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  • Idiot Lights

    As a youngster growing up around South Bend I remember it being a common sight to see Larks with a clear light in the middle of the grille that came on when the ignition was turned on. I remember them being advertised as a visual safety feature and my Dad and other old timers referring to them as " idiot lights". I was wondering if they were a dealer installed option and if so why I never see them on restored or original cars being as common as they were back then.

  • #2
    Originally posted by tjanowia View Post
    As a youngster growing up around South Bend I remember it being a common sight to see Larks with a clear light in the middle of the grille that came on when the ignition was turned on. I remember them being advertised as a visual safety feature and my Dad and other old timers referring to them as " idiot lights". I was wondering if they were a dealer installed option and if so why I never see them on restored or original cars being as common as they were back then.
    That one is totally new to me! My first recollection of the term "idiot light" was when "warning lights" replaced gauges.
    John Clary
    Greer, SC

    SDC member since 1975

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    • #3
      They were the predecessor to modern daytime running lights, and were called "running lights." I have seen them on a few cars; in fact I think I have taken at least one off a Stude I parted out.
      Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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      • #4
        They were known as a Running light, and were popular around that time. Studebaker did offer it as a factory accessory for 1965 (AC-3522), and SI still has a few available. My dad had one on his 1964 Plymouth when it was new, and I believe his was factory as well as I remember seeing other '64 Plymouths with them.

        Craig
        Last edited by 8E45E; 11-27-2011, 09:30 AM.

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        • #5
          I have a few of the AC-3522 kits and will likely get more; in some parts of Canada, like Nova Scotia, using DRL or the equivalent are now mandatory, and if your car predates the introduction of them in Canada as a mandatory item, then you must drive with your headlights on. I prefer not to do that as the sealed beams are just too much of a bother to replace more often than I do, and my Studebakers (and the Kaiser too) will be using the Studebaker correct kits instead.

          "Idiot lights" were always in reference to warning lights replacing gauges; never heard this usage before for DTL, even back at the time that cars were coming with these kits. One difference, is that generally only one light was used in the centre, like a Cyclops, (or my Panhard fog light), and I only ever saw one car with two in the pattern used now, one either side. I remember that clearly, as it was a about one minute before I saw my first ever Wagonaire (red), parked in the lot of my church--and yes, the roof was open, and YES, it WAS carryng a refrigerator! Likely a WI addition to the coffee room/dining hall kitchen coming in.
          Last edited by Jim B PEI; 11-27-2011, 09:47 AM.

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          • #6
            Coming back from the Zone Meet in Bellingham a little over a year ago, I got pulled over at a speed trap right before Golden in British Columbia by a young RCMP officer even though I was not speeding. Once he pulled me over, he says "Ooooohhhhh!! I pulled you over because you don't have Daytime Running Lights! But your car's too old~Have a nice Day!" He never did mention about having to drive with my lights on though. I have one of those AC-3522 lights here, but to be honest, they are very unattractive as the have the apppearance of a trailer clearance light. The running light on my dad's Plymouth actually looked like a scaled down European driving light; it had a clear glass lens with the little chrome tit in the center.

            Craig

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            • #7
              Craig, in Nova Scotia, it doesn't matter if your car is too old; it has to have lights on, PERIOD. Even a Maxwell or a Model T.

              Glad I live on PEI--they have only banned recent right hand drive ex-Japan cars and mini-trucks here.

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              • #8
                When I lived in Kansas City in the mid -60s (I was a kid then) a local Chevy dealer installed a center running light on all its new cars. IIRC, they were a beehive looking thing, not unlike an aftermarket backup light.
                It was Site Chevrolet and they were called "Site Lights". Whenever you saw a car, you knew who sold it, so it was as much an advertising deal as a safety measure.

                Anyone else from the Kansas City area remember that?

                BTW: I wonder what they did for Corvettes?
                63 Avanti R1 2788
                1914 Stutz Bearcat
                (George Barris replica)

                Washington State

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                • #9
                  Daytime Driving Lights

                  I agree with Craig, the reason I have never installed one of my AC-3522's is the same, they are ugly when in the center of the Grille.

                  They are actually the side marker light lens and housing for '50's & '60's flatbed trucks and such, that were sometimes inside of a hole in the outer bed rail or dangling on a rubber strap under the bed, but these have a solid two point mounting bracket that is chromed not painted, and instead of a Red or Amber lens they are Clear.
                  StudeRich
                  Second Generation Stude Driver,
                  Proud '54 Starliner Owner

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                  • #10
                    I've never heard of these. Picture anyone?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mbstude View Post
                      I've never heard of these. Picture anyone?
                      Matt, this is an idea of how ghastly it looks:







                      Craig
                      Last edited by 8E45E; 11-27-2011, 09:31 PM.

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                      • #12
                        "That was the era when at least in the midwest people were installing a safety running light behind the grille which was on at any time the car was operating. Groups like the Jaycees and other service clubs were selling them. I think some people called them Hoosier lights and they had brief popularity." This is from a prior posting by me and is how I recall the optional light episode. I installed an after-market light on my '65 impala behind the grille. I was not aware that any manufacturers were involved until I read the prior posts.
                        "Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional." author unknown

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 8E45E View Post
                          Matt, this is an idea of how ghastly it looks
                          Most Studes didn't have pajamas laced behind their grills but...YEAH! No consideration was given to appearance.
                          "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                          Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                          Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                          sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rockne10 View Post
                            Most Studes didn't have pajamas laced behind their grills but...
                            They keep the engine nice and warm on cold winter mornings.

                            Let's just say, the bed in the spare bedroom downstairs serves 'alternate duty' of supporting NOS Stude parts when no one is here to visit.

                            Craig

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