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Back when the original Fast and the Furious movie hit in 2001 it was for many people the first glimpse into the world of underground racing. It was a world that those in the know knew quite a bit about, but, for the rest of us, it was something that was a bit of a mystery. I was always into cars, but, it wasn’t until that movie came out that my fascination with the scene really grew. For people growing up nowadays, it’s hard to describe just how high the fever pitch was when it came to car tuning. It was almost as if overnight everyone that had seen the movie now saw the potential that their cars held. They, for the first time saw that the Honda Civic they were driving around town was a lot more than just a daily commuter. With enough love, attention, perseverance, and biggest of all money, they could transform that little car of theirs into something that was above and beyond what the cars’ designers could have ever dreamed of. This was happening all over the place, and on nearly every road there was in SoCal (which is where I lived then and now) there were customized cars. It was so awesome seeing a ‘fixed-up’ car on the road that anytime I spotted one I wanted to know what had been done to it. While it was really hard to know what had been done to the engine or any suspension mods, the one thing that was obvious were any changes to the exterior and no change made more of an impact than lighting.
I’ll never forget seeing that moment in the movie when just as the race between Paul Walker’s character and all of the big street racers is about to go down. As you see the hero driving toward some abandoned warehouses the sun goes down and more and more cars begin to head to that location. In that scene we were treated to a whole variety of cars, each more unique than the one next to it. It was a wonderful display of custom paint, chrome and all of the turbos one could ever want. But, as impressive as all of that hardware was, it would have never had as much impact as it did if it weren’t for all of that custom lighting those cars had. Every inch of the screen was filled with the multicolored hues of fluorescent and LED lighting. On nearly every part of those cars lights were crammed in between doorways, under steering wheels, in car trunks, under car hoods and every place in between. Never before had I ever seen cars that looked so incredible. Cars never before had lights that were there to not only look cool, but, to give cars a personality all their own. I loved seeing cars with undercarriage lights drive by on the city streets (just as in the movie) and pull all kinds of attention to themselves. It was a beautiful marriage of art and personality, and at that time it was the peak of that explosion of expression.
Fast forward to now, and the scene has changed dramatically. The days where nearly every car had a bit of ‘show’ (to go with that ‘go’) are almost a long lost memory. That is until you see just how much the technology has changed, and how it has allowed tuners to customize their cars in easier and faster ways than ever before. When it comes to lighting, things have really changed. You see, back then if you wanted any lights to highlight your car, then fluorescent accent tubes were the norm. It may sound funny now, but, back then, LED’s were pretty pricey, and finding a package that would fit your needs, and also be reliable were almost non-existent. So, lighting up your car meant a ton of fluorescent tubes would be mounted all over the place. Those tubes aren’t exactly compact, lightweight or flexible, so, whatever you did had to be thought out way in advance. And while they were awesome (believe me when I say that the hue that those lights put out was really pleasant, even now!) it was just too much of a hassle for the average person to use. It took a few years for the industry to adapt, but, LED’s began to pop up more and more. The color variety began to expand and the added flexibility (not to mention the smaller size compared to fluorescent lights) made it a way better option that what existed before. Fluorescent almost overnight disappeared and in its wake LED’s took over the lighting market, and for us consumers it was a win-win. But, the one thing that plagued some of those early kits was the quality. Or lack there of.
You see, I used to work at Autozone back in the day. As an employee there I had an opportunity to see a lot of the current lighting products on the market. Back before I knew what was on the horizon (thanks to being able to go to shows like SEMA), I knew just about as much as the people walking into the store about the lighting that we had. The boxes were really big, the lighting tubes were a bit clunky, and because of the power draw that those lights had, it wasn’t out of the question for people for people to have to get custom wiring and set-ups to be able to use some of the kits. If it wasn’t for the plug that fit into the cigarette lighters (used to power it up and a default plug in practically every lighting kit up to this very day), then most people wouldn’t be hooking up more than a few lights. It took some time, but, as things went forward, there were a lot more options available to users, and the pieces for the average Joe to be able to install these kits became available. It also helped that the switch to LED’S was a lot easier to deal with. Finally you could mount a strip of lights along curved surfaces or tucked behind places that would otherwise be pretty hard to reach. It was a great innovation, and for someone like myself (someone that had dabbled a little in the custom-lighting department) it was a really nice change. The one thing that I noticed though, was that the companies that were the first to start coming out with these kits at Autozone, Pep Boys and the like, were companies that I had not really had good experiences with. While I don’t really like to knock on some brands, there were certain products from certain companies that I tried to stay away from. When you have had several lights fizzle out (especially in a short amount of time), you tend to not go back to the brands that you know will let you down.
I don’t know whether or not it was because of the locations I lived near, but, one brand that I never saw making lighting kits was Sylvania. For those of you that don’t know, Sylvania is one of the biggest (if not, the biggest) lighting manufacturer for cars ever. You can walk into nearly any store that sells automotive lighting and I am pretty confident that those lights are made by them. Back in those days (in my Autozone days, which was around the time Fast and Furious first came out), Sylvania began to produce some aftermarket lights. They were coming out with colored lighting and a whole host of products meant to spice up anyone’s car. But, the one thing I don’t remember them making were those LED lighting kits. To this day I can walk into any of those same stores and not see lighting kits (other than the usual OEM replacement bulbs or individual lights) that I would see from other rival brands (Pilot is one of the brands that comes to mind). But, then something interesting happened. I went to the SEMA show last year and found out that not only does Sylvania produce HID bulb replacement kits (of which I never even knew that they made), but, they make the LED lighting kits that I had always dreamed about. I was pretty shocked that they were making these and even more shocked when I found out that they had been doing so for a while.
It wasn’t long after that revelation at the (SEMA) show that I able to get my hands on a set of those lighting kits. After seeing how awesome those kits were at the show, I really wanted to have an opportunity to play around with that kit on my own. It’s always a little different when you see a showcase product at an event and when you have the final product at home. Sometimes there are compromises and that leads to a shoddy product. Would that be the case this time around? Would my first lighting kit from Sylvania prove to be a huge letdown?
Those are questions that I asked myself as I first opened the package that I received in the mail. I didn’t really know what to expect, but, knowing how Sylvania has been known to never under-deliver, I expected some nice things. That was definitely the case when I pulled out the lighting kit. Even if I had stopped this review here, I could honestly say that I was happy with the production values of the packaging. I have seen a lot of lighting packages, and all of them seem to be slight variations of the same thing. I guess when you have some pieces that you have to show off, there are just a few ways that you can show them off and not confuse people. I won’t compare this box to the multitude of lighting boxes out there, but if I had to say any one thing about it is is that it is visually appealing. I think the one thing that I like most about it, is that it isn’t overly pretentious. It tells you in a few lines (at the very front of the box) what you are getting and with a few cleverly placed cutouts, you have a nice view of the pieces themselves. It isn’t overly complicated and doesn’t show you pictures of things that you won’t get right out of the box. In some ways, it’s almost too understated, but, at least for myself, I must say that I like it.
There are two things though that really catch your eye when you look at the box. One of those is the view of the remote (in the main window cutout) and an opening at the top with a very noticeable red button. The remote is a wireless remote that has a plethora of multi-colored buttons and settings. It is through that remote that one can control the intensity, flash patterns, the sequence of lighting and of course, the color(s) that you want. It’s pretty straight forward, and I like the simplicity of the design. In fact, there is a lack of written instructions on the remote and that takes cues from the minimal design philosophy that the designers put into making it. Simple and straightforward. I like it.
The other thing I noticed as I looked at the box was the big red button at the top of it. With two arrows on either side of the button saying, “Try Me”, it was pretty obvious that they were there to flick on the lights. I have always liked when packages have this on them, primarily because before you even purchase and take the lights home, you can see whether they work or not. This has to do with the fact that the lights (when they have a test button) are usually pre-wired to a battery source. That battery source lets a customer pick up and test out the set before they buy it. I like to think it is a little-bit gimmicky on some sets, but, on this one it’s a different story. To my surprise, when I pushed the button and held it down, it did something that I didn’t expect. Unlike most sets I have tried out, this one was set to cycle through all of the colors that you’ll be able to use. That was a nice touch, and really gave me an idea of the colors and the brightness (and quality) of the LED’s included in the box. Hell, I hadn’t even opened the box up and I was already happy with it all.
The back of the box showed off an expanded list of the capabilities of the kit and a content rundown. This was nice and straight to the point. Again, very nice when it comes to letting us know what we were to expect in the box. The one thing I didn’t like was the picture at the very top showing off the kit lit up inside of a car. I don’t know who chose this picture, but, this has to be one of the most understated and least attractive pictures I’ve seen. I don’t know what it is, but, this picture just doesn’t do any justice to the items inside. Perhaps on a new run of lights, they can include one that not only looks more dynamic, but, one that is noticeably brighter than the one we got. It’s not too big a deal, but, is a tad bit disappointing considering the otherwise clean packaging.
Going inside the package I find a lot of what I would expect. All of the wiring cables and mounting hardware (as well as a few adhesive strips) are included in the pack. I have the Stage 1 package, which means that there is only one lighting strip included in the package. While it looks like two would be included, it really is just the one strip that is folded over. If you ever happen to see their Stage 2 kit, then you would instantly notice that kit includes two lighting strips (and just about everything else would be the same). This kit though featured one strip, and to be honest, for the purpose of testing out what the kits would be like, it was plenty enough. Now that I was able to take the lights out of the package, I could finally test out the lights unobstructed from box. Needless to say, they are even brighter than I thought they would be, and more vibrant. The one thing that I really liked as I tested it though, was the clean transitions between the colors cycling. There were a few sets that I have tried in the past and while they did let one cycle through colors, they tended to do so with some noticeable hiccuping in between transitions. This one was smooth and very subtle in how it did so. The setting for ‘flash’ does stutter a little, but, it’s isn’t too noticeable, and I think that since you wouldn’t be looking at the lights directly, it’s a bit forgivable.
The remote is one of the other pieces that I was looking forward to using. Considering everything is going to be tethered to that, and the functions could only be used through it, I wanted to make sure that it worked. Thankfully it all worked pretty well and there was little to no latency when cycling through the functions. I did notice that the remote works off an infrared LED though. So, using it while it is out of the package is easy to use, I may have to get a little creative on where I mount it. I’ll need some place that is unobstructed and will still look good. I do like that the LED itself (on the receiving end and not the one on the remote) is pretty small, so, I’m sure I’ll find a place that I can mount it on.
All in all though, I really like this kit. So far, everything works well and looks great. I cannot wait to mount it up and start sprucing up the interior of my car. Years ago I used to have some fluorescent tubes underneath my dash, and I always loved the way that it looked. Now that I have a car worth putting it on (an SC300), I will definitely be installing it in there. I am always a bit indecisive when it comes to making modifications to my cars and that has to do a lot with me having the tendency to get bored with them. It may sound weird, but, I like to have a bit of variety in life and when it comes to the lighting that I would be putting inside my car, I think I would like to change things here and there. I would like to think that this is only myself, but, go to any car show and there are sure to be a ton of car owners that you’ll see adding or modding their cars throughout the year. Just when you think they are done, they come back with a few more mods, and in some cases, a complete re-work of their build. It’s crazy, but, us car guys are just like that. That’s why I do like the fact that this kit lets me change through colors. I just love that. Back in the old days of fluorescent, that would have never been the case. It is nice knowing that I have the option to go through colors and different lighting patterns. This will definitely make it easier for an indecisive person such as myself to change the car so that it fits my mood. One day I may be feeling red, and the next green. It’s a first world problem that isn’t that bad to have.
In Part 2 of this review, I will be installing this kit into my car and letting you know how it all went. I’m hoping that it all goes smooth and everything looks as awesome installed as it does outside the box. I can’t wait. For as long as I have had my car, this will be the first interior mod (besides the stereo) that I do to it, and I’m sure that it will be one of the most drastic. Stay tuned for the second part and see where we go with it.
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
For more information on Sylvania and this ZEVO lighting kit check out their website at https://www.sylvania.com/en-us/products/new-products/Pages/default.aspx
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.