The white tail lamp. Probably the most recognizable automotive aftermarket item in the world these days. From the high priced OEM sets to the shoddy pieces of plastic seen on eBay, they seem to be everywhere and on every car. While many sets look rather regrettable, there are a few OEM sets that actually have a simple and elegant look about them.
Over the past several years MINI has offered two of these tail light kits. One entirely white and another that replaced the orange turn signals with white. Both were welcome additions and proved to be fairly popular. However, these lights were made obsolete by MINI’s recent design changes made for the 2005 model year. While it’s true that there are hacks to still incorporate the old style rear lights on newer MINIs, it’s not the simple plug and play as it once was. And of course doing so may mean bad karma as your MINI is now not period correct!
The resulting redesign gave the tail lights a new more modern look and a set of reverse lights. Moving the reverse lights into the tail light cluster allowed for the rear foglights to be moved to the bottom center of the rear bumper… probably a more appropriate place considering their use.
The design of the new lights featured three colors. The main portion (used for brake lights) were red, the turn signals (the upper circle) were orange, and the reverse lighting was naturally white. However in the US, MINIUSA went with a simpler all red design save for the small white circles for the reverse lights. It’s not entirely clear why this was done but it tends to give the US spec lights a simpler ill-defined shape as compared with the standard lamp. It also makes the turn signals red instead of orange, a change I personally find regrettable on the grounds of safety.
After the redesign, MINI designers rolled up their sleeves also created a new set of red and white lights. The design change was simple and subtle, white turn signals where the standard tail lights had orange. While it may not sound like much, the result is a better defined design and a duo-tone look and seems more appropriate for the MINI.
Sounds all well and good doesn’t it? Of course there’s just one problem. MINIUSA for some reason will not be offering the new red/white lights in the US. So what’s a US owner to do? Simple; track down some imports.
The one place I’ve found that the lights are available and ready to ship to the US is at NewMiniStuff.com. The lights start at ÃƒÂ¯Ã‚Â¿Ã‚Â½72.18 or about $130. Not bad considering what MINI typically charges for the original white tail lamps. Mike from NewMiniStuff.com sells the lights as is or with a full set of bulbs. I originally went with the diadem blue silver indicator bulbs but found them a bit, well, blue. A quick run over to Knauz MINI and I had a set of the OEM BMW orange silver lights in hand and ready for install.
Installation is quite simple and straight forward. Essentially the lights are held in by a nut and two clips. Once you get the light housing out you can easily unhook the harness and plug the new one in. The entire install should take about 10 minutes from start to finish (20 minutes for a novice).
The resulting look is fantastic and the change is a bit more noticeable then what one might expect. The shape of the white turn signal area within the light housing is at such an angle that it highlights the elegant curvature of the car’s rear quarter-panel… something that the all red lights fail to do. And the turn signals actually light up orange, a nice plus for those that are more safety conscious.
While some might scoff at spending $130+ for a set of different lights, for those of us who prize aesthetics and an individualized look, they fill the bill well.
Rating: 4.5 (out of five)
The new White and Red MINI Tail lights fit the 2005 and 2006 MINI. You can find them at NewMiniStuff.com and start at ÃƒÂ¯Ã‚Â¿Ã‚Â½72.18 (about $130) plus shipping. Shipping to the US takes about a week.