Generally speaking, I can’t think of two cars more different than the first-generation Honda Accord and the Citroën 2CV. The Honda was one of the most popular cars of the 1980s, an extremely safe and conventional FWD, transverse-engined sedan and hatchback, and the 2CV is a wonderfully weird, terminally French little air-cooled two-cylinder icon of automotive strangeness. They’re about as wildly divergent as any two cars are likely to be. And yet, despite all that, I think this pair of cars may be in a lonely set of the only two cars to share this very strange stylistic lighting detail: both cars are the only cars ever made to come with both round and rectangular headlamps without any accompanying bodywork changes.
Yes, you read that right; and I dearly hope you’re sitting down, because I’m sure this is a deeply, pants-soakingly shocking revelation for you. I mean, how could it even be possible? Changing the fundamental shape of the headlights without making any other styling or sheet-metal changes to the body? How could that possibly work? It’s madness, madness, I tell you, and yet here we are.
Here’s a couple examples of how the transition from round-to-rectangular lamps normally went, the Chevy Monte Carlo making the switch in 1976, and the Volkswagen Rabbit in 1979:
The Monte Carlo’s body changes around the lighting are pretty substantial, since a move from dual to quad lamps was also undertaken. The Rabbit’s changes are much more subtle, but the grille and lower valence panel did change to accommodate the rectangular headlights.
What’s incredible about the Citroën 2CV and the Honda Accord is that neither car seems to have any significant styling changes beyond the switch to rectangular lights. With the 2CV, this is pretty damn easy, since the headlights were never integrated into the bodywork at all:
As you can see, even counting the 2CV in this is a bit of a joke, because there’s really no need to change the bodywork based on headlight shape; you could have triangular lights or lights shaped like little sasquatches and still have no need to change any bodywork. Still, they did change (on some models) from round lights to rectangular in 1975, so I think this counts. But the Honda is a much more interesting case.
Here’s what the Accord looked like in its JDM-only square headlamp version, along with an inset of the round-headlamp front end:
Look at that! Okay, sure, the mounting bezels inside the grille need to be different, but those aren’t really about styling, they’re about holding the lights in place. All of the chrome trim, grille, hood, all that sheet metal, it’s the exact same. I don’t know if this was the plan from the start, to allow enough play in the design to allow for either shape of light, or if it was just a happy accident, and some stylist found they could fit those fancy new rectangular lights inside that grille.
Who knows for sure? Here’s a nice commercial that shows the square-eyed Accord, so you can really absorb all the strangeness:
As I stated, I’m pretty sure the Accord – and, yes, the 2CV, even if it took the easy way – remain the only cars to switch their headlamp shape without changing pretty much anything else at all.
If I’m wrong about this, I know this is the audience to correct me, but I’ve been racking my brain, and I don’t think so. Plenty of cars have switched between round and rectangular, but always with some, even minor, other styling changes.
But not this deeply mismatched pair of cars, a pair that I think are lumped together precisely no other times. So, this seems worthy of noting, and, yes, celebrating.
Commenters are noting the Volvo 240 fits in this category, and, dammit, yes, I agree! Okay, so there’s three! And maybe others. But still!