Main.TrailIndexPage | Electrical Systems | Electrical.Lights | Converting US and European style headlamps

Converting from US style to European headlights

This component is part of Light System.

A very popular conversion is to convert from US Light Assemblies to European Light Assemblies, whilst removing the Sidemarker Lights.

It is described below...


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I have a US version '67 280 SL with American-type headlights. One of the lights broke recently. Is it possible to change only the top light assembly to a European spec or do I have to buy the complete European light assembly (this costs over $500 and the American light itself a little less than $190). Can the American headlights be replaced by European ones?

For those with Euros, there are H4 lamps that have the proper T43 base that really improve your lighting. The W 113 Euro socket takes a 45 t base lamp. Candlepower has an H4 with this base. Part R-12, 12V 60/55 watt halogen. Simply remove the Hellaís and these will plug right in.

Does anyone have any experience with installing Euro headlights - is it a switch-and-plug-in deal or ate there electric modifications needed? How about bulbs?

Thereís nothing to it, just need the complete assembly. The wiring is the same 6 hole plug that is fitted to the lights and the three plug socket for the headlight bulb.

Will: last time I tried it, they were a direct plug in.

My '66 230 SL is a euro model, and I love the lights, but they were very dim compared to my US model 280 SL. I took an entire headlight assembly to PepBoys and found a 65 watt halogen that fit the plug and only needed to bend the tips of the bulb housing to keep it in place. Been running them for a year and a half now, wouldn't ever think of going back. If needed I can get you the model bulb I used, but it seemed pretty common. Also later converted the lower driving lights to halogen. A bit more work, but nothing irreversible to the system.

Capitol Lighting has the H4's with the P45t base and they pop right in. About $6 ea.

I purchased Euro headlights for the 1971 280 SL and don't see how the front side marker lights connect to the Euro light. I need a female connection on the Euro light in which to insert the male plugs of the side marker lights. Anyone aware of the part that makes that connection work?

The Euro lights were not outfitted with the external plug for the US-mandated side marker lights. You will have to splice the wires from the marker lights to the wiring of the headlight plugs.

I own a 1969 US-spec 280 SL. Of course it had the US style headlamps. As I prefer the European ones, I bought a brand new (original Bosch) set for the equivalent of $640 for the pair, including all the various bulbs needed. An additional advantage was that the foglamps, not provided in US-style lamps, are now functional (I did have to connect the wires that are also already in place to the conectors, an easy job) and one other task is to take two small notches out of the inside of the chrome rings that surround the light assemblies (they do fit both US and Euro spec, except for the small notches which can be ground off using an electric drill).

I replaced my US headlights with Euro lights. My experience with these seals for the euro headlight is as follows. There are two seals for each light:

  1. There is a seal between the lens and the light assembly that is not formed (i.e., what is now available comes in strips of foam weather seal type material that is not formed to the shape of the headlight-the original seal was shaped for the headlight or became shaped over time).
  2. There is a second seal that seals the headlight assembly to the body of the car. This is now made of rubber (not foam rubber as was the original that I replaced) and is formed to fit in the light assembly. It does, however, come with little "nipples" not present on the original seals. I could not identify why these were needed on the 113. I trimmed the nipples off and it fit OK (not great) and shows a little bit of the rubber between the light assembly and the body of the car. Both of these replacement seals were purchased from a Mercedes dealer.

I took my (280 SL) taillights out to clean last month, and the lenses do come apart from the chrome surround piece. Cleaning the plastic and reflectors made a big positive difference in their appearance. You have to carefully pull it away from the surround, sliding clear of the bolts that are part of the chrome surround. Basically, the molded heavy foam/rubber seals hold everything together when the lights are removed from the car. The lenses can be separated from the bulb holders.

What is the difference between US 113 cars with the amber & white vs. the pure amber running light in the headlight? Why the difference?

The small amber has the code AN while the large amber has the code AJ.

An EBay item is a USA headlight model "AC". My car has lights that say "AJ". Can a USA 1971 280SL use "AC" lights or only "AJ", and what about "AN"? Are the differences in these lights significant?

There are differences in the lights so they are only interchangable with some work, and only in pairs. They all fit the same however. I believe that the -AC lights are the earliest, used on 230/250/280 to chassis number 5607, which was early in '69 production year. The AN lights were used on 280's from chassis 5607 to 11947, and the AJ for the remainder of the production run. I have not had all three in my posession at one time, but the differences between all of them have to do with the number of bulbs; colors; and wattages for the parking/directionals with the sealed beam headlight being the same for all. The biggest difference is in the AJ which contains an additional power "jack" to connect the side marker lamps which had changed from side marker reflectors and now needed power due to DOT regulations. All assemblies are still available; however they have vastly different prices. The AC is about $285; the AN about $340; and the AJ about $220. Go figure. My new AJ's were made in the Czech Republic and were ALL plastic, including the chrome. NOT NOS! More important is the socket-back which contains the reflectors and the wiring for the directionals and parking lamps; the only one still available is the one for the AJ. Note this is not included in the above prices and is a separate part. When I needed new headlamp assemblies, I opted for the AJ because of price, but more because my socket backs were shot (no chrome left on the reflectors) and could not get any new ones for my original AN assemblies. Socket backs are definitely NOT interchangable. So if you have AJ's, I'd suggest only replacing them with AJ's else you need to do a bunch of wiring to accomodate your side markers and you'll have to do something about those socket backs. Hope this info helps! And yes, due to the changes I made I have a bunch of AN's looking for a good home.

If anyone else is interested, with Joe Orman's help, I recently connected the headlight flasher wires in my 67 230SL. The factory did not connect this feature for cars that came to the US, at least not in the 230.

  1. Disconnect battery ground cable!
  2. Remove fuse box cover and two screws holding box to firewall, gently push fuse box in to passenger compartment until you can see back of box
  3. There should be a white wire with a violet stripe folded over and taped to itself, and to a white wire with a black stripe
  4. Remove tape, strip end of white/violet wire, attach terminal end (I cut a #14 terminal because it was too wide to fit on the terminal post) with a crimping tool
  5. Attached this wire to the same terminal that holds the white/black wire which is the #10 terminal (left high beam) on the fuse protected side (bottom when viewed from inside car)
  6. Resecure fuse block, connect battery and the flasher will work even when the ignition is off. It is even easier if you remove the steering wheel; I also disconnected the flasher harness near the kick panel so I could have a better view under the dash (then I wondered why it didn't work after I thought everything was hooked back up but forgot to reattach it!). The fog light is similar except I ran a wire from the fog light fuse #8 to the rotary light switch terminal #N, I believe. I had to remove the Tach to see which terminal this is so it was a little harder but not difficult. I used a test light, the wiring diagram from the owners manual enlarged several times to figure this out and the BBB.

Joe Alexander: I have seen both the flat lenses and the rounded versions. Iíve seen this also happen on the 108 sedans also. I tend to believe both may be original but the original supplier may be different? Possibly Hella and Bosch? Also be aware that euro headlight lenses from right hand drive countries like Great Brittain, Japan, and South Africa have lenses which refract light differently from left hand drive countries using euro headlights like Canada and Germany. The wrong lenses may actually throw light up into oncoming traffic!

I have european headlights already but the reflectors for the main lights and the fog lights are rusty. Hence my question. I need to know if I can buy just the reflectors and not the lenses etc. I am interested in part numbers of the reflectors. Maybe someone with a Parts list can help?

Yes, you can get just the reflectors. I need to do this as well for my Euro headlights. I have not looked into prices or part numbers yet.

Here in Germany they are about 50 Euros each.

According to my Parts List, which is strictly for the 230SL:

 000 826 14 78 - Mirror reflector applicable to R.H. traffic
 000 826 15 78 - Mirror reflector applicable to L.H. traffic
 000 826 00 94 - Bushing
 000 826 01 39 - Mounting part

We probably need the bushing and mounting parts because they are listed together with the reflector. Also, there are two seals around the light. The first is weather stripping between the whole light assembly and the body of the car:

 000 826 31 80 - Weatherstip
 0007981 004331 - Lens head screw, sheet metal
 110 987 03 41 - Washer (no longer available as a spare part)

The second is between the glass lens and the light assembly:

 000 826 30 80 - Rubber seal

It doesn't show anything for "fog lights". There is a turn signal part, but I don't know if it's a "reflector":

 000 826 01 57 - Light section for blinker lights

I can't comment on the validity of these numbers for the 250SL or 280SL because my Spare Parts List only says 230SL on the cover.

Tom Hanson says: you can put H4 bulbs is these older Euro lights just by filing the guide tabs on the bulbs. They make a huge difference.

I recently switched from the US sealed beam headlights to Euro headlights. The Euro headlights are much brighter. I was able to purchase halogen bulbs for the Euro headlights. The halogen bulbs were inserted without any modifictions required. I understand that there are two types of Euro headlights. I have the rounded lenses. I also understand that flat lens Euro headlights are out there.

Frank Mallory wrote: the Bosch headlamp in question replaces the entire US headlamp bezel/ bucket/ bracket/ sealed beam/ turn signal *assembly*. It has three reflector "pockets" (low beam, high beam, fog lamp), each with its own halogen bulb, plus a city light, plus a turn signal with amber bulb shield, all behind a common glass lens. It has higher performance than either the earlier R2 (non-halogen 45/40w dual-filament bulb shaped like a ping-pong ball) or later H4 (halogen 60/55w dual-filament bulb) units. There was a ten-year gap (1962-1972) between the introduction of the first automotive halogen bulb and the introduction of the first automotive *two filament* halogen bulb, so for a while the only way to have halogen low AND halogen high beams was to have four reflectors per car, behind either two or four lenses per car. One-lens/multi-reflector headlamps were very expensive to make, but some of them were really excellent performers (Marchal Amplilux, Cibie Biode, Carello JOD, various Bosch models made for Mercedes and Porsche...). With one bulb per reflector, the filament can be placed at the focal point in each reflector and the optics optimised for ONE beam pattern, instead of having to move the low beam filament off the focal point and produce optics capable of producing TWO beam patterns. In '72 along came H4, with very good performance and the manufacturing and maintenance convenience of ONE bulb for both low and high beams. Unitised headlamp sockets, single reflectors, much easier assembly = much lower cost, and there was a mass migration to the H4 system. This is NOT to knock H4, which many of us know is quite a good system (assuming proper optic design). Currently, although a lot of two-filament bulbs are still used and there's just been developed a new family of such bulbs (H13, H14), the migration in halogen headlamps is back towards single-filament, high-efficacy bulbs (H1, H7, H9...) with multiple reflectors. As for improved bulbs, you can take your pick. Philips VisionPlus, Philips Premium, Narva Rangepower, Osram Super, Osram SilverStar (NOT Sylvania Silverstar, which is just another blue-coated piece of ***). It's important to remember this isn't some sort of newfangled "upgrade", but simply one of the four kinds of headlamp assemblies that were made for the W113s. It (the twin-H1 version) happens to be the best of three good and two very good options.

Well I took the plunge and ordered a set of European Bosch headlamps for my USA 1968 280SL. Bosch part# 0301 852 004. MBZ# 113 820 1661. What makes these lamps very unique is they have a separate Halogen blubs for low &high beam lights. Now comes the fun part. How to I convert the USA 6 pin plug to work the bulbs on these lamps? My plan is to modify the plug so that I can switch back to USA spec lights units if I want to and not cut into the orginal wire plug if it can be helped. I would think their are some talented SL enthusiast among us who have done this befor and are very crafty in learning the German electrical systems in these old SL's. It will be intresting to hear from the group who did the switch from USA to European and read what they did to solve this puzzle.

What are H4 headlight lamps and bulbs and how do they compare to the sealed beam units?

Does anyone in our group now a safe way to remove or loosen the six anodized clips that hold the lens to the light housing.It looks like there is a lip on the glass lens and a lip on the housing that the clip attaches to. I did not want to damage any clips so if anyone has experience with this their help would be appreciated.

You can use a thin but sturdy wire (paper clip) and run it under the glass hook side(make a finger pull) and pull it up and away from the glass. Just a thought. Using a small screwdriver to pry it off almost always chips the glass and in some cases a large piece will break off.

Cees: I recently removed these to clean the glass on my (only two years new Euro headlights, they had gotten fairly foggy already) and in my recollection, just prying them forward does the trick. I don't recall there being much risk of damage to either clips or glass when I did them. I did get better at it after doing a few of them.

I switched over from US to Euro headlights last year. The Euro headlights just plug in. There are no alterations needed. The H 4 halogen bulbs do not plug into the Euro headlights. I did get halogen bulbs that plugged into my Euro headlights. I ordered them from Star Quality. The car was definitely made for the Euro headlights.

Another option for Euro headlight bulbs is a local snowmobile shop. Get bulbs with a "P45t" base. I had to remove the bulb shields in my headlights because the bulbs are slightly too long, but the bulbs have built-in shields and work fine.

Cees: there were some posts on the Euro headlight conversion before so you may want to check the archives. I did this a while back and would like to add two things from that experience. The euro light assemblies include fog lamps, that were not included in my US units. But in fact the wiring was already in the harness, so I figured out which idle wire it was and just hooked it up. The fog lights now work, you have to pull the headlight switch toward you to turn them on (not that I ever do, but still). The second item concerns the chrome trim rings. The trim of the US units fits onto the Euro ones as well, but I had to remove two small notches inside the chrome ring, so the rings would fit snug against the glass. Saves getting new chrome rings.

Achim: One thing should be mentioned as well, I guess. If you convert an US-280 SL to Euro headlights you might want to hook up your front side marker lights as well. Tom Sargeant nicely described this conversion a couple of months back. The quintessence is that you connect the side marker light with the parking light. Some slight electric handicrafts is necessary for that but you are definitely skilled enough for this kind of job, Dick. ...and for European users of US-280ies with or without Euro headlights, you might want to hook up your side marker lights not with the parking light (which is at least not allowed in Germany) but instead with the turn signal lights. Thus, you will have additional turn signal lights then. Pls. don't forget then to exchange the rear red side marker light for an orange (or amber to say so) one. Furthermore, make sure that the direction signal transmitter (blinker relais) can handle the extra load of these four bulbs.

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