Lotus Elan

Vacuum to electric headlight conversion

PostPost by: Johnny America » Wed Dec 13, 2023 12:52 pm

Good afternoon, May I ask what experience do members have of converting from vacuum driven headlights to electric lift? I believe Spyder offer a conversion kit. Do people feel it is worthwhile, does it work or offer any advantages.

Are there any observations/ tips on the conversion itself.

Thank you in advance.

John
1969 Lotus Elan +2 4 speed - Barn find and currently undergoing recommissioning.
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PostPost by: prezoom » Wed Dec 13, 2023 4:08 pm

I used a left side electric unit from a Mazda Miata/MX5. Mounted the motor with the armature, end with the red knob, pointing up towards the engine compartment. The lever arm on the motor is on a splined shaft, and can be positioned at any point on the motor shaft. The extension of the armature shaft was done with a section of small diameter aluminum tubing. A piece of a 5.5mm hex wrench served as a broach to match the hex on the armature. The same piece of the hex wrench was used on the far end to attach the red knob from the original motor. With an extension to the shaft, the knob is now readily available to raise or lower the lights should there be an electrical failure from the engine bay. Lift the bonnet, turn the knob, get back in the car and go. There is some fussing about in where the operating shaft from the lever arm of the motor to the link that operates the lights, which may need to have the hole in the link moved to match the length of the motors lever lever arm. A simple 5 pin relay connected to the power side of the headlight switch, switches direct battery to the motor when the lights are turned on. Your choice in where you decide to pick up the direct battery feed.
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PostPost by: JonB » Wed Dec 13, 2023 4:12 pm

A quick question about the linkage between pods. Their centres of rotation don’t appear to be in the same plane. If that’s correct, how do you connect them so as to be able to use a single motor?
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PostPost by: davidj » Wed Dec 13, 2023 4:33 pm

I came to exactly the same conclusion when I was looking to convert the lift mechanism for my s3 and ended up using two lifters (£60 total cost). viewtopic.php?f=31&t=50274&p=364959#p364959
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PostPost by: spyzee » Wed Dec 13, 2023 7:23 pm

I've done the conversion using the Spyder kit without any issues whatsoever. It works very well, you have the ability to vary the speed at which the pods operate, the pods stay down when parked, stay up when you accelerate and if you flash them using the stalk then they open up and shut back down in a single cycle. All good. The instructions provided are adequate but you still need to make sure all the linkages line up properly.

My originally plan was to do exactly what prezoom has described as I had already sourced an MX5 motor and had the vacuum pod linkage bar from my failsafe setup. But the bar needed a bit of surgery and I wanted some control over the motor speed plus I wanted to be able to flash the lights using the column stalk. I'd researched the "flash to pass" conversion that could be done on the MX5 so that I could use the stalk to raise the pods, flash main beam and close the pods back in one movement. The Spyder solution does all this and provide a custom linkage bar so, apart from funding it, it was no brainer. Then I reached state pension age and had a supply of "no-guilt what I spend it on money" so I did it.

The only thing you really need to know is that the Spyder system still requires one of the vacuum pod springs to enable it to work.
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PostPost by: Johnny America » Wed Dec 13, 2023 8:29 pm

Thank you all for the very helpful info. I need to access my vacuum system as I think it’s been disconnected. Then make a decision.

The flash option, sounds a useful addition. Very tempted to go the Spyder route for reliability.
I’m guessing that once both the vacuum pods are removed and the motor added then the weight difference would be insignificant (keeping true to ACBC’s principles).

Whilst I could fabricate my own system, I think it’s a reason trade of between time to buying the Spyder unit.
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1979 Lancia V6 Group B Rally Car
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PostPost by: Foxie » Wed Dec 13, 2023 10:11 pm

I fitted the Spyder kit recently, after several bad experiences with M-ways, bad weather, and HGVs :shock:

The kit is well made and everything required is supplied, including instructions. I had to contact Spyder to correctly identify and sort out the many bolts, washers etc.

The 3-position rotary switch for 'off' 'sidelights' and 'mains' is neat and fits into the original vacuum pull switch position.

Very pleased with the finished system.

:)
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PostPost by: The Veg » Thu Dec 14, 2023 9:30 pm

I got my kit from Kelvedon and I think it's basically the same as the Spyder kit although it did not include the switch that Foxie describes. Such a switch might have made my install easier, as I found that there was NO point in my car's headlight wiring system that wasn't interrupted when changing between dipped amd main beams, meaning that changing beams would result in the lights trying for a moment to retract. My solution was to use the switch for the heated rear screen, as my car has the switch but not the wires on the rear glass. Sure it adds a step to activating or de-activating the lights, but it's not a big deal given how manual and analog the car already is. :lol:

I found that the linkage was easy to connect and that the new bar between the pods that comes with the kit makes for perfect even-ness between the two, just as the original did. Getting it set for the right amount of motion and the right stopping-positions at either up or down was much easier than expected too.

One thing I did do however was add a little more thickness to the floor of the nose, as the spot where the motor mounts seemed a little flimsy and likely to flex during operation. The underside of the nose had some penetrating cracks to be repaired too so I just 'glassed those repairs and the added thickness in one session and now it's all solid.

The kit works really well and I'm quite pleased with it.
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PostPost by: Foxie » Fri Dec 15, 2023 2:15 pm

In reply to Veg's post above, Spyder's kit did not include the 3 position rotary light switch. I sourced it independently from :

https://www.autoelectricsupplies.co.uk/ ... 3-position.

And I also put another layer of fibreglass on the mounting area !

:)
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PostPost by: Johnny America » Fri Dec 15, 2023 2:41 pm

Very helpful everyone. Thank you. Definitely on the to do list.
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PostPost by: The Veg » Fri Dec 15, 2023 5:55 pm

Can the old headlight knob be mounted on that switch?
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PostPost by: Elanman99 » Fri Dec 15, 2023 8:58 pm

The Veg wrote:I got my kit from Kelvedon and I think it's basically the same as the Spyder kit although it did not include the switch that Foxie describes. Such a switch might have made my install easier, as I found that there was NO point in my car's headlight wiring system that wasn't interrupted when changing between dipped amd main beams, meaning that changing beams would result in the lights trying for a moment to retract. My solution was to use the switch for the heated rear screen, as my car has the switch but not the wires on the rear glass. Sure it adds a step to activating or de-activating the lights, but it's not a big deal given how manual and analog the car already is. :lol:

The kit works really well and I'm quite pleased with it.



I am not familiar with the Spyder electronic control system or its input circuitry but I would expect that one could use a couple of diodes to 'OR' the dip and main wires so that the pods raise whichever light is on.

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PostPost by: gus » Thu Dec 21, 2023 10:31 pm

The way the factory system works at least on the early cars, is that the pull switch on the dash provides ground to both relays[and enables the parking lights through a different micro switch]
The stalk chooses which relay gets enabled
To wire a motor[or vacuum switch] to the factory wiring it is required to provide it switched power at all times, then use the ground to enable the motor.
I used one Miata motor, as the federal system originally used one vacuum pod it is pretty easy to use that system.
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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Fri Dec 22, 2023 2:48 pm

This is the switch I have on my +2 for the electric headlight conversion (it was the prototype)

Image

If I was designing it today I would probably go for something a little more original looking like this 3 position pull switch that the old headlight vacuum pull knob could be fitted to with a bit of fiddling.

Link to pull switch https://www.carbuilder.com/uk/black-headlamp-switch-push-pull?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiAhJWsBhAaEiwAmrNyq_DxZb_0OJh1k53xiIxvcF2e63ScVsQ1dtsaUUh_akf8omZ9mmpF9hoCGYYQAvD_BwE

Image
3 position Push Pull OFF-SIDE-HEAD

Screw terminals.
Fits in a 10mm hole.
Closed length 83mm.
Maximum open length 103mm. (knob side only 48mm max).
Max panel thickness 8mm.
B - Live into Switch.
58 - Sidelights (that stay on with headlights).
57 - Sidelights (that turn off when headlights on).
56 - Headlights.
30 - Live through switch (to feed another switch).
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: mbell » Fri Dec 22, 2023 3:47 pm

Late S130 had a remote solenoid to control the vacuum, with simple toggle style switch. So that would be another some-what original type option.
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