Modern LED Lighting for Classic Cars

Building a custom or classic car often includes a mix of time-tested performance and appearance improvements, matched with the latest technology has to offer. An advancement we were excited to see was the introduction of LED (light emitting diode) lighting for cars and trucks. LEDs are nothing new, but the application in automotive use is a natural. Their rugged design enables them to withstand shocks that could easily burn out a traditional bulb. There is little doubt that if you’ve spent any time at all parked in rush hour traffic you have seen your share of LED lights on everything from semi trailers to new Cadillacs, and everything in between.

While known for their durability, their brightness level cannot be ignored. The increased visibility and near instant response that LED technology provides means safety is greatly increased.

DAKOTA LED - PIC 1
Dakota Digital’s LED taillight module kit comes with everything you’ll need to get the job done. The LEDs are mounted to circuit boards specifically engineered to fit our application and the placement of the LEDs is designed to optimize the optic quality of the original taillight lenses. The circuit boards are encased in a resin coating to protect them from the effects of moisture, ensuring years of trouble free operation.

Adapting this new technology to vintage street machines also seemed to be a natural progression. The overall size of the taillight on early cars pales in comparison to their late-model counterparts, and much like the center mounted third brake light, other drivers become accustomed to the large glow to warn them of stopping or signaling lane changes.


DAKOTA LED - PIC 2
The LED circuit boards mount to the taillight assemblies using the original bulb socket hole. The machined aluminum post extends the LEDs close to the lens.

Recognizing the benefits of LED lighting, Dakota Digital, a pioneer in digital instrumentation, expanded their line of products to include complete LED lighting systems to upgrade classic cars. They have designed each system to take advantage of the optics of the stock taillight lens for maximum brightness and performance. Their complete line of taillight conversions offers more than 70 direct fit applications, covering cars and trucks from 1940 through 1990.

DAKOTA LED - PIC 3
Taillight lenses and housings are not included in the kit. Dakota Digital suggests you inspect them carefully and replace any parts that can not be cleaned or repaired.

Manufactured right here in the U.S.A., Dakota Digital’s Sioux Falls, SD, manufacturing facility prides themselves on the high quality of their products and backs up their lights with a limited lifetime warranty. We were anxious to test their claims of effortless installation utilizing the original wiring harness, taillight lens, and assembly.

DAKOTA LED - PIC 4
Included in our kit were these moisture resistant wire connectors. They made short work of splicing into the original wiring harness to connect the lights.

The complete conversion process on our project ’68 Chevelle was straightforward and took less than an hour to complete, but the payoff came big the first time we pressed the brake pedal and lit up the area in a veil of red. “Wow, that’s bright!” could be heard from across the shop the moment we tested our new lights. The added safety makes it worthwhile and never changing a bulb again… well, that’s just a bonus.

Discussion
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48 Responses to “Modern LED Lighting for Classic Cars”
  1. Christopher

    I am very interested in converting my 1960’s Jaguars to LED systems. Do yuou have any idea wgere I might find the proper kits?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Chris K

    Reply
    • Iriya Lee

      Here is a link to Dakota Digital’s site (http://www.dakotadigital.com/)http://www.dakotadigital.com/
      Although a quick review of their site lists no kits available for your specific application. However you may want to consider just replacing your current bulbs with LED bulbs. Available from numerous online sources and many auto parts stores. The benefits of brighter lights, and less maintenance will be the payoff, not to mention much less heat which can be a problem on some cars with small taillight design.

      Wrench Safe, Mark

      Reply
  2. Roy

    I subscribed to Classic Car Restoration Club to see the videos but I only get a few seconds like the unsubscribers. What do I get for my 50 bucks????????

    Reply
    • Iriya Lee

      Hello Roy, thank you for contacting us. We apologize that you are having difficulty viewing the videos. We have tested our videos successfully. In order to view the Premium video content, you need to make sure that you are signed in using your Premium Member username and password.

      Please let us know if you continue to have trouble with accessing the video content and we will perform additional troubleshooting with you by contacting us at 1-855-706-3534.

      Reply
  3. Allyn Mills

    Looking for ideas to replace a ’62 Stude Lark round tail light with LED bulbs, but leaving the original lens. Thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Allyn. While I am not aware of any LED panels made specifically for Studebakers, Hands down the easiest way to convert any classic car to LEDs is to purchase LED replacement bulbs.
      The entire conversion takes as long as it normally takes to change a bulb.
      It is important to remember there is less resistance in the system then, and you will likely need to purchase a Heavy Duty Flasher unit to get the turn signal flashers and emergency flashers to operate correctly. but these are also relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

      LED bulbs are now common in many auto parts stores, but if you can not find them, here is a link to an online source I have used before: superbrightleds.com

      Reply
  4. Duane K

    Hi I’m wondering if LED headlights are available for my 1969 mustang? I seem able to find everything except the small round ones for the 4 lamp system

    Reply
  5. Michael Templeton

    Looking for both, replacements for 1950 Chevy Sport Coupe (interior and exterior) and replacements for exterior of 2002 Chevy Avalanche. Can Dakota Digital supply both types?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Good morning Michael,

      Unfortunately Dakota Digital has not yet developed product for your applications although you may want to replace the bulbs in your rides with LEDs. Check out the many bulb options available at: http://www.superbrightleds.com

      Wrench Safe!

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Good morning Kenny,

      We’re not aware of a source for LED 1962 Anglia van tail lights, I suppose it possible Dakota Digital may custom make a set? Here is a link to their site: http://www.dakotadigital.com
      You should also consider simply replacing the bulbs with LED bulbs. Here is a link to a site that offers them: http://www.superbrightleds.com
      I wish you the best of luck with your project.

      Wrench Safe!

      Reply
  6. Tom

    I have a 55 Belair. Using AAW upgrade 18 ckt fuse panel. It already has a flasher relay installed. I want to upgrade both my tail lights and front turn signals to LED panels….not bulbs. Tail lights to have running, stop and turn signal. I have done some research as to what else I need to do to have a successful install. I hear use flasher relay upgrade, add additional “cube” relays in addition to the the one one the fuse panel, add load resistors. Others do absolutely nothing. I am totally confused as to what Really works for both rear and front turn signals. I am not creative when it comes to electrical but I can follow instructions once I know I they are correct for my application. Tom

    Reply
    • Kevin

      I have replaced the brake/turn signal – running lights in my 40 Ford Pick-up with LEDs. When changing a dual filament bulb with an LED “block”, it is necessary to wire in a resistor and diode in the running light circuit and a load resistor (“dummy load”) in the Brake/turn signal circuit. Easy DIY and it looks bright and beautiful. I just couldn’t get the LED flasher upgrade to work.

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Carl,

      We appreciate your feedback and it has been forwarded to the proper department. Your comments are important to us and help with the development of new programs and offers. We will continue to listen and work hard for your complete satisfaction.

      Thanks,
      Becky CCRC Video Membershp

      Reply
  7. Jake

    Looking for some LED replacement brake lights for my 1972 Dodge Charger SE. I believe it uses 1157 lights. there are six total bulbs in the back. two brakes on each side and one backup on each side. Thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Robert,

      Dakota Digital does not make a kit for your car, however you’re not left out from making a cost effective LED conversion. Consider the bulb choices at: http://www.superbrightleds.com

      Hope this helps,
      Mark CCRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.classiccarrestorationclub.com/C9462

      Reply
  8. Mike Griffin

    I wish to convert my 1948 citroen light 15 to led guts .I wish to put external rear cluster lights on rear bumper for indicator and brake lights I’m looking for a small cluster period lights can you suggest anything

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Mike,

      The 1948 Citroen light 15 is a great looking car! I would look closely at the LED replacement bulbs offered by Super Bright LED’s here is a link to their site: http://www.superbrightleds.com

      Thanks,
      Mark CCRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.ClassicCarRestorationClub.com/C9938

      Reply
  9. gary nation

    do they they have to be made for a certian car or can they be cut and paste so to speak thanks gary

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Gary,

      The LED lights from Dakota Digital are specifically made for each year make and model.

      To learn if they have them for your ride, visit them at http://www.dakotadigital.com

      Thanks,
      Mark CCRC Video Membership

      Reply
  10. Kevan T

    I’m trying to figure out the best way to go as far as finding colored LED headlights for my 1967 Oldsmobile F85. Any suggestions? Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Kevan,

      Your F85 uses 5 3/4″ round headlight bulbs. The white color of the main bulb is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

      Several manufacturers offer bulbs that have an outer ring of color adjustable LEDs around them.

      They can be easily located on online auction sites like eBay. Search for “5 3/4 LED Headlights”

      It is possible there are non-DOT approved headlights on the market, but I wouldn’t suggest using any of them.

      Wrench Safe,
      Mark CCRC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.ClassicCarRestorationClub.com/C9938

      Reply
  11. DONALD

    I like this new LED option. I look forward to installing it in my restoration of my 1966 GTO

    Reply
  12. CHARLES HERRMANN

    NEED LED REPLACEMENT BULBS FOR 6 VOLT 1941 PACKARD TAILLIGHTS AND REAR TURN SIGNALS

    Reply
  13. Tim Pajari

    I am building a custom 1966 Ford Fairlane. I got the idea of an LED tail light halo while following a car with similar “squarish” tail light halos that were square. The 1966 Fairlane housing lends itself to this same application. There is a flat surface ~3/8″ around the tail light lens. This could be a great option for these classic cars. How much would a set of the cost to fabricate.

    Reply
  14. mike masi

    Is their any way i could use led lights on my 6 volt 51 mercury tailights to brighten them up, and still have brake , and turn signals also, thanks, mike

    Reply
  15. Joern Meringdal

    Need led lights for a 1957 Buick Century Coupe and a 1964 Lesabre Estate Wagon with cornering lights. Any chance?
    Thanks
    J

    Reply
  16. David

    I own a 1953 Chevy Belair. Searching for LED bulbs for the front park/turn signals.

    Reply
  17. Mark A. Sanney

    Dear Sir(s):

    I recently discovered your website and the LED options provided for classic automobiles to improve their visibility. Could I get some information regarding what products you offer for Mopar products, namely my 1971 Dodge Dart Demon with factory Hurst package. I am interested in upgrading the interior dash lights, interior cabin lights, the outdoor headlights, tail lights, brake lights and marker lights with LED equivalents.

    Thank you in advance for any assistance and information you may be able to provide.

    Best Regards,

    Mark

    Reply
  18. Gerry Gamet

    I have a 1957 Ford ranch wagon and late 2015, I purchased a round (4 7/8″)LED panel with many ‘bulbs’ that lights up the entire tail light lens. It plugs into the stock receptacle in the tail light.
    Unfortunately, the panel no longer works and I can not find the receipt for the purchase. So my question is…do you have a product that would replace this unit? Do have any suggestions where I might check for a replacement?
    Thank you in advance for your reply…

    Reply