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MG TD TF 1500 - LED Tailights Again

Can someone advise whether this is a legitimate conversion or just another smoke up the a** job.

Cheers, Jim
James Neel

If you are looking for some LED tailights, I got this web site from Lew Palmer, you might wish to check it out.
Tom Maine

James, obviously they aren't period correct :)

If you're not in any rush you might want to consider waiting, as I am doing some research into LEDs now.

My project before the MG was building a biodiesel motorcycle using a Royal Enfield frame. Because I was using a 11hp diesel generator engine as a power source, the alternator was woefully weak for my purposes and could not power the standard headlamp or taillamps.

My solution was HID headlamp and LED running lights and signals. After some work, I ended up building a 73LED taillight that was a little brighter than stock. (Any LED plug-in bulb is going to be considerably LESS bright than the stock lamp, sorry). But ultimately, I am not happy with that configuration either; firstly it's not quite as vibration proof as it needs to be, and secondly, I'd still like it brighter.

So I've gone back to the drawing board, and am looking at building new lamps for the bike AND the MG.

Right now, I've focused in on Nichia high-intensity LEDs from LuxDrive, which generate 7 lumen per LED; Im looking at using 12 on my taillamp. They are 1/2 square circuit board mounted high temperature LEDS which means they need mounting, soldering, and heat sinking. For the motorbike, I'm going to use three buckdrivers (small current regulators without which hipower LEDs can't run) to power two circuits, one with 4LED and one (brake) with 8. The result should be hardened (circuitboard LEDs bolted onto a heatsink bolted to the light assy) and nearly three times brighter than stock.

My intent in the next week is to trace the MG's taillamps and figure out a mounting. I'm aiming to build a brass box to mount the heatsink to on which the LEDs will sit, all of which will fit in the housing.

I'll report as I go.

But if I'm lucky, this should be the first LED built which will fit within the MG housing and be BRIGHTER than stock. My major concern is heat; but as these Nichia LEDs are pure red and have less lumen output than the white variety; they should run cooler; and a good heat sink will take care of the rest.
Geoff Baker

Other sites with good LED information: - lots of auto LEDs - LEDS for motorcycles - has everything for hipower LEDs
Geoff Baker


Thanks for the info. I should have added that my car is a 53 with round tail lights if that makes a difference.

James Neel

Hallo Jim,

it is not possible to change only the bulbs. The flasher off our TD's needs some amps to work. The LED only need some milliamps, so that the flasher don't work with LED's. You need an electronik flasher. Last week I visited the "Techno classica", Germans biggest oldtimer show. There was a seller who sell complete sets for LED's und the equivilent flasher for round about 200 Euros.

Harthof Klaus

I'll have to go look at the one in the car but I replaced the flasher in the TD (neg. gnd.)so it would work with LED's in the rear taillights. I'll get the number and let you know what it is.

Not neccesary to use a solid-state flasher.
Bob Jeffers

You can purchase electronic no-load flashers designed for LEDs for any application for around $15. has a wide range.
Geoff Baker

I've been experimenting with some new high-power LEDs, the LuxDrive red spectrum K2s.

For taillamps, you don't actually want the brightest LEDS on the market; they are way too bright (420 lumens, or about 2/3 a 65W headlamp!) and too hot.

I ordered several and have installed the first set on my motorcycle. I used two, one each for the running light circuit and one for the brake light. (For a variety of reasons, even though one LED will generate enough light for both circuits, you can't wire the drivers - called buck drivers - in parallel, so you need separate lights for each circuit.) Using 300mA they generate about 35 lumen each, which is considerably brighter than stock. As red lamps, they put out much less light than the white ones and thus run much cooler (after several minutes running they weren't even warm in my hand); and the light they do put out is passed efficiently through the taillamp glass, instead of absorbed and converted to heat.

I've ordered four more and plan on making a housing for the MG. I expect them to be at least twice as bright as stock, they will easily fit (including bracket and heat sink and two "bucktoot drivers") inside the existing enclosure without drilling or modification... and I'm very hopeful that they will run cool enough to pose no problems at all - so far they seem to be a lot LESS hot than the standard bulb.

The only issue I can see is that while most brake lights are between two to three times brighter
than the running light, these will simply be twice as bright. I could (using dimmable, more expensive drivers) get a better ratio, closer to 1:3; but I'm hoping that this will do.
I'll post pictures etc when I get them working on the MG.

Cost for each LED is $6.75 plus $9.99 for the driver.
Geoff Baker


I find your report most interesting. Because the parts all fit within the existing taillight enclosure with room to spare, it should be possible to configure the assembly for either positive or negative earth. I look forward to hearing about your progress. Please keep us posted.

Larry Shoer


Very interesting, please keep us up-to-date with your findings.

James Neel

Yes, I am going to wire these for positive earth. One advantage of using the raw LEDs and drivers, you are not stuck with the wiring setup of a premade bulb fitting into a B15 or 1157 housing, you can set it up any which way .... I'm just going to wire it together using bullet connectors so that if I change to negative ground, all that is necessary is to swap two of the connectors.

Today I made the bracket for both units. it's out of 1 inch wide by 1/8 inch thick aluminum so it does double duty; both as the bracket and as a large area heat sink for the LEDs. I've bent it so that the LEDs will lie in the correct plane inside the glass enclosure, and the brackets mount through the same holes as the bulb bracket mounts to. I'll need slightly longer bolts though, I believe. Tomorrow I'll purchase some tiny bolts (#4 I think) to mount the LEDS to the heatsink/bracket and longer bolts to mount the bracket to the bulb mount.

Because of the reduced space inside the glass housing, I had already decided on an experiment: I took the 1 star shaped LED I had and filed off one side of it within a 1/16 of an inch of the LED itself. I was concerned that depending on the LED board design cutting it might render it inoperable; I'm happy to say that it still works fine; the six sided star shape contains no inner circuitry, just an etched path to two solder pads on either side. Overheating which could damage the LED was avoided by doing it with several quick cuts and cooling the LED between cuts. The remaining untouched solder pads on the one side can still be used and conduct perfectly and the unit works perfectly. When I get the next LED, I will repeat yhe operation and then I will be able to join the LEDs together on the bracket with far less use of space, the LEDs will be about 1/4 inch apart, if that.

This will all absolutely fit within the standard MG housing. This is a 51 rectangular housing; but I'm sure that a round housing could be made as well.
Geoff Baker


When you're done, could you please post a step by step instruction on how to build LED (tail)lights, including partnumbers and specifications? As much as possible in laymen terms, so we can all understand.

I'd like to experiment with Lucas D-lights.

Thanks in advance.
Willem vd Veer

Willem, no need to experiment! I manufacture an insert for D lamps and have been selling these to TC and now Y type owners for several years...see:

Terry in Oakland
Terry Sanders

Willem, I plan to do just that.

I expect to have the remaining LEDs and other parts by this weekend, and will be taking pictures and posting updates as I go.

I am sure that Terry Sanders offers a fine product. But for those who want to experiment, I think my project will be a fun and interesting alternative.

My current planned project will produce taillights emitting 35 lumen on the running lamp and 35 lumen on the brake circuit. I will include an explanation of how by using two different, slightly more expensive and slightly larger LED "buckdrivers" you should be able to modify the lumen output to whatever level you find most satisfactory. The more expensive drivers would both include internal dimmers which can be used to vary the lumen output. By using one 350 ma dimmable driver and one 700ma dimmable driver, you could theoretically change your lumen output to as low as 10 lumen on the running lamps (probably about what you're putting out now) and up to 90 lumen for the output of both circuits when open.

Under any conditions, I believe my lamps will be brighter than anything else out there right now. I'll be doing the same for my license bulb and my turn signals as well at some point in the future.
Geoff Baker


Some additional information would be helpful for you to provide along the way.

- Historically, LED's have been highly directional. Will the LEDs you anticipate using provide sufficient field of view to insure good visibility from the rear (more than from just straight behind)?

- What will be the current draw of your units and how does this compare to the current draw of the original lamps?

Thanks. You've got a number of us more than just a little interested...

Larry Shoer

I'll keep posting as I go and please feel free to ask questions!

Directionality: these vary tremendously depending on the LED. My K2's have a "lambertian" light pattern which means a wide light spread, although the intensity of the light will be greatest near the center. They have a wide spread and in fact are generally sold with focused optics to narrow the range; I will be using them without optics as I WANT the spread.

Angle of direction is 160/140 degrees which is the widest I could find for any LED and why I chose them.
(160 is the rated total angle, 140 is the rated "viewing angle")

Viewing angle is defined as "the off-axis angle from the lamp centerline where the luminous intensity is 1/2 of the peak value" which I believe means that when you exceed 140 degrees, the light output has dropped to half the maximum output that you would see at the 90 degree angle point, or standing looking directly at the LED. Beyond the 140 degrees, drops until at 160 degrees only ten percent of the luminosity is visible. Make of these terms whatever you will; my assumption is that at 140 degrees I'll still be outputting more light than an traditional incandescent, and that at 160 degrees it's probably not visible.

A typical incandescent bulb has a 300+ degree pattern but this is of course limited to about 180 degrees or less by the housing design itself. In the case of the rectangular MG red glass housings, where the bulb sits in a recess with about half of the bulb projecting I think the light angle would be somewhere between 140 and 170 degrees, so the LED should be close in terms of the overall light spread. However, an incandescent's intensity is approximately the same across it's angle of spread, whereas LED lambertian spreads drop off at the edges as described above.

Given that I am using LEDs that produce more light than the traditional bulb, I am expecting that the lambertian pattern will be entirely acceptable, and possibly even at the edges of the spread the LED will produce as much light as the incandescent.

But as anyone who has looked at the issue of light, and LEDs vs incandescents probably knows, it is an amazingly subjective issue, with a very wide range of standards (wattage, lumen, candlepower, mscds, luminous flux... I get a headache... )...

All I can say is that when I'm done I'll take the best comparative pictures I can, incandescent vs LED, and let you all be the judges!

Here's the datasheet that will give you more than enough info:

Current draw is (max) 350mA for running light circuit, 350mA (max) for brake light, 700mA total (max). This can be variable depending on the buckdrivers you use. However, in any case the draw is lower than any standard incandescent bulb.

The LEDs themselves draw only 1.2 watts at the highest recommended running temperature - so together, they will use 2.4 watts max compared to an average wattage of 35+ watts for the regular 1157 lamp running with both filaments on (8 plus 27)

Wattage divided by voltage will give you amperage so a 35W bulb running at 12v will use right around 2.9A, compared to the theoretical LED maximum of .2A. Obviously, a big improvement.

I'm assuming naturally the buckdrivers will use some power themselves, to power a circuit delivering a constant current; but I don't know what that is yet. So the total draw on the circuit will have to be somewhere between .2A (the LED draw) and .7A (the maximum possible deliverable draw of the drivers, powering the LEDs.)

Geoff Baker

This is great information. Thanks.

Larry Shoer

Yet another source of an 1157 led bulb.


Not however, their comment "Due to the increased efficiency of LED bulbs over halogen bulbs, your vehicle may have faster blinking that factory, because the vehicle doesn't get the halogen amperage draw. To resolve this, Vision X has introduced the HIL-Resistor, which increases the resistance and eliminates any fast blinking or bulb out indicators."

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qu.
Gordon A Clark

Gordon, I think those lights are only available for cars that are neg ground vs some of our pos. ground. Tom
Tom Maine

Their comment should read "... HIL-Resistor, which *decreases* the resistance".

The problem is that the LED bulbs draw less current thus look like a larger resistance, so they need to add a load resistor in parallel to increase the current draw.

I'd just replace the flasher.

Scott Linn

Thanks Tom, and Scott, you both make a good point - well taken. My TF is of course + grnd, while my PA is - grnd. So obviously I have 2 different situations.

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qué.
Gordon A Clark

First test run on first sample LED looks good! I'll post some pictures later this week but so far:

1) To my very great surprise, the LED actually flashes, without an electronic flasher. This could be because the ultra-hi-power LED I am using which draws 2.1 watts per die for a total of 6 watts must be enough to trip the flasher (but I'm also still running with 3 ordinary incandescents so this may change when I switch to 100% LEDs)

2) Absolutely no problem setting up with positive ground. I would just recommend that people be very CAREFUL to make sure they connect correctly, with the BATTERY DISCONNECTED, because otherwise it's easy to blow these LEDs with incorrect polarity. But once set up, it's extremely stable - more so than any plug in bayonet bulb.

3) I used a 1/8 inch thick aluminum bar as a mount, bent to shape, and then epoxied the LED to the bar and epoxied a small (1/2 inch cube) heatsink to the backside of the bar. It all fits in the housing beautifully and I'm pretty confident will do a good job of heat dissipation. Also, it's rock solid. Unlike bayonet-fit LEDs designed for cars, which rattle and shake in the bayonet housing, and which can be blown just by turning the bayonet too far ... once this is in place it's going to last. I used two-part silver epoxy mount designed for electical board mounts, and used plenty of it. To be on the safe side I might use two #4 bolts to toughen it more, but I really don't think it will ever need it.

4) I switched to a different LED. I was initially planning on using two Luxdrive K2s which generate 35 lumens apiece, but because of space issues I switched to A Luxeon Endor Star (stupid star wars names on these LEDs) 3-up red LED which has three separate LEDs on a single star board generating 105 lumen total at 350mA. (If you really want to get police attention, put in 700ma drivers, you'll get 200 lumen, or about a quarter the light of many headlamps) These 3 up stars come wired as a single unit, but by desoldering one of the jumpers I was able to create two circuits, a running light using one LED die at 35 lumen, and a brake/flasher using the remaining two LED dies at over 70 lumens. Each circuit is powered by a Luxdrive fixed-current driver delivering 350mA called a "bucktoot" and as these are each about the size of a Jolly rancher piece of candy (3/4 inch long cylinder maybe 3/8 in diameter) they fit easily back inside the rubber boot.

All combined, it's DARN BRIGHT! I think it's clearly MUCH brighter than stock.

As you may know, it's very difficult to get good photos showing light output because todays cameras do such a good job of instantly compensating for light sources. I'm going to use my phone camera because it DOESNT do a good job with this and as a result I've had pretty good results getting before & after light photos in these situations. I hope to do this this weekend (I'll have to do it around dusk - too early and you can't tell, and too late and there is too much light from the source and not enough from the surroundings, and it overwhelms the camera.

Anyway, I'm going to complete the mount and place it in the car today and will take pictures over the next couple of days to show you what it looks like.

DOWNSIDE: If you have followed this thread, we've talked a lot about lambertian spread and the light pattern of LEDs vs incandescents. The original K2's had a 140 degree angle of view; the Endor Star has only a 120 degree angle of view. I had to switch for space reasons, and I'm hoping that the reduced angle of view is compensated by the extra light output of the LED, but you can be the judge once I post pictures. If the angle of view is insufficient I'm considering other ways (some red plastic fresnel material perhaps) to help redirect some of the light to the sides. We'll see how it goes...

All the news that's fit to print today on LEDs... tune in next week!
Geoff Baker

ok, I have photos.
I'll try to upload them one at a time.
RESULTS ARE EXCELLENT THESE LEDS OUTPERFORM TRADITIONAL BULBS 3 TO 1 IN EVERY DIRECTION! I'm very impressed particularly with the side lighting which I did not expect to be so good!

OK photo 1 is a side view of the mount for the LED>

Geoff Baker

Photo 2: Front view of LED and mount

Geoff Baker

Now we get to the comparisons. Here is my left rear incandescent tailbulb, lit, at 9 am.

Geoff Baker

Here is the right rear LED, running light circuit only, lit, 9 a.m. It is MUCH brighter than stock.

Geoff Baker

OK here is the proof of the pudding... BOTH incandescent and LED, together. Choose for yourself!

Incandescent on left, LED on right.

Geoff Baker

Next : side comparison. Here's the incandescent, lit, from a 90 degree side angle. Frankly, you can barely tell that it is lit!

Geoff Baker

Now here is the LED lamp, lit, from a 90 degree angle. It is MANY times brighter. I'm not sure why, I imagine the internal structure of the red glass housing reflects light well to the side, and the incandescent which sits deep in the rubber well, can only get part of its light directed to the side, while the LED because I have it sitting out of the well, has more light for the housing to reflect sideways. Anyway, at ALL ANGLES the LED outperforms the traditional incandescent!

Geoff Baker

Lastly, here is the LED with ALL THREE LEDs lit... one for running light two for brake/flash. It's a poor shot, and the light is overwhelming the camera a bit, but it's good and BRIGHT!

Geoff Baker

Here's the last of my report.

1) The LED outperforms the incandescent at all angles
2) It is much more visible and therefore I feel safer.
3) I do NOT feel that it is "too much" ... it's just nice and bright, night or day
4) I believe that the LEDs with 50,000 hour life and epoxied onto a bracket bolted to the car frame, are much stronger and more stable than any incandescent.
5) At rated wattage, this will use less than one fourth the power of the standard incandescent and possibly as little as one tenth.

Here's the best part.
After half an hour with the lights all lit (I had a toolbox jammed onto the brake pedal to engage the brake circuit), the incandescent's red glass housing was quite warm.
The LED's glass housing was still cool to the touch.

In the next week I will complete the second LED and install it. After that, I will be converting the front running lamps to white LEDs with a light output of 105 lumen, which I expect to be considerably brighter than the existing bulbs.
Geoff Baker

You're having too much fun! (engineer in me too)
Fantastic work and there is no question that you'll be enundated with requests for the parts list/fab instructions/buy assembled units as it comes together. The demo pix sells the theory to reality story in spades.
What are you envisioning (or are using) for the connections to the existing wiring? Presume just jury rigged for your tests. Obviously won't have the lamp socket push-in clips for quick connect/disconnect. Pigtails from the LED board coming out that go to inline connectors on the old wiring?
Randy Biallas


Great to have somone who understands LEDs. Except for dimming them (with difficulty, I understand), I see limitless potential in LEDs

I'm a (retired) Electrical Engineer, and in 1956 when I graduated, there was only a handfull of operating computers in Canada (mostly Rem Ran Vacumatic) and of course used vacuum tubes on the logic circuits and mercury-wetted relays to switch circuits. So now you know how old I am!

And I would love dearly to do what you are doing and understand it, but I'm afraid, the days of taking more courses are simply not possible for me.

I would love to improve the lighting on my TF, but more importantly, on the PA that I'm rebuilding, which has lighting for the horse-drawn carriage era.

Please continue to keep us informed as I find your informatiom usefull and promising.

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qué.
Gordon A Clark

Randy, I just wired the two red positive wires to a single bullet connector and connected that to ground; the other two wires got a bullet connector each. Piece of cake, extremely easy. I did completely remove the bulb housing for the incandescent; while there is enough room to leave it in place, it simplified the connections.

On my LED bracket you can see if you stare long enougn and know what to look for, a black heatsink that projects into the rubber boot. If you chose not to add a heatsink and relied on the thick aluminum mount to act as heatsink instead, you could actually rig up a way to leave the bulb mounting in place and use an 1157 socket base with pigtail to wire in an easily disassemblable unit which would satisfy even the most stringent purist... these are available and you can buy them from

In my case, I'm not so worried and just opted for quick and easy bullet connectors.
Geoff Baker

I would hope that some company like Moss, would make you an offer for production. These are great. Anything that can help with safety in our little cars would be appreciated.
Bruce Cunha

Kind words, Bruce!

My plan is simple.
I'll take more pictures and make everything available online for the engineer wannabees like myself who don't mind blowing a few LEDs in the pursuit of fun.
I'm also going to spec out what it would cost for me to make these. I'm guessing somewhere in the $50-$75 range per unit, but that shouldn't surprise anyone considering the parts alone are going to be $30-$40 minimum. If there is interest, I'll invest in some basic prototyping (I'll see if I can make some stamped brackets) and go from there.

Maybe I'll find some TA/TC owners and see if I can make some universal brackets to widen the market a little.

But no matter what happens, its been fun!

And with a unit at least 2-3 times brighter than stock, I think it's worth the trouble!

Anyone seriously interested, email me and I'll start figuring out the details!
Geoff Baker


If I am correct, the early TD (rectangular) and late TD /TF (round) rear lamp lenses were used on several other vehicles, too. Others on this list will know. That has the opportunity to expand the interest in your work. (Although I suspect the majority of cars with these lenses that are still in existence are TDs and TFs.)

Also, some of the other members of our community (I'm thinking of people like Bob Gruneau or Len Fanelli) have experience with low volume production of parts for our cars. You might contact them for help if you want to turn your work into kits. People on this board may be able to offer other names, too.

I'm certainly interested in making your modification to my TD.

Thanks for your work and sharing the results with us.

Larry Shoer

This thread was discussed between 21/04/2010 and 06/05/2010

MG TD TF 1500 index

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