9 cars with the best pop-up headlights

03rd November 2022
Ethan Jupp

A car's lights are like its eyes; a window into its personality and its soul, which is only exaggerated when they’re pop-up lights. Needless to say, no two are the same, with some implementations vastly outshining others, so we thought we’d list some of the best pop-up lights in the world.


Lancia Stratos

The Lancia Stratos features one of the most dramatic designs in all of motoring. The Gandini lines and shape are near-inimitable, tapering and shrink-wrapped as it is. No other lighting solution would feel right on the Stratos, with its pop-up lamps feeling every bit a part of its era-defining look. A real beauty.


Jaguar XJ220

Not all pop-up lights are in fact pop-up. The Jaguar XJ220 is one of a few on this list that does things a little differently and how awesome it is too. The round light covers, rather than popping up, drop down into the recess to reveal the lights. It’s an elegant and more aerodynamic solution than the traditional protruding items, without losing any of the theatre.


Alfa Romeo Montreal

Another unconventional system has to be up there with one of the coolest mechanised headlight designs ever made. Another stunning Gandini design, the Alfa Romeo Montreal is quite unlike anything else on the road to come before or since and the cherry on the cake, is those light shutters. Sitting standard in the ‘sleepy’ setting, you can always see the lamps of the Montreal. When they come on though, the layered shutters drop down under the lamps to reveal them in full. Stunning.


Dodge Charger

You might imagine the Plymouth Superbird with its aero-honed snout should be here but we’ve deferred to the normal Dodge Charger. Why? Because instead of conventional ‘pop-ups’, the Charger has flip-up eyelids. Together with that unmistakable gaping snout, it’s utterly iconic and menacing as they come.


Lamborghini Miura

No Countach, no Diablo? No. The Miura gets a spot on our list for Lamborghini, because of its unique flip-up lights. They lie flat for aero purposes when not in use, but when you switch them on this beautiful car’s lights rise, hinged at the bottom. It’s a great way to keep the car’s ‘eyes’ exposed at all times. We don’t need to tell you the Miura is one of the most beautiful cars ever made and indeed, it has some of the coolest lights ever made.


Mazda MX-5

To my mind all the cars we’ve skipped so far that have ‘conventional’ pop-up lights are missing because there’s one definitive model that we think of. It’s the humble Mazda MX-5, a car which is so numerous that in fact, most people may think of the MX-5 when they think about pop-up lights. The Mk1 is one of the most important sportscars ever made and its lights are entirely a part of its cute personality – real eyes to go with that little mouth. A wonderful little thing.


Opel GT

And back on to the weird and the wonderful, of which the Opel GT is perhaps the king. This quirky little sportscar from the late 1960s and early 1970s has lights that flip up sideways and, might we say, look truly massive on its diminutive form. It’s hilarious, cool and brimming with personality, which is what we so sorely miss about cars with pop-up lights.


Nissan 300ZX

The Nissan 300ZX (not the Z32 from the 1990s) has interesting lights in that they are partly in display when they’re off. When on, they rise slightly, to reveal the full light. It seems almost unnecessary and yet, we’re so happy it has them.


BMW 8 Series

Even more slight are the lights of the achingly elegant and cool original BMW 8 Series. These long slender items rise just a touch, to reveal a projector lamp and side lights. What a thing, that (unpopular opinion alert) I don’t think is effectively succeeded in the new 8 Series which, while good-looking, is a little underwhelming by comparison. Long live the original.

  • List

  • Headlights

  • Lancia

  • Stratos

  • Jaguar

  • XJ220

  • Alfa Romeo

  • Montreal

  • Dodge

  • Charger

  • Lamborghini

  • Miura

  • Mazda

  • MX-5

  • Opel

  • GT

  • Nissan

  • 300ZX

  • BMW

  • 8 Series

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