As the automotive industry evolves, certain innovations and technological advancements fade into the distance. Due to changing tastes, cost of production, and safety standards, something that was once regulated for years can disappear by next year’s production. That’s what brings us to pop-up headlights.

While we are often happy to say farewell to outdated innovations, the pop-up headlight trend left many car enthusiasts feeling sad to say goodbye. 

Before those sleek LED headlights became the norm, there was once a time when pop-up headlights, also known as hidden headlamps, existed. These fashionable headlamps were a type of automotive lighting that allowed drivers to conceal their headlights when not in use. 

Car enthusiasts loved the hidden headlamp trend because it streamlined the look of their vehicle, and let’s face it – it was a fun feature. In a way, it brought your car to life – giving your headlights a human eyelid effect. 

Younger generations have likely never seen or heard of pop-up headlights. The last production of pop-up headlamps happened in 2004 on the Chevy Corvette C5, however, the trend had already lost its momentum by the mid 90’s.

Since then, it’s a rare occurrence to see pop-up headlights on the road. 

Nowadays, thin, linear HID headlights and LED bulbs have taken command over headlight design. These modern bulbs radiate brighter and give drivers an advanced level of safety. 

Yes, we’ve fully embraced the new technologies and contemporary design of modern day headlights, but what really happened to those fashionable pop-up headlamps?

Find out where pop-up headlights originated and why they are no longer used by manufacturers – including how car enthusiasts still appreciate their funky aesthetic today.  

Nice to meet ya’ 

The pop-up headlight was first introduced on the Cord810 in 1936. The concept behind it was simple: hide the headlamp when not in use. During this time period, headlights were just becoming a standardized feature in vehicles. 

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that hidden headlamps gained popularity. This was mostly due to headlight height regulations being much higher than manufacturers desired – making pop-up headlights the perfect solution to achieving their intended look. 

Vehicles like the Mazda RX-7, Porsche 928, and Toyota Supra all donned this automotive lighting fad.

Whether on a luxury sports car or affordable sedan, manufacturers often integrated pop-up headlamps into the car design. With such popularity, what made these headlights fade into history?

What went wrong?

The pop-up headlamp ultimately failed due to electrical errors and pedestrian safety. There was a time when pop-up headlights were said to be “winking,” with one headlight popped open and the other closed. 

This made the pop-up headlight both unreliable and unacceptable for the increasing safety standards. The cost of production also became too hefty for manufacturers to accommodate. 

Since all drivers want a safe and reliable car, the pop-up headlights just couldn’t keep up with the changes. Although the new safety regulations are much appreciated, the stylish design of pop-up headlights took the biggest hit. 

To the surprise of some, pop-up headlights are not illegal, but don’t expect to see their rebirth anytime soon. 

Pop-up meet up   

Even though pop-up headlights have disappeared, car enthusiasts still have love and appreciation for this once popular automotive fad. It just goes to show you can appreciate the past while welcoming the new. 

Recently, a group of car enthusiasts gathered to show off their rides in Southern California, recognizing that even during the pandemic, it is still important to maintain your vehicle (especially if it has an older engine).

Among the vehicles were a Corvette, Celica, and Prelude. The only similarity between these cars: pop-up headlights. 

This group was able to share and discuss the special features about their ride, specifically their pop-up headlamps, while maintaining a social distance. 

What better way to connect with people than over iconic cars. And pop-up headlights are definitely something to gawk over.  

Feeling nostalgic 

Headlight innovation has come a long way, but it’s quite alright to feel the nostalgia every once in a while. Pop-up headlights were undeniably cool. They defined an era and brought joy to many car enthusiasts.

The inclusion of headlights went from being an inconvenience for car designers to now  a major component of the design. Without the height regulations, auto engineers may have never created pop-up headlights in the first place. 

Even if for a short time, they left their mark. As seen above, these iconic headlights still have a following and appreciation in modern times. 

Today, those adaptive headlights and LED lighting have completely revolutionized the role of headlights – making them safer than ever before. Because of this, it is likely that  pop-up headlights will never make a comeback. Instead, we must appreciate the ones we have. 

Michaella Malone
Hello! My name is Michaella Malone. I am a graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. in English. I am a freelance writer with varied experience in ghostwriting, blogging, and resume building. I have additional knowledge in creating content for ESL curriculums.

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    1 Comment

    1. I’m sure there’s going to be an eventual resurgence of pop-up headlights. Trends tend to recirculate and get recycled. Give it a few years or decades, and it’ll be pop-up LED headlights.

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