- 1936 Cord 810 Phaeton

Pop-Up Headlamps

The first pop-up headlamp and what happened to it.

5w ago

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Pop-up headlamps were one of the coolest things you could find on a car. The list of cars with pop-up headlamps include the Lamborgini Jarama, Miura, Porshe 914, 944, Mazda RX7, MX-5 Miata, and many more. All of them look nothing short of stunning with headlamps hidden in their body. They were a big thing in the '80s and '90s, and somewhere along the way, we lost this rather anthropomorphic feature. Regulations surrounding pedestrian safety made pop-up headlamps much more difficult to develop and thus abandoned by manufacturers.

Lamborgini Jarama

Lamborgini Jarama

This quaint idea of concealing headlamps into the bodywork came into being almost 9 decades ago. The American car company Cord vitalized the idea. Cord was a relatively short-lived company, that existed in the first half of the 20th century. They were the ones to manufacture the first American car driven by the front wheels, the Cord L-29.

The pop-up headlamps first appeared in the 1936 Cord 810, and the 1937 812. They were put on the cars with aerodynamic streamlining in mind. Hiding the eyes into the bodywork meant a smoother body to let the car slide through the air. But it did not make much of a difference with regards to performance. The only improvement was a slight increase in mileage.

1937 Cord 812

1937 Cord 812

Even though pop-up headlamps appeared in several cars, it was in the '60s that it really caught on. Another American company adopted the idea onto an iconic car of theirs, and soon pop-up headlights were everywhere. The car? The Chevrolet Corvette, the car that had pop-up headlights for the longest period of time, 1963-2004. It was the 2004 Corvette that dawned the pop-up headlamps for the last time. No other car has been gifted with those eyes since.

1963 Corvette

1963 Corvette

There and two major reasons why there are no more pop-up headlamps. Regulatory restrictions and the technical difficulty. An EU regulatory restriction surrounding pedestrian safety requires the front end of the car to be readily deformable. Another regulation states that these pop-up headlamps should be installed in such a way that, if they were to fail, it can be opened manually without any tools, and stay open till it is intentionally closed. These regulations made the development of pop-up headlamps much more difficult and manufacturers deemed it not worth their time and money.

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