Modern Lighting Upgrades For Factory Five Roadsters

Continuing to evolve styling is the name of the game. It’s why vehicles like the Mustang have been around for over 50 years; god knows that the 1964 Mustang was a gorgeous work of art, but wouldn’t fare well in a modern day environment. While we aren’t vehicle manufacturers by any means, we wanted to inflict our own sense of style on the iconic Factory Five Roadster/Challenge chassis when it came to lighting upgrades for our Cobra Jet Challenge project.

Our Thought Process

The Factory Five Roadster is an iconic design that largely resembles the 1965 area Shelby Cobras. Let’s face it — folks that remember these cars when they were new aren’t getting any younger; when it’s the year 2065 we want to see Roadsters being built by future generation gearheads. We already wrote about modernizing the body lines with carbon aero, but what about the latest trends in LED lighting to act as another modernizing facelift? Bingo. We teamed up with Truck-lite, Kuryakyn, Marine Parts House, and sjm auto prod to make it happen.

The Roadsters normally come with quad taillights that consist of a red lens and chrome trim ring. On the front, a sealed beam halogen headlight fits inside a bucket with the leveling mechanisms and a chrome trim ring. The front marker lights are cone shaped with a chrome trim ring as well.

The Base Design

Everyone knows what these cars look like but we will give you a little review of the lighting and our thoughts on changing things up a bit. The Roadsters normally come with quad taillights that consist of a red lens and chrome trim ring. On the front, a sealed beam halogen headlight fits inside a bucket with the leveling mechanisms and a chrome trim ring. The front marker lights are cone shaped with a chrome trim ring as well. This classic design fits perfectly for the masses but we wanted to engineer something a little more edgy — a design that might appeal to a younger group of vehicle builders.

Billet Goodness

Before we could even begin the design phase, we needed a partner that could assist us with building the components to house our lighting. We turned to Darin Burgess at Marine Parts House. Don’t let the name of his business fool you, he’s a badass with a CNC machine and also drifts his LS-powered Mazda RX7 at local SoCal tracks. We actually met Darin through our Mustang drifting buddy Justin Pawlak who shares a shop with Burgess.

“I am always looking into new ways to expand my business since I am a hardcore enthusiast myself and working with Power Automedia on the design of these lights seemed like a fun project,” said Burgess. By providing the body line tapers for the headlights, turn signals, and taillights, Burgess knew the critical dimensions of the parts he needed to work within. Double checking his work against the factory pieces, the CAD design began. Burgess was in charge of designing the bezels for all the lighting.

A Fresh Taillight Design 

With Burgess working working on the initial sketches we contacted Tony Nowakowski at sjm autoprod to build us a clean slate design LED taillight insert. The Roadster bodies have a larger, rounded rectangle shape on the body line where the taillights sit. This was a great shape and offered plenty of real estate to build a new set of taillights.

“On the surface, they are pretty basic,” explains Nowakowski. “The real trick was packaging everything into the tight space that we were given (less than 11 cubic inches) and still ending up with the desired look. Each fully-sealed lamp module contains 56 LEDs driven by a dual-intensity circuit to maximize braking brightness. The dual, “halo”, running-lamp rings are comprised of 42 of the LEDs to be as fluid as possible in the minimal depth that exists.”

The overall concept of the taillight design is very similar to the factory design — two LED circles that aluminate under braking but the running lights would be simply four halos. “We used a defused piping to soften the halo but reflectors on the brake lights so they would shine cleanly through the red acrylic cover,” said Nowakowski.

Split Beam Headlights

The design for the headlights was actually inspired by Kris Horton, who drew up the original rendering of our project car. A Truck-lite 7-inch split beam LED headlight (PN 27270C) was chosen and fits perfectly inside of Burgress’ bezels. The only downside to the design is that it’s not height adjustable, meaning, and headlight leveling will need to be done in the body work before the car is done.

You can see the recesses we cut into the headlight opening to make way for the Truck-lite headlights

The headlight sandwiches tight against the body line while keys in the headlight’s body keep it from rotating. Each bezel is threaded at four corners and the bolts are easily installed from the wheel well opening. Two dowel holes already exists for the factory buckets. All we needed to do was drill two more holes at apposing ends. The bezels are actually 1/16th-inch bigger than the standard chrome trim rings and fit better to the taper line of the body.

Turn Signals 

It was difficult finding an LED turn signal we liked. It needed to be similar in color and diameter while being fairly flat.

For the front turn signals we went with a Kuryakyn turn signal designed for Harley Davidson motorcycles (PN 5455). It was the perfect diameter and height to work on our project. The footprint of the billet bezels are wider than the factory turn signals, which requires two new holes to be drilled, but is fully reversible (the factory turn signal bezel covers up the new holes). The overall diameter of the bezel is identical to the factory pieces.

Custom Pieces Available to the Public

For most people the standard Factory Five lighting will be sufficient for their needs, but if you’re looking for something that’s a little more modern, all these products are available to accent your next Factory Five build! Stay tuned to more stories on Project Cobra Jet Challenge.

Article Sources

About the author

Mark Gearhart

In 1995 Mark started photographing drag races at his once local track, Bradenton Motorsports Park. He became hooked and shot virtually every series at the track until 2007 until he moved to California and began working as a writer for Power Automedia. He was the founding editor for its first online magazines, and transitioned into the role of editorial director role in 2014. Retiring from the company in 2016, Mark continues to expand his career as a car builder, automotive enthusiast, and freelance journalist to provide featured content and technical expertise.
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