Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Miss Pop-Up Lights

Although the 1980s are not considered a high watermark of automotive design there was one element from that era that is missing today. Pop-up headlights.

Pop-up and hidden lights originated in the 1930s with cars like the Cord 810 and the Buick Y-Job concept car. They reappeared in the 1960s on the Corvette, Buick Rivera, Pontiac GTO and Dodge Charger. Before long they spread to Italian makes like Lamborghini, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. But they were the most prevalent in the 1980s, appearing on everything from exotic cars to Hondas and Toyotas. They came in all styles and shapes, from ones that flipped up, like on the Honda Prelude, to ones that rotated 180 degrees like on the Corvette C4. There were also exposed pop-up lights like the ones on the Porsche 928 and the 1982 Toyota Celica that I owned in college.

Fifteen years later, pop-up lights have all but vanished. The last new car with pop-ups was either the 1997-2004 Corvette or Lotus Esprit. I know a big reason they went away is cost. Fixed lights are cheaper to produce and less expensive to repair. They also weigh less and take up less space. And like most styling trends, they were a bit of a fad as well, like tail fins, digital instruments and talking cars. But like most fads, it's only a matter of time before they reappear. If the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Dodge Challenger are any indicator, I suspect we'll see pop-up lights again in the near future.

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