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Does anyone know how to open these brass headlights?


Dwight Romberger

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Hi All,

I bought these "ADLAKE" brass headlights, and I cannot figure out how to get them open. Does anyone know how?

The pics show all four sides. There are hinges on both sides of the lens covers, but both are secured by hinges with 4 rivets not screws. I tried to tap out what could be a hinge pin, but the hinge just started to bend.

Any ideas?

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The hinge pin usually has a nob on top end of pin,,

Look closely to see if its broken off,,,

It SHOULD,,,,,er well maybee,,,,tap through with a flat end punch,,

a nice square end,,,Put penetrating oil on and wait,,

Auto trans oil and acetone seem to have won the war on what to use,,,

and wait,,,If its really stuck,,,its like puting the cap back on the bottle,,

it just wont go there,,,TAp,,,,and wait,,,,

The danger here is TAPPING will rivit over the end of the pin;,,

and make it REALLYYY difficult to deal with,,,

Wait some more,,,,Better than riviting it over

Heavier hammer will push more than peen over,,!!!

Re read From the top,,,

ANYthing you do MAY dammage it,,

Cheers,,,Ben

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Nice workbench! I'd get a plastic bowl that would allow the hinge to soak in a pool of PB Blaster or the oil of your choise. Take your time, those lights were once on something real nice. If you get a helper to hold a 2 inch wide flat bar on the hinge edge while you tap the pin it may place more force on it rather than roll the light around. Bob

Edited by 1937hd45 (see edit history)
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Thank you. Indian granite is my preferred workbench surface, but you can't weld on it.

Soaking rather than spraying is a good idea.

Yes. I am being careful. After some investigation, I have discovered them to be early Cadillac 1912-17. I still have to find brackets, but they seem to be the same up to and including 1921.

Interestingly, there seems to be more brass era parts than there are cars that need them. Parts sell for a tenth of what I would expect 100 year old parts to be worth. I bought these 12" in diameter solid brass headlamps for $250 for the pair!

Edited by Dwight Romberger (see edit history)
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Mark Shaw may well be correct about those pins being threaded. I have some 1912 Solar brand lights with threaded hinge pins — if the pins are seized it would not be hard to twist off the knurled ends when attempting to take them out. To my thinking, straight hinge pins would not be a logical way to built lamps, as some would inevitably vibrate out and be lost.

Assuming you are correct about them being 1912-17 Cadillac, I suggest you contact owners of that sort of car and inquire about this detail on their headlamps.

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Locomobile and Pierce also fitted Adlake lamps on occasion..

This hinge arrangement is also like the Springfield Rolls lamps,,1920-1928

both sidelamp and headlamp hinges,,

Bob is correct,,,bucking up the hinge will take strain off the sheet metal,,

and strike easy with a heavier hammar or blunt object,,

Try to avoid the riviting effect,,

You are luckey they dont have age cracks

This means they were annealed before the last spinning,,

Cheers,,Ben

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I don't think they are hinges per se but are more like straps secured with a pin. The problem is the brass has corroded and pretty much locked the pins in place. If penetrant does't work. It likely won't, a suggestion would be to cut the pins at each Joint with a jewelers saw. You will lose only a few thousands of an inch from each joint. Not enough to be noticeable. Once the "hinge" halves are separated You will be able to see the pin clearly and support the half securely to work it out. If need be you can then also get at the back side of the rivets to remove the hinges from the head lamp buckets to work on the pins and then re-rivet them back on. Looks like a nice little restoration project to me..............Bob

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I doubt the supposed Cadillac origin. I have 1913, 1916, and 1922 (which is V61, their last V8 before they changed to split-plane counterbalanced crankshaft). All Cadillacs had what you would describe as "bell-shaped" headlamps including 1912. The V63 of 1923 had drum-shaped lights. If one hinge pin is in fact threaded on the top, but broken off, you should be able to pick the size difference by eye, even if you have to dress the top surface carefully with a fine file or with fine abrasive sheet supported by the file. You make a fine centre punch mark as close as you can, and if it is not dead centre you can draw it across by angling the punch in the direction it has to move and strike it again lightly. You should be able to run a drill that is just smaller than the root diameter of the thread to the bottom of the first segment of the hinge. You check that you are drilling accurate to axis. It is delicate work.

If you can access through a library the January Show issues of MoToR, you can find listing of cars that use Adlake lamps (as 'electrical equipment'). You might even identify them on a car in the photos.

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Ivan. You are correct. I looked closer at the pictures Of Cadillacs, and they are bell shaped rather than drum shaped. I was looking mostly at the hinges and the fork attachment. Is the Motor magazine you refer to the Australian magazine?

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They look more like the ones on the Locomobiles

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Edited by Dwight Romberger
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Not Australian, Dwight. I would have identified it thus. MoToR (note capitalisation) was probably NY origin. The only copy I have was January 1921, which was the NY Show issue. It is around here somewhere because I often use it to resolve issues that arise on this forum. But it is hiding. Since it was given to me by the man who sold me the Roamer-Duesenberg in 1963, I have kept it in a manila folder because it is fragile and has a number of outside sheets missing.

From what I can see of the lights on the Locomobile 48, they look more like the design and construction of those drum lights used on the Series Six Mercers. We never knew the maker of these because the single one I have, given to me in 1980 by Ralph Buckley, has no branding. Last weekend at "MotoClassica" in the old Melbourne exhibition buildings, there was a cut-down 6 cylinder T-head American La France, altered from what used to be a fine fire truck into a pajero's Raceabout.

(Driving a Stuart tank to do the grocery shopping would be less outrageous.) The headlights were identical to the Mercer Six drum type, but 2 inches bigger. The small badge on the top showed they were made by VESTA in Chicago.

It was sad, that barely half a mile away from that destroyed ALF fire engine that was in the MotorClassica auction, was a 1911 48hp Pierce Arrow in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Museum. It is understood to have originally belonged to Helen Mitchell, otherwise known as the great opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. Apparently she donated it for use as a fire truck; and there is not enough of the car left to ever bring it back.

Those are big lights Dwight. Maybe they were originally on a fire truck?

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Maybe you could try drilling the top of one of the pins and using an easy-out on it to try and twist the pin after you have soaked it in penetrating oil for a period of time.

the hinge material doesn't appear to be thick enough to have a thread on the inside of it but the twisting action may break it free.

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