The C4 Corvette was a big step up from earlier generations but one area that always seemed a little weak was the lighting. Even when first introduced, the lights were probably best described as “adequate.” With the great innovations seen in auto lighting in the twenty plus years since, it all looks just a little bit meager.

Luckily most of the lighting technology updates are now available as retrofit items and prices are dropping all the time, making this a relatively painless and inexpensive upgrade that can improve the appearance, functionality and safety of your vehicle.

The three main areas I am interested in are:

  • Daytime visibility
  • Night driving illumination and
  • Efficiency.

The need for daytime visibility is fairly obvious; there are a lot of people out there who are extremely inattentive. Whether it’s paying more attention to their stereo, yacking with passengers or the dreaded “cellphone distraction,” it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that you want to (metaphorically speaking) slap these people around the head and make them take notice before they pile into you.

Nighttime driving is all about headlights – or as we C4 drivers refer to them “small candles” as that’s about how bright they are. The low driving position combined with the US DOT regulations on lighting (AKA minimum output!) make driving after sunset a pretty hair-raising experience, especially on unlit back-roads.

Efficiency is a personal appreciation that has been with me for a long time. I’m all for things being cool, decorative or “blingy”; but if they can be those things and increase efficiency then it really grabs my attention. Part of what attracted me to the ZR-1 was that it was so much more powerful than the base model, but also much more efficient. From a lighting perspective this means I’m looking for options that consume less power but provide the same, or better light.

Here are my immediate goals:

  • Tail-light updates: I’d like brighter brake lights and rearward visibility to minimize the possibility of a rear-ender.
  • Front light updates: Headlight and running light updates, again for visibility to other traffic in the day and clearer vision by night.
  • General updates: Replace all other lights (as far as practical) with more efficient LEDs.

So far as headlights go, the most dramatic upgrade I’ve seen must be the LP60 projector HID conversion offered by CorvetteHID. These seem to offer the best lighting option currently available. There are a couple of downsides though. First is the cost; at over $1000 it sure isn’t a cheap option and secondly the appearance, which really doesn’t look stock even when the lights are not in use. Having read this excellent write-up it seems there may be a more cost effective way to upgrade by using E-spec housings and “ordinary” high output bulbs. An additional benefit of this approach is that it won’t look any different from the stock lights. This is approach I’m planning to try initially.

The tail-lights are somewhat problematic. Corvette HID offers an upgrade kit that looks very well made, but again is quite different from the stock appearance, displaying a distinct “grid” pattern both unlit and very pronounced when lit. What I would like is a solution that gives me the benefits of LEDs but offers the overall “glow” filled-in look of the stock lights. Corvette HID offers another solution which is more bulb-like and might work better.

I discussed this issue with several people who had already done the LED update and was told that these “bulb-like” lights produce a very tight illuminate pattern and don’t fill in the whole light effectively, which would not be the solution I’m looking for. However, further research led me to which offers an amazing range of vehicle lights as well as for other uses. Usefully they also had a number of pictures of these bulb-like LEDs installed in vehicles and they appear to fit the bill very well.

I suspect that the reason for the information I was given is that LEDs tend to be more directional than traditional incandescent bulbs. So if you have a single or small number of LEDs pointed one way you will indeed get a small source of light as the light won’t hit the reflector to “fill in” the lens. The products at Corvette HID and SuperBrightLEDs combine LEDs pointed straight out with others pointed sideways to produce a three-hundred and sixty degree light which I hope will overcome this and provide that missing “fill in”.

SuperBrightLEDs also provide lights to replace all of the driving, side-marker and interior lights as well which will allow me to address my “efficiency” aspirations.  My plan is to order tail-lights, front turn signals and some interior lights and see how they measure up. I’ll also order the “E-spec” housings and some high intensity standard bulbs (probably Sylvania SilverStars).

Note: Although I am looking at C4 applications, the companies mentioned here offer options for most, if not all, Corvettes.