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Thread: custom tail lights

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date:  Dec 2017

    Location:  Steyr, Austria. German passport

    Posts:    5

    My VIN:    1111

    custom tail lights

    Hey owners.

    A friend of mine and I started discussing a project to build a full LED tail light that has configurable behavior.
    We are both electrical engineers with a university Master's degree; my friend has been working as hardware and embedded systems developer for more than 15 years while
    I have worked in automotive development for 13 years.

    The specification would be as follows:
    1.) Full area equal brightness LED lights
    2.) Outer indicator triangle (remains dark in original tail lights) becomes part of the indicator
    3.) Sequential indicator (two elements)
    4.) automatic fog light if middle PIN leads 12V (PIN is unused in original setup) for the UK folks
    5.) use of all three red sections for tail light (darker) and brake light (brighter).
    6.) amber indicator LED's so faded out indicator lens is no issue
    7.) Everything on one board and use of original connector ("plug and play")

    3.) and 5.) could be separately switched off by user (with jumper or DIP switch; external switch could be optionally attached).
    If 5.) is switched off, behavior would be as the original OEM board (two brake lights and in the middle the rear tail light)

    8.) optional: Panic brake light (4 Hz blinking if deceleration is above 6 m/s˛)
    This would be measured with an accelerometer included in the board. Only the lateral deceleration would be taken into account.
    Only problem with this feature (why I say it would be optional) is that EU regulation limit this function to speeds above 50 km/h
    but vehicle speed information is unavailable at the tail light without considerable additional installation work.

    We have made drawings and researched possible hardware components. We know we can do it. The decision whether or not we will, depends on the demand.
    We would like to figure out for what price (if at all) there is sufficient demand, so if you could share your personal opinion about this it would be much appreciated.

    Important to know is that we would have to use the original tail lights, as we want the rear of the car to look stock from outside but re-manufacturing their lenses is a project too big for us.
    This means that the original tail lights would be cut to expose the outer (lens) section.
    The modification of the lights could either be done by the buyer or by us for an additional payment (buyer would send in his tail lights and get them back modified)
    We would give a 1 year warranty and 500 sets of boards would be produced, providing sufficient spare parts.

    A similar project was already started a few years ago by Kevin but never left a very early prototype status:…

    Johannes VIN 1111
    Last edited by Fly Joe; 05-06-2019 at 03:11 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date:  Aug 2018

    Location:  Virginia

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    Personally I wouldn’t be interested. I have new tail light boards and LED bulbs. To me, that’s good enough.

  3. #3
    DMC Timeless's Avatar
    Join Date:  Nov 2016

    Location:  SW FL

    Posts:    179

    Club(s):   (DCF) (DCO) (DCUK)

    I'm with CFI on this. Updated boards with high quality LED bulbs work great and are reliable. Doubtful lots of owners would spend hundreds or more $$$ to have configurable taillight functions. Of course they may be a few owners wanting something custom but then the return on investment/development may not be there.

    Would the juice be worth the squeeze?

  4. #4
    EFI'd dn010's Avatar
    Join Date:  Jul 2011

    Location:  Florida: Pinellas County

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    Club(s):   (DCF)

    I'm all for new and improved, but I too am very satisfied with my LED bulbs on my Grady boards. They're very bright and a big improvement over the incandescent original bulbs.
    -----Dan B.

  5. #5
    Join Date:  Feb 2015

    Location:  Allen, TX

    Posts:    45

    My VIN:    #4595

    I've wanted to do something like sequential turn lights for a while. I'd be very interested in this but haven't the slightest idea what it's worth. Any idea what price point you'd be thinking about or shooting for? I could easily tell you if it seemed too high.

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date:  Dec 2017

    Location:  Steyr, Austria. German passport

    Posts:    5

    My VIN:    1111

    Thanks guys,

    your statements are much appreciated and they totally make sense.

    We have discussed it further.

    A much simpler and much less expensive option would be to activate just the outer indicator triangles with LED's but keep using the original boards with standard LED bulbs for all the original segments.
    We would be able to implement the panic light, the sequential indicator, and the fog light function.
    We would be unable to implement the configurable tail/brake lights though, as this would require "dual ligament" bulb sockets on the boards.

    The modifications to the original lights would consist of cutting open the rear side of the outer turn signal triangle (or just a slot to bring the small board in) and could be done by the buyer. We would provide a youtube video and if helpful a cardboard template.

    Here is a little animation how the sequential indicator would look like. As you can see, the inner segment lights up as a whole and the outer part is divided into two segments.
    Please ignore the red segments, this animation is just about the turn signal.
    What do you guys think?


    Hm, for some reason it is showing up as jpg, even though the file I uploaded is an animated .gif.
    I will re-try tomorrow (it is midnight here and I have to work tomorrow...)

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bitsyncmaster's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Leonardtown, MD

    Posts:    7,450

    My VIN:    03572

    I always like seeing people developing new ideas. I like the idea of no sockets for the "bulbs". When you are thinking of selling a few probably to help fund your development costs you need to get an estimated price and put out feelers to see how many you will sell. I use a US board house for my PCBs and I would estimate your board cost and LED cost would drive this product cost pretty high since you will probably have about 100 LEDs on each board.

    I did LEDs on my rear lights about 10 years ago and LEDs have improved so much that I would consider getting your units if they perform really good.
    Dave M vin 03572

  8. #8
    Join Date:  Feb 2012

    Location:  Brisbane, QLD, AU

    Posts:    50

    My VIN:    4322

    I'm interested...but not keen on cutting into the original tail lights, since they are NLA!

    Not sure if anyone is reproducing the housings since the originals are NLA? I do remember some projects for different tail light colors, but nothing seemed to eventuate.

    I don't have the resources, but would love a custom integrated tail light housing and LED light board (not bulbs, but panel LEDs). Could be programmable for all sorts of patterns - sequential indicators, horizontal parking light signature (kinda like a Dodge Charger, except the center license plate section would be dark), fog lights, emergency stop. If LED panels, probably wouldn't need to be very deep.

    Probs $$$ due to the work and materials involved though...housing, lenses, LED boards, programming.

  9. #9
    Guy with a DeLorean Mark D's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Stevens Point,WI

    Posts:    2,057

    My VIN:    6125

    I also find this project really interesting but I'm hesitant due to the modifications required to the tail light housings. They were available NOS up until a couple of years ago when they went NLA on the DMCH store... I'm not sure if they are actually out of stock or if DMCH is just stockpiling parts for their new builds.

    Either way, if this was a plug and play swap with an aftermarket lens/housing I'd be on board. I know you said it was outside of the scope of the project to develop a new housing but it seems like you'd really only need the outer half since the bulb sockets and reflectors would be getting cut out anyway.

    I would think that one of the major vendors would have replacement tail light housings by now but the demand must not be there to justify the tooling cost. If there was an aftermarket housing available you could just buy a stock of those to modify and sell the LED boards pre-installed rather than having people send in their own housings or attempt modifications themselves.
    Mark Dehlinger

  10. #10
    LS1 DMC Nicholas R's Avatar
    Join Date:  Jun 2011

    Location:  Orlando, Florida

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    Club(s):   (DCF) (DCO) (DCUK)

    500 sets seems pretty lofty. I'm not aware of anyone that's made any custom DeLorean part that has sold numbers like that. Heck, just talk to Michael. He had automatic transmission filters made, a part that was desperately needed by the community, sold them for a very reasonable price, and they still didn't exactly fly off the shelf (to my knowledge at least -- Michael could certainly share more info).

    Also, I hate to say it but if you're waiting on commitments to make a prototype, it wont happen. People need to see what it is. At least then you might get some impulse buyers. Also, just remember that until you take money, commitments are just words. Lots of people just like the idea of something being available, more than actually spending the money on it. This is especially true if people have to chop up their tail lights to make it work. Something like this needs to be a passion project more than a business venture. Best of luck, this sounds cool and I hope to see it work out

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