Although vintage '50s musclecars, like the Tri-Five Chevrolets, might be the hot ticket in today's collector car market exuding style, performance and grace, they are nonetheless 50-year-old "antiques" by contemporary lighting and safety standards, and fall a bit short in regards to that all-important "safety zone."
Take, for example, the '57 Chevrolet passenger car's taillights which consist of a double contact offset pin/12-volt filament bulb housing, covered by a clear red plastic lens smaller than the size of your average coffee table coaster. Sure, these OE taillights may have gotten the job done back in 1957, but with today's hell-bent fast-paced society, combined with the fact that the values of these classic Tri-Fives are going through the stratosphere, do you really want to risk suffering a rear end collision because the guy behind you didn't see you stopping, or executing a turn?
Of course, the first thing that comes to the minds of most Tri-Five owners is the installation of a non-original third brake light, and for the most part, that's a pretty good idea. However, the folks at Carson, California's, United Pacific Industries have a very "illuminating alternative." It's now possible to retrofit your '57 Chevy with a set of Light Emitting Diode (LED) taillights in less than the time it took you to drive down to the convenience store, and purchase this copy of Chevy Classics magazine!
United Pacific's 1157-Double Contact, Offset Pin Connector 51 Light Emitting Diode LED TailLight(s) for the classic 5-7 features an epoxy-coated, fully sealed, solid-state circuit board designed at 7.7-140 VDC, housed inside either a clear, (PN#CTL5720C) or red, polycarbonate lens, (PN#CTL5720LED) complete with wiring pigtail and socket molded together as one single unit. Installation is as simple as removing the stock '57 Chevrolet taillight lens and accompanying 12-volt bulb, and inserting the fully sealed LED taillight assembly and socket back into your '57's taillight receptacle.
However, since this is a tight fit, you may want to use needle-nose pliers. In the process of changing out these parts, we also recommend checking the overall condition of your taillight socket for corrosion, and that you also replace the taillight gasket. Depending on the manufacturer, you may have to trim a little material from the upper lip of the gasket (like we did,) just below the mounting screw boss in order for the United Pacific LED assembly to fit. Other than that, it's pretty much a no-brainer!
Priced at $32.95 each at participating United Pacific retailers, this is one safety upgrade you can make to your classic Chevy shoebox without having to hock the farm! Now follow along with us as we upgrade "Road King Tom" McCourry's white, '57 Chevrolet Bel Air to safe, and visible LED!
These lenses feature epoxy-coated, fully sealed electronic solid-state (7.7-14.0 VDC) circuitry with double pin connector and is housed within a polycarbonate body. These units are an absolute no brainer to install, and are reasonably priced through participating United Pacific retailers.
...and "after" photos taken of "Road King Tom" McCourry's '57 Chevrolet Bel Air tell the story.
Installer Tom McCourry begins by removing the series of three stainless steel machine screws, which secure the stock '57 Chevrolet taillight lense(s) in place.
Once the stock lenses have been removed, out comes the OE 12-volt taillight bulb. At this juncture, it's advisable to also check the overall condition of the actual socket as it may contain corrosion and need to be cleaned up.
The next item of business is the actual installation of the United Pacific LED taillight assembly with the forward register "pin"pointed down.
Depending on the newness, or thickness of the OE taillight gasket assembly, you may need to trim a small amount of material inside top of the gasket, as was the case with this particular Tri-Five.
With the United Pacific LED unit secured in place, it's advisable to test it out prior to screwing everything back together.
Satisfied with the fit...
...Tom screws everything in place using the OE '57 stainless machine screws.
Once the other side is finished, it's time to see and be seen cruising!