Home » I Think The First-Gen Honda Accord And The Citroën 2CV Are The Only Cars To Share This Strange Trait

I Think The First-Gen Honda Accord And The Citroën 2CV Are The Only Cars To Share This Strange Trait

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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.

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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:

Rectlightchanges

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.

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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:

2cv Lights

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:

Rectlight Accord2

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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.

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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.

UPDATE: 

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!

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Chuck Brand
Chuck Brand
24 days ago

I vividly recall the ‘74 & ‘75 Olds 98 – the bezels for the (round headlamp) ‘74 were even rectangular!

Justin Haas
Justin Haas
27 days ago

Mercedes W123?

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
27 days ago

I would like to bring up the VW K70. And the Bentley Mulsanne/RR Silver Spirit/Spur. And, and…
Sorry, Jason! I have the same sinking feeling as the first time I beat my dad in arm wrestling.

Dr Funkhole
Dr Funkhole
27 days ago

I kinda feel like I’m piling on at this point, but as I recall, Bentley in the 1980s did this, but in US spec, went from quad rectangles to quad round lamps.

George Wilson
George Wilson
27 days ago

Squarebody Chevy trucks between 70 and 80 only made changes to the bezels and grille as well to accommodate the rectangular headlights as well. The big change came the following year with new hood and fenders in 81.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
27 days ago

I have two more, at least one of which I did see below in the comments.

I own an XJ40 factory code Jaguar XJ6, and the round quads fit in the exact same space the rectangular Euro headlights would fit. It’s just a big bezel setup.

Also I think the SJ Jeeps (Wagoneers) would qualify – you can put an old rhino grill on an 80s SJ, so although the inserts technically did change you could put something from virtually any year into that front grill and light insert.

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
26 days ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

I had two XJ40s, and I always regretted that they didn’t go back to the round headlights, i preferred that look by far.
I heard that the only reason Jaguar offered versions with round headlights is the fact that a lot of Asian customers demanded it, and at that time, it was already a very important market for Jaguar, so they ‘gave in’, if you will. As far as I know, the different headlights were never a selectable option, there was as only one choice, depending where you bought it.

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
27 days ago

Also: why did everyone change from round to square headlights at about the same time (late 70s)? And some, like BMW never gave up round. Was it US only; it seemed like Germans kept the round lights longer. Was it a technological driver, a marketing trend (square looks more modern) or was there more to it than both of those? So many questions what was going on there. But GM for example spent a lot of money on a 1976 change with the all new 1978 Monte Carlos about to come out.

Last edited 27 days ago by Erik McCullough
John Patson
John Patson
27 days ago

Laws changed. Before then you could only have round (at least in Europe). But then new techniques meant you could have mirrors in square units as efficient as those simple round cones (even if the shapes of mirrors in square lamps were sometimes very complicated.)
And eventually the laws caught up and designers wet themselves with excitement.
Similar thing happened with the move from square to crazy squint designs you get now — used to be banned then were not. Not all good news, headlight units can now cost more than a second hand car (at least the ones I drive…)

Vee
Vee
25 days ago

French lighting laws changed in 1959 and allowed unusual headlight shapes, only regulated by the beam pattern. The Panhard CD is an early example. Germany and most of Europe caught up by the mid ’60s, leading to cars like the 1967 BMW 2000.

The U.S. didn’t change the laws requiring two specific sizes of sealed beam headlights until 1974, to go into effect for 1975. The automakers argued it was about lowering the hoods for better efficiency so they could make smaller cars, but almost immediately for the 1975 model year Chrysler and GM went and double stacked their headlights on everything to fill the vertical space left by the larger single unit sealed beams because they didn’t want to spend the money to redesign the front ends.

Pickup_Man
Pickup_Man
27 days ago

But wait! There’s more! The later dentside Ford trucks (and Bronco) did the same thing, only the small bezel changed. It even appears that both options were available in 1978.

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
27 days ago
Reply to  Pickup_Man

Yup yup. 1978 had both options available. Here’s a snag from the brochure

https://photos.smugmug.com/Personal/Random-Cars/n-bnNDrf/Just-Random/i-cbzGJ5M/0/b23bacb1/XL/1978Fordtrucks-XL.jpg

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
27 days ago

Peugeot 504s would like to have a word with you. So do the Renault 12 GTS. And the Fiat 125 Mirafiori.
And also pretty much any federalized European import in the US. Except from the bumpers and some minor trim (unrelated to the headlights disposition), most of them just replaced the original square or rectangular units for quad-round ones.

Ncbrit
Ncbrit
27 days ago

The Jaguar XJ40 came with either rectangular or round headlights with the only difference being a trim panel around the round ones.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
27 days ago
Reply to  Ncbrit

You were first, but yep the XJ40 should also qualify – I own one with the round lights.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
27 days ago

I think you may need to count the 1978-1979 Chevy Nova in this one. It went from square to round and pretty sure they only adjusted the chrome trim.

W124
W124
27 days ago

Has Torch actually gone mad? Just last week there was Torches cold start about VW K70 with a huge picture of two K70s with same sheet metal but other had round headlights and another had square.

Also W123 Mercedes has had both squareish and round headlights even in Europe!

James Mason
James Mason
27 days ago

1977/78 AMC Concord, maybe Hornet/Spirit too.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
27 days ago

As someone who was not alive during this transition, I imagine to anyone that was paying attention it must have been fairly strange…

Headlights are rectangles now everybody! Rectangles for everyone!

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
27 days ago

Ultimately, rather than just “2”, there’s going to turn out to be about 117 vehicles on this headlight change list. This is the kind of minutia you will only get on this site and that’s why it is wonderful.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
27 days ago

I agree on the Subaru DL/GL, and will throw the Suzuki Mighty Boy into the mix.

It’s not uncommon to see Aussie MB’s converted to the JDM round headlights when ours were all square.

Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
27 days ago

Hi JT, It seems you are falling in love with the 2CV at the moment?
Get one!
It’s a fun “car”, with 29hp and considerably less weight, so it’s about af “fast” as an old VW Beetle.
But driving around with the silly door windows up and the top down is a lot more fun! It also has ground clearance and a flat underside for some nature adventures.
I have owned 2 2CVs and one Dyane, which is practically the same car, just with more brittle black 70ies plastic.. Fun times 🙂

The Dyane had a tube outtake on the fan housing, blowing into to the air filter and carburetor, so kind of a simple forced induction system, which gave it a whopping 31hp! Fun fact for another Autopian article?

Gubbin
Gubbin
27 days ago

How can Torch resist a car that has manual, mechanical highbeams!

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
26 days ago

Actually the Dyane’s engine was a modernized version of the 2CV engine, with electronic ignition, if I’m not mistaken. I still don’t know why they didn’t use this engine in the 2CV as well, surely it would have fit.

Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
Instagr.am/JakobKsGarage
25 days ago
Reply to  Kurt Hahn

It had the same ignition system, I changed mine to electronic.
But maybe there were other changes than the “turbo compressor”? 😉

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
24 days ago

That’s interesting, and confusing. I once read a lengthy piece about the changes made to the Dyane-engine, and it made a lot of sense. What I found is this: there was more than one version of the Dyane, it was being produced during 15 years or so. And just like the 2CV, they made little changes, sometimes barely noticeable. The Dyane always being the more expensive and more powerful option. The last generation of Dyanes (in the 80s) was rated at 34 or 35 horsepower, compared to the 2CV’s 29. Thats well over 10% more power, but especially it was said to be much more responsive and have much better middle and low end torque. And from what I read, this was mostly due to a more modern ignition system. So maybe yours was an older generation, or sold in a country where they didn’t use this engine? That’s the only explanation I can find. What i can say with certainty is that a little bit of air flow from the cooling fan doesn’t do anything. A turbocharger is spinning at tens of thousands rpm to generate boost.

Camille
Camille
24 days ago
Reply to  Kurt Hahn

The “ultimate” evolution of the citroen flat-twin was the one found in the Visa and the LNA. The top dog in the 2cv/dyane/amis was a 602cc whereas the visa / LNA had a 652cc with electronic ignition (I’m pretty sure).

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
24 days ago
Reply to  Camille

Yes thank you, of course, I completely forgot about the Visa!….now it makes sense 🙂

Camille
Camille
23 days ago
Reply to  Kurt Hahn

Everyone forgets about the Visa. I can’t blame them even though I love the things.

Kurt Hahn
Kurt Hahn
21 days ago
Reply to  Camille

My parents took us to the dealer in the early 80s to replace our rusted through 2CV (it was 8 years old, but at the time most cars started looking old and done for at 10-12 years, unable to pass inspection ). So we (the kids) got to test sit in a Visa, and we obviously loved the interior. It looked so modern and there were quite a few buttons for things that the 2CV hadn’t (like a rear window defroster …lol). But our parents (probably rightfully) thought that it wasn’t worth the extra money, and got another 2CV. I remember that it cost just about 7000 Swiss francs, where as the cheapest Golf was around 12k.

Camille
Camille
21 days ago
Reply to  Kurt Hahn

Similar story here. My mother bought one new in 81 to replace her 10 yo 2cv. I think she got it very cheap because the other option was a Renault 4. She didn’t care at all about cars, her brother in law took care of it. For me the interior seemed normal because it was the car I spent a lot of time in. It was the first car I would drive in 2007 when my own 2cv was not ready for inspection and it survived until about 2010. It was badly rusted even though it was garage kept from 1987. Now in retrospect I realise the awesomeness of that interior, it was really cool looking and great and easy to use. I don’t know which choice was the “best” in 1981, the 2cv was really old by that time. But having spent a lot of time behind the wheel of both, the 2cv is on another level in terms of pure driving joy.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
27 days ago

Well Jason, it seems like there is an embarrassingly large number of cars that used both round and square lights without any other changes. Including, extra embarrassingly, all four of the Big Four(Ford, Chevy, Dodge, AMC Jeep) on their pickups and SUVs at the same time in 1979.

You were right, this most certainly is the audience to correct you, and they have done so admirably.

TwoCyli
TwoCyli
27 days ago

Studebaker Avanti – original 1961 were round, switched to square in 1963..

No sheetmetal or grille changes – body was fiberglass and there wasn’t a grille!!

TwoCyli
TwoCyli
27 days ago

What about jeep TJ wranglers?

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
27 days ago
Reply to  TwoCyli

Those have round headlights. The previous generation YJ Wrangler had square headlights and accordingly different sheetmetal.

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