Automotive Holley RetroBright headlamps? Good, bad or ugly?

ryguy24000

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These people seem to love the Holley's and they have some pretty good video evidence that they basically annihilate the old stock lights.
I don't think we should Poo poo them without some testing or evidence of testing! Show me results and facts so I can make my own conclusion. Plenty of vids on YT, but we probably think all of those people are a bunch of idiots, now don't we.
 

ButchW

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These people seem to love the Holley's and they have some pretty good video evidence that they basically annihilate the old stock lights.
I don't think we should Poo poo them without some testing or evidence of testing! Show me results and facts so I can make my own conclusion. Plenty of vids on YT, but we probably think all of those people are a bunch of idiots, now don't we.

Cute and enthusiastic video, but not scientific by any means... I have no doubt that most anything would be brighter than my ancient sealed beams (as would the ones in the video).... Even new sealed beams... But are the Holleys safe to use on a highway? Who do you trust to do the testing? I have only lurned about Daniel Stern on this forum (I'm new at this lighting stuff), but I have done some research on his background, and he looks legit to me... I don't know, but I asume most of these Youtubers have some agenda, or at the least recieved the lights free... Even HR sells them, so they have a "dog in the fight"... So, I'm with you, "show me the results and facts", or a experts analysis...
Butch
 

RHS-113

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These people seem to love the Holley's and they have some pretty good video evidence that they basically annihilate the old stock lights.
I don't think we should Poo poo them without some testing or evidence of testing! Show me results and facts so I can make my own conclusion. Plenty of vids on YT, but we probably think all of those people are a bunch of idiots, now don't we.
Formerly active but very knowledgeable Virgil has (or had) this to say about the Holley retrobright:
I went ahead and bought some of these (7" large round and 165x100mm small rectangular), and they are very disappointing. Based on my tunnel tests, I could not use them, or recommend anyone else to use them. The problems extend deeply beyond matters of opinion of who does/doesn't like this/that style of beam pattern, etc; there are some pretty clear legality (or lack of) issues. I don't see how these could have passed even a lax compliance test for FMVSS 108 or any other regulation. Frankly, I don't see how they could have been signed off out of R&D; the issues are basic, numerous and severe. Low beam is questionable, high beam is practically nonexistent, the lamps don't appear to be aimable at all, much less by the method indicated on the lens (says "VOL" but there's no low beam cutoff, which is what defines a VOL beam), etc, etc. Too bad; it's a cool idea to have a headlamp with old-fashioned looks and new-fashioned performance, but these just don't cut any mustard. Maybe somebody else will take a whack at the same idea and come up with a better product. For now...no way, no how.
 

ryguy24000

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I read Virgil's post and in my opinion he said nothing really. Claims a tunnel test, and exactly what legal issues are we talking here. "the issues are basic, numerous and severe. Low beam is questionable, high beam is practically nonexistent" what are we talking about here????
 

crdiscoverer

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New to the forum here, but a long time car lighting enthusiast. Here are my two cents:

I've owned a "classic" car (if you could call a 70's Corolla a classic - so let's just say old) for well over 20 years now and I'm part of a big community of folks with old Japanese cars. We have been very interested in the Retrobrights since day one but not many have bought them due to many factors: cars not driven at night too much, projects that have a lot of other priorities, the $400 price, etc., but the few who did are very happy with them. A few folks were relatively unimpressed but mostly because they own other cars with proper modern LED or HID setups, but basically all agree that when it comes to comparing the Retrobrights with sealed beams, they are massive improvement and I can't believe someone would say a sealed beam has some advantages, especially considering a lot of older cars still have their original wiring (and no relays) and the incandescent bulbs are getting not even close to ~12-14 volts. LEDs tolerate a wider range of voltages without the same drop in brightness so that's already a considerable win.

I switched long ago from sealed beams to German e-code Hella H4s and I've been moderately happy with them but I've been itching to get a set of Retrobrights to compare them myself, although the downgrade from glass to plastic lenses is stopping me, but then a friend of mine with a classic Z sent me photos recently and even though it's blurry I can clearly see a pretty good cutoff (for being a reflector) and pattern. They may be aimed a bit high, but I don't see how they can be as bad as some claim them to be:

1669597120684.png


So I'm a bit surprised and doubtful about folks who have bought them, claimed they are trash, but haven't posted not even a comparison photo so far.
 

alpg88

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That does not look right for a low beam. looks like a flood light, not a proper low beam. Cut offs is not all there is to a light, you can have somewhat proper cut off, and still blind everyone in front of you as well as oncoming traffic. It is about light distribution within the beam. However as far as you looking at the road, it will definitely illuminate better than stock, but everyone else around you will not be too happy. Definitely wont comply with rule 108, to do that a headlight has to be tested on some kind of machine, spectrum analyzer, or something like that. nor you really can tell if it does by looking at the pic, you can tell when the light is definitely of a wrong profile, same way you can not tell by smelling exhaust if your exhaust gases are within norm, without a gas analyzer, but you can tell when your exhaust smells like rotten eggs that something is definitely not right with it,

To visualise what i'm talking about, take a flood light, any flood light, turn it on, then stand about 20-30 feet away, look at it, it will blind you, now take anything, like a piece of cardboard, or anything that will not pass a light, cover some of it to create a cut off, so it will be lower than your eyes, then walk to the place you originally looked at it, and look again, even with cut off lower than you line of sight, it will still be blinding you.

I also realize it is not easy to find proper headlight for a classic car, that performs better than stock, on pair with modern hid and leds, and complies with dot standards, probably next to impossible. so people do what they can, not always proper or even legal, but no matter how much anyone says it is illegal, unsafe.....blah blah, they will take that risk.
 
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crdiscoverer

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I understand that a clean cutoff is not enough and stray reflections can still blind you and that's something I really want to try myself with the Retrobrights. I can't give you an educated answer about that without first hand testing. I also don't think that looks like a flood light (those have really poor range no matter what). It seems to me that Morimoto tried to get as close they could to their "combo" light pattern in off-road applications (4bangers, etc.).

What I see above is very close to this (lower left). It's a shame they don't have either a DOT or ECE cutoff and they are mostly symmetric but having a lot more light on the sides of the road is very far from saying those are floodlight-like:
1669651938473.png


From the 240Z photo above I still think most of the evident issues (bar glare which I mentioned above) would be resolved just by aiming the lights properly (lower). The other problem that old cars have that I forgot to mention is that a lot of them have very recessed headlights, so the patterns get all mangled. That's certainly the case with my 'rolla which has about 2.5 inches of quarter panel protruding from where the headlights sit and I can clearly see my e-codes hitting that area and creating a dark spot on each side of the road. So that's another factor to take into account when installing and comparing all these headlights in old/classic cars.

Now imagine a Z with its long snout:
1669650671878.png
 
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ButchW

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Or my old Opal GT...
D1kG3uY.jpg

My Suzuki Samurai is not so bad though...
wTJZLo7.jpg


Butch
 
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crdiscoverer

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Yup. Samurais, Jeeps and older 4x4s in general are possibly the best-case-scenario when testing 7" headlights and not getting the beams disturbed by the car itself. Beautiful cars! Friend has the whole Suzuki collection from their very first 2-stroke one to the latest Jimny, all of them showroom mint.
 

ButchW

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Too bad we in the USA can't get the new Jimny's... The Samurai's were only available her '86-95'...
Butch
 

John_Galt

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The wall shots make the width of the lowbeam a pretty significant improvement. However the hotspot appears very uniform from top to bottom, which is an issue. It needs a gradient, highest intensity at the top, so that it appears more even in real world wide open lanes of a road. Too much light near the vehicle is comforting, but hurts distance vision, which is much more important.

The highbeam shots are, frankly, absolutely terrible. Huge deadspot all the way across the beam pattern directly above the lowbeam cutoff. So you'll see the underside of the tree tops, but not much between that and your lowbeams maximum reach.

I had high hopes being this was supposed to be a ground-up product. I have a '69 baja bug myself, and I will stick with koito H4's.
 

crdiscoverer

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the hotspot appears very uniform from top to bottom, which is an issue. It needs a gradient, highest intensity at the top, so that it appears more even in real world wide open lanes of a road.
I see that in those wall projections but the photos and videos that I've seen somewhat contradict that and I actually see less light than I would like closer to the car. I think the beam is in general narrow height-wise, so you got to compromise, but I'm not too sure. There's also the variable of old cars having protruding bumpers and whatnot which could be misleading (again, that Z is probably a good example).

The highbeam shots are, frankly, absolutely terrible.
Agreed. It's awful. You would need something to complement that high beam. If the car has separate high beams then you're golden, otherwise the Retrobrights alone wouldn't be enough. Cars that came with sealed beams had so poor lighting that most folks I know have always had some sort of auxiliary lights. I myself have a pair of Hella 500 (driving pattern) that act as my high beams so it's not much of an issue, but then you think about those $400 and I would expect near perfection from the Retrobrights, not having to think about how to fix their faults. That and the plastic lenses is what makes me hesitate.

If you asked me what would be my perfect "retro" headlight, I would get something like the BMW E30 projectors but in 7" form and with a Morimoto mini D2S or H1 in them. Nothing beats a projector pattern and the fluting around it keeps it period-correct. If Holley/Morimoto made that I would buy them in an instant:
1669698280798.png


I've seen some Datsun 510 with E30 projectors and I curse BMW for not making any cars with larger headlights to adapt to mine:
1669699009370.png
 
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EJR

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Ok... So what do we buy???
Butch

You were given some solid recommendations from a lighting expert in Daniel Stern. He is privy to technical information (confidential) about these types of lamps that are not available to us regular folk. Primarily the photometric performance which is the objective, quantifiable lighting performance of the lamp. This is going to trump any subjective impressions and opinions found by nearly everyone else online.
 

crdiscoverer

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Is this the same Daniel Stern that had an overall good impression on the Retrobrights and also had some say in their development? What made him change his mind? Is he just bitter because Morimoto/Holley didn't take his advice or did he physically test a set and came up with data-backed conclusions? He was basically saying the same thing we see: good low beam, mediocre high. I'm not questioning his knowledge but I'd like to see data, not just some opinion, no matter how much of an expert someone is, their claims must be supported with shareable data. He did tell Butch in their email exchange he had high hopes but the end result was bad. Why?

1669740581239.png



Ok... So what do we buy???

If you have $400 burning a hole in your wallet and you want a pretty good low beam pattern and have auxiliary lights to compensate for lackluster highs, I say the Retrobrights are still a good choice. All other options given by Daniel Stern do not look period correct and for some folks that's very important, especially if you are looking to replace the terrible, narrow, dim, yellow and dangerous light spots that sealed beams produce.

Otherwise, do what I did long ago and get a set of Hella e-codes, check voltages to the bulbs and install a relay if it's anything under ~13 volts (here's an article by Dan himself on how important voltage is), and if you are willing to replace bulbs often, Osram, Philips, etc. have pretty good high output bulbs that do make a difference but have the lifespan of a fly. You won't be amazed, especially if you own modern cars with proper LED or HID setups, but you will have a significantly better pattern which allows you to see something at night.
 
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EJR

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Is this the same Daniel Stern that had an overall good impression on the Retrobrights and also had some say in their development? What made him change his mind? Is he just bitter because Morimoto/Holley didn't take his advice or did he physically test a set and came up with data-backed conclusions? He was basically saying the same thing we see: good low beam, mediocre high. I'm not questioning his knowledge but I'd like to see data, not just some opinion, no matter how much of an expert someone is, their claims must be supported with shareable data. He did tell Butch in their email exchange he had high hopes but the end result was bad. Why?

His initial impressions were likely based off the light intensity distribution (LID) files from the optical software which contain *simulated* beam performance in a isoscan diagram. You can find these LID diagrams on the product pages on the TRS site. But sometimes simulated performance doesn't transfer fully to the actual product due to flaws or errors in the manufacturing and/or assembly.

And Stern also likely changed his tune based on Virgils test of these lamps (see earlier post HERE) which pretty much solidify their objective performance...

I went ahead and bought some of these (7" large round and 165x100mm small rectangular), and they are very disappointing. Based on my tunnel tests, I could not use them, or recommend anyone else to use them. The problems extend deeply beyond matters of opinion of who does/doesn't like this/that style of beam pattern, etc; there are some pretty clear legality (or lack of) issues. I don't see how these could have passed even a lax compliance test for FMVSS 108 or any other regulation. Frankly, I don't see how they could have been signed off out of R&D; the issues are basic, numerous and severe. Low beam is questionable, high beam is practically nonexistent, the lamps don't appear to be aimable at all, much less by the method indicated on the lens (says "VOL" but there's no low beam cutoff, which is what defines a VOL beam), etc, etc. Too bad; it's a cool idea to have a headlamp with old-fashioned looks and new-fashioned performance, but these just don't cut any mustard. Maybe somebody else will take a whack at the same idea and come up with a better product. For now...no way, no how.
 

crdiscoverer

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And Stern also likely changed his tune based on Virgils test of these lamps (see earlier post HERE) which pretty much solidify their objective performance...

I read that post. I would've loved to see at least some pictures of such tests, especially if he bought 2 different pairs. Did the 7" fared worse or better than the 165x100 one? Granted, that's something missing from Morimoto/Holley as well. They treat all 3 versions as one, which is weird. I'm doubtful a round and a square reflector have the exact same pattern. I would also love to understand what entails a "tunnel test".

It's a shame to this day there's still not a single reputable and unbiased third party tester who understands the topic and has published some clear data. I would say somebody like Project Farm or Torque Test Channel but they would have a hard time adapting their methods to test headlights. All there is out there are random YouTubers with blurry videos, or clearly biased channels like Headlight Revolution (which is the same thing as Morimoto and TRS).
 

alpg88

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Yea, secret tests that we can't see, so we just have to take their word for it, sure, lol. It isn't a matter of national security, nor ongoing investigation, it is a test of a consumer product. sounds a lot like "we must pass the law first to know what is in it" except they would not even tell us what is in it.
 

EJR

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I read that post. I would've loved to see at least some pictures of such tests, especially if he bought 2 different pairs.
Photos are considered useless because a photo does not provide objective data. They can be useful for observations such as comparing a light pattern but that's all its good for. There is more to a beam then just how it looks in a picture.

I would also love to understand what entails a "tunnel test".
A tunnel test, which is done by a lighting laboratory, refers to a narrow space with a long end (tunnel) usually 60 ft or longer, draped with non-reflective black curtains (or walls) and completely blacked out. On one end is a goniometer machine. And on the other end is a photometer. Lamps are placed on the gonio machine which moves the lamp around all its axes. As it shines its beam down the tunnel, the photometer measures the light in very small increments (as little as 1/100th of a degree). The light intensity measurements are then converted to a isocandela chart which shows how much light the lamp is producing and at what angles. A program within the machines software can plot the regulatory test points on the isocandela chart which then tells us whether or not a lamp meets all the light intensity requirements. This is how automotive lighting is really tested. No "shining on a wall" methods found here.




It's a shame to this day there's still not a single reputable and unbiased third party tester who understands the topic and has published some clear data. I would say somebody like Project Farm or Torque Test Channel but they would have a hard time adapting their methods to test headlights. All there is out there are random YouTubers with blurry videos, or clearly biased channels like Headlight Revolution (which is the same thing as Morimoto and TRS).

Your right! It is a shame! Proper testing takes time, energy and money. I suppose if there was enough interest, people could get together and raise money to have a particular lamp photometrically tested with an accredited lab. I have no idea how much it would cost though!

Here are three well known labs:

 

crdiscoverer

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Interesting. Thanks for that video. It'd be amazing to have access and the necessary knowledge to use that equipment. By a photo I didn't mean a photo of a cutoff against a wall, but more of a comparison of what Virgil or Daniel consider a good LED reflector vs the Retrobrights. What was the equipment reading? Where are the notes? How do all those numbers compare to, say, a JW Speaker of similar characteristics. I can't feel torque in a video but I can clearly see which impact drill performs best in the Torque Test Channel videos because I see the measuring equipment readings as things happen and I can also see an extremely comprehensive spreadsheet with all the data collected and then I can form my own opinion of what I prioritize the most. Forward or reverse torque? Weight, vibration?

I just can't listen to someone say "don't buy this, it's crap" and just take their word for it, no matter if they are considered deities in their field. Each use case is different. Daniel could recommend me what he thinks is the greatest reflector in the world, but maybe the lens turns yellow after 2 months, so what good was it that it was optically perfect in a lab? I value glass over plastic a lot and for others it may be irrelevant. I'd much rather have 3 pages of regular folks who had actually bought the headlights and came here to share their experiences so I can mix and match what I read/see to adapt it to my needs. But apart from a few forums here and there and the aforementioned awful YouTube videos, it seems we don't have much.
 

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