Monday, February 15, 2010

Retina Burn In? Check.

I mentioned before that the Wipac Quadoptics that I had so carefully installed, wired, and relayed were unceremoniously dumped (and still for sale) in favor of some shiny new Cibié H4 7" headlamps. This was actually pretty easy to accomplish since all I had to do was rewire the pilot lamp. The only serious modification was to the headlamp bucket. The Cibié lamp has the pilot light located near the lower edge of the lamp versus the Wipac which had it relatively close to the main bulb. Thus it was necessary that I cut a small section out of the bucket in order to accommodate for this. I took no photos of this work to make sure any explanation here was utterly worthless. Mission accomplished I'd say.

So are these better than the Wipacs? Well, that's not necessarily a slam dunk unless the sex appeal of the Cibiés does something for you in which case you probably wouldn't even think twice. Truthfully though as far as the dipped beam goes I have to say the performance is about equal. They both have a nice, sharp beam cutoff, very little scatter, and do a really great job of lighting up the road especially in foggy conditions. Both of these perform so much better than my "modern" Subaru headlights that it's almost depressing.

However, when the high beams are activated that's when the Cibiés (unfunny in 3... 2... 1...) really shine. Honestly, the performance here is a lot more on par with driving lights than what you might expect from a high beam. It really makes me wonder why they ever stopped making cars with round headlights.

An unexpected bonus of this change was to bring back the bug-eyed look that the old Sylvania sealed-beams had. The glass on the Cibiés is more convex than the Wipacs which are actually quite flat by comparison.

Of course in my current mode of thinking a Mini just doesn't look complete without some additional, auxiliary lighting so the Cibié Tango 40 driving lamps were selected to further augment the very capable headlamps.

I originally had my sights firmly set on the venerable Cibié Oscar, the giant motorsport proven lamps seen on road circuits and rally courses the world over. Yet somehow calling them "giant" doesn't really do them justice where a Mini is concerned because they're absolutely enormous. I was torn because I really dug the 7" diameter lamps, but with a depth of nearly 5" it meant they would have stood far out in front of the bumper and I wasn't really looking for the hardcore Rally look so I opted for the Tango as it's a far slimmer lamp. However, now that I have two, I think I'm definitely going to need another set so I can have the full compliment. That, however, won't be happening too soon at least.

With just two lamps up front I used some brackets that Mini Mania sells. Of course in their product pictures they have them all shined up pretty, but they're actually delivered completely raw. Not only that, but the two brackets are somewhat different from each other (in terms of bends and angles). I should have photographed the difference, but I forgot and now they're installed. Functionally I'm not sure how big of a deal the differences were, but as I work in manufacturing I felt a little slighted by the lack of quality control.

I ended up painting mine instead of polishing mostly because I don't have a bench grinder at home. The finish was originally chrome (as "chrome" as a rattle can gets at any rate). I quickly ruined this bright silver finish by applying a clear coat of an incompatible nature. The end result is more of a gray metallic which actually isn't too bad.

Lesson #1: Always read the label on the paint can. Then make sure it's compatible with the paint you're going to apply it over.

That's probably pretty obvious to most folks, but I keep learning this lesson the hard way. Live and don't learn, that's me.

The brackets require two holes be drilled in the lip below the grill. I wasn't too thrilled with this, but thankfully I'm not doing this on the restored body. You can also see the little rubber pad I made out of a bicycle inner-tube. I also selected the button headed allen bolts because that looked a lot cleaner to me than the hex headed bolts I frequently see used in this application. When these are all fastened to the car it makes for a very sturdy hard point.

The wiring was fairly uneventful since I purchased a Hella Auxiliary Lighting Wiring Harness. I thought this would make the job a little quicker which it did, but now I have a relay that's not like the others. The first two relays for my high and low beams have an 85 and 85a poles, while the Hella relay has 85 and 86. This is significant because these two types of relay aren't interchangeable (and I added an extra label to remind myself of that).

I can support one more relay on my little custom made bracket there, but what's becoming very apparent is that the wiring is starting to get out of control. So I really need to rethink this and when I do the full tear-down I'm going to put a lot of thought and effort into rewiring the headlamps permanently with relay based switching. This would definitely deviate from stock by taking this approach, but I don't like how cluttered this is. I've also found a couple products (here) and (here) that may help tidy things up a bit. Although the latter product is going to require some sort of weather-proof enclosure to work.

One cool thing about the Hella harnesses was how they make splices. I need to find the tool that can make this sort of solderless joint. Sadly this bit had to be removed because the harness was way too big for the Mini.

Inside the Cabin there's a switch to operate the lamps and this is something I'm not happy with (below left). Both the style of the switch and the fact that it's always lit doesn't appeal to me. So I'm thinking about finding a stock switch that can handle this and then see if there's not another way to squeeze in more switches on the center dash while maintaining a stock appearance (below right). I am proud to say that during the installation of the switch I managed to take a healthy chunk out of my thumb when attempting to pop out a plastic plug and in so doing continued my fine tradition of blood shedding with every project.

So with everything wired up I just needed to mount the lights and reattach the bumper. This was a little tricky because the bumper wont fit with the lights fully threaded and you can't get the lights on once the bumper is in place so everything has to be carefully brought together and tightened up in stages.

For added security I bought some Barrie Nuts for the lamps. However, these absolutely would not fit with the lamp brackets and the bumper, but if I go to a four lamp bar I should be able to use them. Still, I think having to take the bumper off before you can remove the lamp bolts works fairly well as far as rudimentary theft deterrent goes.

The Cibié light covers are kind of sporty looking, but I think I'm going to find some clear lens covers instead. Besides, I think it's been well established among the folks who know me that I am not sporty so I can hardly be expected to pull this look off.

The final impact is accurate and blinding. The beam pattern out of these lamps is almost perfectly square and they literally fill the road with light. The best part is these use a standard set of 55w bulbs (just say no to blue/hyper white bulbs).

And with that, I shall bring this session to a close.

Next up will be a new Tachometer. I've ordered a reproduction Smiths tachometer that should be arriving in country within the next week. However I'm struggling a bit in my communications with the folks I'm buying this from so I'm a little wary this will actually happen, but I'll hope for the best (and no, it's not the company in the link).

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