Jim’s Blog – What’s the best car modification you’ve ever made?

My ’72 Chevy truck resto is now pretty much complete, just in time for Portland’s summer weather to turn rainy and nasty.

For me, this truck project was mostly about building something usable for year-round hauling. So with that in mind, it needed to be a no-nonsense rig: no overheating problems, good brakes, new tires, a good heater, decent wipers, no water leaks inside, and bright headlights for those foggy, rainy, snowy drives home from work.

All that sounds simple, but it isn’t so easy to make a 41-year-old truck do all that stuff. Especially now that its period technology, which wasn’t really that great to begin with, has aged.

Last weekend, I finally found the time to tackle the last bit of my list on that truck: the headlights. And my fix for making them work better than original was a simple one. I injected some modern technology into the wiring system and put the headlights on a pair of relays — one for the low beams and one for the high beams.

Doing this didn’t require cutting up the factory harness or drilling any holes anywhere. I found a few basic four-pin relays and bolted them up to a couple of existing holes in the driver’s fender, installed a circuit breaker off the battery, wired in some heavier-than-stock gauge wire to power it and the relays, and used the original headlight plugs to trigger the power for a new set of headlight plugs. The benefit? Instead of running all of the headlight’s current through the original headlight switch and the 41-year old wiring, the headlights now get power direct from the battery. Less resistance, less heat, better result. Instead of about 12.5 volts, the headlights now have closer to 14 volts at idle, and that makes them a lot brighter than original.

The best part? At any time, all I need to do is unhook what I did and plug everything in back to stock. It’s all still intact.

This is probably the single best modification I’ve made so far, and it didn’t cost more than about $30 and a few hours of my time.

What’s the best modification you’ve made to one of your classics? Let us know in the comments below.


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