1939 Plymouth Headlights; Halogen Replacements and Missing Sockets
I recently acquired a 1939 Plymouth. These cars had headlights that were unique to that year (they are squarish) and many '39s have been modified to use conventional round headlights. There was an aftermarket conversion kit available at one time.
This car has been converted to 12V and an attempt made to upgrade the headlights to halogen lights. Essentially, a sealed-beam halogen bulb was wedged inside the original reflector. The original lens was then installed over this. The diffusion of the light from TWO lenses is so great that the car is unsafe to drive at night. Removing the original lens makes it brighter (the wiring needs some attention), but that solution visually unappealing.
I suppose I could graft on some late-model headlights (like those from a Mini Cooper), but I would like to keep the original look since it is so unique.
I have the original buckets, reflectors and lenses. The original bulb was a 2331 and took a DB-P15D30-1 socket. I am missing the DB-P15D30-1 socket
Halogen bulbs in a 2331 configuration are available from Classic and Vintage Bulbs. This Australian site carries a number of drop-in replacement halogens for older vehicles.
I have only found one place to obtain the sockets: Don's Bulbs, but he is asking $100 apiece for the sockets. Ouch! Other sources?
My reflectors are probably OK with a little polishing. I see that the well-regarded Steve's Auto Restorations offers re-silvering service; it would be at least $125 each for my reflectors. Since they are in good shape, an alternative is available from Caswell, Inc. and their SILVERSMITH or SILVERPLATER products. Anybody have some experience with these products?
Comments and advice are appreciated. For the moment, I'm adding some inexpensive driving lights to augment the existing crummy lighting. Re-wiring the headlights using relays to improve the voltage supplied to the lights will be done no matter what decision I make.
I would make all attempts at getting rid of the square headlamps. Those prices tell me to seek an alternative. Your car does not appear to be original so I would go with traditional headlamps.
I agree that the prices do seem high, but consider the cost of a conversion which includes not only the cost of new headlight assemblies, but labor to modify the fenders and install them and the cost of repainting the fenders. If I really wanted a nice custom look, I might consider hidden lights similar to the coffin-nosed Cord. (BTW, I read that the word "coffin" was for some 300 years used to describe dessert pies before it was applied to burial caskets.)
The reason for posting here is that all of us are smarter than any one of us and there probably are other less expensive solutions. In a discussion with an AACA friend, he suggested that I use the more common 2337 bulb and socket. This would only require some minor modification of the headlight bucket.
I don't know what the real differences are between the 2331 and 2337 bulbs is other than Chrysler used the 2331's - any experts know the answer?
I ordered the bulbs, socket and Headlight Brightener from Ron Frances Wiring for a very reasonable $77 including shipping. If this works, it is probably the most cost-effective and quickest solution, The Ron Frances bulbs are conventional incandescents with 125/75 candlepower, but I can always try the halogen bulbs if I'm not satisfied with the brightness. And I can always augment the headlights with driving lights. Kanter sells some nice vintage-looking driving and spotlights.
I'll polish the '39s reflector buckets and apply the re-silvering compound mentioned above - I have a business so I can get the good stuff. They are brass and in relatively good shape, so this seems workable. I'll post back to the thread with the results (it may be several weeks).
I have disassembled the headlights, cleaned the reflectors and applied the silver compound to them and polished them. It really does make a difference in reflectivity, but there is still some minor pitting in the brass itself.
The lamps and sockets were obtained from Ron Frances. While they do fit the holes in the reflector, I don't yet know if the filament being 90 degrees different from the original MOPAR lamps will have an effect on the headlight pattern. If it does, it will certainly be easier to make a jig to drill three new holes rather than locate the one-year-only sockets and lamps.
I am re-wiring the headlight circuit to use relays and mitigate any voltage drop to the lamps and should have it all done by the end of the week. I'll post again if I have to drill new holes.
39 plymouth headlights
I have a set of the aftermarket "conversion" lights. Made by Electroline Inc. All of the "interior" mounting rings, etc. are in excellent condition. THe outer trim rings are a little pitted, but could be rechromed. Will part with them CHEAP as they don't fit my 37.
Thanks, but I'll pass. I've grown to like the damn ugly rectangular lights.
BTW, I have a '37 Plymouth coupe as well. I love the lines on that car and think they were the best of the series.
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