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.
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.
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.
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.
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.