Headlight Assemblies — "Sealed Beam" & "Euro"
- Category: Research & Identification
By Brad Ripley
Reprinted from the 356 Registry Magazine Volume 19-2, by kind permission of Gordon Maltby
In my daily work, I often get questions on the phone about headlights, bulbs, and lenses which usually come from lack of knowledge and incorrectly assembled light units. Therefore, I hope the following information will correct any confusion and help you make your 356 more authentic.
"Sealed Beam" Headlights
These units are by far the most prevalent on 356s in the U.S. and still are the only (strictly) legal lights allowed. The key words, Sealed Beam, refer to the high and low beam filaments sealed inside the reflector and the lens (see drawings below). Porsche Kardex entries are indicated as "sealed beam Scheinwerfer Einsatze." The sealed beam design was a U.S. invention and came into being about 1940. It was thought that the reflector would never go dull because it was entirely sealed. Note that the lens of this unit focuses the light, not the clear glass cover. As a minor point, all sealed beam units from 1953 have "aiming bumps" cast into the outside of the lens.
Since the sealed beam was a design exclusive to the U.S., only companies such as GE, Westinghouse and Wagner made such units. It's now difficult to find new 6 volt units since U.S. cars went to 12 volts in 1956 (ask for bulb #6006 for 6 volt; bulb #6017 for 12 volt). They are 35 watt low beam and 35 watt high beam. After a few years of use, the tungsten filament deteriorates and dulls the reflector and the lens, resulting in a dim yellow beam—sort of like the little light inside a Lucas refrigerator!
To solve the "dim yellow beam" syndrome, Bosch, Hella and others have made "conversion units" which take the place of the sealed beam. Early versions of these conversion units used fat round tungsten bulbs. All present day units use an H-4 quartz "bulb" (P43t base), available 6 volt, 45/40 or 60/55 watts, or 12 volt, 45/40, 60/55, 100/80 watts. To use the higher wattage H-4's, you should make some electrical modifications.
A couple of anomalies: The French company, Marchal once made a unit with two H-I bulbs (allowing two 12 volt, 100 watts bulbs!). Also, Hella produced a kit which used the sealed beam unit and eliminated the front glass; it had a wide chrome trim ring and frankly was kind of ugly (see Panorama 1/66 for photo).
So-called Euro units are distinguished by the front glass being the actual lens (see below) which focuses the light source from deep inside. As you can see from the illustration, the reflector is a separate part and the light source is a bulb type. There are two basic lens versions: (l) shown is the later "asymmetric" for left hand drive applications and (2) a "symmetric" version with only center oval flutes, formerly for all European countries and later only used for right-hand-drive applications. The normal 45/40 watt tungsten bulb can be directly replaced with a 60/55 watt H-4 with P45t base, 6 or 12 volt.
Sources for Parts Described in This Article
This list of vendors, in alphabetical order, is not necessarily comprehensive, and additional companies may also offer similar products. Note that where possible, links are provided directly to a specific product page if available.
356 Electrics: Headlight bulbs
NLA: Headlight assemblies and bulbs
Stoddards: Headlight assemblies and bulbs
Zim's Autotechnik: Headlight assemblies and bulbs