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Automatic Transmission - 4 Speed

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Trae1976 Electric Headlight Conversion
2012 Memorial Day Car Show Winner!
Bristol, TN
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Last year at the Corvette Expo, we spotted a vendor hawking an electric headlight conversion for C3s. I had considered converting to electric before, but had never found a system I liked, until I saw this one. It was a very clean and simple system, operated by linear actuators. The guy demonstrated it a few times and gave me a brochure, then I found the $1000 price tag. Volzfan and I gave it another good look and walked away.

A few months later, that same kit showed up in one of the major Vette suppliers’ catalog.

Come Fall, I decided to add the conversion to my list of winter projects. Since there was no way I was gonna drop that kind of cash for a kit, I started taking measurements and dreaming up concepts.

I determined I needed 4” travel actuators, and found a couple from an eBay vendor. $165 later, they arrive at my door. They were clearly larger than those in the aftermarket kit, so a little more than reverse engineering was going to be required. A few weeks later, I had a full concept…

Click to see original Image in a new window


Got all the materials and components ordered and started building. Volzfan did the machining and I assembled it all.

The actuator pivot bracket was machined from 1” square stock. I then added an 8mm heim joint with shortened threads. I chose heim joints due to the compound angles at the bottom attachment.

Click to see original Image in a new window


The bottom support brackets were machined from ¼” stock, utilizing a 3.5” hole saw. Two ¼” bolts, two 1” spacers, and a heavy duty tube clamp complete each assembly.

Click to see original Image in a new window


The actuator attachment bracket involved the most machining. These were made from 1” x 3” stock.

Click to see original Image in a new window


The actuated linkages were machined from 1” square stock. These were the most critical, since each hole location directly impacts the travel of the headlight bucket, and determining the location of the center hole was the most difficult part of the design. These attached to the car exactly like the existing linkages, so I was able to reuse the pins and bushings.

Click to see original Image in a new window


Each actuator assembly was attached to the bottom support bracket with a shoulder bolt and a 1” spacer, with machined spacers on each side of the heim joint.

Click to see original Image in a new window


We had to machine a couple of pivot pins and bushings to complete assembly of the upper sections.

Click to see original Image in a new window


The bottom brackets were clamped around the “vacuum canister” and the linkage was attached to the car. Obviously, I had the headlights out (replacing bushings and hardware), but I’m sure I could have done this with them in.

Click to see original Image in a new window


Here it is from the bottom.

Click to see original Image in a new window


I reused the other small linkage (the rusty-looking ¼” thick one), which attaches to the headlight bucket. We machined new pivot pins and bushings for these as well.

Click to see original Image in a new window


Here it is in the up position. You can see I added a “dust shield” to the ram – it’s a clear plastic shipping tube cut to length.

Click to see original Image in a new window


In order to get them to fit “flush” when retracted, I loosened the clamps enough to rotate the bottom brackets around the canister. When I got them right, I tightened the life out of them. Those suckers are pretty strong.

Click to see original Image in a new window


Here they are in the up position.

Click to see original Image in a new window


From the front, you can see they tuck up in there nicely.

Click to see original Image in a new window

Click to see original Image in a new window


No more vacuum relays, hoses, and actuators.

Click to see original Image in a new window


I’m no electrical engineer, so the most challenging part for me was figuring out how to make them operate the way I wanted. After a lot of researching, I determined my best option was a double-pole double-throw relay ran in parallel with the low beams. I found this one made by Tyco, 12VDC operation rated for 10A.

Click to see original Image in a new window

I housed it in a sealed plastic box, fabbed a bracket, and mounted it up under the nose.

The headlight circuit energizes the relay coil (very little current draw), and the switch reverses polarity to the actuators. Power to the actuators is supplied by the original alarm circuit, to which I added a 4A fuse. It draws less than 2A while running, but it blew the 3A fuse I had in initially (I’m guessing the initial spikes burnt it up). Also, since this circuit is always hot, the car doesn’t have to be running (or even on) in order for them to function.

Here is my attempt at a schematic.

Click to see original Image in a new window


The wiring isn’t much to see, so I don’t have any good pics of that, but I can take some if anyone wants.


That’s about it. It took quite a bit of time and effort, but I think the results were well worth it.


Here’s my estimated bill of materials:

Linear Actuators (2) - $165
Heim Joints (2) - $14
Tube Clamps (2) - $15
Aluminum Spacers (6) - $11
Fasteners - ~$20
Material Stock - ~$50
DPDT Relay, Harness, & box - ~$15
Wiring, Inline Fuse, & Connectors - ~$25
Various tools, shipping costs, etc - ~$35

TOTAL ~$350
Posted on: 2010/3/12 10:11
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BillH Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Excellent work & engineering Trae.

Too bad I quit working, I could have got you the relay as a free sample. I worked for TYCO/AMP for 20 years.
Posted on: 2010/3/12 11:00
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
2012 Memorial Day Car Show Winner!
Bristol, TN
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Quote:
BillH wrote:
Excellent work & engineering Trae.


I actually played around with an FEA model as well, to see how I could shave some weight. But since volzfan was doing the machining, I chose to live with it as-is, over the cursing that I would have received.


Quote:
BillH wrote:
Too bad I quit working, I could have got you the relay as a free sample. I worked for TYCO/AMP for 20 years.

So how long should I expect it to live?
Posted on: 2010/3/12 12:44
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1Fast04Vert Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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That is very impressive. Curious why the kit says 75-79, what did the earlier and later years have?
Posted on: 2010/3/12 13:09
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BillH Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Trae1976 wrote:
[
Quote:
BillH wrote:
Too bad I quit working, I could have got you the relay as a free sample. I worked for TYCO/AMP for 20 years.

So how long should I expect it to live?


Depeds on the brand, we bought a boatload of different relay divisions including Siemens but, we really didn't have any junk brands.
As long as the application is right, it will last as long as any relays in a C4, so you're good.
Posted on: 2010/3/12 13:27
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

95vette wrote:
That is very impressive. Curious why the kit says 75-79, what did the earlier and later years have?

Thanks!

They use the same picture for both kits, and I'm guessing this is actually a picture of the '68-'72 kit. The difference appears to be in the mounting points and brackets.

I have no idea why they don't list a kit for the '73 and '74 models, but I'm sure it could be done.
Posted on: 2010/3/12 13:35
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Matatk Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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That's some beautiful work there. Nice when you can machine your own parts I can't understand why their kit is so expensive - your brackets are much nicer.

Matthew
Posted on: 2010/3/12 13:53
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Matatk wrote:
That's some beautiful work there. Nice when you can machine your own parts I can't understand why their kit is so expensive - your brackets are much nicer.

Matthew



As for their price, I'm sure the machining cost factors in, which I didn't incur, and that was several hours of work. I know they probably don't machine them all by hand, but I'm sure the CNC setup wasn't cheap.

And they're probably paying a lot more for the actuators, since they are likely not getting a volume discount.

Not to mention, that is the only kit like this on the market.
Posted on: 2010/3/12 14:14
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volzfan Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Trae1976 wrote:
Quote:

Matatk wrote:
That's some beautiful work there. Nice when you can machine your own parts I can't understand why their kit is so expensive - your brackets are much nicer.

Matthew



As for their price, I'm sure the machining cost factors in, which I didn't incur....



You just haven't gotten the bill yet!
Posted on: 2010/3/12 17:49
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Curtis1974 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Wow, that turned out great! Nice job at engineering that on your own.
Posted on: 2010/3/14 9:36
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Durango_Boy Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Fantastic work Trae. I've seen a few guys rig up electric actuators for headlight operation but none seemed as perfect and professional and well thought out. Top notch work.

Any chance you can take a quick vid of the headlights in an open and close operation? I'd love to see the speed and evenness.

Okay, big question you'll get a lot...will you guys consider making this an option for someone to pay you to do?

I am going with fixed headlights when I do my body work but if you and Volzfan can come up with a machine labor price and add it to the parts price you'll still be well under the grand mark and I think a lot of guys would be interested in a kit like that.
Posted on: 2010/3/14 10:28
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Curtis1974 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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I agree with DB. I would be one of your first costumers!
Posted on: 2010/3/14 17:19
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dstaley Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Very impressive work.

Any chance you can post the drawings/plans? I might like to copy them (for my own car) if you don't make them commercially.
Posted on: 2010/3/14 18:42
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Durango_Boy wrote:
Any chance you can take a quick vid of the headlights in an open and close operation? I'd love to see the speed and evenness.

Here ya go. Yes, they are relatively slow, but still much faster than what I had before. These are rated for 250lb each, so I took a peak inside to see if I could change the gear ratio. But it was jam packed with small spur gears, so I decided not to fool with it. I'll probably keep my eyes open for some higher speed actuators I could retrofit later.

And you'll notice the left side is a tick faster than the right. Just variation in the actuators - they ran like that before I put a load on them.



Quote:

Durango_Boy wrote:
Okay, big question you'll get a lot...will you guys consider making this an option for someone to pay you to do?

I am going with fixed headlights when I do my body work but if you and Volzfan can come up with a machine labor price and add it to the parts price you'll still be well under the grand mark and I think a lot of guys would be interested in a kit like that.

Hate to say it, but probably not. We simply don't have the equipment to do them "fast" - these were all done on manual machines. If someone were to manufacture these, CNC would be a must.

Not to mention, the manufacturer of the kit above claims it is "patent pending", and I don't feel like dealing with an overzealous patent attorney.

Quote:

dstaley wrote:
Very impressive work.

Any chance you can post the drawings/plans? I might like to copy them (for my own car) if you don't make them commercially.

Thanks!
I would have no problem with someone copying mine. But I'm not sure if I can legally post the drawings. Yes, it is 100% my design, but I believe the similarities could possibly be construed as infringement.
I'm just not sure on that ... are there any overzealous patent attorneys on the board?


But I'm pretty sure I can answer questions via PM.
Posted on: 2010/3/15 21:58
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Durango_Boy Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Sent a PM with some questions...thanks for posting all this info.
Posted on: 2010/3/16 18:59
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Durango_Boy wrote:
Sent a PM with some questions...thanks for posting all this info.

Reply sent.



And I got around to taking a pic of the relay and harness location. I sealed the relay in a plastic box and mounted that to a bracket I fabbed up from aluminum sheet. I put it in the location of one of the original vacuum relays.

Click to see original Image in a new window
Posted on: 2010/3/17 11:10
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Eddie70 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Nice work Trae. I have been gathering parts for my conversion but have not done anything just yet. I may get around to it next winter. The weather is just starting to get nice around here as you know. Maybe I will see you up at Expo next weekend.
Posted on: 2010/3/19 21:12
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Eddie70 wrote:
Nice work Trae. I have been gathering parts for my conversion but have not done anything just yet. I may get around to it next winter. The weather is just starting to get nice around here as you know. Maybe I will see you up at Expo next weekend.


Thanks Eddie, hope to see you and the '70 there!
Posted on: 2010/3/21 10:05
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Eddie70 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Depends on how the weather is going to hold out. Its about 60 mile run up there. I normally do not take it out in the rain because I hate to put the top up. If it holds out, I may just take it up on Saturday. My wife and I will be out of town on Thursday and Friday.
Posted on: 2010/3/21 16:16
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

dstaley wrote:
Very impressive work.

Any chance you can post the drawings/plans? I might like to copy them (for my own car) if you don't make them commercially.

Doug, I sent an email to the address in your profile. Let me know if you don't get it.
Posted on: 2010/3/23 21:32
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JeffK Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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That is some nice machine work and great finished project.

My dad somehow converted his 76 to electric using headlight motors out of a late 80's Firebird.
Posted on: 2010/6/28 15:14
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

JeffK wrote:
That is some nice machine work and great finished project.

My dad somehow converted his 76 to electric using headlight motors out of a late 80's Firebird.



How well do the Firebird units work?
I know a bunch of people have done that type of conversion using the Killer Lights kit, but I've never seen one in person.
Posted on: 2010/7/1 8:05
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JeffK Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Well, I live in NC and he lives in PA so I have yet to see it in person but he says that it works slicker than pig sh!t...ha-ha.

I don't think that he bought any sort of kit. He found all the information he used online whether it was on the other forum or not I am not sure.
Posted on: 2010/7/1 12:21
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76vette Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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can you also send me a copy of the plans and materials needed. thank you very much
Posted on: 2010/8/7 19:59
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:
76vette wrote:
can you also send me a copy of the plans and materials needed. thank you very much

Welcome 76vette!

Check your email.
Posted on: 2010/8/8 10:24
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X-FIRE Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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A job well done...not to mention the $$$ you saved...
Posted on: 2010/8/8 13:32
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:
X-FIRE wrote:
A job well done...not to mention the $$$ you saved...

Posted on: 2010/8/9 10:04
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Update ...

After several months of use, it has worked pretty nicely. However, I am about to make a slight modification. After breaking in and loosening up a bit, the main linkage elbow will travel over-center and allow a little "bouncing". I suspected this might happen, and have thought of a couple of ways to add an adjustable positive stop to prevent it. I have a temporary fix in place, but will probably end up machining a block to attach to the lower aluminum linkage, something like this:

Click to see original Image in a new window
Click to see original Image in a new window
Posted on: 2010/8/9 11:11
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bkelly Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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FYI.

I work for the manufacturer of the kit you saw at the show. First of all, the pictures you copied off the website need to be removed from this, the ECPB website clearly displays "Copyright". The cost is high due to custom actuators and material/labor costs, and we have sold several hundred at that price. The actuators are custom made by our supplier for our requirements. Each bracket IS hand made in the USA. The wire harness' are handmade at our facility also. We have been producing the kits for 3 years and have been selling through a few of the large aftermarket corvette parts suppliers for 2 years. I am not sure if you are intending to manufacture them yourself or only wanted the one made for your car. We do offer kits for 68-82 cars, all of them. At this time, I ask that our pictures be removed and if you plan to produce the kits, beware of copyright infringements and patent violations. Thank you.
Posted on: 2010/8/31 19:36
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:
bkelly wrote:
First of all, the pictures you copied off the website need to be removed from this, the ECPB website clearly displays "Copyright".

Sure.

Quote:
bkelly wrote:
The cost is high due to custom actuators and material/labor costs, and we have sold several hundred at that price. The actuators are custom made by our supplier for our requirements. Each bracket IS hand made in the USA. The wire harness' are handmade at our facility also. We have been producing the kits for 3 years and have been selling through a few of the large aftermarket corvette parts suppliers for 2 years.

There's no doubt you guys make a really nice kit. But I couldn't justify the cost when I knew I could design and build my own system for much less. The large majority of people don't have that capability and/or motivation - obviously I am the exception.

Quote:
bkelly wrote:
I am not sure if you are intending to manufacture them yourself or only wanted the one made for your car.

This was a personal one-off project. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I have no interest in producing and/or selling anything.
Posted on: 2010/9/1 0:45
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bogus Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Trae,

Please remove any pics or links to their site. I don't want them suing my ass over this issue...
Posted on: 2010/9/1 3:35
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:
bogus wrote:
Trae,

Please remove any pics or links to their site. I don't want them suing my ass over this issue...

Tis done.
Posted on: 2010/9/1 7:04
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Durango_Boy Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Trae. Just a side note, my MIL and her husband both work at a very large facility in Kentucky that specialize in making electric actuators in all shapes, sizes, strengths, and speeds. These are high grade / medical quality actuators, and I can probably get them at or lower than cost.

If you would like, list the exact travel specs, maybe the weight of the headlight and linkage assembly the actuator lifts, and preferred speed.

I can use that info to either pick a part number or see if one can be made to those specs, and get some pricing info for anyone interested in making this kit at home.
Posted on: 2010/9/1 7:44
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:
Durango_Boy wrote:
Trae. Just a side note, my MIL and her husband both work at a very large facility in Kentucky that specialize in making electric actuators in all shapes, sizes, strengths, and speeds. These are high grade / medical quality actuators, and I can probably get them at or lower than cost.

If you would like, list the exact travel specs, maybe the weight of the headlight and linkage assembly the actuator lifts, and preferred speed.

I can use that info to either pick a part number or see if one can be made to those specs, and get some pricing info for anyone interested in making this kit at home.



The actuators I'm using have a travel of 4", at a rate of about 1/2" per second. The travel would need to be the same, but a rate of around 1.5" to 2" per second would be ideal.

I didn't measure the load, but its pretty low. An actuator rated for lifting 50 lbs should easily be strong enough.

Mine are still working fine, but I might be interested in some faster ones if the price is right and I could make them work.

Posted on: 2010/9/1 9:51
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bogus Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Quote:

Trae1976 wrote:
Quote:
bogus wrote:
Trae,

Please remove any pics or links to their site. I don't want them suing my ass over this issue...

Tis done.


Excellent!!!
Posted on: 2010/9/1 13:54
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bkelly Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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2010/8/31 19:23



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Thank you. I have no intentions of suing, just want our product left as "our product". I attended Corvettes at Carlisle this past weekend and found a gentleman who is orducing a very similar kit. Upon further research on the net I have come across 10 or so sites/forums with similar designs, all of which I have made some kind of contact with. Of the 10 or so, only 3 had pics from our site, this being one of them. With that out of the way, I want you to know I appreciate your self motivation to do this yourself. You now understand the painstaking process of making a piece just to realize that it will not work, it is frustrating. I commend you on sticking with it and completing it, well done. I also think it was extremely polite of you to share this with others on this forum as we all know the headache that comes with the vacuum system. Again, thank you for removing the pics and I hope I did not offend you or anyone else, but I/we are obligated to protect what is ours, that was simply my intent. Hopefully we can talk again here, as we at the shop are now becomming engulfed in Corvettes, factory and modified C2,C3,C4 and C5. I also am scheduled to build a custom 53-54 car on a Corvette Correction chassis. Thank you. Talk later. Bryan.
Posted on: 2010/9/1 16:38
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
2012 Memorial Day Car Show Winner!
Bristol, TN
829 Posts
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Quote:
bkelly wrote:
Thank you. I have no intentions of suing, just want our product left as "our product".

No problem, I certainly respect that.
Feel free to send me a PM if you have any issues with the remaining content.

Quote:
bkelly wrote:
With that out of the way, I want you to know I appreciate your self motivation to do this yourself. You now understand the painstaking process of making a piece just to realize that it will not work, it is frustrating. I commend you on sticking with it and completing it, well done.


I guess I’m just one of those quirky individuals who enjoys punishing themselves with projects like this – just the engineer in me coming out. And yes, there’s a reason I have no interest in doing more of them.

Quote:
bkelly wrote:
I also think it was extremely polite of you to share this with others on this forum as we all know the headache that comes with the vacuum system.

Sharing my ideas and experiences is about the only way I have to help this site grow. Fortunately, as opposed to other sites, the majority of members here have an open attitude toward “alternative” ideas like this.

Quote:
bkelly wrote:
Again, thank you for removing the pics and I hope I did not offend you or anyone else, but I/we are obligated to protect what is ours, that was simply my intent.

No offense taken, I would do the same in your position.

Quote:
bkelly wrote:
Hopefully we can talk again here, as we at the shop are now becomming engulfed in Corvettes, factory and modified C2,C3,C4 and C5. I also am scheduled to build a custom 53-54 car on a Corvette Correction chassis. Thank you. Talk later. Bryan.

Yes, you certainly need to stick around. There’s a boat load of knowledge on this board, exceedingly so for C4s, and people willing to help.

And pics of that custom are encouraged.



By the way, I believe I spotted your kit on this car earlier this year:

Click to see original Image in a new window
Posted on: 2010/9/2 10:12
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Vette77 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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2010/11/21 8:34



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Here is our vacuum to electronic headlight conversion kit:

http://www.retro-electro.net/Productcorv.html

Feel free to ask questions.

Mark
Posted on: 2010/11/22 9:05
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Durango_Boy Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
Elite Guru
Columbia, MO
2581 Posts
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2009/1/30 16:54



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Quote:

Vette77 wrote:
Here is our vacuum to electronic headlight conversion kit:

http://www.retro-electro.net/Productcorv.html

Feel free to ask questions.

Mark



How about a video of operation?

How's the speed and uniformity?

Thanks,
Posted on: 2010/11/22 9:10
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Vette77 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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The open and closing cycle is 2 seconds. They open and close together uniformly. I will upload a video to Youtube of a kit in operation shortly.
Mark


Quote:

Durango_Boy wrote:
Quote:

Vette77 wrote:
Here is our vacuum to electronic headlight conversion kit:

http://www.retro-electro.net/Productcorv.html

Feel free to ask questions.

Mark



How about a video of operation?

How's the speed and uniformity?

Thanks,
Posted on: 2010/11/22 9:24
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
2012 Memorial Day Car Show Winner!
Bristol, TN
829 Posts
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Quote:

Vette77 wrote:
Here is our vacuum to electronic headlight conversion kit:

http://www.retro-electro.net/Productcorv.html

Feel free to ask questions.

Mark

Good looking system.
Posted on: 2010/11/23 8:35
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Vette77 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
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Posted on: 2010/11/29 23:17
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nmbadboy Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
Guru Newb
southwest us
6 Posts
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2012/6/11 21:44



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hey trae, Im new to the site. I think the kit you made will solve most of my problems with my 76. would it be possible to get a parts list and drawings?
Posted on: 2012/6/11 22:06
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
2012 Memorial Day Car Show Winner!
Bristol, TN
829 Posts
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Quote:

nmbadboy wrote: hey trae, Im new to the site. I think the kit you made will solve most of my problems with my 76. would it be possible to get a parts list and drawings?

Art, check your PM Inbox.

Posted on: 2012/6/12 16:22
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Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
Guest_
Wondering if this is still around
Posted on: 2012/10/9 16:15
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Trae1976 Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
2012 Memorial Day Car Show Winner!
Bristol, TN
829 Posts
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Quote:

Anonymous wrote: Wondering if this is still around

I received your PM, but I can't respond to an anonymous user.  PM me again and include your email address.  occasion5

Posted on: 2012/10/10 13:54
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bogus Re: Electric Headlight Conversion
Grand Imperial Pooh-Bah
San Pedro, CA
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more than likely snagged as a spammer.
Posted on: 2012/10/11 15:46
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