When did cars stop using pop-up headlights?

Pop-up headlights were a signature feature back in the 70s and early 80s, but ever since the beginning of the new millennia, most automakers started abandoning the pop-up headlight design. The beauty of pop-up headlights was the fact that they seemed more human and more interesting when compared to all the other headlights on the market.

The whole idea behind headlights that can virtually open and shut just like human eyes intrigued many buyers, especially because such headlights were used on some of the most iconic cars from that time period, especially the Lamborghini Countach and the Lotus Esprit.

However, the C5 Corvette was the last mainstream model to ever feature pop-up headlights back in 2004, and ever since then, they have long been buried in the past. The main reason why pop-up headlights vanished was that they were questionable from a pedestrian safety standpoint.

Even though the regulation in the US does not strictly prohibit headlight concealment, the EU has made a great effort in making cars safer for both passengers and pedestrians. As such, designing pop-up headlights that comply with such laws is rather costly, if even possible.

Benefits of pop-up headlights – Why we should bring them back

Many so-called remnants of the past have gotten a second chance, a prime example of this is the “new” Lamborghini Countach. People seem to love vintage things because they remind them of different times, so cars and features such as these pose somewhat of a time capsule which makes them unique and worth experiencing.

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That’s the greatest benefit of a pop-up headlight design. They make the car scream heritage, and that’s a card many automakers love to play these days, especially Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Porsche.

Furthermore, pop-up headlights enable the car to be more aerodynamic while the lights are not in use, which was especially important back in the day when headlight assemblies had to be a lot larger. This also meant that your headlights were somewhat protected from the elements and theft.

Drawbacks of pop-up headlights – Why we should leave them be

History has its own way of interpreting things, and one can even say that if the general population loved pop-up headlights as much as thought they did, they would still be around today. The Ares Panther is an extremely limited-edition supercar released in 2020 with pop-up headlights which makes it rather obvious that pop-ups are not completely dead.

However, cars such as these are niche cars, and even so, only the Ares Panther utilized the pop-up headlight design in recent times. They are unnecessary, they take way too much space under the bonnet, and they pose many problems which don’t even have to exist.

A common issue of a pop-up headlight design is condensation within the lights themselves because the mechanism is not waterproof. These are also sometimes known to get stuck during winter times because too much ice builds up between the moving assembly and the rest of the car.

 Coolest cars with pop-up headlights – Why we love them in the first place

Many great cars came with pop-up headlights, but none of them are not even remotely as cool as the Lamborghini Countach and its early successor – The Diablo. Besides these two raging bulls, the Lotus Esprit and the Porsche 924 were also fairly popular due to pop-up headlights.

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The original BMW 8-Series was also one of the most iconic cars with pop-up headlights because the first-gen 8-Series looked like a spaceship. It was so different from the rest of the BMW lineup that it kinda propelled the 8-series to iconic BMW status.

However, if you really love pop-up headlights on supercars, be sure to check out the Cizeta V16T because this wedge-shaped supercar had double the pop-up headlights. Besides pop-ups, this crazy automobile also sported a transversely mounted 16-cylinder engine.

The last three cars worth mentioning are the Ferrari 356 GTB/4, the DeTomaso Pantera, and the equally iconic Maserati Ghibli. Cars such as these are the reason why people love the idea of pop-up headlights, but it seems that designs such as these are not likely to ever reach a more substantial level of demand.

Read more about cars with pop-up headlights.

FAQ Section

What car had the first pop-up headlights?

The Cord 810 was revealed to the public back in 1936, just at the brink of WW2, but it was the very first car to ever utilize the pop-up headlight design. The Cord 810 was incredibly advanced for its time, something that is rather apparent the moment you take a look at the car.

The Cord 810 had a supercharged 4.7L V8 equipped with 125hp which was a lot of power for the time. Cars such as these are also increasing in value as time goes on, especially after Jay Leno used a similar model to feature it in his popular car TV series.

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Who invented pop-up headlights?

The pop-up headlight design was first introduced by Gordon Buehrig with the aforementioned Cord 810. It took decades before the rest of the industry recognized the potential of pop-up headlights because they were made famous back in the 70s.

The initial idea proposed by Buehrig was to use electric engines to retract the headlights back in the assembly, but the costs were way too big. This meant that the pop-up headlights on the Cord 810 were operated by hand which was also rather rare for all the other pop-up headlight cars.

Are there any muscle cars with pop-up headlights?

It’s obvious that pop-up headlights are mostly associated with flamboyant Italian supercars, but even some American muscle cars were utilizing the pop-up headlight design, and the most famous of them all was the 1960 Pontiac GTO which used its grille to hide the headlights to make the car look meaner.

Dodge also used this design on the 1969 Dodge Daytona, and the same story goes for the 1970 Plymouth Superbird. However, the most famous US cars with pop-up headlights are the Chevy Corvette and the Chevy Camaro.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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