Upgrading An SN95’s Night Vision With Bright Earth LED Bulbs

When it comes to an older car — and let’s face it, SN95s qualify for “classic car” plates in some states — one of the biggest drawbacks is the headlights. Even if you replace the housings to get rid of the cloudy OEM pieces, you are still stuck with those incandescent 9007 bulbs, which haven’t ever been accused of being too bright.

Traditionally, your only options have been to live with the output of the standard bulbs, accept a greatly reduced lifespan by switching to the high-output xenon bulbs, or switch to an HID setup and the associated cost, complexity, and new housings, which aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Thankfully, there is now another option to bring the SN95 (as well as Fox-bodies) into the current century: Bright Earth LED bulbs from Holley Performance.

LED technology is amazing and has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past decade. The LED headlights in the current S550s turn night into day, draw significantly less power, and have a bulb lifespan that will probably outlast the car. Now that LED retrofit systems have become a simple plug-and-play affair, we were eager to get our 1994 Mustang GT’s headlights on par with our 2020’s.

Here you can see what you get when you order a set of Bright Earth bulbs. The bulbs themselves are very well packaged and come with the pictured overlays (right). These will provide you with either a blueish 8,000K color temperature or a yellow 3,000K color to your bulbs. I prefer the inherent bright white 6,500K color temperature of the LEDs, so I left the stickers off the bulbs.

The Nitty Gritty of LEDs

The Bright Earth LED bulbs are incredibly impressive when you consider just how much technology is crammed into such an unassuming package. For our ’94 GT, the stock bulb is the 9007 and the Cobra foglights take the 880 bulb. The 9007 LED replacement bulbs put out a whopping 3,000 lumens per bulb, while only drawing 25 watts each. By comparison, a standard 9007 bulb draws 55 watts (low beam) and only produces 1,000 lumens.

Similarly, the standard 880 foglight bulbs consume 32 watts each and only put out 565 lumens. The Bright Earth 880 LED replacement bulbs match the 9007 specs at only a 25-watt draw with a 3,000-lumen-per-bulb output. Both the 9007 and the 880 bulbs have all the electronics — ballast, voltage control, and current monitoring circuits — along with the heat sink built into a package the same size as a traditional bulb.

Here you can see the difference between the Bright Earth 9007 LED bulb and a standard Phillips 9007 headlight bulb.

In addition to the electrical efficiency and light output, both the standard 9007 and 880 bulbs come in at around 3,100 degrees Kelvin. That is a measure of the light’s color temperature, and 3,100K is on the yellow side of things. The natural color temperature of the Bright Earth LED bulbs comes in at 6,500K, which is a much brighter white, just starting to touch on the blue spectrum. For comparison’s sake, photographically, daylight is generally accepted as 5,000K to 5,500K.

The bulb itself is clockable by loosening this screw with the provided hex key, and then retightening. Depending on your particular reflector housing, they might be more sensitive to the actual LED emitter orientation.

Breezing Through Installation

When Bright Earth says these are plug-and-play, they aren’t kidding. The only difference between the fitment of these bulbs and OEM is the fact that there is a pigtail connector on the LED bulbs. So, if you’ve ever replaced your headlight socket as we have, then you’ll need to zip-tie some excess wiring out of the way (depending on how much slack you left on the replacement socket harnesses).

One other issue we ran into, and it might be due to the fact that the car has aftermarket Cobra headlight housings, but the bulb retainer rings were about .100 inch too tight to clear the LED’s heat sink. We chucked them up in a lathe and opened them right up, but a few careful minutes with a Dremel tool would net the same results.

This is how the bulbs appear once installed. As you can see, the bulb's heat sink protrudes beyond the bulb retainer ring, where the OEM connector used to attach. Now the OEM connectors (ours are the ubiquitous blue replacement sockets) attach to the bulb's short pigtail rather than to the bulb itself.

One thing Bright Earth warns of on their site is that some late-model vehicles might need a CAN-BUS decoder to not throw warning lights (because the LED bulbs draw significantly less power than a standard incandescent bulb), or potentially a load resistor. Fortunately, the SN95 requires neither of those, and the bulbs are a legitimate plug-and-play affair.

Both of these shots were taken with the same camera settings: 0.8s @ f/9, ISO 400 (I didn't get the tripod set up in exactly the same spot though). You can see how much whiter and brighter both the headlights and fog lights are here. Surprisingly, I didn't get flashed by any oncoming traffic while driving to and from the shoot location.

As far as rotating the headlight bulb for a better beam pattern, our reflector housings appear to like the orientation of the bulb as it came from the factory, although we did have to realign the headlights, as the new LED beams aim slightly high and to the left. Nothing a quick realignment couldn’t fix.

Now, we can see just as well at night in the ’94 as the ’20, all thanks to a quick headlight swap and modern LED technology. And, there’s no denying, the LED bulbs add a much more modern look to the car when the headlights and foglights are on.

Probably the biggest contrast here is this shot. Amazingly, the camera settings were exactly the same for both of these shots: 0.6s @ f/9, ISO 400. The Bright Earth bulbs really do put off that much more light than the standard Phillips 9007 bulbs, in a much whiter hue.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent fifteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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