The MGA With An Attitude

Repro "Lucas" PL700 TRIPOD HEADLAMPS - poor quality -- FT-013

Claimed exact reproduction of Lucas tripod headlamp

This one falls under the headings "Your Mileage May Vary", and "Not all EXACT REPRODUCTIONS are equal" (or necessarily exact). This is a report from Martin Straka <>, posted here with his approval, so any questions not covered on this page should be directed to him. I also add a few of my comments at the end.

At 11:45 AM 5/30/04 -0500, Martin Straka wrote:

Here's my experience with reproduction PL 700 headlamps that I regretfully purchased on Ebay last week. They were described as "exact reproductions and perfect in all the details".

If you don't look too close they could pass for originals. The back is unfinished bare metal unlike the colored varnish on originals. The supplier XKs Unlimited said they are the same item 156-898 Moss Motors sells for $300. I paid $175 for the lamps. On closer inspection the lamps' glass fluting was too soft and imprecise and the lettering Lucas, Made in England (made in Pakistan?) also molded imprecisely. The quality of glass didn't have the dense optical quality of original Lucas ones. The furnished bulbs were the standard british style dual-filament non-halogen 45w. The metal bulb bases were so thin that the pressure of connecting the sockets could easily bend them and throw off the bulb alignment. The next problem was the three alignment tabs on the headlamp base were non-aligned so when they fit into the support /adjustment ring on the headlamp bucket the top bar of the tri-pod wasn't at 12 noon but at 55 minutes. (result - grinding and shaping a good part to make it accept a poorly manufactured one). The real fun began in adjusting the lamps' light beams. The light pattern was very diffused on both low and especially high beams. After much effort the best I could do was a low beam that had oncoming car flash their brights, and a high beam that was so diffused (all the way from the top of trees to the bumper line) that it was useless. It appears to me the lamps followed no parabolic guidelines for the reflector surface.

I reinstalled my original Lucas flat lens style lamps in the MGA (high quality lamps but they had begun to rust on the suspended inside center cap reflector) and returned the lamps for refund to XKs Unlimited after talking to customer service and getting their OK. Their return policy included with the lamps assured customer satisfaction. I told XKs Unlimited "I hadn't used them". After XKs had received the lamps their salesperson who posted the lamps on Ebay emailed that he had received them but Ebay items are non-returnable and what did I want him to do with them. After more back and forth emails he agreed to accept the lamps minus a 20% restocking fee. Doing the math ... 12.00 shipping + 12.00 return shipping + 35.00 restocking fee = $59.

Additionally, at 10:53 AM 5/31/04 -0500, Martin Straka wrote:

The original Lucas PL 700s are from the late 50's, early 60's and superceded the P 700 design. They were supplied with the non-halogen, standard british dual filament bulb, as this was a time before halogen bulbs were available.

I spoke with Don Tremblay who has original PL 700s in his MGA 1600 and XKE. None of the problems I had were experieced by him. The bulb bases are strong and the light focus is precise with the tripod tip exactly at noon (except for the XKE which has factory glass covers and as a result the beam is more diffused). Don is an engineer and has a lot of experience with part quality issues.

I add my own thoughts here:

The eBay ad boldly states, "You are bidding on EXACT reproductions of the high performance Lucas PL 700 headlamp". Also refer to the statement, "The supplier XKs Unlimited said they are the same item 156-898 Moss Motors sells for $300". This is blatently untrue. The parts might be "similar" (if you are very liberal with the word) but definitely not the same parts.

The Moss description for that part says, "These lamps are now back in production on the original Lucas tooling, complete with the "700 HEADLAMP" molded into the lense". From the description of the problems and the details of the parts, these are definitely not the same parts. Any comments from either supplier are welcome.

Bottom line here is, there may be multiple sources for reproductions of this popular part. Such various repro's are not necessarily equal, and when there are differences, it is obvious that not all could qualify as "exact reproductions and perfect in all the details". Let the buyer beware.

For a good explanation of how the Tripod reflector works (or should work)
see PL700.pdf - (745-KB pdf file).

Photo from Moss Motors Response from Moss Motors June 1, 2004:

The Moss Motors supplied part is not the same as the one sold by XKs Unlimited, these are two different items. Lucas of course is no longer in production, so these are all reproduction parts. The distributor [for the Moss parts] claims these parts are made on original Lucas tooling, but this has not been absolutely confirmed. There are some minor deviations, so the parts are not "exact" duplicates of originals (but close). There are also some quality issues (somewhat subjective), but in general it is agreed that these parts are not equal in quality to the original Lucas parts from earlier decades. Moss Motors is therefore changing their ad listing on line and in (future) catalogs to read as follows:

"Reproduction of the famed Lucas Tripod Headlamp, available in correct left hand drive specification. May be used to replace all standard 7" sealed beam headlamps. These lamps do not offer high quality lighting compared to modern standards. We suggest our Wipac Halogen Headlamp Set # 162-725 for highway use. Please note: These headlamps may not be legal in all states. Please check local codes before ordering."

So far no word from XK's Unlimited about the quality issues of their part.
Additional note February 20, 2005
From: Jeff McNeal
I also bought the repro PL-700's from XK Unlimited on eBay .... I couldn't get the repros off my car quickly enough. Low beams were marginally acceptable, but high beams were so dispersed as to make driving outright dangerous. My findings were virtually identical to yours and I posted my comments on the Totally Triumph Network ( It was an expensive, and disappointing lesson to learn. Since then, I've acquired a set of genuine PL-700's and I'm so relieved to have proper lighting at night again.
Addendum February 21, 2005:
XK Unlimited continues to push the same eBay ad with the same claims.
    "You are bidding on EXACT reproductions of the high performance Lucas PL 700 headlamp. The are perfect ...."

    There are many reports of unhappy customers having found the parts to have ill fitting mechanical mounting, poor visible detailing, and absolutely terrible optical quality. One person reported that with considerable persistence they may accept return of the parts while charging a 20% restocking fee. That means they will take a profit on the sale regardless of whether the customer is satisfied or not, and then they can sell the same parts again. If you pay $12.50 shipping, and $12.50 return shipping, and $30 restocking fee, you will be out $55 for your chance to be discouraged. It seems to be a concensus of opinion that these parts from XK Unlimited belong in the trash. I have not heard a single report of a satisfied customer.

Thank you for your comments -- Send e-mail to <Barney Gaylord>
© 2004-2014 Barney Gaylord -- Copyright and reprint information