The Making of a Best-in-Class Product: AC Premium Plus 7" LED Headlights
The Making of a Best-in-Class Product
Automotive lighting is an exact science and, obviously, a safety component. That fact is continually ignored by the innumerable hucksters who will say anything to make a buck. As a business we need to make money too, but not at the expense of our customers' safety.
This is why we have long had the goal at Audette Collection to build no questions asked best in the world 7’ LED headlights for air cooled Porsche’s. We were a pioneer in the introduction of LED headlights for air cooled Porsches (and many other vehicles with 7” headlights) and introduced a full line of them about six years ago, and have sold thousands of sets.
We started by putting together a simple and logical recipe that we believed had a good chance of meeting our goal: identify the best components used to build the assemblies. These parts were identified based on our assessment and the assessment of experts or the expertise of the component manufacturer. That enables us to skip the hype and concentrate on the science.
This process was greatly facilitated by the help of two world class experts;
- Daniel Stern of Daniel Stern Lighting Consultancy and Supply, a recognized world leading expert on automotive lighting and the Audette Collection Lighting Consultant, assuring that we would be able to identify the very best LED units available.
- Eric Linden of Auto Foreign Services, the well known manufacturer of high-end reproduction Porsche parts, assuring that we be able to use the very best housings available
Here are the world class components used to build the new AC Platinum Plus LED Headlights.
Light Units - Recommended by Daniel Stern
Philips Automotive Integral Beam
The JW Speaker 8700 LEDs we've been building into our premium headlamps for five years are good, but these Philips integral-beam LEDs are better. Senior vehicle lighting expert Daniel Stern consults for us on our headlamp development. He tests headlamps rigorously and objectively. He is notoriously difficult to impress, and his first words to us about these Philips units were
"Stop the presses; these are TERRIFIC; the new top pick by a big margin!".
He went into a lot more detail for us, explaining the technical quality and performance test results that favorably impressed him with these as our Best-In-Class® choice.
These beam units are also a lot less expensive than the Speakers—Stern explains LEDs and their associated optics, electronics, and thermics have all been evolving at a galloping pace, driving cost down and performance potential up. That "potential" is important there; it's still entirely possible to make lousy LED headlamps, and there are a lot of them on the market across a wide price range. This isn't one of them; Stern enthusiastically says Philips—consistently a leading vehicle lighting innovator for most of a century and counting—did a great job engineering the optics to provide highly effective, well-focused beam patterns with a lot of light in them. These give a wide, even carpet of light with super high intensity placed right where it's needed for long seeing distance up the road; that's a really difficult thing to achieve especially with a low lamp mounting height like in the classic Porsches, but Philips has done it nicely. The low beam has a sharp, stairstep-shaped cutoff and its maximum intensity is about *five times* greater than you get with an H4 lamp. The high beam keeps the width and adds a big fireball of light straight ahead, about twice as much light as you get from an H4.
Here’s a picture of two beam patterns, Philips up top, Truck-Lite down below. The Philips lamp produces a very wide, well-formed and -focused beam, with a pleasingly sharp cutoff and lots of down-the-road light even with a low headlamp mount height. It can readily be aimed visually, optically, or with the old-fashioned Hoppy-type sealed beam aimer that interfaces with the three lens pips. And while it doesn't look olde-tyme, it also doesn't deface the car by looking like it came off a space ship.
Also a close-up of the Philips on the sensor board. False-colour image is beam photometry of the Philips on low and high beam. Over 54,000 candela peak intensity on low beam, over 78,000 on high beam; those are _excellent_ numbers, and the location of the "hot spot" is very well placed where it needs to be so the driver gets to see what they need to see.
For a long time, the only suitable housings widely available were reproductions of those used on pre-1967 VW Beetle and Porsche 356 cars. They were very similar to the '65-'67 Porsche 911-12 cars, except the Beetle-356 housings had a parking light bulb at the bottom, in front of the sealed beam—the 911-912 housing didn't, because those cars had separate parking lights.
But the early US-spec 911-912 housings weren't reproduced and were very difficult to find, and while the production quality of the 356-Beetle housings was adequate, it was not at a Best-in-Class® level. Not being a manufacturing company ourselves, we had to work with what was available, until now: Eric Linden of Auto Foreign Services to the rescue.
Platinum Plus Headlight Housings from Eric Linden
Eric Linden applied his famous attention to perfection to reproducing the original Hella 911-912 US-spec sealed-beam headlight housings, so now we can take the AC Platinum LED Series to a new level. Everything is built using the highest quality materials and all parts fit to precision. The powder coated finish ensures w this is a Best-in-Class® product!
Trim Rings and Lenses
And the same goes for the trim rings. Most reproduction headlight trim rings are made of stamped steel; up to now that's been the only kind available. Here again, the quality was adequate, but not premium. A not-quite-exactly-perfect stamped steel ring is hard to mount, because steel is hard and not very ductile, which means no flexibility in fitting them over the fender ridges. Porsche originally used trim rings made of brass, which is much more ductile, and that's what Eric Linden did, too. Together with the utterly perfect fit and finish, this makes mounting the headlamps Best-in-Class® easy.
Linden's lenses are a perfectly faithful reproduction of the originals, made of premium borosilicate clear glass. Also called "hard glass", borosilicate is much harder to break, much more resistant to thermal shock, much less prone to pitting (road rash, sandblasting), and has excellent optical properties. These new lenses have the correct SB 19-20-21 script on them, and no Hella markings. (Note: only window-clear lenses like this may be safely and effectively be used in headlamp assemblies like these; Stern explained to us that using fluted lenses of any kind will wreck the beam pattern, for the same reason you can't see if you put somebody else's eyeglasses on over your own glasses or contact lenses—the light units have their optics built in, and any additional optics in front of them will make the light pattern random and dangerous).
Your choice of adjustment screws:
- Chrome plated oval-head slotted screws as used originally by Porsche with the Hella SB19 housings
- Stainless steel oval head Phillips screws
- Porsche OEM mounting screws
Our Best-In-Class® choice is based on more than just quality, reliabilty and performance - it also includes price. Philips Integral Beam LEDs are far less expensive than the Speaker 8700. Which gives us the opportunity to offer these Best-in-Class® LED headlights without breaking the bank or sacrificing quality. The tentative price on the Platinum Plus LED Series headlights is $1,495.00 vs. $1,795.00-$1,955 for the Platinum Plus Series with JW Speaker LEDs. We will probably continue to have both in our catalog for those who prefer Made in America products.
We have to admit that we believe that we have succeeded in producing the best 7” LED headlights available today. What do you think?
This effort has been made possible due to a collaboration between John Audette of Audette Collection, Lighting Consultant Daniel Stern of Daniel Stern Lighting Consultancy and Supply, and premier Porsche parts builder Eric Linden of Auto Foreign Services. Many thanks to Daniel and Eric.