Home » Some Of The Weirdest Hidden Headlights Exist Thanks To A Magazine And Copper: Cold Start

Some Of The Weirdest Hidden Headlights Exist Thanks To A Magazine And Copper: Cold Start

Cs Xnr Mercer 1
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Of all of the types of pop-up/pop-out/hidden/covered/flip-up, etc. headlights, I think the least common are ones that pop out sideways, like stubby little wings or hands emerging from cardigan pockets or something. There’s been a few, but I think the most charmingly peculiar are on that car you see up there, a car that exists, even in just one-off form, thanks to a men’s magazine and the Copper Development Association, with whom, I suspect, one does not fuck.

Under the skin, that car up there is a Shelby Cobra, complete with a Ford 427 V8. But it’s the skin that really matters here, because that skin was designed by Virgil Exner and his son, the creatively-named Virgil Exner, Jr. as part of an assignment from Esquire magazine.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It was 1963, and Virgil the Elder had just left Chrysler. Esquire reached out to ask the Exners where they felt auto design was heading, and the Exners happily responded backwards! But also forwards, you see. The Exners were sort of obsessed with reviving certain legendary brands like Dusenberg and Packard and Bugatti (that one happened anyway) and Mercer. So they did a bunch of fantastic drawings of revived classics but with modern (well, for 1963) styling that was all-Exner. One of them was this amazing re-born Mercer:

Cs Xnr Mercer 4

You may remember Mercer because I wrote about them recently when I wrote about the carmaker known as American Chocolate, which, via a convoluted route, became Mercer. Old Mercers looked like this:

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Mercer1

Mercers were one of America’s first real sports cars, and enjoyed a rivalry with Stutz – another Exner revival target – and there were old early 20th-century taunts that Mercer drivers could yell like “You’d be NUTS to drive a Stutz” and then the Stutz driver could yell back “There’s nothing WORSER than a Mercer!” They knew how to have fun, you see.

Anyway, these old Mercers were full of copper trim, and the Exners’ drawing included lots of copper as well which gave the secretive cabal of the Copper Development Association the good idea to have the damn thing actually built.

So, they kicked in money, a Cobra chassis was bought and sent to Torino, Italy, to the coachbuilding concern Sibona-Basano. There, the Exner design was made into glorious reality, crammed full of delicious copper:

Cs Xnr Mercer 5

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Oh and the headlights! The whole point of why I started telling you about this at all! Look how they popped out:

Cs Xnr Mercer 2

1965 Mercer Cobra Roadster

Screenshot 2024 03 11 At 9.36.24 am

So, yeah, this thing is incredible. And I love those headlights.

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ZF Good
ZF Good
1 month ago

The Alfa Romeo Navajo’s side pop-outs might be of interest to you. I couldn’t find a video of the lights in action but this one does show a picture of them in the open position (at about 1:10):
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f-e6qLGhFa4

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

Those are awesome!

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago

I need to go back into my history records, but I do recall the Exners cult being infiltrated by the FBI and the leaders eventually indicted by a Grand Jury for excessive ersatz, chintz and wife swapping. I think they only got convicted on the father-son wife swapping, but the FBI did hold steady on all the need to rid the world of ersatz and chintz. They seemed to finally succeed at the end of the malaise era once they were free of Elvis and society moved on to crack as an alternative to Bush Lite and cocaine.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

When I was a kid in the 60’s I used to go to the library and geek out on car, truck, electronics, architecture, pretty much any science and some art stuff. The had a full collection of Automobile Quarterly hardcovers I used to read every chance I got. There was one issue that had a feature on this car. I can appreciate the art of the car, but like most of Stevens work not in my favorites quadrant. As far as cobras go, I prefer the Bordinat Cobra.

Jonee Eisen
Jonee Eisen
1 month ago

Reminds me of the LaSalle II Roadster Harley Earle had made for the 1955 GM Motorama for a possible LaSalle revival. When it was decided that that wasn’t going to happen, Carl Renner, the car’s designer, proposed it as a new Corvette.
https://www.supercars.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/1955_LaSalle_IIRoadster1.jpg
They ended up using the side scoop things.

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago

I’ve seen renderings of this (and other Exner extinct marque revivals), but I never knew they built it!

EXL500
EXL500
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Furthermore, the Duesenberg from his series of drawings was used to create a doomed revival of the marque.

Also JoHann (?) made models of the various cars. I used to have them.

Robert Swartz
Robert Swartz
1 month ago
Reply to  EXL500

Renwal made the models of the Exner cars. And in addition to the neo Duesenberg prototype, he also had the modern Bugatti created on a leftover 151 chassis, and of course the Stutz. Pretty amazing return on a magazine article.

EXL500
EXL500
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Swartz

Thanks!

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
1 month ago

I think the headlights make it look like a fish.

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
1 month ago

It’s beautiful!

Janek PL
Janek PL
1 month ago

That is a beautiful car! Interestingly front suspension on Exner’s drawing looks like glorified VW’s front beam, but with straight arms it seems like steering angle would be limited to 10 degrees or so 🙂

Those side pop-out headlights remind me of one of the coolest semi trucks ever made: gas turbine powered 1966 Chevrolet Turbo Titan III
https://www.speednik.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2015/12/2015-12-31_15-47-09-640×427.jpg

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Janek PL

That’s cool.
See, this is why I’m a grumpy old git: we were promised neat stuff like that. We got the freakin’ Cyber Truck, which is fine, I guess—but not turbine/side-popping headlights cool.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

The betrayal of the Jet Age’s promises is real and brutal, alright.

James Mason
James Mason
1 month ago

Would be a lot cooler if the headlight popout also released angry hornets from the holes.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

Wow! Those headlights!

Copper, copper, copper, copper, copper, chameleon!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Damn you!

Tagarito
Tagarito
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Harmonica, ca, ca, cah
You come and go, come and go

Vee
Vee
1 month ago

I love how age has allowed you to tell which parts are true copper and which parts are electrolysis copper plated steel. The real copper looks deep and burnished while the copper plated steel grows paler as the decades go on. The difference is very pronounced on the wheel center caps.

And none of this would’ve been a problem had they used brass like a real Mercer did back in 1911 because real brass and brass plated steel don’t diverge in colour like this.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  Vee

Here’s a great example, I’m guessing the center is the lock mechanism for the trunk.
https://cdn.motor1.com/images/mgl/vQ16A/s1/1965-mercer-cobra-roadster.jpg

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago

There was a whole series of these Exner-designed “revivals” for Esquire. Pierce-Arrow, Duesenberg, Jordan, Stutz, Packard and Bugatti were featured in addition to the Mercer. The Bugatti 101CX was actually built on the final Bugatti chassis, and the Stutz design served as the basis for the over-the-top Stutz Blackhawk in the 70’s. All of the designs were produced as 1/25 scale plastic kits by Renwal in the 60s.

Last edited 1 month ago by DialMforMiata
EXL500
EXL500
1 month ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

I missed your post. My post is roughly the same. I’d forgotten the Stutz and Bugatti also were built from these. I loved the Duesenberg as a child. Thanks for correcting me that it was Renwal.

Last edited 1 month ago by EXL500
Protodite
Protodite
1 month ago

Wow that’s awesome. What a wild looking car – also it’s so much fun to see how it translated so well from a a hand render. Exner is a ton of fun, also Go Irish

T Mill
T Mill
1 month ago

As usual, the concept looks like this…and the production looks like a ’61 Plymouth Valiant / Dodge Lancer.
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/UCF9jiB7if4/sddefault.jpg

Last edited 1 month ago by T Mill
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  T Mill

Saw that also. Hard pass on this CP.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

That Cobra was Mercerized. Imagine the patina on those copper highlights if one neglects frequent polishing.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
1 month ago

So it was really built? Does it still exist?

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  Lithiumbomb

Here are some more photos, I couldn’t find the album on the RM site:
https://www.motor1.com/photos/484323/1965-mercer-cobra-roadster/#1532899_1965-mercer-cobra-roadster

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

It’s a Cu-tie.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

If the headlights pivot point was on the front edge, then as they opened, they rotated 180 degrees, that would make turning on your headlights an event! A complicated mechanism, to be sure, but it would look really cool.

JKcycletramp
JKcycletramp
1 month ago

The costs of minting this car must exceed its face value.

Mr. Frick
Mr. Frick
1 month ago

Combine that with semaphore turn signals and it would be incredible

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Frick

But the semaphores would have to be lit, e.g., fiber optic tubes, so it is both retro and modern. That would actually be kinda cool.

ES
ES
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Frick

on the first side view, i thought maybe the lights horizontally periscoped out. Flip-out makes more sense, but i think my way would’ve been more alien/insectoid/sluglike? bonus points if there were a little copper wheel on the dash that you could spin to extend and retract the lights.

Last edited 1 month ago by ES
67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
1 month ago

That’s a sweet headlight setup.

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