Posts Tagged ‘model a ford headlight’

1928 – 31 Model A Ford Headlights – Restoration

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

1928 – 31 Model A Ford Headlights – Restoration

Several years ago at a local automotive swap meet, I purchased a pair of 1928 – 31 Model A Ford headlights for a reasonable price. These headlights needed new reflectors, and the mounting base in the headlight pots were rusty and didn’t look too good. In hindsight, the lower price tag made up for the imperfections. Now it’s time to clean them up for the 1929 Ford roadster hot rod. Who said that building a hot rod was easy? It’s all these little jobs that take a bit of time to complete but these jobs keep the build of the hot rod to a minimum.

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 1

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 2

From the inside of the headlight pots, I carefully ground off the back side of the steel rivets attaching the mounting hardware to the headlight pot using a 4.5 inch hand held grinder and air die grinder. Once this was completed, the rivets were easily removed with a slight tap using a small center punch and hammer. Great care was needed for this step to prevent any damage to the headlight pot.

The mounting hardware was then cleaned up in the sand blast cabinet. In the off chance I wanted to run wires through the main headlight mounting bolt, I drilled a 0.25 inch hole through the middle of it using the metal lathe. Instead of using steel rivets to reattach the mounting hardware back onto the headlight pot, I used 0.75” x 0.25” stainless steel bolts with a slight modification to the bolt head. The 0.25” bolt was mounted in the metal lathe and the hex head was ground to the same shape of the rivets removed. While the bolt was still in the metal lathe it was quickly sanded smooth to provide a matt type finish. This was done for 12 bolts, 6 for each headlight. This only took about 20 minutes to do.

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 3

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 4

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 5

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 6

I decided to fabricate my own headlight conduit using a standard braided stainless stain flex hose found in the plumbing section in the hardware store. This is the same type of hose that is used to connect your sink faucets to the wall plumbing and is very reasonably priced. To fasten this new headlight conduit to the headlight, a simple mounting method was developed. This involved inserting a short 0.5” national pipe thread (NPT) nipple to the existing hole (used for the vintage headlight conduit to pass through) in the steel headlight mounting bracket. This was then brazed in place.

All of the parts were then primed and painted. While I was waiting for the paint to dry, I thought it would also be a good idea to spend a few minutes polished the vintage headlight pot while all of the mounting hardware was removed. It didn’t take too long to shine them up.

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 7

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 8

1928 - 31 Model A Ford Headlight Restoration - picture 9

With all of the parts cleaned, painted, and polished, the headlights were quickly reassembled using the newly made fake stainless steel rivets. To hold the stainless steel headlight conduit to the headlight pot, I small O-ring was cut so it would fit inside the female pipe fitting. This will become a compression fitting to hold the stainless steel braided hose to the 1928 – 31 Ford headlight pot.




1928-31 Model A Ford Halogen Headlight Conversion

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

1928-31 Model A Ford Halogen Headlight Conversion

Several years ago, I purchased at a local automotive swap meet / flea market, a pair of vintage 1928-31 Model A Ford headlights.  Back in 1928, headlights used low light intensity incandescent light bulbs.  This was fine for the day when vehicles didn’t travel very fast or were not in great numbers on our highways.  Now it is best to be seen when you are driving not only at night time but during the day.  So for safety sake, I would suggest using modern light bulbs in your custom car or hot rod.  Headlights now offer improved lighting distances for night driving, and great visibility for being seen on the highway when driving in the day time.  One of my main objectives in the build of my 1929 Model A Ford roadster is to use as many of the modern day safety features in the hot rod as possible.

Original 1928-31 Model A Ford headlight used for the halogen bulb conversion.

As with most things when building a custom car or hot rod, you can buy whatever your heart desires as long as you have the funds.  Another one of my goals in the hot rod is to complete the build as cheaply as possible.  Now with that said, there is the time element.  Whenever you forego the option of buying something and decide to fabricate it yourself, the time to finish the hot rod increases.  For me, it is the challenge to create, fabricate, and develop as much as I possibly can.  This is what will make my 1929 Ford hot rod roadster very unique from all of the others.  Now let’s get to the actual headlight conversion.

Original 1928-31 Model A Ford headlight reflector.

Over the last number of years, I have bought and sold many cars, either in a complete form or parted them to pay for the 1929 Ford hot rod project.  One of these cars was a 1991 Ford Mustang.  I sold many parts from this car, kept several, including the headlights with the intention of converting the old Model A Ford headlights to halogen lighting.  These sat around in the shop for a couple of years before I actually got around to this.  Now that I am very close to having the 1929 Ford hot rod on the road, headlights are important.


The first step in my conversion process was to cut out the section that was used to contain and hold the halogen light bulbs.  I used air cut off saw for this.  Of course the friction from the cut off wheel created a bit of heat in the plastic head lamp housing resulting in the plastic to melt around the cut.  This was not a problem for me, as I was intending to mount this roughed out bulb socket from the head lamp into my metal lathe and round it up.  I suppose you could use the drill press and a two inch hole saw for this provided you had a safe way to hold the head lamp housing securely while drilling.

9004xl bulb modifications for 1928-31 Model A Ford Headlights

With the socket removed and turned round on the lathe, place the socket on the Model A Ford head light reflector.  Using a pencil trace the socket outline.  The Model A Ford headlight reflectors that came with my vintage headlight, were not in great shape.  These were perfect for my experiment.  One reflector was all dented and the other had no silver on it.  This conversion will be the proto type for a much better set of reflectors later on. 

Modifications for 1928-31 Model A Ford Headlight reflectors to accept halogen bulbs.

Before I could enlarge the hole in the Model A Ford reflectors, the original headlight sockets needed to be removed.  Using a pair of pliers, the sockets twisted off without any problems.  The die grinder fitted with a variety to burrs. The socket hole was enlarged to the required diameter.  To finish this step off, a larger grinding wheel in the die grinder was used to perfect the shape and diameter.  I did notice that one of the Model A Ford reflectors had very brittle metal causing larger pieces to be torn away rather that ground away.  This was a bit hair raising.  The other reflector was easy to enlarge and did not have the same problem.  I’m not sure why this happened as both reflectors were made of brass?

Completed modifications for 1928-31 Model A Ford Headlight reflectors to accept halogen bulbs.

The modified 1991 Ford Mustang headlight sockets were then attached to the Model A Ford reflectors using only two #6 by 32, half inches screws.

The 1928-31 Model A Ford halogen bulb conversion is complete.

In order for the halogen light bulbs to fit inside the vintage Ford headlights, the back side of the halogen bulb needed to be trimmed.  The rear plastic portion of the bulb shielding the electrical terminal /plug needed to be trimmed even with the electrical terminals on the bulb.  This is also necessary to allow soldering of wires to the terminals.  With the terminals exposed, they now needed to be bent back 90 degrees.  The original wiring plugs for the halogen light bulb was 16 awg, so I soldered new 16 awg wires to the halogen light bulb terminals.  The wires are about 12 inches long.  A plug will be made later on to attach the headlights to the hot rod.

1928-31 Model A Ford halogen conversion using old worn out vintage headlight reflectors.

Five minute epoxy was use to seal the terminals and the newly soldered wire connections on the bulb.

As an in term measure, I decided to paint the Model A Ford reflectors with a high heat silver paint that had decent reflective properties.   These newly modified reflectors using halogen bulb will do till I replace the reflectors later on.  As luck would have it, I found in the workshop two identical stainless steel mixing bowls that would make perfect reflectors in the Model A Ford headlights.  As a future post, I will have a video, showing the entire process of making new headlight reflectors using parts from an old Ford Explorer and the stainless steel mixing bowls.  Both of these conversions will only cost me my time and no out of pocket expense.  I do intend to sell the first set I converted in the next while.  These would be perfect for a daily driver or rat rod.