Hooniverse Asks: What Modern Car Deserves Pop-Up Headlights?

We haven’t seen pop-up headlights on a car since production of the C5 Corvette came to a halt after the 2004 model year. When Chevrolet dropped the Vette’s familiar square pop-ups from the all-new sixth-generation, it was a giant departure from the 43-year norm that raised eyebrows, drew a few criticisms, and triggered a lot of boomers. Having flush, exposed headlamps gave America’s affordable hot rod a more modern aerodynamic, clean, and exotic look.

The majority of pop-ups were found on sporty two-door coupes like all generations of the Mazda-RX7, the Ford Probe, Toyota’s Celica and Supra, Pontiac Fiero, plenty of Porsches, and of course the Miata. I remember too pop-up headlamps being a styling staple of many exotics I dreamed of as a kid growing up in the 1990s like the Lamborghini Diablo and Ferrari F40. There were even a rare few four-door sedans that arrived with pop-ups like Aston Martin’s Lagonda and the boxy third-generation Honda Accord.

Today pop-ups are MIA, sadly erased from the sketchbooks of current car designers. But that doesn’t mean the enthusiasm for them has died, nor the hilarious dreams of bringing them back.

I believe Toyota could still get away with pop-up headlights on the 86, Acura could blow our minds by ditching the NSX’s thin strips of square LEDs at either end of its nose, and I’m convinced Hyundai’s Elantra GT hatchback could wear them well too. To stretch the question, look at any side-profile shot of the upcoming C8 Corvette and prove to me that it wouldn’t look bad-ass with pop-ups. After posting the question on my Twitter last night, an autojourno friend answered with the concept installing hide-away headlights on Kia’s new full-size Telluride.

Pause and think for a second. Which newer cars should actually have pop-up headlights? Let’s get some open dialogue going.

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24 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Modern Car Deserves Pop-Up Headlights?”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar
    0A5599

    All of them.

  2. Zentropy Avatar
    Zentropy

    From a design perspective, I think pop-ups would be more difficult to integrate cleanly into the relatively tall, pedestrian-safe noses of today’s cars. They fit in better with wedge-shaped cars of the 80s (though they admittedly worked well on NA Miatas).

    I realize that pop-ups are iconic design cues on some classics, but I think the typical flat-panel type were eventually over-used. They also hide potential character in a car’s design, though today they would obviously stand out as different, since everything now wears angry eyes.

    I prefer the more creative use of exposed popups and partially-hidden lamps. One of my favorites is the Alfa Montreal, whose shrouded headlights give it a sleepy look. I also like the lights on the Porsche 928 (which look very distinct when up or down) and the ones behind the razor-grille slats of the Mercury Cougar.

    https://assets.hemmings.com/blog/wp-content/uploads//2018/08/405451.jpg

    https://cdn.bringatrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/IMG_5844-940×627.jpg

    https://render.fineartamerica.com/images/rendered/default/poster/8.000/7.250/break/images/artworkimages/medium/1/1967-mercury-cougar-carrillo-mobile-event-photo-car-show-photography.jpg

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      I agree that flip-open lights are more desirable than pop-ups. I could see something like the C2 Vette design, which could be made to work with today’s fuel economy and pedestrian safety requirements. Although, in this day of LED lights, there really would be no point in it.

      https://www.speednik.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2016/05/2016-05-27_22-54-00.jpg

      1. Zentropy Avatar
        Zentropy

        Design-wise, flip-ups like that would look cool and be a nice nod to the C2. However, if placed similarly on the C8, they may be below the 24-inch height requirement.

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

          I could see something like that Cougar vertical slat grille with the hideaway lights on something with a normally tall facia, like maybe a Ford Ranger pickup.

  3. neight428 Avatar
    neight428

    A styling affectation applied to a critical part of the vehicle’s safety that introduces several additional points of failure. Hard pass.

    My direct experience with pop up lights is on the forsaken ‘81 Corvette project. As a vacuum actuated system on a 35 year old vehicle, it was exactly as you would expect. The triggered boomers never tried to restore anything in their lives.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      That’s why they should be deployed via nothing more complicated than a set of purely mechanical levers culminating in a big ol’ T-handle sticking out of the dash labeled “LIGHTS.” You know, for safety.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4ae3548e549e4f84af8935cb3f5a221aaf512b16fc34dbb239d821625aab1987.jpg

      http://www.gentrylane.com/s/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/73saab_dash.jpg

      1. neight428 Avatar
        neight428

        Next time I am there, I am going to ask the guy at O’Reilly’s for a headlight bucket pivot shaft bushing for a Saab Sonett to see if he realizes that I am speaking English.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          “Sorry, we only stock II and V4 parts, not III. Try the place across town.”

    2. Sjalabais Avatar
      Sjalabais

      What about pop up foglights? They could be integrated into the bumper and could allow people to have proper, strong foglights without rallylooks every other day of the week.

    3. mdharrell Avatar

      That’s why they should be deployed via nothing more complicated than a set of purely mechanical levers culminating in a big ol’ T-handle sticking out of the dash labeled “LIGHTS.” You know, for safety.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4ae3548e549e4f84af8935cb3f5a221aaf512b16fc34dbb239d821625aab1987.jpg

      http://www.gentrylane.com/s/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/73saab_dash.jpg

      1. fede Avatar
        fede

        is the Open 1900 mechanism similar to this?

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Somewhat, except cable-actuated and with the headlight rotation occurring about a different axis in the Opel.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0c3cea584bc5fe2f9b792e1b14098efe06cd8c0fc16906fb03eef9046a2c68f5.png

      2. salguod Avatar

        I prefer individual crank handles at each end of the dash. Then you only need to raise the one that you need.

        https://compote.slate.com/images/c2a18976-f6b8-4ed6-9fdc-9acbeb590f25.jpg

  4. fede Avatar
    fede

    I think the ND Miata would look good with them, and it’d be a nice callback.

    Also on the Alpine A110, but instead of the main lights, the two internal auxiliary lights, and instead of popups, some kind of cover.

    1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar
      SlowJoeCrow

      My first thought was also the ND MX-5 but the NA had the little windows in the nose so you could flash to pass so that car always had front lenses and popup headlights add weight and complexity that runs counter to the ND’s weight reduction and Skyactiv philosophy.

      You are dead on with retractable or hidden auxiliary lights like the old Subaru cyclops light

    2. Zentropy Avatar
      Zentropy

      Anything is better than the current ND headlights. I hate the reptilian look of that front end.

      1. fede Avatar
        fede

        nice!

  5. Maymar Avatar
    Maymar

    Any Lamborghini (including the Urus). They’re already complex, expensive displays of wealth, it fits the heritage, and they’re not so focused that a performance compromise for the sake of style would matter.

    1. Vairship Avatar
      Vairship

      I was similarly thinking Tesla: if you have doors and door handles that have additional complicated moving parts for no conceivable reason, why not add headlights that are similarly afflicted?

    2. Vairship Avatar
      Vairship

      I was similarly thinking Tesla: if you have doors and door handles that have additional complicated moving parts for no conceivable reason, why not add headlights that are similarly afflicted?

      1. Maymar Avatar
        Maymar

        Ooh yeah, I was sort of thinking that. Aerodynamics would be the big reason (since the fancy door handles and falcon doors are only while stationary), but that does seem like the sort of thing Elon would do just for the tweets and headlines. At a minimum, having an Easter egg coded in of the headlights on animation being of a Tesla with popups.

        1. Vairship Avatar
          Vairship

          I always wondered whether the aerodynamics of the hiding door handles offsets the extra weight of the electric motors and wiring.

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