Automotive Mileposts  
1960 Imperial: Panelescent Light
1960 Imperial Panelescent Light instrument panelPerhaps one of the most interesting new features to hit the automotive scene in 1960, Chrysler's instrument panels were bathed in Panelescent Light at night. Emitting a soft green glow, Panelescent Light is more restful to the eyes, creates less glare, and is a wonder to behold.
PANELESCENT LIGHT

Most cars use conventional light bulbs to backlight gauges and instruments for night time driving. This works quite well, but can cause eye strain and glare. Over the years, car manufacturers have tested various colors of light, including green, orange, and white, in an attempt to improve visibility and safety, while reducing strain on the driver's eyes. In 1960, Chrysler introduced electroluminescent lighting for its instrument panels, including the Imperial. Chrysler referred to the lighting as Panelescent Light on the 1960 Imperial, and the difference between the soft green glow emitted by Panelescent Light and conventional light bulbs is impressive. One truly must see the effect first hand to fully understand the advancement in lighting this truly was. To think this concept came from the same folks that introduced something as off the wall as the Highway Hi-Fi to America's roadways shows that Chrysler was seeking ways to make driving safer as well as more enjoyable.
1960 Imperial front view at night
HOW IT WORKS

Developed by Sylvania for Chrysler Corporation, Panelescent Light uses a power converter mounted above the left kick panel to convert 12 volt DC power from the car battery to high voltage AC current. This AC current is fed through white-colored, insulated wires to a multi-layered phosphorescent substrate panel, (which resembles long, thin rods), within the instrument panel assembly. This layered panel glows when power is applied to it. The phosphorescent substrate panel consists of several layers, beginning with a steel plate upon which a blue phosphorescent electroluminescent layer is applied. On top of that, a foil electrically-conductive sheet is applied, followed by a white outer protective coating. Even the needles in the gauges are layered with this special phosphorescent material, although they emit a red-orange color when they glow. Tiny wires attached to the ends of the gauge needles feed the power to the needles.
1960 Imperial instrument panel with Panelescent Light
WHERE IT WAS USED

The Imperial Division of Chrysler Corporation used Panelescent Light on its 1960-1963 models, and generally everything in the instrument panel was lit this way with the exception of the high-beam indicator, turn indicators, TorqueFlight and heater/air conditioner control pushbuttons, and the parking brake warning lamp. Conventional light bulbs also illuminated the radio dial, glove box light, ash tray light, and map light.

Panelescent Light was used on other Chrysler Corporation cars during this period as well, including the Chrysler 300s. Later, the 1966-67 Dodge Chargers used a similar, although slightly updated version, and electroluminescent lighting is being used in current automotive applications, including the Chrysler 300M and Sebring, among others.

 
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