Adding a distinctive look to your car doesn’t always have to entail hundreds of labor hours and an endless budget. Sometimes the easiest upgrades are hiding right in plain sight; we just can’t always see them. What if you could couple a dramatic visual enhancement with improved safety? Sounds like a winner right? And if you could do it yourself with simple hand tools in a short amount of time, we’re talkin’ a home run.
We were aware that Marquez Design made some attractive hardware for first-gen Camaros, but when they recently expanded their taillight line into the second-gen arena, ’70-’73 to be exact, we were all over it. With housings machined from solid 6061-T6 billet aluminum polished to a mirror finish, combined with their very stylish custom lenses, it was obvious the rear of Project Orange Krate would take on a whole new personality.
Along with the idea of replacing the taillights, it got us thinking that we should explore the rear lighting as well. This would be the perfect time to make the update for safer illumination to the back of the car as well. Our research brought us to Dakota Digital. They offer a ’70-’73 replacement kit to allow us to add an LED lighting system into the mix that would be the perfect compliment to the Marquez Design taillights.
With the recent delivery of the Camaro Performers magazine project car, known as Project Orange Krate, to Peter Newell at Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, we figured we’d get busy right away with some quick, but effective changes. Follow along as we bring a whole new life to the back of the car with taillights that will have you needing to wear shades!
We chose to update the car with a fresh new look and contacted Marquez Design for a set of their stylish red lens taillights with hand polished billet bases (PN 112).
Dakota Digital offers a neat LED lighting system for the ’70-73 Camaro (PN LAT-NR100), which included all of the necessary hardware to make the installation a snap. We went with two sets of lights as we chose to delete the white backup lens for now.
Before getting started, Peter Newell of Competition Specialties, disconnected the car’s battery for safety. Then, using a 7/16 socket, he removed the taillight housing from the rear body panel then removed the taillight bulbs and wiring from the housing.
The original taillights, housing, and gaskets are obviously showing some wear, but are still in good enough shape to be used in the upgrade.
Once disassembled, the taillight housing, lenses, and gaskets were in need of a bit of clean up, but they were still good enough to reuse.
Here’s the LED taillight assembly once the update has been completed for our second-gen application. The only change in hardware required is swapping out the standard 5/8-inch machine screw for the short mounting plate with the supplied ½-inch machine screw for the larger mounting plate.
With the taillight housing removed from the car, Pete used a standard slotted screwdriver and carefully pried the taillight lens assemblies from the housing. Extra care is required here. Due to the age of the plastic housing, they can be brittle and brake easily.
The Dakota Digital LED taillight modules come set-up for the ’67-’69 Camaro using the short mounting plate. In order to adapt them to fit the ’70-’73 Camaro we switched over to the longer base plate using the provided hardware in the kit.
Using a Phillips-head screwdriver Pete removed the two 3/8-inch screws from the circular mounting base then fed the wiring through the opening where the original socket and bulb once were.
Next, we fed the wiring through the larger hole in the circular mounting plate making sure the raised portion of the mounting plate faced the taillight housing.
Next up, we guided the mounting plate to the bottom of the housing while also aligning the LED light assembly inside to ensure that it was centered over the original socket-bulb mounting hole. Using the two previously removed 3/8-inch machine screws, we secured the circular mounting plate to the housing.
With the LED installation completed, we added the taillight gaskets and new Marquez Design taillights into place. Since Project Orange Krate will later sport a pair of unique backup lights in the roll pan, we opted to install two brake lenses on each side (Marquez offers a reverse-taillight option).
Is this killer or what? With the Marquez taillights and housings in place, the back of the car has taken on a whole new personality.
But we’re not done yet. Using a pair of side-cutters, Peter removed the original taillight socket from the wiring harness.
With the supplied moisture-resistant pigtail connector, there was no need to strip the wires. Based on the installation instructions, Pete just fed them into the connector base and clamped them together using a set of pliers.
Even with the lights off, the Marquez Design taillights look stellar. They bring a cleaner, more race-inspired attitude to the back of the car.
Now that’s a bright set of brake lights! The combination of Marquez taillights matched up with Dakota Digital’s LED lighting system is definitely a winning combination in our eyes! Even Rupp will see these far off in the distance from the confines of Project Track Rat.