This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
There are few projects that are as easy as lens replacement, yet improve the looks of your car so significantly. Replacing old faded lenses not only improves the overall look of your car, it also increases its safety as well. Faded lenses tend to be harder to see and block much more light than brand new ones.
For many years, it was very difficult to obtain replacement lenses for the very early 1965-68 911s. These lenses were manufactured out of non-removable plastic that was actually melted into the turn signal housing. When they were available, replacement lenses could only be purchased with the entire turn signal assembly, and were several hundred dollars each. Recently, there have been replicas of the original lenses surfacing. These replicas have the original markings on them, and are virtually indistinguishable from the original ones. The availability of these lenses is a great gift to the owners of early 911s attempting to restore their cars back to original form.
In 1969, Porsche changed the body design of the 911, and also changed the lenses too. A removable lens design was implemented, and this basic removable type of design was incorporated into 911s up to and including 1989 models.
The design of the front lenses changed again in 1974, and remained constant through 1989. The rear lenses remained the same as the ones from 1969, with the exception of the use of black trim instead of chrome, starting in 1973. The European cars had the addition of plugs that covered the US spec side marker lenses. They also had the addition of a small marker light located on each side of the car, just in front of the door. Performing an upgrade to a European spec car involves the addition of these two features.
All rear turn signals from all years came in at least two forms, USA and European spec. The USA spec lenses were all red with the clear back-up lens in the middle. The Euro spec lenses were amber towards the outside of the car, clear for the back-up light, and red on the inner red brake lens. On the earlier cars, a rare French spec lens incorporated amber lenses where the back-up clear lens was located. Both types of lenses are interchangeable, and you may want to use Euro lenses in the rear if you prefer the look to the USA spec ones.
On 1986 and later cars, the brake lamp system incorporated the DOT-required third brake lamp. The lens in this light is also replaceable, and will look out of place if the two rear lenses are replaced without touching this one.
The replacement process is quite simple. The lenses unscrew from the housing, and the new ones take their place. When installing the lenses, you should make sure that you use a new seal to make sure that the inside of the housing doesn't get wet. When replacing the lenses, check all your bulbs to make sure that they are operating properly. For some models of cars, there are higher wattage or even halogen bulbs available to make your lenses shine even brighter. Also make sure that you don't tighten the screws too tightly, or you might crack your new lenses.
Often overlooked are the fog lamp lenses. Rocks and debris have a habit of scratching and marring the surface of the lens, reducing the light output from the bulbs. Replacement of these lenses is easy. Simply unscrew the housings, remove the retaining rings, and replace the lens. Clear lenses were standard in the US, while yellow lenses were available for other countries. As with the other lenses on the car, the US and European versions are interchangeable.
Another neat addition is the European rear fog lamp. Mounted on the lower valance, this small fog lamp was an option through 1989. The rear fog lamp was activated by pulling the fog lamp switch, and rotating it clockwise. (see Photo in Pelican Technical Article: Personal Touches)
New lenses can make a remarkable improvement on the exterior looks of your car. Most often, owners don't realize that their lenses have deteriorated significantly. The most obvious sign of age is cracking, but fading and scratching of the lenses also degrades the appearance of the car. The installation of new lenses is probably the easiest way to instantly improve the looks of your 911.
The rear lenses simply unscrew from the housings. Use a new rear tail lamp seal when installing your new lenses to keep water out of the housing. Make sure that it seats properly when you install the new lens.
The front turn signals and side markers also easily unscrew from the housing. Make sure that you clean out the inside of the housing before replacing the lens. Doing so will increase the reflectivity of the mirror type surface on the inside, and make your light glow brighter and more uniform.