in plenty of time.  I took the photo above coasting (to keep engine noise to an absolute minimum) very slowly through the herd.  I did so with one foot covering the brake pedal and took this photo with great care.

Once I cleared the herd, I slowly resumed normal highway speed and continued without incident toward the distant mountain twisties.  

The photo above is from the cattle herd encounter sequence I included in my first book, “U.S. Route 395”.

But what if I had been driving “faster than my lights” at night, in fog, snow or rain?  The black cattle would have been very difficult to see under any of those conditions.  Ouch!

Safety first.  Always! 

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