Home » Can You See The Illusion In These Two Cars?

Can You See The Illusion In These Two Cars?

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One of the most interesting things about owning and operating a human body is discovering all of the strange boundaries and quirks of our senses. This includes things like occasional tinnitus or the way smells trigger memories or all the myriad of optical illusions we may encounter. It’s the optical illusions I’m interested in right now, because I think there’s one that has been used on a few cars, and I think it’s mildly fascinating. The best kind of fascinating!

The illusion I’m talking about here I think I’ll call the Great Dual Headlamp Size Illusion, and I think the two best practitioners of this illusion were Dodge and Jaguar, interestingly enough, There were others, of course, but I think Dodge and Jaguar were the two masters, and approached it from different angles: Dodge tended to be more exuberant in its execution, while Jag was more subtle.

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Here, let’s look at some examples. We’ll start with the Dodge Polara:

Polara Brochure

Look at that! Those outer lights really do feel bigger than the inner ones, right? Do you not trust an illustration? Are you afraid artistic liberties were taken? Here’s a photograph, then:

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Polara 2

Photo: Classic Auto Mall

I even included some guidelines so you can be sure those dual 5 3/4″ headlights are the same size. It’s a simple trick, some brightwork around the light they want to feel larger, but I think it works remarkably well. For comparison, here’s a Polara and another Dodge, one that does not attempt the Dual Headlight Size Illusion:

Dodges Comparo

Visually, you have to admit this works! At least at a glance, those feel like larger outer lights, right? It has a look and feel akin to what Alfa did with the GTV, which actually used different-sized lamps:

Alfagtv

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Wikimedia Commons

See, those are definitely smaller lights on the inside. These sort of smaller driving/fog lamps were pretty uncommon on American cars of the sealed beam-era, so visual trickery like what the Polara did was often necessary.

Let’s look at the Jaguar XJ6 next:

Jag Xj6 1

Again, we have outer lights that appear to be larger than the inner lights. Here’s a better angle:

Jag Xj6 2

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Jaguar’s approach is a bit more refined than Dodge’s, but I think just as effective. They have a larger brightwork bezel, like the Polara, but it’s inset into a hooded opening that flows into a fender with a sort of pontoon that ends in the headlamp, which is echoed on the hood for the inner headlamp, but, lacking the extra diameter taken up by the larger inset chromed ring, is smaller overall. Again, we have the same sized lamps, but everything around them – in the Jag’s case, flowing into the hood and fenders – pushes our eyes to see the outer pair of lights as larger.

It’s a triumph of design trickery, I think, and I’m impressed. I can think of other approaches to try for this result, but I’m not sure I can think of ones as effective as the Polara and XJ6. The 1969 Mustang seems to be playing similar headlight games, but those lights are separated more by depth and the inner set is inset close inside a chrome grille surround, which can make them appear larger than the outboard set, at least when seen head-on:

69mustang

However, I think this visual illusion fits more into the face-in-a-face category than the Dual Headlight Size Illusion.

Can you think of other examples of this illusion? If so, put them in the comments! This is important, dammit!

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Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
11 days ago

Man… if only there was a way to post pictures.

Greensoul
Greensoul
11 days ago

The 1957 “forward look Plymouths” would like a word

Last edited 11 days ago by Greensoul
Julian L Parker
Julian L Parker
11 days ago

Love the “Fitz &Van” knock-off Polara print

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
12 days ago

Worth noting: That was just the US spec XJ6. The Euro headlights make the car look 100x better. Example:

https://cdn.dealeraccelerate.com/canyon/1/751/61257/1920×1440/w/1975-jaguar-xj6-euro-spec

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
10 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Thanks, I’m from Europe and thought the same thing. Never owned an XJ myself yet, so I had my doubts about the matter, nice of you to clear it up 🙂

Thomas The Tank Engine
Thomas The Tank Engine
13 days ago

As has already been noted, the Jaguar headlamps seem to only be like this on the US version, because they were forced to used sealed-beam headlamps of a standard size.

In other countries the outer headlamp WAS larger, as can be seen in this picture of a U.K. KJ6 Series III

https://drive-my.com/images/easyblog_articles/781/xj-s3.jpg

As you can see from that photo, the outer lamp is noticeably larger than the inner lamp

But because US cars were forced to used sealed-beam lamps Jaguar had to fit a smaller headlight and use a chrome ring to fill the gap.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
13 days ago

Damn, I really miss the friendly automotive faces with happy round headlights. Why is everything so damn squinty nowadays?

Horizontally Opposed
Horizontally Opposed
13 days ago

Word. Rivian are the only peeps who get us.

My 0.02 Cents
My 0.02 Cents
10 days ago

The Rivian headlights would look so much better if they were umm Horizontally Opposed or at least turn 90 degrees lol

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
13 days ago

This green Alfa Romeo 1750/2000 GT Veloce was missing headlamp “ring” covers, giving them the odd look. Here’s one with covers.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
13 days ago

I would argue that the astonishingly ugly 1958-60 Lincolns were perceived to have different sized headlamps.

Along the same lines – and for similar reasons – the 1961 DeSoto, as well as the Series 3 Mulliner Park Ward Bentley Continental/Rolls Royce Silver Cloud (also known, unfortunately, as the “Chinese Eye”)

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
12 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Oh man, I had scrubbed those Lincolns from my memory. They were ugly even within the context of 50s automotive extremism.

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
10 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

1958 Lincoln, aka, Grandma glasses

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
13 days ago

The Dodge A-100 vans were another example – https://www.facebook.com/dodgea100forsale/

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
13 days ago
Reply to  Jim Zavist

There’s only two headlamps Bud

JumboG
JumboG
13 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Jim, his name is Jim.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
12 days ago
Reply to  JumboG

Damnit Jim, I’m a Doctor, not a Car Designer!

Last edited 12 days ago by Urban Runabout
The Mark
The Mark
13 days ago
Reply to  Jim Zavist

It almost does look like they used the big surrounds from the Polara. Hey, part sharing = cost saving!

05LGT
05LGT
13 days ago

It’s a good thing there are guide lines on the Polara photo, otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed any lighting hiding under ALL THAT SCOOP!

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
13 days ago

The side-by-side comparison with the V8 in the middle is Dodge vs. Plymouth.

AlterId
AlterId
13 days ago
Reply to  DONALD FOLEY

That’s an illusion cleverly established by the letters “P L Y M O U T H” across the leading edge of the hood and the car’s title documentation.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
13 days ago

Dad had that vintage of Polara, in a beautiful dark blue — the only metallic paint on any of his cars. He thought it was a little too showy. He was a man of humble needs.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
13 days ago

I can’t find another great example, but the Challenger Hellcat kind of plays a perspective game, especially with the inner set being open for ram air intakes. I don’t feel like it’s trying too look smaller/bigger, so it may not qualify.

JamesRL
JamesRL
13 days ago

Fun fact.

The Jaguars headlamp bezels are also HVAC fresh air intakes.

If you look closely at the top of the trim rings around the XJ6’s outer headlamps you’ll notice 2 fine wire mesh grills at the top.

Jaguar managed to incorporate the HVAC fresh air vents into the headlight bezels so they didn’t need to have one near the cowl, and for a “ram air” effect. Behind the headlamps is a series of ducts and flaps to get fresh air into the cabin.

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
13 days ago

The US version Jaguar 420/420G had the same headlight illusion and predates the XJ6. Also, some Jensen CV8s seem to have same-size lights although most have two different sized housings. It’s not clear (heh) why there’s a variation, but if you do an image search they’re definitely out there.

JamesRL
JamesRL
13 days ago
Reply to  Beached Wail

The US headlights required sealed beams for the longest time, so pretty much any Us spec car had 5 3/4 inch sealed beams. I know for BMWs the European E23 7 series had a 7 inch outer and 5 3/4 inch inner composite lights with H4 and H2 (I think) bulbs…. But since sealed beams were required in the US all US spec 7 series has dual 5 3/4 inch sealed beams.

So most European spec cars, like the Jensen, probably had larger lights for the outer beams in Europe and the US versions got the trim rings. I know the Jaguar XJ6 had 7 inch outer beams in Europe.

http://www.jaguarspecialties.com/Euroheadlight.asp

Last edited 13 days ago by JamesRL
Kevin B Rhodes
Kevin B Rhodes
13 days ago
Reply to  JamesRL

e28 5-series were the same – different sizes in the rest of the world, same sizes in the US..

JamesRL
JamesRL
13 days ago
Reply to  Kevin B Rhodes

Don’t forget those sexy sexy European bumpers on the E23 and E28 (and the E24 and E30 too).

LTDScott
LTDScott
13 days ago

Not the only headlight trickery that Chrysler did. ’57 Plymouths had dummy inner high beams which were actually just turn signals, similar to 2008+ Dodge Challengers. I think it was in preparation for quad headlights becoming legal in 1958, because the ’58 Plymouths did indeed have actual quad headlights.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
13 days ago

Much like having several square feet of black plastic honeycomb mesh for a “grill”, but only a couple small square inches open for air to pass through.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
13 days ago

That painting of the 1964 Dodge Polara is giving strong bloody King Charles portrait vibes.

VS 57
VS 57
13 days ago

The Crimson King?

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
13 days ago

In the UK, the XJ6 would have had a 7″ outer hi/lo beam, and an inner 5 3/4″ hi beam. That would be illegal in the US, so they inserted a filler ring to make it work legally. The way Alfa got away with it is that the outer 7″ lamp is hi/lo and the inner 5 3/4″ light is a *fog* light. Dodge has no such excuse.

VS 57
VS 57
13 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

No excuse needed for a high air pressure location to duct cold air to a pair of 4bb carbs on a factory super stock drag car.

And on that, some may like to see an article or two covering the Galpin Ford super stock drag cars from the back when.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
13 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

I really should read the comments before going into the depths of a barn and measuring the lights on an early XJ6, funny thing, the outer one is 7″ in diameter, the inner one is 5 3/4 inches. The upside? the battery conditioner actually works.

Olaf Hart
Olaf Hart
13 days ago

In other markets the Jag XJ6 lights were different sizes.

Leon Muks
Leon Muks
13 days ago

As a coworker used to say, “It’s an optical delusion.”

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
13 days ago
Reply to  Leon Muks

Serendipitous malapropism.

VS 57
VS 57
13 days ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

That’s my Drag name…

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
13 days ago

Well swap my grille, and call me a Buick! I had no idea the headlamps were the same size!

This is the three-martini-lunch kind of thinking we need to bring back to the automotive industry.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
13 days ago

But did you ever gone to buy those lamps? There’s only one size.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
13 days ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

I was a kid when most manufacturers phased out sealed beams in the late 80’s. So, no. I never bought any.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
13 days ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

Ooh, can you imagine being fooled by this, going to the parts store and asking for an inner headlight for a Polara? “Inner?” the clerk says with a wink to his co-worker. “Oh, that’s gonna cost ya…”

LTDScott
LTDScott
13 days ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

Round sealed beams? Definitely not true, in the US they are either 5.75″ for quad headlights or 7″ for dual.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
13 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

You’re right.

Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

I’m old enough (late gen-x) to recall as a little kid knowing new cars had square headlamps and old cars had round.

Tbird
Tbird
13 days ago

The ’69 ‘Stang came to mind immediately. The illusion overall is effective.

Stryker_T
Stryker_T
13 days ago

a newer, different kind of dual headlight illusion are all those SUVs with the LED running lights in the upper area of the front and the set of headlights in the lower middle.

Last edited 13 days ago by Stryker_T
StillNotATony
StillNotATony
13 days ago

All I can say is…

Dafuq?!?

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