Headlight washers are one of those automotive details that I feel like everyone finds at least a little delightful. I’m not sure why, and I’m certain it’s not rational, but for whatever reason seeing a car squirt fluid onto its headlight-eyes evokes a strange sense of satisfaction to many – perhaps most – people. I’ve covered little-known headlight washers on some iconic cars here before, so I guess that counts as precedent, and now here we are, trapped in this glorious, wet prison of our own making, talking about headlight washers. As most of our readers are aware, headlight washers were not a common thing on cars in America for decades. Now, they’re a bit more common, but back in the 1960s and 1970s it was really only cars for the Scandinavian market or wet-headlight fetish weirdos who had cars so equipped. I’m here to tell you that, despite everything you thought you knew, headlight washers were an available option on two of the most iconic and well-known Chevrolets of the last ’60s and early ’70s. Spread a dropcloth under your chair, beanbag, or, possibly atop your bearskin rug, because your mind is about to get blown.
What are these two iconic cars I’m talking about? Only the most obvious ones! The Corvette and Camaro.
That’s right! GM offered headlight washers on almost no cars of this era, and yet, somehow, the C3 Corvette between 1969 and 1971 and Camaros for, it looks like just 1969, maybe half of 1970(?) could be optioned with headlight washer systems. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to, because brochures don’t lie!
Look at that! Right there, in the 1969 Corvette brochure, they’re telling you about how those pop-up headlights can be baptized with cleansing fluids, though it seems that only the outer low beam is targeted by those nozzles? Seems a bit rude, but who am I to judge?
The Camaro’s brochure from the same year reveals the headlight-moistening secret, too:
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Camaro or Corvette with headlight washers? Perhaps I’ve been too foolish and self-absorbed to look? And yet there they were, hiding in plain sight in those brochures. I really wanted to see these in action, but I was only able to find one video, though this one also does show the C3 Corvette’s amazing moving wiper-hiding panel, which is cool as hell:
Man, look at that! It’s real! Look, here’s the nozzles:
It appears that the headlight washer shared the same washer fluid resovoir as the windshield washer, and was actuated via a little solenoid that would open the valve to the headlights when the washer switch was held down a bit longer than normal. It seems cars so equipped came with a hang tag that explained the system’s operation:
So, hold the button three to five seconds for the headlight wash, and GM notes that you should pop those headlights up before doing this, most likely because otherwise the whole process would be hidden, and why would you want to deny the world the visual joy of watching headlights be spray-cleaned? Camaros with exposed headlights could be optioned with the washers too, but this was quite uncommon; only 116 cars were so ordered in 1969, for example.
Why is this so fascinating to me? I’m not really sure, other than GM really only offered headlight washers on these cars, and they just seem like such improbably choices for them. My theory is that the Camaro and Corvette were actually GM’s more popular cars to export to Europe, being such unique expressions of American automotivity, and so they actually needed these headlight washers in some of those markets.
That’s my best guess. But even if I never know, that’s okay. I’m just happy knowing they exist.