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The Hidden History...

January 28, 2015 13:05

Change is the very foundation of life, and it is only change itself which doesn’t change. While changes are always believed to be good, they have resulted in the extinction of some very interesting technologies. Automobile segment is one of the most dynamic markets and every day some new technologies evolve while some are just thrown away and remain hidden in some lone corner of memories. Many new car accessories in India are developed, and many become outdated. It is in this circle of change that some technologies become extinct. This article is based on one such technology – hidden lights or as they are commonly known, pop-up headlights.

Pop – up headlights or hidden – headlights were first introduced on the 1936 Cord 810. They provided a clever solution to hide the weird looking round headlamps that were very common in those days. But they hit their stride only in the ‘60s and ‘70s. During that period, legislation allowed the use of only round and rectangular shaped headlamps. But, neither of those headlamps looked good on the cars, according to the car designers. Thus, an intelligent idea, of hiding the lamps, emerged which resulted in the development of pop up lights.

If the car designers wanted a low angle of emergence of light rays or headlamps styled like doorstop, they would make the lights come out of their hide. It was in the ‘80s that the Japanese engineers started working on this technology and finally came up with cars with very low hood line. An example of this result is the Honda Accord (1998). The powered hidden lamps were used widely in General Motor's Buick Y-Job concept car of 1938 and were also placed on 1942 DeSoto, a Chrysler Corporation’s product. Even though, this technological feature experienced several crests and troughs, it somehow always made a comeback. Like in late 1960s, these pop – up headlamps regained their then - lost popularity. In fact, these headlamps continued to find a place in several automobile products in 1970s, 1980s and until the early 1990s.

Sadly, just like every movie, this tale also had a twist. The motors and electrical equipment that lifted and closed these doors for pop – up lights started failing with time. Winking cars became a common thing. Winking cars were the cars in which only one of the headlight door opened which gave a view of winking car. Finally, the pop–up light technology faced its downfall. Unfortunately, this technology never made a successful comeback and finally became extinct. Now–a-days, cars with pop–up lights are only found in automobile museums.

Before its extinction, the hidden headlamp technology found its place in various sports cars. In fact, these headlights were last seen in the 2004 Chevy Corvette C5. Surely, by now you would be thinking the most obvious question – why. Why did the pop–up lights disappear?

At that time, pop–up headlights were created to provide a lower hood line than usual headlights for cars could provide. However, with advancements in science, new external car accessories came into the scene to replace the hidden headlamps. These modern headlights used new concepts like the concept of ellipsoid projectors. They occupied comparatively small space than the pop–up lights. This essentially removed the pop-up lights cars from the market.

There were some big disadvantages of pop–up lights that ensured that they don’t stand a chance in front of the modern lights. These headlights were mechanically complex. Even a simple issue with these headlights would take weeks to solve as you would have to approach an expert. Also, they were very costly to manufacture. In addition, during the season of snowfall, the frequency of mechanical problems increased exponentially. All these issues contributed to the extinction of car using pop–up headlights. In their whole lifetime, pop–up lights made many appearances in several cars like Acura/Honda Integra, Alpine GTA and DeSoto, etc. This concept was also used in motorcycles – Honda Spacy 125 Striker, Suzuki Katana, trains and even in bicycles. It was only in this peak time that they became so popular. But, now they have become a history.

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