That U.S.-spec Corrados were born with lousy illumination is well known. I'd lived with it every night since Project Corrado found its way to my garage, albeit at a rather dangerous price. Given the higher performance direction my Corrado was taking, it was time for a change. I was seriously overdriving the car at night, the stock headlamps little more than flashlights peering into the blackness.
There are several reasons why stock Corrado lights are deficient. First, U.S. regulations restricted the Euro-spec H4s; second, the VW sits fairly low to the ground, which makes the lenses prone to abrasion, thus degrading their clarity. After a few years of hard use, most Corrados got cataracts.
The hot ticket was upgrading to the Euro-spec Corrado lights, which offered higher wattage bulbs and a more focused beam. However, as the above picture shows, they still lack the punch of high-intensity-discharge lighting.
There are significant differences between HID lighting and conventional halogen-based systems. Basically, HID does not use the standard filament system of a regular bulb but works on a design where ballast is connected inline with the system that draws 35W and then reduces the current to increase voltage to 23,000 volts. It then creates an arc inside a xenon gas-filled HID bulb or capsule and excites the gas-producing light with a much higher lumens rating.
There are several misconceptions regarding upgraded lighting; the biggest is the kelvin scale. Some seem to think the hotter the bulb, the more light it produces. It ain't true. The kelvin scale is based on a theoretical block of black metal. As the block is heated, it begins to change color. In the first stages, the block begins to glow a dull red or orange--this is a warm light with a measurement of 2500 K to 3200 K. As the block continues to warm, the orange hue is replaced with green and blue, eventually becoming white with a temperature of 5600 K (the same color as the sun). Above 5600 K, the light becomes more blue and purplish. Ultimately, changing the bulb temperature only changes the quality of light, not the quantity.
The folks at The HID Factory have brilliant solutions for dim cars. The HID retrofit kit for the Corrado (and most VWs for that matter) has transformed my car into the ultimate nocturnal cruiser. The difference is simply staggering, like a candle compared to the sun. It's hard to believe I lived so long without them.
The HID Factory kit is comprised of two Euro-spec headlamps fitted with the original Philips 4100 K bulbs found in many of today's luxury vehicles. These are not re-based bulbs--they have a ring machined to fit in place of a halogen bulb in the same housing. They use the D2-type connector (except for the smaller H1 type) for the best possible connection and reliability. The ballast units are from Philips GmbH and feature sealed snap fit plugs for good connections.
The HID Factory system is pretty much a plug-and-play program using the factory's tri-plug connector and stock mounting points. Because of the initial increase of amperage during start-up, it is necessary to change the 10-amp headlamp fuses to 20 amps (I discovered this after burning through a bag of fuses).
Due to deadline constraints, I was unable to hook up the high beams and city lights. We also noticed the high-beam indicator is always on. I can't imagine what the brights would look like, as the standard low beams are better than most systems' high beams. The supplied relay kit will most likely remedy these things.
The HID Factory lighting system ain't cheap. It is, however, the best aftermarket lighting I have ever seen.
In the last installment of Project Corrado, I fitted Neuspeed's triangulated tiebar in the rear hatch. The car responded brilliantly with a marked increased in stability under hard loads. I applied the same type device up front with Eurosport's front tie bar.
The Eurosport front tie bar is fabricated from 14-gauge steel in a dual-tube configuration. The unit features mandrel-bent curves, clean MIG-welded joints and a tough, black powdercoating. Although Eurosport supplies Nutsert fittings, Raffi (Eurosport's owner) opted to drill and tap the holes directly into the surrounding shock towers. Although it takes about 20 minutes to install, the tie bar yields instant results. Upon leaving Eurosport's facility, the car felt quieter up front--an annoying squeak was gone, and the car just felt more solid. When pushed hard through a turn, whatever movement between the shock towers is completely gone. Turn in is extremely sharp, and the car shows unwavering new stability. Older cars tend to respond better to front and rear stress bars, as their dated manufacture is not as tight as delivered by more modern assembly techniques. If you've got a MkI, -II or -III, you need one of these.
As Project Corrado continues to evolve, it also makes me a bit sad. How Volkswagen could have orphaned such a brilliant car is a real tragedy. I'd like to see VW build another dedicated sports car. Until then, however, the Corrado will do just fine.
HID Factory 9004 HID conversion: $1,100 (est)
Europort upper stress bar: $89
Testing the EBC Brakes
In the last installment, I was unable to properly test the newly fitted EBC brakes (EBC front/rear rotors and EBC Greenstuff pads). Well, now I did.
60-0 mph: 131 ft
EBC Brakes w/Greenstuff pads
60-0 mph: 118 ft
The number was extrapolated from 80 mph during a series of four repeated stops. The EBC Brakes provide a marked increase in performance and make absolutely no dust. They are a good, solid street pad and are fairly quiet. Of course, the Corrado's braking performance degenerated during successive stops. I may swap pads for EBC Yellowstuff, its more aggressive street/track compound.