KaptKaos Reader
6/29/10 7:36 p.m.

I was driving home from work the other day in my Volvo 122 Wagon and saw an early 911, and a Mark I Scirocco. Southern California is good for this kind of thing.

Later that night, I was browsing Craig’s List. I have a set of cars I generally look for. Lately I have been looking more and more for a 2+2 sport coupe.

The engine will be going back into the 914 shortly and then I will paint the Volvo. After that I will be ready for the next project. That’s why I am looking at coupes.

The list is small and I know that I will never buy some of the cars on the list, but I like to look anyway. Being in California, there is the additional requirement that the car be pre-76 (no smog checks). So far, here is the list: Alfa GTV, BMW E9, Fiat 124 Coupe, Lancia Fulvia, Mercury (Ford) Capri, Porsche 912, Volkswagen Scirocco (75 only) and Volvo 1800.

I owned a Capri before, and parts were unobtanium. But I still like them and keep looking. I believe that the Lancia would be worse for parts availability. The rest are all a toss-up. It will depend upon the deal I find at the time I am ready.

All of these cars are classics. They all have fairly decent performance and have lots of ways to make them run better. But what struck me is that they all have round headlights; standard 7” or 5.75” sized round headlights.

The last car that I can think of that came with those were the 92 Volkswagen GTI, Jetta or Cabriolet with the quad round headlight option. Would the 94-99 Integra count? Not sure those were the same kind of lights. I noticed yesterday that Jeep Wranglers still have round headlights. How odd is that? I hate Jeeps.

What is it about cars with round headlights? Is it like the rally Fulvias? Fanalones?

All of the great classic cars have round headlights. Maybe this is because that was the only choice available, but I think the styling element of round headlights frame the faces of these cars. Few would argue that the original Austin Healy Sprite would have been the same had they had square headlights.

Flip-up headlights were a way for designers to hide those big, round headlights and get a more aerodynamic shape. The lights were still round, but they were hidden away under a panel, unless it’s the Porsche 928.

Sadly, flip up headlights, once the simple identifier of cars with sporting aspirations are no more. Pedestrian safety, manufacturing costs and the ability of designers to make headlights that look like the eye slits in a samurai helmet have all sentenced the flip ups to their death. 2004 was the last year that flip up headlights were available in the US market. The C5 Corvette and the Lotus Esprit were the last to have them.

I may have stumbled on another reason why I dislike new cars; the headlights!

I have written before about what makes a classic a classic. I had postulated that keys, real keys, made the difference. Having thought long and hard about it, I am now convinced that the round headlights are the true indicator of a classic.

Thanks for humoring me…… again.

foxtrapper SuperDork
6/30/10 5:24 a.m.

Remember, back in the late 40's or so federal law mandated every car in the US have two 7" headlights. Somewhere in the early 50's as I recall, one of the manufacturers got permission to deviate, and others shortly followed.

Jeep played the round headlight thing on the Wrangler only a few years ago.

TJ Dork
6/30/10 7:35 a.m.

I currently have two cars with 7" round headlights. What I have not yet owned is a car with regular round headlights behind a fairing. Alfas and Z cars come to mind - Ferraris do too, but not in my price range.

spitfirebill Dork
6/30/10 7:36 a.m.

I hate the look of square headlights. I like big sexy round headlights peeking out from under a slight brow. Like an Alfa GTV. That said, my daily driver Nissan truck (355k miles on it) has them.

foxtrapper SuperDork
6/30/10 7:53 a.m.

The four square headlights, I don't think I've seen that setup in a way I like.

The two square, sure. On techno-box type vehicles. They also throw light about the best in my experience.

The four round headlights, I've almost always disliked, but that's because nearly all the manufacturers made them look goofy as heck. But the current Camaro makes them look darn good.

VClassics Reader
6/30/10 9:52 a.m.

FWIW, round headlights permit much better optics than rectangular ones. I can see much more of what I need to see driving our 122S with cheapo round sealed beams than I can driving our '84 DL wagon with rectangular Hella H1/H4s.

foxtrapper SuperDork
6/30/10 10:33 a.m.

Depends on the lights. The large rectangular Phillips bulbs throw one of the best light patterns I've used. And that includes many of the e-code headlights. Sylvania and GE weren't nearly as good.

With the round lamps, all the DOT bulbs leave a nice unlit center, right where I'm going to drive. The area in front of the car, where it's too late to stop, is well lit. But the area further down the road, where the deer is actually standing, that's relatively unlit. I've read some SAE or DOT papers on this where it's a deliberate safety feature.

Even with e-code or motorcycle lamps, you get tremendous variability. The Bosch ecode large round lights that everyone group bought a few months ago have a mediocre pattern, with way too much separation of the high/low angle. One Honda lamp I had some years ago had almost freaky low beam cut off, width, and high beam reach. Maybe it was a closet Cibie unit.

benzbaron HalfDork
6/30/10 1:29 p.m.

DOT mandate for sealed beam lights is why you see the round lights.

For the mercedes it is funny, everyone who owns a r107 here wants the european lights, while everyone in europe wants the american sealed beam lights. Cultural exchange.

Andy Reid
Andy Reid Auction Editor
6/30/10 2:51 p.m.

Same deal for the Jaguar XJ-S. People pay very good money in the UK and Europe for the U.S. spec round headlights but in the U.S they all want the Euro lights.

Funny that. I prefer the round ones on both the Mercedes roadsters and the XJ-S.

Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder Technical Editor/Advertising Director
6/30/10 2:54 p.m.

The Saab 99/90 guys were doing that same switchy-switchy.

blackrabbit New Reader
7/1/10 10:18 a.m.

pretty classic story.. we want what they got and they think we go the cool stuff. definetly round headlites for me though.... gives the car more of a real "face"

foxtrapper SuperDork
7/1/10 2:58 p.m.

Though not all round headlight cars are pretty.

KaptKaos Reader
7/1/10 4:51 p.m.

Certainly not all cars with round lights are pretty, but pretty cars have round headlights.

Just name the prettiest car designs, and see how many have round headlights. Jag XKE, Ferrari 250GT, Lancia Fulvia, Alfa 33 Stradale, even the Karmann Ghia.

Maybe it's something organic about the shape or the faces they create. To me, nothing says classic like round headlights.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
7/2/10 11:04 a.m.
foxtrapper wrote: Though not all round headlight cars are pretty.

See, those may not be "pretty," but I still dig 'em.


ronbros Reader
7/2/10 7:45 p.m.

and that cars worth a pretty penny !!

RandyS Reader
7/2/10 8:54 p.m.

I'm a sucker for anything with 7" round headlights. It has been suggested that I am subconsciously imagining boobs

aeronca65t Dork
7/3/10 5:59 a.m.

Why stop at 7"?

(FYI-I have four cars with 7" round lights)

Leo  Basile
Leo Basile Reader
7/9/10 6:49 p.m.

Ferrari 288 GTO

Square lights...but wait ROUND FLIP UPS...LOL


KaptKaos Reader
7/9/10 7:02 p.m.

Fog lights don't count Leo.

DeadSkunk Reader
7/10/10 8:25 p.m.

Round headlights ? Yep, on the 1991 VW GTI 16V in my garage, and on the 1970 Alfa GTV I saw on Craigslist today.That would make a nice vintage racer ! Also on the 1979 Fiat 131 Brava stationwagon I was looking at! ..........Hmmmm,now I'm picturing a Fiat wagon, sporting some 8" round driving lights,towing an aluminum trailer, carrying a vintage prepped Alfa. Gotta go get a lottery ticket.

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