5 Best-Looking Cars With Pop-Up Headlights (5 That Looked Horrible) – HotCars

Pop-up headlights were a must-have feature a couple of decades ago, but not every manufacturer managed to pull them off.
Once a signal of sporting prowess, all the sports cars were supposed to feature pop-up headlights, but the results were very mixed. The good ones looked stunning, while the less successful just looked horrible. The ubiquitous pop-up design disappeared from mainstream production in 2004 with the demise of both the Lotus Esprit and Corvette C5.
The thinking behind them, which, despite a boom period witnessed between the 1970s to early 2000s, dates back to the 1936 Cord 810/12 line-up, where streamlining was seen as modern luxury, adding a touch of sophistication to otherwise everyday designs. As the decades rolled by, a new breed of race car-inspired supercars appeared with sleek, low slung noses. Hydraulically or electrically operated binnacles were housing the light units that remained hidden when not used.
A neat design reimagined no doubt helped to boost sales of Lamborghini's Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, and several generations of Corvettes. However, for each cool design, there is always the handful of badly implemented ideas, giving rise to some serious questionable nose jobs.
Unashamedly simple and muscular in appearance, Lamborghini's Islero isn't one of the brand's more popular designs. Yet, somehow, it manages to capture everything that makes the Italian supercar maker the most sought after of all exotics. In the same way the Countach was crowd-stopping, gearheads could easily slip past masses of would-be-paparazzo with a minimum of attention.
Understated it might be, but the Islero is far from a budget grand tourer, sharing the Muira 400 GT's 340 hp 3.9-liter V12 resulted in a top speed of 160 mph. In all, just 225 Isleros rolled out the factory gates, two of which found homes with Ferruccio and Edmondo Lamborghini.
At its unveiling in 1976, the Aston Martin Lagonda couldn't have been more different from the brand's previous line-up — razor-sharp styling in place of sumptuous curves. Fortunately, Aston Martin didn't tamper with the heart of its four-seat grand tourer, 280 hp 5.3-liter V8 engines continued throughout production.
Daring to be different, a modern William Town design that perhaps pushed things a little too far, gearheads either love or hate it. A low profile, sporty, if modern body, sort of works, until daylight fades and those bulbous headlights pop up, spoiling the Lagonda's aerodynamic lines.
Buick's Y-Job is a serious contender for the world's first concept car, making its debut in 1938, it became a regular daily driver for its designer Harley J. Earl up until the 1950s. Beneath the gorgeously styled body, Buick Super chassis and running gear, the Y-Job hid more cool features.
Highly innovative in terms of both design and modern creature comforts, it had power windows, wrap-around bumpers, flush-fitting door handles, and power-operated hidden headlamps.
Only in the US would you expect to come across a compact luxury car measuring over 5 meters in length. However, despite the enormity of the Tornado's imposing coupe body, we rather like this one, size playing into the muscle car's overall appeal. The same level of "compactness" featured under the hood, 385 hp 7-liter Rocket V8s having more akin to European supercars.
The two-door fastback coupe rear-end blended perfectly with the muscle car snout, complete with full-width front grille and a pair of nostril-like vents. Sadly, those vents concealed the Tornado's worst feature, forming the outer surface of the dual unit headlights, that once deployed and view from directly ahead give the impression of a crazed maniac.
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Frequently overlooked as the poor relative of the Porsche 911, Renault/Alpine's GTA managed to fly under the radar for 11 years before its discontinuation in 1997. This ended the French carmaker's only proper sports car effort until the recent launch of the smaller A110. In earlier Alpine GTA guise, the faired in headlights gave the 2+2 coupe a kit-car appearance.
Revisions in 1991 brought a host of cosmetic tweaks, not least a more aesthetically pleasing pop-up headlight arrangement, resulting in a modern update… that still tanked on the sales charts. Despite the low sales numbers, the GTA is a genuine Porsche 911 alternative, turbocharged rear-mounted V6s punched out 250 hp and could crack 165 mph.
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Saab's long-lived line of Sonett sports cars culminated in the final Americanized variant in 1970. The Sonett III, hoping to cash in on the growing number of performance enthused US gearheads, got off to a bad start with its strangely upward-pointing front overhangs.
Uniquely styled is probably the kindest thing we can call it. Its quirky nose, made all the worse by pop-up headlights that arguably looked better in their hidden position behind the grille. As for buyers in hope of a fast agile European sports car, the Sonett failed to deliver, it featured 1.5-liter 65 hp Ford engines barely capable of breaking 100 mph.
The ultimate '90s grand tourer? We think so! The 850CSi represented BMW's premium model line-up and came with some serious gear to back up the brand's reputation for quality engineering. Firstly, available with a choice of two engines, lower specification 840s made use of V8 power, the cream of the crop 850CSi by the end of production featured a 372 hp 5.7-liter V12.
In 1989, after a hefty 1.5 billion Deutsche Mark development program encompassing the latest CAD technology, BMW rolled out the most technologically advanced production car the world had seen. The first to use drive-by-wire throttles, it also had multi-link rear suspension, and V12 power combined with a manual transmission.
Out-wowing Lamborghini using pretty much the same Gandini design, Cizeta needed some serious upgrades over the Sant'Agata-based carmaker, and in some regards, they pulled it off. Lifting the rear engine cover revealed a monstrously insane 6-liter Lamborghini-inspired V16 motor with a claimed 533 hp, good for a top speed of 204 mph.
On the outside, you'd be hard pushed to see any major differences over the Diablo, the same basic profile remained, save for extras in the shape of vents, grills, and four headlamps. Four headlights surely have to be better than two, right? Apart from adding more drag, the Cizeta's curious pop-up headlight looks like something from the Wacky Races.
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Based on a Lamborghini Huracán, the ARES Design Panther ProgettUno (project 1) aims to blend modern engineering and construction with a carefully recreated nod to the De Tomaso Pantera.
Composite bodywork and a V10 engine point towards a modern 650 hp mid-engined 200+ mph Italian supercar, and it looks stunning. However, the headline feature here is the first production car for almost 20 years to adopt pop-up headlights, a long-overdue retro nod to '80s era supercars.
The purest road-going Ferrari ever produced, the F40 was launched to commemorate Ferrari's 40th anniversary, a halo moment for both the Italian carmaker and supercars in general. At the time, low-weight carbon-kevlar bodywork decked out with a fearsome 2.9-liter V8 twin-turbo engine was the stuff of racing cars, not world-beating 200mph sports cars.
Everything about the F40 was designed to be as light and efficient as possible, which brings into question why use a pop-up headlamp arrangement when there is space in the nose for a more aerodynamic fared-in design? The genesis of modern supercars, for sure, but not quite perfect.
The manufacturers of these performance cars certainly nailed the looks. Unfortunately, they messed up in other areas.
Raised in a car-obsessed environment from an early age ensured a keen interest in anything car-related. first and foremost an F1 fan, but also an avid follower of other motorsports. Professional background working closely with a well established UK based Supercar manufacturer in recent years.

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