Home » This Seems To Be The Only Car With Exposed Headlights And Pop-Up Driving Lights

This Seems To Be The Only Car With Exposed Headlights And Pop-Up Driving Lights

365 Lights Top
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Pop-up headlights are a source of delight to many, with their inherent drama and surprise and hiding and revealing, but sometimes the “face” of a car feels unfinished without the visual element of headlights, which, to our anthropomorphizing brains, form the eyes. You’d think that there would be some auto designer as visually greedy as I am, wanting the excitement of pop-up or otherwise hidden lights along with the visuals of integrated and visible headlamps. It’s a complicated ask, and as far as I can tell, only one automaker has actually pulled it off, and even then in incredibly small numbers. That car was the Ferrari 365 California.

The Ferrari 365 California was built between 1966 and 1967, which may seem like a short run, but only 14 cars were actually built in this period, so the pace was, you know, leisurely. Mechanically, the 365 California didn’t really break any new ground; the chassis was from the 500 Superfast, wishbone front suspension and both coil springs and leaf springs out back, holding up that live axle. A 4.4-liter V12 was up front, despite the way the door handles seemed to suggest a mid-mounted engine’s air intakes.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

See? They’re very cool door handles, so you can forgive their little deception:

Doorhandles

Wow, those are pretty stunning. I mean, the whole car is stunning; that’s the main point of it.

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Side365

Designed by Tom Tjaarda while working for Pininfarina, the 365 California is a stunning design, clean and sleek and taking a number of liberties with the usual Ferrari design of the 1960s. The rear, with its Kamm-like cut-off tail, is unusual for a Ferrari, and, since we’re back there, we may as well look at the striking and novel taillight treatment. What surprises me about the taillight setup is how it both incorporates off-the-shelf small round taillight lenses and a custom-designed shaped lens.

What also surprises me is that in a run of 14 cars I have so far seen three different taillight treatments:

Taillights 365

There are two with an amber top turn indicator section, one of which has the lower three round lamps set into a red plastic translucent taillight lens-like panel, and the other has them set into a chrome panel, and then there’s a version where the shaped upper lens is red instead of amber and the amber indicator is one of the three lower round lamps. How did they have such trouble making up their minds about this? There are only 14 cars!

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But, we’re here to talk about the front lighting, and, specifically the combination of pop-up driving lights and conventionally-integrated headlights, here covered under plexiglass covers, as was Ferrari fashion.

Upanddown

Sure, there have been cars with pop-up headlights and exposed driving lights, like the Porsche 914:

914 Lights

That’s not so uncommon. But having exposed actual headlights and covered driving or auxiliary lights, that’s where things get weird. Weird enough that I’m pretty sure those 14 Ferrari 365 Californias are the only cars to have done it that way.

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Well, now that I think about it, maybe we could count the Subaru passing lamp, or “cyclops eye” light?

That might count, too, even if it is just one lamp.

But still, the idea of integrated, exposed actual, main-and-high-beam headlights and pop-up driving or fog lights, that seems to be a rare thing.

Why don’t we see this more? Aerodynamic demands have made conventional pop-up lights unpopular, as they tend to act as aero speed brakes, but why not something that gets more occasional use, like driving or fog lamps? Those would be a lot more fun if they were pop-ups or covered or hidden in some way.

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I’m probably forgetting about another car that did this; if so, I’m pretty sure this is the crowd to let me know what that is, so if you have ideas, shove them in the comments so I can see! And learn! And live! And love!

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EricTheViking
EricTheViking
25 days ago

Lamborghini also raided the part bins for its Espada through the production years:

  • Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina (1968–1971)
  • Alfa Romeo 2000 Berlina (1971–1976), also used on several other Italian cars
  • Altissimo taillamps with pointed amber turn signal indicators
Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
27 days ago

Ferrari often had different indicator setups for different markets. The 365GTB4 Daytona had I believe three versions for the front indicator. A white and orange unit for the French, Italian and possibly Swiss markets and an all-orange version for the German, UK (and by inference al other RHD markets) and US markets. Of those three markets I think some came with a Prancing horse emblem in the indicator and some without although that also maybe model year specific.

Torque
Torque
27 days ago

Jason have you featured the unique headlights on the Opel GT?
Clearly any schmuck can have pop up headlights that pop up like two books with their bindings facing the driver…
How many cars besides the Opel GT had pop up lights where the headlights flip over from side to side like flipping flapjacks?

https://youtu.be/ARFoKb6dWWE?si=S5OTsa_BsBhj4gYO

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
28 days ago

Fun fact:
Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod owned a Ferrari 365 California.
As one of several immortals born with an energy called “the Quickening”, I often had the opportunity to ride along with him in it.
Every time he flipped the switch that popped up the driving lights he would exclaim “There can only be one!”
The joke was funny the first couple times, but then he severely overused it.

We get it Conner.

Sadly his supposed immortality ended when he blew through a toll booth at a hundred and thirty miles per hour.

I had tried to warn him about the dangers of driving a convertible.
He just wouldn’t listen.

Last edited 28 days ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
Jeep Liberty, MY LEG!
27 days ago

BOOOOO! (I thought it was funny.)

Classic and Clunker
Classic and Clunker
28 days ago

Not quite the same, but this reminded me of the Toyota MR2’s motorised cover fog lights (and it has pop-up headlights, as well)

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
28 days ago

So, when do pop up taillights become a thing cause that would be really cool.

VanGuy
VanGuy
28 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

…I feel like reverse lights are the only ones that that’s remotely viable for, as a functional matter. When you turn on brakes, turn signals, or flashers, it’s important they come on immediately. Taillights are somewhere in the middle, but since they’re often the same as the brakelights or directly adjacent, it feels like a waste.

So reverse lights feel like the only time they could work, but even then–practicing parallel parking would be a workout for them, for example. Up-down-up-down-up-down….

Aesthetically, I don’t even know what they’d look good on. I feel like sedans are the only thing they’d make sense on, except the trunk would need to be narrow for there to be space for them on the edges.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
28 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

I’m thinking fixed turn signals and maybe popup tail lights as part of a moving spoiler …I dunno…I want flashy lights on something that moves goddammit.

Beceen
Beceen
28 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

popup signals could be very popular on BMWs…

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
28 days ago
Reply to  Beceen

But they’ll never get used ????

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
27 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

They’d get used if was a way to flash their wealth (pun intended)

Alex Gornicki
Alex Gornicki
27 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

They’ll never get used, and for part-sharing reasons with one variant of a weird model nobody buys, the turn signal will have both an oil and a coolant passage blocked off with a gasket that will leak every 2 years unless it’s replaced ahead of time.

JKcycletramp
JKcycletramp
27 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Maybe the lamps are always on and the pop-up mechanism removes a blind?

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
27 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

So we’re reintroducing trafficators now? I’m not complaining, I just don’t want to be the last person in the cult to get updates AGAIN.

Are we adding them to the official automotive ideal? A brown, AWD, manual transmission station wagon with amber trafficators?

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
27 days ago

My DD is a black, AWD, manual transmission station wagon. But since I basically never wash it, and commute 100 or so miles a day, its a shade of brown usually. I win!

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
27 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

Popup Brake lights that snap open at Mach 7 every time you push the pedal!

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
28 days ago

As a teenager I once drew a Lancia Stratos with pop-up rally lights. So, the entire front end was just a row of pop-ups. Now, I shudder to think what that would do to the aerodynamics.

Church
Church
28 days ago

So stupid. I love it.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
28 days ago

There’s at least one motorcycle with that setup. European versions of the BMW R100RT had optional pop out driving lights where the air vents were on either side of the headlight.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
28 days ago

Those crazy combinations of taillights also have me wondering if there is an optimal sequence for taillights that are of a uniform size/shape/colour, or if that should vary based on the car. There are lots of classic cars with simple round lights straight from the Lucas parts bin – it would be fun to build out the taxonomy for the various combinations:

Corvette – double or triple, all red
Aston DB5 – vertical stack, red/amber/white
Chevy Impala – triple, red/white/red
Ferrari & Opel – double, red/amber
Edsel – triple, red/red/white
Whatever this is – jetpack, red/red/amber

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
28 days ago

It makes sense, though. You wouldn’t want to risk losing headlights over the failure of a pop-up motor, but if you lost fog lights? Meh.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
28 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Exactly. Electromechanical failure of the mechanism always seemed like a reason why popup headlights shouldn’t have been a thing

Beceen
Beceen
28 days ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

you could always have a manual override. Just crank’em up.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
28 days ago
Reply to  Beceen

Use the same crank they provide for the sunroof!

Torque
Torque
27 days ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

Cross site article reference, Brilliant!

MarionCobretti
MarionCobretti
28 days ago
Reply to  Beceen

Or just do the Opel GT thing and have crank ’em up be the default.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
28 days ago
Reply to  Beceen

Many do. Ironically, based on my observations it was Nissan, Honda and Toyota that were most consistent in providing a manual method for raising the headlights. Ironic because they also tended to have the most reliable headlight mechanisms, and thus the least need for the manual backups.

RustyBritmobile
RustyBritmobile
27 days ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

Lotus Elans had pop-up headlamps raised by engine vacuum acting on vacuum diaphragm devices. Originally, they were held up by vacuum and held down (when off or when the system leaked) by a spring. No vacuum, no headlamps. Some ways through the production run, they reversed that – now held down by vacuum, and up by a spring (the so-called ‘Fail-safe’ system – maybe in response to us safety regs). This means that in Fail-safe cars, the headlamps gradually rise as the car sits, as the vacuum devices inevitably leak. Also, you had to do two things to turn on the headlamps – flip the electrical switch, and then pull a knob that actuated the vacuum connection to raise the lamps.

Last edited 27 days ago by RustyBritmobile
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
28 days ago

So exposed headlights and pop up headlights. It looks like a 70s alfa. What good are pop up is you non pop up? I’m confused

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
28 days ago

Just to muddy it up. Halfway there?

Alfa Romeo Montreal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfa_Romeo_Montreal

Aston Martin Bulldog https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aston_Martin_Bulldog

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

The Montreal doesn’t have driving lights at all. Those are high and low beams.

The Bulldog does seem to meet the criteria, even if it’s a one-off.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
28 days ago

My god those door handles are sublime. Better times

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
28 days ago

And here I thought the gauntlets around the handles of the C126 were overkill…

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
28 days ago

Door handles or handlebars?

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
28 days ago

I love this article Jason, but how confident are you that the driving lamps were the same across all 14 cars?

Is there a chance that on some, the driving lights were actually the main lenses and the headlights were pop-ups? Or others where those pop-ups hid beautifully crafted Italian amber lenses? Or maybe on the last unit of the line, it was just a free-for-all and no matter which lights you selected on the dash, the car delivered a completely random array of white, amber, and blue illumination up front?
(I believe that was standard on most British automobiles of this era, but in their case it was a bug rather than a feature)

This is the kind of investigative journalism we need!

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago

Hmm. Are the pop ups on the Toyota 2000GT the headlights or driving lights? I’ve seen several photos of them with the exposed lights turned on without the pop ups being up. On most cars you can’t run the driving lights without the headlights being on as well which would suggest the exposed lights are headlights, but I’m not positive.

https://importbible.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/rare-toyota-2000gt-listed-on-bat-3.jpg

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

First car I thought of while reading this.

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Wow, all that writing of his for nothing!!

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

DOH!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

According the Wikipedia, the pop-ups are headlights and the covered lights are driving lights.

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago

Well poop.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

If it is any consolation, I also thought of the 2000 GT when reading Torch’s article. I wasn’t sure which were the actual headlights until reading the wiki.

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

The minimum US headlight height requirements would have demanded that the pop ups were the headlights.

LTDScott
LTDScott
28 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Good point, although there’s nothing saying they couldn’t have simply just rewired them differently and used different light housings just for the US market. Height requirements are how we ended up with this abomination.

https://cdn.classic-trader.com/I/images/1920_1920_inset/vehicle_ad_standard_image_83f088e0ca7d9f94e038b27c68c22076.jpg

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

That’s true, they could have done it opposite for other markets. It would be weird, but that hasn’t stopped quite a few manufacturers over the years. The lighting height change screwed up a number of cars, like resulting in raised ride heights to pass or making them even more goofy, like the SIII E-Type. They also forced the removal of plastic covers for faired in lights, though IMO, for the better on the Ferrari 365 GTB/4, which got pop up lights in the US and I can’t think of another positive instance off the top of my head. Some clever solutions were thought up for cars that came out after, but the looks of ones that came out before whose production ran afterwards took a beating.

Matt A
Matt A
28 days ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Not just height, US cars all needed to use 7″ sealed beams from 1940 until 1958, when 5.5″ sealed beams were allowed as dual headlights

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