Hidden Headlamps

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Hidden headlamps are an automotive styling feature that conceals an automobile’s headlamps when they are not in use. Depending on the design, the headlamps may be mounted in a housing that rotates so as to sit flush with the front end as on the Porsche 928, may retract into the hood and/or fenders as on the 19682004 Chevrolet Corvette, or may be concealed behind retractable or rotating grille panels as on the 1966 Dodge Charger.

Hidden headlamps first appeared on the Cord 810 in 1936. Each unit had a crank on its side of the dashboard, which was turned by hand when the headlamps were needed.

Powered hidden headlamps were pioneered in GM’s Buick Y-Job concept car of 1938 and were used briefly on Chrysler Corporation’s 1942 production DeSoto. The feature’s popularity has waxed and waned over time. Hidden headlamps regained popularity in the late 1960s, particularly in the US market where aerodynamic headlamps were not permitted. A relatively large variety of cars incorporated hidden headlamps in the 1970s, ’80s, and early 1990s. Currently, hidden headlamps are out of favour.

Numerous car manufacturers used hidden headlamps to get around the headlight height regulation in the United States, for instance Toyota exported their retractable headlight version of the AE86, known domestically as the Sprinter Trueno in favour of their Corolla Levin as the former had higher headlamp height, enough to satisfy US regulations rather than raise body height which affected handling.

US laws now permit aerodynamic headlamps, relative to which hidden headlamps represent added cost, weight, and complexity as well as reliability concerns as cars age. Internationalized ECE auto safety regulations have also recently incorporated pedestrian-protection provisions restricting protuberances from car bodies, making it more difficult and expensive to design compliant pop-up headlamps.

The last time pop-up headlamps appeared on a volume-production car was in 2004 when both the Lotus Esprit and C5 Corvette ended production.

A 1937 Cord 812

A 1938 Buick Y-Job

A 1967 Ford Thunderbird

A 1973 SAAB Sonett III

A Mazda 323F

Opel GT

Dodge Charger

Volvo 480

List of cars with hidden or pop-up headlights

Acura/Honda Integra, 19861989

Acura/Honda NSX, 19902002

Alfa Romeo Montreal, 19701977

Aston Martin Lagonda, 19761989

Aston Martin Vantage Zagato Volante, 19861989

Aston Martin Bulldog, 1980 (concept car)

Asna Sunfire, 1993

Bitter CD, 1973

Bitter SC, 1979

Bricklin SV-1, 19741976

BMW 8 Series, 19891999

BMW GINA, 2008 (concept car)

BMW M1, 19781981

Buick Reatta, 19881991

Buick Riviera, 19651969

Buick SkyHawk, 19821988

Buick Y-Job, 1938 (concept car)

Cadillac Eldorado, 19671968

Chevrolet Camaro, 19671969 (optional)

Chevrolet Caprice, 19681969 (optional and very rare)

Chevrolet Corvette, 19632004

Chrysler 300, 19681971

Chrysler Imperial, 19901993

Chrysler LeBaron, 19871992 (coupe & convertible only)

Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue, 19901993

Chrysler New Yorker, 19761981 and 19881993

DeSoto, 1942

De Tomaso Mangusta, 19701971 (US-spec)

De Tomaso Pantera, 19711974

De Tomaso Guar, 19932004

Dodge Charger, 19661970, (optional in 1971 & 1972)

Dodge Charger Daytona, 19691970

Dodge Daytona, 19871991

Dodge Magnum, 19781979 (clear covers)

Dodge Monaco, 19721973

Dodge Royal Monaco, 19761978

Dodge Stealth, 19911993

Dodge St. Regis, 19791981 (clear covers)

Eagle Talon, 19901991

Ferrari 288 GTO, 19841985

Ferrari 308 GTB, 19751984

Ferrari 328, 19851989

Ferrari 348, 19891995

Ferrari 365 California Spyder, 19661967

Ferrari F355, 19941999

Ferrari 400/412, 19761989

Ferrari 456/456M, 19922003

Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer, 19731984

Ferrari 365 GTB/4 & GTS/4 “Daytona”, 365 GTC/4, 365 GT4 2+2, 19701976

Ferrari GT4, 19741980

Ferrari Mondial, 19801995

Ferrari Testarossa, 512TR, 19841994

Fiat X1/9, 19731988 (also called Bertone X1/9 in the USA)

Ford Galaxie 500 XL, 19681970

Ford LTD, 19681970 (including Country Squire wagon)

Ford LTD Landau, 19751978 (including Country Squire wagon)

Ford Probe, 19891997

Ford Ranchero, 1970 (GT only)

Ford Thunderbird, 19671969 and 19771982

Ford Torino Brougham, 1970

Geo Storm, 1991

Honda Accord, 19861989

Honda Integra, 19861989

Honda NSX; 19902001

Honda Prelude, 19831991

Imperial, 19691975 and 19811983

Isuzu Piazza, 19811987 (also Isuzu Impulse, Holden Piazza)

Jaguar XJ220, 19921994

Lamborghini Athon, 1980 (concept car)

Lamborghini Bravo, 1974 (concept car)

Lamborghini Countach, 19741990

Lamborghini Diablo, 19901998

Lamborghini Islero, 19681969

Lamborghini Jalpa, 19811988

Lamborghini Jarama, 19701976

Lamborghini Urraco, 19731979

Lamborghini Marco Polo, 1982 (concept car)

Lamborghini Miura, 19661973

Lamborghini Silhouette, 19761979

Lamborghini Urraco, 19701979

Lancia Montecarlo, 19751979 (for Scorpion, North-American version)

Lancia Stratos, 19721973

Lincoln Continental, 19701981

Lincoln Mark series, 19681983

Lister Storm, 19931999

Lotus Eclat, 19741982

Lotus Elan, 19621973, Lotus Elan +2 19671975,

Lotus Elan M100 19891995

Lotus Elite, 19741982

Lotus Esprit, 19762004

Lotus Excel, 19821992

Manta Mirage, 19741986

Maserati Bora, 19711980

Maserati Ghibli, 19661973

Maserati Indy, 19691974

Maserati Khamsin, 19741982

Maserati Merak, 19721982

Mazda 929 (some models)

Mazda AZ-550 Sports Type A, 1989 (concept version)

Mazda Familia Astina, 19891994

Mazda MX-5 Miata, 19891997

Mazda RX-7, 19782002

Mercury Cougar, 19671970

Mercury Capri, 19911994 (Third Generation)

Mercury Marquis, 19691978

Mercury Montego, 1970 (some models)

Mitsubishi 3000GT, 19911993

Mitsubishi Eclipse, 19901991

Mitsubishi Starion, 19821990 (also Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler Conquest, captive imports)

Nissan Silvia/Nissan 200SX(S12), 19831989

Nissan 180SX/Nissan 200SX/Nissan 240SX(S13), 19891994 [also 19961998 (Kouki) 180SX]

Nissan 300ZX, (Z31), 19841989

Nissan Pulsar/N12 NX/N13 NX/N13 EXA, 19831990

Oldsmobile Toronado, 19661969 and 19861992

Opel GT, 19681973

Plymouth Fury, 19701971 (Gran Coupe & Sport Fury, Sport Suburban wagon for 1971)

Plymouth Fury III, 1972 (optional)

Plymouth Laser, 19901991

Plymouth Superbird, 1970

Pontiac Fiero, 19841988

Pontiac Firebird, 19822002

Pontiac Grand Prix, 19671968

Pontiac GTO, 19681969

Pontiac Sunbird SE/GT 19861993

Porsche 911 ‘Slantnose’, 19851989, ‘Flatnose’, 1994 (also called 930S)

Porsche 914, 19691976

Porsche 924, 19761988

Porsche 928, 19781995

Porsche 944, 19821991

Porsche 968, 19911994

Quantum Sports Cars 2+2, 1993

Saab Sonett III, 19701974

Saturn SC2, 19911996

Subaru XT 19851991

Toyota 2000GT, 19671970

Toyota Celica, 19821993

Toyota Corolla, 19831991 (GT-S and SR-5 Sport only)

Toyota MR2, 19841999

Toyota Sprinter Trueno, 19831992

Toyota Supra, 19821992

Triumph TR7/TR8, 19751982

TVR Tasmin/280i/450 SEAC, 19811989

Venturi Atlantique 300, 19871999

Volvo 480, 19861995

Vector M12, 19951999

Vector W8, 19891993

Zimmer Quicksilver, 19861989

Other vehicles with pop-up headlights

Keisei AE-100 Skyliner


Honda Spacy 125 Striker, 19831986

Suzuki GSX750S (Katana), 19841985


Keisei Electric Railway AE100 (Skyliner), 1990


Bridgestone Young Way Monte Carlo, 1979

See also

Automotive lighting

Daytime Running Lamp

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