By on August 21, 2012

I bought my first Corvette primarily because of its headlights. Spy photos of the 2005 model had just hit the press, revealing that Chevrolet was dumping the Vette’s hidden headlamps, the heart of the car’s sleek look for 41 years. Corvette purists howled in protest. Convinced that the automotive world as we knew it was coming to an end, I immediately ordered a 2004 Spiral Gray 6-Speed Coupe.

The C5 Corvette and the 2004 Lotus Esprit would be the last mass-produced hidden headlight autos ever built. The feature died due to the weight and complexity of the headlamp motors and the advent of sealed beam headlights. Add in today’s pedestrian safety standards and we can assume hideaway lights may be gone forever.

I say this is not a good thing. Yes, today’s trick LED eye-candy running light look is neat but it cannot compete with flip-top lights. Let’s be clear about the lights of which I speak. I am not referring to the domestic cars of the 60s and 70s, with headlights lurking behind doors which slid up or over to reveal the beams, the lights from a period when American automakers produced more sliders than did White Castle.

I am talking sports cars here, with lights that roll or pop up. As domestic automakers dropped the feature in the 80s, import makers started installing them. From Ferrari Daytona to Opel GT., from Miata to Merak, every cool car had them. I have owned two HH vehicles, the Corvette and a 1994 Mazda RX-7, and there is nothing like flipping up the lights at night and having those twin towers guide you home.

The most significant HH auto ever was not a sports car. Honda brought hidden headlamps to the masses with the striking 1986 Accord Sedan. Dealers’ waiting lists for Accords grew longer as customers loved the look.

When American Honda consumer tested its replacement, the exposed headlighted 1990 Accord, reaction to the styling was so negative, the company countered with a launch advertising campaign featuring the tag, “You Have to Drive It to Believe It!” They may as well have said, “We Screwed Up the Looks, But It is Still a Honda!” The 1990 model marked the beginning of the Boring Accord Era.

Honda did it again a few years later, when the 2002 NSX lost its sex appeal upon converting to uncovered headlamps. Can you name one car that got better looking when it switched to bare lights?

I sorely miss concealed headlights on new cars but I have an idea. It looks like the 2015 Mustang will be some sort of four-cylinder Focus GT, a veritable 1974 Mustang II for our times. Let’s tell Ford they can compensate for their killing of this iconic muscle car by making it the first-ever Mustang with hideaway headlamps!

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119 Comments on “Tales From the Cooler: Requiem for Hideaway Headlamps...”


  • avatar
    Viquitor

    I like HH quite a lot. Too bad regulations now make them impossible.

    • 0 avatar
      C170guy

      What regulations? I think the FMVSS hasn’t changed much in the lighting section lately, but haven’t looked in a year or two.
      Did they do something to it? Plenty of automakers find ways not to follow it anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        I was talking about european rules regarding frontend designs. HH are harmful to pedestrians.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        The thing that killed hidden lights was the legalization of hallogen lights with plastic covers. In the U.S. this happened in the mid-1980′s. Now headlight assemblies can be blended into the body of the car and pop-up lights are no longer necessary to improve aerodynamics.

      • 0 avatar

        Do those regulations actually exist, and if they exist, what do they say? I must ask, because everyone was blaming raised hoods on pedestrian-impact regulations. Well guess what: the regulations ONLY state the distance between the hood and top of engine. Nothing impossible to re-package, the makers just thought they needed a change in looks, and high beltline was just getting fashionable. Until we know the true answer, we won’t know if that imaginary Mustang is possible. It may very well be. Stop the regulation rumor-mongering, welcome the regulation facts!

      • 0 avatar
        jonny b

        I thought that Canadian requirements for daytime running lights was the main reason hidden headlights disappeared.

        It is a shame. They were wicked cool. I was especially fond of the totally bizarre ones on the Porsche 928.

      • 0 avatar
        ott

        There are ways to get around the daytime running light issue in Canada, like factory fog lamps or extra bright running lamps. There are a number of cars that use that approach rather than the headlamps themselves here in Canada. I think it’s basically just another way to save money and simplify the lighting system for manufacturers.

      • 0 avatar
        grassharp

        Viquitor is correct. This type of headlights is not legal anymore in the EU. And GM wants to sell the Corvette here too, so the lights had to go.

      • 0 avatar
        majeskyb

        I don’t think Canadian DRL regulations stopped these headlights. My Trans Am was built in Canada, and the turn signals are dual filament bulbs- one filament was the DRL. Only downside to it is the awful housing design that cracks from the heat generated, letting water in and eventually (within months) corroding the leads.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    I miss having my Prelude, partly because of the hidden headlights. Children and adults alike absolutely loved them, and if people caught me at a stop, would often try to get me to turn the lights on and off a few times. There was even a sort of hand gesture for it, like how people gesture for semis to honk their horns.

    It’s really hard to think of any other car feature that drivers and pedestrians alike can enjoy at the same time. Hidden headlights are just plain cool, and there’s no arguing that.

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      There’s a Scarface scene when Tony Montana leaves the nightclub after a shooting, gets into his 928. The headlights pop right out as he starts the car. How cool was that?

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        Luckily, I am not blinded by the bright, pop-up headlights of nostalgia like you all.

        I’m still a kid. :’(

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Right up until the moment, invariably, when one of the motors fails and only one pathetic pididdle pops up, leaving its twin shining hopelessly at the ground.

        Always seems to happen to a late ’80s Firebird whose owner appears more concerned with his mullet than fixing the lights.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Back in the day, Wall St, NYC: I saw a guy in his Corvette pop up his headlights when a pretty girl walked by. She was flattered.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    I had an ’88 Honda Accord with the pop up lights. They did not work when I bought the car, and I never planned on fixing them. So it didn’t look sleek at all, just kind of funny, like a friendly creature. But I agree with you about sports cars. I really thought something was lost (besides a few pounds) when the Miata dropped the pop up lights, and totally agree that there has never been a car that looked better after losing them. Maybe they’ll come back once the idea is old enough to be considered retro?

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      I hated the popup lights on my Miata. Sure it looked good when they were down but when they were up they took considerable space from the already narrow view from the windshield. Wish they were fixed instead like the NB.

  • avatar
    RobertPaulson

    HH’s were great. While we’re on the lighting subject, why can’t we have the high beam switch on the floor anymore?

    • 0 avatar
      Tinker

      That will happen right after we get a starter switch on the floor, again, would be my guess.

      When I was in high school, I drove a Suburban, and the floor high beam switch failed. I succesfully wired around it, with just my pocketknife.

      When the switch fried the LIGHTS were OUT. I wiped out my girlfriend’s mom’s flowerbed which was in the strip between the sidewalk and street, in the dark.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Why on earth would you want the high beam switch on the floor? All that accomplishes is delaying you if you need to dip your lights but you’re in the middle of a shift.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Totally agree, Steve65,

        I love how it’s now incorporated into the turn signal stalk these days. I’ve had my share of cars with the switch in the floor, fine and all that, but still.

        I have no issues with the ignition switch on the steering column either and really don’t see what’s so cool about not having to use your key to start your car (other than to have nearby so the car can detect it and thus allow you to start it).

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      I recall a couple of cars from my childhood with the high-beam switch on the floor. In the salt belt, salty water from your boots soaks the carpet, gets into the switch, and buggers it up. Or, melted snow from your boots soaks the carpet and the switch, then when you leave the car overnight, it all freezes up. Baaaad idea from whoever thought of this in the first place. Good riddance.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        It was one of those hybrid ideas back in the days of analog. Gotta remember the turn signals back then would only go up and down and were at best, a long, hard piece of metal with a rubber tip to them so you didn’t stab yourself. Customers wanted high-beams, but designers and engineers had already done up the car. The solution was left to the dealer to offer it in as an option. Also being back-when, electrical devices were usually large, Robby the Robot things in comparison to today. Hence, the hole in the floor replete with barely thought out foot-well switch.

  • avatar
    Mark in Maine

    I agree with Virgil – When I buy a Corvette, it won’t be a C6 – mainly because I think that the exposed headlights/covers make it look like a kit car from the front. I suppose that there really isn’t any need for hideaway lights any longer, but they were fun to look at while they lasted, and they really did improve the appearance of many of the vehicles that they were fitted to.

  • avatar
    Charles T

    One amendment, the NSX’s headlight replacement was in 2002, not 1995.

    Definitely agree on the popup headlights; the giant fixies on my MR2 Spyder don’t hold a candela to the popups on the previous two generations.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Years ago I would always see a forest green Celica? 240 SX? Can’t remember which… that came standard with hidden headlamps. However the owner apparently converted them to house projector beam assemblies, a high beam and low beam in each pod. As a result of the modification, each unit was permanently fixed to be half-open to accommodate the smaller sized lighting units. Permanently squinting with round specs. It was a disservice to the original design IMO.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The Corvette lost its classic and formal sports car look when its pop ups went away. Current Corvettes look like goofy serpents.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    My 1967 Thunderbird has hidden lights, though not the pop-up style you prefer. The doors on these old Ford lights were vacuum operated. As the cars aged the vacuum lines developed leaks which is why you see so many old Ford with the headlight doors stuck open.

    On of my sisters owned an Opel GT. The pop-up lights on this car are manually operated. There is a lever on the console you pull back to open the lights and push forward to close them. Apparantly the mechanical linkage is difficult to keep aligned because the headlights on these Opels were often slightly ajar.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      When the engine is running, it is not so much the lines, but the seal in the servo(s) that operates the doors.

      When the engine is not running, there are leaks in the tank, the headlamp switch, the bypass valve, the check valves, the servo(s), and at each of the various hose connections!

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        You are correct. My previous comment was way oversimplified. If you think the vacuum operated headlight doors are problematic, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

        The fifth-generation Thunderbirds also used vacuum for the HVAC ducting and few accessories like the power door locks. Many of the lines, valves and servos are buried in the dash, the HVAC ducting, the trunk and the doors where they are very difficult to access. The rubber and plastic pieces crack. The metal pieces corrode. Model-specific items are hard to come by because they are not reproduced and NOS is scarce and pricey.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        My fav vacuum part is the hot water shut off valve which is activated when the a/c is switched on; such a cute and tiny little servo (that craps out, only vacuum thing I ever, so far, had to replace on my 1969 cougar.)

  • avatar
    jhefner

    ” The feature died due to the weight and complexity of the headlamp motors and the advent of sealed beam headlights. Add in today’s pedestrian safety standards and we can assume hideaway lights may be gone forever.”

    You mean the *disappearance* of sealed beam headlights. They gave way to the composite (flush) headlights in the 1990s, starting with the 1984 Continental Mark VII and the Ford Taurus.

    And that started the end of the era of popup headlights. (Was the Cord the first?) Federal regulations mandated that sealed beam headlights be installed on all cars sold in the United States. Since you were then stuck with the size of sealed beam headlight bulbs available (either round or square); the only way you could clean up the headlight installation was to fold them away.

    Now, you can make them flush with the body of the car; eliminating the main reason for popup headlight’s existance. In the future, LCD headlights may eventually becomes just a dot on each side of the car’s nose; why add the complexity of popup headlights?

    But yes they were fun; at least when they worked. I remember the ones on my brother’s mid-70s Opel GT; I think they actually rotated longitudually rather than ‘popping up.’

    • 0 avatar

      I’m partial to the ’67 Riviera’s headlights that swivel down from a horizontal position under the hood. Video here:

      http://www.carsindepth.com/?p=9798

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        The lights on the Riviera’s of this era were great until the driver lightly pranged the front bumper against something, then the lights were great for looking for snipers in the night-time trees…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I presume you mean LED headlights, not LCD.

      And I hope they don’t become just a dot, on the grounds that the bigger the lens/reflector area is, the less glare-y they seem to be for oncoming traffic; same light, larger area*.

      (* For incidental light hitting observers; the beam aimed down the road for you should be more or less identical in density and brightness.)

  • avatar
    naterator

    That wagon is handsome! Yum.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Didn’t the 1st-generation Honda CRX have semi-hidden headlights? I think the 2nd-gen looked better when they switched to non-hidden headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      The CRX never had them. First gen had a sunken type of headlight unit, then Honda switched to a euro-flush look. Maybe you’re thinking of the delightful Toyota MR2 or the dreaded Nissan Pulsar? Personally, I like headlights – the windows of the car’s soul….I especially liked the 1990 – 93 Accord’s mirrored sparkly headlights that pushed in an inch for give in case of a light bumper hit.

  • avatar
    Travis

    I had to look up everything else this Virgil Hilts guy wrote as the name wasn’t too familiar. This piece was not very good and felt like random filler words for a slow day. Slow days happen, and they’re ok. Don’t make a slow day a bad day by putting up words just for the sake of it :(

    Also the C5 Corvette is beautiful. The lights work there. They weren’t particularly special looking when deployed in the C3 or 4. Also the NSX, even in refresher years, is drop dead gorgeous.

    • 0 avatar
      dan1malk

      I dig the C4 light over the C5 only because the C4′s completely flipped 180 degrees, not just pop-up revealing dark plastic on the sides. The C4 had completely finished housings around the lenses making them a LITTLE more special I think.

      http://photos.ecarlist.com/RL/4L/lR/98/2l/5Z/ou/id/Ic/bO/9Q_640.jpg

      vs

      http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-LNzuLZeD1oc/T16htvc3z0I/AAAAAAAAB2E/Gm2BfTeJPVY/s1600/Yo+copy.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I find Mr. Hilts’ work to be rather milquetoast get-off-my-lawn. I’ve seen a few stories, and you can pretty much predict a mix of nostalgia and anti-government grumbling, and the expected baiting of people who feel the same way.

      Call it Angry Old White Guy syndrome.

      If that floats your boat, fine, but it lacks elegance. If you’re going to rant, it needs to be a letter more, well, hyperbolic. I have to give Mr. Baruth props for entertainment value.

      I can’t say I’m that enthused with the recent masthead additions, honestly. I popped through some of the older reviews and articles and I don’t think I really appreciated how every article used to be consistently excellent, whereas now it’s kind of hit-and-miss.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      “I had to look up everything else this Virgil Hilts guy wrote as the name wasn’t too familiar. This piece was not very good and felt like random filler words for a slow day. Slow days happen, and they’re ok. Don’t make a slow day a bad day by putting up words just for the sake of it”

      And you are who exactly?

      TTAC frequently publishes articles and editorials written by commenters. If you don’t like this piece, feel free to write a better one and submit it.

      • 0 avatar
        Travis

        While I certainly think I could write an article better than his, I don’t think I could be as entertaining or eloquent as the best writers on the site. I’m a daily reader because of consistently good writing, so when I see something that I think isn’t very good, I’ll share. If I read something that I think is above and beyond the norm, I’ll voice that as well.

        And, honestly, this is a place where we critique cars and talk about cars. Nobody in their right mind would say to a bad reviewer “well if you don’t like it why don’t you just build a better one?”

        That’s a really silly thing to say with regards to any critique.

        Being a long follower of TTAC and a pretty big fan, I’d rather see less content than filler content written by some random guy that likes a specific styling cue. On that same note, I feel very similarly about Murilee. I think he can write really well, and his adventures into junkyards are interesting. But I come here to read about well formed opinions and their views on the history of those cars. He just doesn’t write very much when it’s obvious he has a lot more input.

        Unique (human) perspectives on the cars, culture, and politics of the car business are what makes this site so great IMO. This article was definitely none of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I’m only wondering if he is related to the guy played by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape!

      Because with a byline called Tales from the Cooler, it can only be a nom de plume ripped from The Cooler King!

  • avatar
    hachee

    Interesting that you really like pop ups, but not the other hidden lights popular on many American cars of the 60′s and 70′s. I really like them all. They also really helped to differentiate the looks of many cars, whereas today so many have the same, generic, giant, swept-back cat’s eye looking lamps.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    A man after my own heart. I miss pop up headlights like crazy. They were cooler than cool, and nothing else has replaced them that looks as downright awesome.

    LEDs? Meh.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I don’t miss them and glad they’re gone. True, it makes the car look good, never better than on a Corvette, but that’s one thing you don’t want to fail on you, in spite of the fact that they should go bad and revert to the open position. A usually expensive fix that you can’t always kit-bash or jury-rig in your garage.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Pop-up lights, like headlamp wipers and A-pillar seatbelt motors, are complex solutions to simple problems.

      I personally feel the same way about touch-screen ICE displays, and I say this as someone who carries four different smartphones, three tablets and a laptop.

    • 0 avatar
      Gannet

      On a C5 this is a non-issue. There are little knobs mounted on the assemblies that you can turn to raise the lights manually. This is not a hard problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        My son’s 1988 Daytona had that little knob – ditto for the 1992 Lebaron convertible we once owned – one motor drove both headlight doors. I suppose those Chryslers had the simplest, easy-to-fix hidden headlight doors, but just one more thing to get aggravated over for no reason.

        Rube Goldberg, I’m sure, is very proud!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Meh, one more thing to break. Good riddance!

  • avatar
    mattfarah

    I have a 1998 Corvette, and removed the pop-ups in favor of the C5.R style lights. They are much brighter, but most importantly, the pop-ups absolutely ruined the high-speed aerodynamics at night. Call me a criminal or whatever for speeding at night, but I think it’s the safest time since the roads are empty, and at triple-digits, the pop-ups were like having a parachute on the front end and it would get very floaty and unnerving. The fixed lights completely solved that problem.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    The headlight profile on the c6 corvette is awful, it ruins the whole front end. The c5 corvette is also an awful design, 1992 called, they want their fire-bird front end back. The last time the corvette looked good was 1982, the last year of the c3. The c7 animation, although a blatant 599 rip-off, does seem to be a vast improvement in the styling.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    I remember the 1990 Accord as being a huge leap in appearance (inside and out) over the previous generation (which I also liked when it was new). The pop-up headlights looked like a work-around (which it was), made even worse by knowing that other markets which were not stuck in the sealed beam headlight stone age had proper modern flush headlights on their cars. And on top of that we were supposed to accept motorized seat belts? I’m relieved those days are gone!

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Ever see a Euro-spec third-gen Accord with the fixed, composite lights? Bleh. The gimmicky pop-ups really make that car. Compared to a Chevy Celebrity or early Toyota Camry, the Accord looked like it was from the future in the late ’80s.

      The 1990 model was certainly more conservative, but by no means a step backwards like the author insinuates, and I believe it retained the best-seller crown from ’90-’91.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Who cares? Step out of the past. Which of you wants whitewall tires and fins on their cars?

  • avatar
    buck-50

    Yeah, they looked great, and if you lived in a temperate climate they were cool, but in the winter in Indiana… not so much. My mom’s Probe (there’s a sentence you never want to write) was always a problem in the winter- lights would freeze open or worse, shut…

    I don’t miss the needless complexity, especially for a part a critical as headlights.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    I had a friend with an ’84 Celica Supra – he wired up a switch that would just pop up one headlight so his car could ‘wink’ at the cute girls crossing the street.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Isn’t the new Mustang supposed to look like an Aston Martin as well?

  • avatar
    gottacook

    I was 12 or so during the height of the hidden-headlamps trend. Beyond all the cars that offered hiding headlamps as standard equipment, it’s amazing to think of how many additional models offered them as optional equipment (such as the full-size 1968 and ’69 Chevy Caprice and Pontiac GTO).

    I think 1968 was the zenith. Off the top of my head I can think of a number of GM cars that had standard-equipment hidden headlamps by 1966 or ’67 but had lost them by 1969 (Grand Prix, Eldorado) or 1970 (Riviera, Toronado).

    Ford really got silly with the headlamp doors when they started decorating them with their own grille-matching individual appliqués, starting with the 1971 Continental; this wretched idea spread to other Fords such as the full-size LTDs of 1975-78. Emphasizing the doors in this way is like covering up a zit with glitter glue.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      This is all a matter of taste, but I prefer Ford’s hidden lights over Lincoln’s.

      Lincoln’s hidden lights looked odd because the central grills were flanked by flat panels that gave the front of the cars a very blunt, upright appearance.

      Ford’s hidden lights were more attractive because the light covers extended the grill the full width of the car as seen on the Torino wagon pictured above. This made the cars look lower and wider.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Sure, that’s true for the 1970-71 Torinos so equipped (like the wagon in the photo) or the 1968-70 full-size LTDs. I was referring to the 1975-78 LTDs, which reintroduced optional headlight doors after a four-year hiatus. Ford saw fit to use brightwork around the perimeter of each door, in addition to the central rectangular appliqué.

        I think the best execution of the full-width look is the 1966-67 Dodge Charger, because the headlamps were mounted in rotating drums such that the grille design was maintained even when the lamps were exposed. By contrast, the simpler, cheaper headlamp doors Dodge used starting in ’68 (like most other hidden-lamp designs) revealed ugly dark areas surrounding the exposed lamps.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        My folks bought a ’69 Country Squire new … even though it had the worst carb ever made, I was in love with that car … cried with my dad traded it in for a ’72 Chevy Kingswood…

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    funny how a seemingly little thing can make all the difference. I look at the iconic cars of my youth and they all had the popup headlights and were better for it. The NSX, to me, was the biggest loser in ditching the popup headlights.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    The C5 lights were not very good. I went with fixed mounted headlights but most were did not accept them as they did look like frogs eyes.

    Not much can match the large composite fixtures that Volvo and Saab used in through the 1990′s.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    Can you name one car that got better looking when it switched to bare lights? Yes, all of them. Nothing looks worse than the one eyed HH cars of the past.Or even worse, the wandering headlight that cannot seem to latch itself open or closed. What trivial trash to desire in a car!!!!!!! For Gods sake, get ahold of yourself, or maybe, in your case, you should let go.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I had a 1996 Miata with the pop-up headlights that I bought new. This past February I hit a guardrail and messed up the right front quarter. Not a lot, but messed up.

    The pop-up headlights caused the car to be totaled because the insurance adjuster said they were so expensive to repair.

    Also after the crash the car was in good enough shape that I continued to drive it that day. But the battery died in the parking lot at work because the pop up headlight was stuck half open and the motor wouldn’t stop trying to move it.

    The car looked good with the lights down but bug-eyed with them up. I miss that car, but not those headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      These same people moaning about the needless complexity of pop up headlights are the ones who gripe the loudest when a new car doesn’t have iPod integration on the Nav system or the auto has fewer than 8 gears. My 90 Miata has them. 200k and they still pop up with gusto. My friend did have a motor go bad on his. A whopping 35 bucks later he fixed it. The motors have outlasted my d/s window regulator…And I have hand crank windows. We live in the era of iDrive, automatic parking assist, adaptive cruise control, and diesels that require urine to be injected into them but somehow a couple of electric motors to pop the headlights up are too heavy and complex. Give me a break.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “These same people moaning about the needless complexity of pop up headlights are the ones who gripe the loudest when a new car doesn’t have iPod integration on the Nav system or the auto has fewer than 8 gears”

        Conversely, it seems like the people moaning about the loss of pop-up headlights are the ones who decry any and every piece of technology added to cars since they turned sixteen, even if said addition makes cars faster, safer and cheaper to own.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        Come on now, I don’t bemoan all technology. I like overdrive transmissions, FM Radios, Fuel Injection, and yes, even iPod integration.

        Between the simple set up in my Miata though and the electric set up I built for my old 68 Cougar’s inoperative vacuum actuated doors (Now Those were needlessly complex and heavy) I just don’t see these as needlessly complicated.

        Modern technology does make some things better. Look again at my 68 Cougar. The sequential turn signals operated via a cam and mechanical points and required constant adjustment and cleaning. The new Mustangs are electronic and the system will likely never require a second thought and should outlast the car.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    You can’t do pop-ups anymore but I don’t see why you couldn’t do some kind of a clamshell design.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Was done on one of the early 60′s Rivieras (with the vertical light arrangement)… somebody also did a horizontal clamshell but I can’t remember who – maybe it was the Y-Job.)

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        That would be the Corvair Monza concept, which I always knew as “bomb bay” headlight doors. An eye catching concept, even if it did look odd compared to other hideaway headlight layouts.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        The only year for the Riviera with vertical hiding headlamps (with clamshell doors, as stated) was the 1965. Such a design had been planned for the first and second years of that car (1963 and ’64) but the engineers couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this in time, so their headlamps are exposed. For 1966-69 the Riviera switched to horizontal headlamps that swiveled down 90 degrees from recesses above and behind the grille.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Popup headlamps can make any car look cool, its a provable fact, and they make already cool cars look even cooler. Just look at the club – 1935 Cord, 1942 DeSoto, 1966 Toronado, 1986 Accord – all great cars made all the greater by their sleek, sleek concealed headlamps. There’s a reason why the real Cords are masterpieces of 20th century industrial design, and the 1960s Samco replicas look like such crap – one has concealed headlamps, the other doesn’t.

    There has to be a way to make these things work with the crazy Euro pedestrian standards – Hyundai and Kia – it’s on you to figure it out. I’d say Mazda, but they have bigger problems right now.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    I had an ’88 Corvette for a number of years – was always cool to hit the switch and watch them roll over and pop up. Great memories. +1 on the Porsche 928 — probably the coolest execution on the theme ever.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    First gen Miata drivers refer to it as the “Miata wave” when two drivers pass eachother and flash their high beams to say hi.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    when i had the 78 vette, i always leave the head lamps up after driving her with lights on, reason is if u lower the lights it creates a big thump, the filaments are brittle when it is hot, i went thru a few bulbs, but since changed the modus operandi i didnt have to keep buying new bulbs for a long time.

    there is a bypass vacuum switch, where u can raise or lower the headlamps manually, there is also a vac switch hooked in with the light switch.

  • avatar
    majo8

    I wish they’d make a comeback. 3 out of 4 of my current fleet have them ( 90 Miata, 95 Probe, 67 Cougar ).

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I have them on my 95 Probe GT as well. Never broke, but over serious bumps there is a just a bit of jitter. Looks cool down, looks like ET’s head when up. What bugged me was that Ford “value engineered” out the hold switch that kept the headlights up when you shut off the lights. I bought the switch and swapped in for the “blank” hoping the wires would be there….no such luck. Fu$#%ing beancounters suck!!! And that is why HH have gone the way of the dodo bird. Anything a penny can be chintzed out of….

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    It would be nice to see a re-emergence of HH with Smart Glass technology.

  • avatar
    akitadog

    “Can you name one car that got better looking when it switched to bare lights?”

    I’ll name 3: Corvette, NSX and Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      Duncan

      That’s funny – I fully agree though. I’m surprised to hear anyone thinks the C5 Corvette looks better than the C6. In my opinion, the fixed headlights on the C6 are just stunning.

      I have always thought of flip-up headlights as one of those goofy gimmicks of the 80s, sort of like louvers.

  • avatar
    jco

    I have always been fascinated by them. and i think the late 80s Accord is the best looking Accord out of it’s entire run. it’s so simple, so clean.

    there’s just something so satisfying about flipping the headlight switch and watching them roll up.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    Some would say the Miata got better looking when it switched to closed beams. I would not be one of them.

    The 70 Cougar had a handsome set of sliders.

  • avatar
    raph

    Is Ford attempting to neuter the Mustang again? It would be great if somebody could verify this info?

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      Yeah, there are rumors they’re replacing the 305hp V6 with a 330hp turbo 4. So, you know, lighter, more efficient and more powerful, but a 4, so bad, I guess. And there’s no way they’re getting rid of the v8 in the GT, so who cares?

  • avatar

    “Let’s tell Ford they can compensate for their killing of this iconic muscle car by making it the first-ever Mustang with hideaway headlamps!”

    Ford already did that by putting hideaway headlamps on its first-ever Mustang, the 1962 Mustang I. Inasmuch as that car’s also got a four-cylinder, Ford’s arguably now just preparing to take the name back to its roots.

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    Good riddance I say. Screams 80′s to me. I will never understand the fascination with HHs, blood red interiors, nor off color wheels.

  • avatar
    Slab

    One of my favorite toys growing up was a die cast 1968 Camaro RS convertible. It was gold with a black top. You could open the doors, take off the top, and slide back the little doors on the headlights. So cool.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    Sometimes you just cannot make up your mind and realize, “I can have both”!

    Alfa Romeo Montreal S:

    http://fantasyjunction.com/cars/542-Alfa%20Romeo-Montreal%20S-2.6L%20V8%20Quad%20Cam

  • avatar
    Zombo

    Had them on my two late 80s Celicas as well as my 92 Celica GTS . So cool to flash to pass with the flip up lights .Of course the projector beam lights of today are stronger-if the plastic isn’t hazed over with a cataract of oxidation !I see way too many cloudy plastic headlights on the road today .

  • avatar
    myleftfoot

    Hopefully forward lighting will be computer controlled and small LED lighting will provide illumination. Headlights light up the fog and raindrops instead of the road. I am not nostalgic for dorky triangles sitting on the hood. It’s 2012 already.

  • avatar
    turtletop

    HH: I love ‘em! I’ve had two pop-up cars in the past, an ’85 MR2 and a ’76 TR7. Seeing the headlights come up never got boring, something that my inner 12-year-old approved of every time.

    The only trouble I ever had with them was when the TR7′s right headlight had a seizure one day. In broad daylight, I got to do a 30 minute drive home with the headlight going up and down and up and down and up… people were slowing down to watch. It never did it again, and I can’t recall ever doing anything to fix it. The ghost of Lucas!

    I also had a ’68 Riviera with the dreaded vacuum-operated rotating headlight setup. I struggled for quite a while to get them to work properly, they took forever to rotate and sometimes only one would flip at a time. I finally gave up tinkering, leaving them in the down position so I could drive at night. Lots of extra weight, hardware and vacuum lines for something that only made the car marginally cooler, in my opinion.

    I’ve thinking seriously about adding a Miata to my herd, but I must say, whatever I buy has got to have the pop-up headlights, The composites on later models just don’t do it for me… I’d even go so far as to say they spoil the design, looking like they came out of the parts bin for some generic econobox. But, to each his own.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Having had pop ups in my ’88 Honda Accord, I agree, they worked well there, as they did on the similar shaped 1st gen Acura Integra (which I also loved).

    However, they had one issue crop up on me within the first year of ownership, the wiring harness for the right headlight had to be replaced as it wore out, causing the headlight to work sporadically. Sometimes it was the low beam that worked, sometimes it was the high beam, and other times, both worked like they should.

    Ultimately a minor fender bender tweaked both housings so I had to leave them up, 24/7, thanks to the button to allow me to do so (they were electrically operated and had control knobs in the engine compartment to manually open them if necessary).

    At any rate, they did make the otherwise conservative Accord seem MUCH more sporty that it really was, however, they made the already sporty Integra even more sporty looking and it worked well with the overall design. Sadly, in my eyes, later generations of the Integra didn’t fare so well.

    As to hidden headlights, they have their place, but I don’t morn then like the OP has, and I also liked the hidden headlamps with doors that slid, or flipped out of the way when the lights were operational, but cleaned up the front considerably for many models back in the day.

    The one thing I’d like see is an improvement on the clear lexan plastics used for the composite lens housings so they don’t fog up as so many seem to do so within 5 years on most cars.

    Otherwise, they tend to produce a MUCH better beam/lighting pattern than the old sealed beam units, and even better, when projectors are used, even with halogens, the lights are a huge improvement over previous designs.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Can you do something like my Land Cruiser? It has composite lenses, but the lens is glass, not plastic.

      I would live to see a set-up like the wagon in the picture, but without the vacuum. My old 68 Cougar had a similar set up and they never worked until I converted them to electric operation using Gen-1 Probe motors. Worked great after that.

      Incidentally, I wish the Land Cruiser had protective covers…I broke one offroad one day. I’d say plastic, but as you say they all haze over.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    This is one of those “OMG, come on get a life!” posts.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I love the pop ups, but if you drive a vehicle equipped with them in the winter in upstate NY you better have one of those buttons that leaves them up with the car off or when you try to pop them and the hood is frozen or covered in a foot of snow you’ll pop the fuse.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I’m sorry that you didn’t favor the hidden headlights of the 80`s but I thing they were a awesome styling exercise.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    Most of us are products of the age we grew up in. As a 12 year old kid, I was mortified when my father gave up on the hidden headlights on his ’69 Chrysler 300. Mortified. I hung my head in shame at the lights that always stayed open. But with Toronto’s ice, the lights were a nuisance. At the age of 4, the Chrysler required it’s 2nd motor assembly, my father said. A near dash fire ended the life of the 2nd one. I loved that car, but was ashamed that he never fixed the headlights.
    I have no illusions about ‘nostalgia.’ Being an ‘angry old white guy,’ I remember the long weekends my father (and stepfather spent fixing the cars they owned.) Stepfather was a Ford fan and our ’64 Fairlane had more duct tape on the fenders and hood than paint, by the time the car was 7 years old.
    Ontario winters were/are brutal on sheet metal. I lamented the demise of the American land yachts and the rise of the Japanese beer can-mobiles. Chrysler Corp full-sized tanks (the Polara and Newport, mostly) ruled the roadways here in the late ’60s/early ’70s. I’ll never forget the full sized, yellow Fury police cars from the ’71 era. My family owned a fleet of Chryslers, from my mother’s ’67 Newport, to my Uncle Primo, who bought a brand new New Yorker every year, to my dad’s ’66 and the ’69 300s, and my other uncle who had a ’67 300.
    I will always miss the hidden headlights, as I do the long overhangs and the way those cars floated over the potholes (of course, Ontario had decent roads back then and there weren’t many potholes, that is until the budget started pouring into $12M for 48 measly homeless beds and luxury subsidized housing by the lake, but I digress…)

  • avatar
    sexyhammer

    “Can you name one car that got better looking when it switched to bare lights?”

    the Z32 Nissan 300ZX would be a great example. I liked the Z31, but its replacement was definitely a worthy successor. Plus, Diablo headlights.

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    My 3000gt has pop ups and I look forward to the day when they stop working so I can do a 99 front end swap. Its a much better looking set up.

  • avatar

    I like them.

    And at least on my RX-7s, they have been very reliable. The only time they didn’t actuate was when cold road mist created a 1/4″ thick ice sheet over my entire hood. They worked fine after breaking up the ice.

  • avatar
    brett_murphy

    The Corvette got better looking, for sure.

    That’s less about the headlights and more about the c6 redesign, though. To me, the C6 looks tighter.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    I think popups are cool, but there are some other neat designs

    The Panther Solo II’s “rollaway” headlights were neat – they rolled over to turn on, in line with the body of the car

    also the Porsche 928/968′s “pop-forward” lights were slick too.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Six letters describe hidden headlight nirvana: OPEL GT. Pull the lever, headlights up. Just don’t confuse headlight lever with the parking brake.

    My wife brought an 89 Ford Probe into our marriage. The HH worked flawlessly & quickly – even when using them to signal using the highbeam relay in daytime.

  • avatar
    amca

    My father once rented an early ’70s full-size Ford whose hidden headlamps closed on the planting at a motel, and when he backed out of the space the next morning, he took the plants with him.


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