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Current Restoration

41A Conversion to Closed Headlights

CONVERSION OF BONNET FROM OPEN HEADLIGHTS TO ENCLOSED HEADLIGHTS

My 1967 E-Type 2+2 currently has open headlights. Based on its build date (1966) and car number (1E76753) I feel pretty certain that the car was originally built with covered headlights. This is mainly based on information taken from Haddock. Frankly, I would probably make the conversion anyway just because it looks so cool!

The first step is discussed in my previous article on the bonnet. That is, I needed to get the center section and the 2 wing sections whipped into shape so I had a decent set of headlight openings to work with. Once I got the sheet metal in good shape, I started to look at what it would take to do the conversion.

I am fortunate in that I have a 1963 FHC, in boxes, to refer to. I looked at the corresponding panels (center and wings) and the only obvious difference is that the they have a “flange” or “lip” around the opening. I snagged the 2 glass covers and the 2 chrome surrounds out of their boxes. None were in great shape but not in bad shape either. They certainly could serve until I decided to buy replacements. BTW, a set of replacement glass covers and chrome surrounds runs around $1000 at the “usuals” so it was nice to have something on hand, for free, to work with. So following is a pictorial with captions on how the process went for me.  Note that based on discussion I have seen on Jag-Lovers forum, this modification becomes more complicated on later cars such as Series 2 and 3.

1

Above are the bulkhead from the open headlights (lower item) and the bulkhead from my 63 FHC (upper item). The differences are pretty clear. With open headlights, the entire headlight assembly sits farther forward in the car so there is just a shallow depression in the bulkhead. In the covered version, the headlight assembly sits farther back and sits in the round opening shown. I built a new bulkhead with a similar hole.

2

New bulkhead

3

Here is the new bulkhead with the headlight “bucket” being test fit. You will need 4 holes for the mounting screws plus 2 oversize holes to accept the plastic adjuster sockets, shown here at 9:00 and 12:00 positions.

4

Here is the modern headlight unit with high wattage bulbs that I bought from Susquehanna Motorsports. The high wattage bulb can only be used if the headlight circuit is properly re-wired with a relay and larger wire size, which I did previously. I think I am going to love these headlights! These turned out to be the same size as the sealed beam unit that was originally installed in the car. So they are a direct drop in.

5

Here are the 2 new bulkheads, mounted into position.

6

Here is the bonnet center section fit. The yellow is body filler over the area that I had to beat out with my hammer and dolly.

7

The first thing I did was tape cardboard around the inside of the opening in the sheet metal. Next, I took my glass (the blue tape is just to give me a little more friction to help when handling the glass) and tried it at different positions in the opening until it looked about right. Then I marked the perimeter of the glass with red dots. Then I added an additional 3/8″ outside the red dots and made black dots. Then I drew a freehand curve to connect the dots. In effect, you have the shape of the glass marked out, with an additional 3/8″. 3/8″ corresponds to the distance from the edge of the glass to the point in the gasket where it gets thinner. This will make more sense when you have the actual gasket in hand.

8

This picture is a litle confusing, since I’m still using a black line. The extra line is the outline of the actual opening in the sheetmetal. So at the bottom and the top, the required opening is substantially smaller than the actual opening. On the left hand side (in this picture) the actual opening and the required opening are about the same. On the right hand side, the actual opening is smaller than the required opening, i.e. the opening had to be made bigger on the sides. So a smaller opening is required at the top and the bottom and a bigger opening on the right side. The other side had a slightly different requirement, only going to show that E-Type sheet metal is not that precise.

9

Here I have marked the required opening in red and am using my snips to cut away material.

0

Here I have welded in an “eyebrow” piece at the top of the opening to get the right shape.

1

Here I have welded an “eyelid” piece in at the bottom. They are small but if you don’t weld them in, I fear that the gasket will fall through the opening.

2

Here I have test fit the glass, its rubber gasket, and the trim ring.

3

Here is the other side. The required metal inserts are similar but extend down on the side more.

4

The other side, at the bottom

5

OK, a new issue. I realized that the original opening had a recessed lip all around. Nice, if you’re pressing the parts out in a 100 ton press. I could have spent an inordinate amount of time piecing in a lip all around. I studied the purpose of the lip and realized it is there to keep the wind load from rolling the gasket and pushing the whole assembly through the hole. I decided the two pieces shown will be adequate the hold it all together. They are choosen to be on a fairly flat section so I could bend a small L piece and then trim the top edge to match the curvature of the opening.

6

Here is the other side.

7

Almost done. As shown above, at some point you will test fit the glass, the gasket, and the chrome trim ring. When you think everything is good, you will transfer the position of the 6 holes in the trim ring to the sheet metal opening. I purchased some weldable “nut plates” from McMaster-Carr. These are nothing more than a small segment of metal with thread cut in one end. 10-32 if I recall. These are then positioned on the underside of the opening and welded into position. In this picture, the wing is back off the car so you can see the back side easier. 6 of these are required on each opening.

8

Same shot from a little farther back, showing 3 nut plates

9

Next issue to resolve is the “sugar scoop”. Here we have a photo of a stock sugar scoop from my 1963 car. It does not appear to be a particularly good fit. So I decided to fabricate new ones.

0

I took light cardstock and laid it over the stock sugar scoop. Then I cut it out along the forward edge to a shape that looked correct.

1

Laid out flat, here is the shape of the sugar scoop transferred from the cardstock.

2

It helps if you have a slip roller. I have a 3 in 1 machine that I bought from Enco.

3

The required curvature is pretty close here

4

A flange or trim ring is tack welded around the end. 3 holes are drilled in it at 2 o’clock, 6, and 10

5

Looking good!

6

Test fit on the bulkhead. Now do it all over again for the other side.

7

Next, you need to get your wiring in order. The bulkhead plug allows the bonnet to be removed. I bought a 7 pin trailer plug (male and female) from Northern Hydraulics. I modified it by sawing off the housing somewhat to make it more compact.

8

Here is the male end.

9

Here is the opening in the bulkhead.

0

1

In order to allow the headlight bucket to be removable, I cut a U shaped slot in the top of the bucket and a corresponding slot in the opening on the bulkhead, to allow the wire bundle to pass through. Use a grommet.

2

Here, the female socket for the H4 bulb has been wired in. I had to consult the Internet to get the pin “arrangement” for a H4 bulb. How in the hell did we get anything done before the internet????

3

Final assembly of the parts begins.

4

Don’t forget to install and wire the sidelights. You will never be able to get to the back side of these once the sugar scoops are installed.

5

6

I trimmed the edge of the sugar scoop with rubber vacuum hose

7

Looking good!!!

8

Done. Done. Done. What a job!! But it looks great, don’t you think?

Final Thoughts:
A lot of work!
Good fabrication skills required.
Would be hard to do without a partial disassembly of the bonnet.

PS I noticed that the tire in the mid-laden position is about an inch from the headlight bucket. I’m going to have to take the bucket back out and flatten it to gain a little more clearance.

UPDATE:  Long after I have completed this project I have become aware of a firm Monocoque Metalworks  (http://www.monocoque-metalworks.com/main/) which sells a conversion kit that supplies the metal parts needed to convert to closed headlights.  I have not personally used the kit but have heard good things about Monocoque Metalworks.  Looking at their photos, one can see that this is still not a simple bolt on retrofit.  Welding of the flanges to fill in the openings is still required.  But for my next project I think I will check them out.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “41A Conversion to Closed Headlights

  1. Nicely done!

    Posted by Zach | December 31, 2013, 4:50 pm
  2. Soon my open headlight Series 1 will be an even rarer car, thanks to these conversions. Keep up the good work!

    Posted by John Fox | February 24, 2017, 6:24 am

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