Cars with pop up headlights

11 minute read Published on Jan 11, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Closeup of a white car pop up headlight

Pop up headlights are a unique feature that you often see on classic cars. Thus, when buying a classic car, whether or not the car has pop up headlamps may be something that matters to you. Continue reading to learn more about pop up headlights, classic cars, and classic car insurance.

What are pop up headlights?

Pop up headlights, also referred to as hidden headlamps, pop up headlamps, hideaway headlights, or flip eye headlamps, are a unique type of vehicle lighting that is commonly found on classic or retro cars. With this type of lighting, the car’s headlamps are hidden when not in use. Depending on the type of car, the pop up headlights may be situated in different spots.

For example, on the Porsche 928 and the Lamborghini Miura, the pop up headlamps are mounted in a housing that rotates so they appear to be aligned with the front end of the vehicles. Meanwhile, the pop up headlights on a 1963-2004 Chevrolet Corvette retract into the hood or fenders. Lastly, some pop up headlights are hidden behind retractable or rotating grille panels. This is the case with the 1966-1970 Dodge Charger, 1970-1971 Mercury Cyclone, and the 1965 Buick Riviera.

The history of pop up headlamps

Want to learn more about pop up headlamps? Consider this history. The first hidden headlights appeared on a car in November of 1935. The vehicle in question was the Cord 810, presented at the New York Auto Show that year. Shortly after that in 1936, a second car with pop up headlamps was introduced to the market, the Alfa Romeo 8C.

In these original cars, the headlamps had to be moved manually. For instance, in the Cord 810, the driver had to turn a pair of cranks on either side of the dashboard to bring out and then conceal the headlamps. It wasn’t until 1938 that powered pop up headlights first appeared in a car, it was GM’s Buick Y-Job.

In the years that followed, several other GM cars hit the market with pop up headlamps, such as the 1951 Le Sabre. However, these were concept cars, and it wasn’t until 1962 with the Lotus Elan that hidden headlamps appeared in a production vehicle. Pop up headlamps have enjoyed varying levels of popularity over the years, with the peak of their popularity being in the 1970s and 1980s.

The beginning of their rein started in the 1960s, with many automakers incorporating them into their designs, especially American automakers since aerodynamic headlamps were not allowed at the time. As time went on, their popularity waned, and by the 2000s, pop up headlamps had fallen out of vogue.

Part of the reason for this was due to new legislation that made it more difficult for automakers to incorporate pop up headlamps into their models without it affecting other aspects of the vehicle, such as handling. As such, you are unlikely to see new models on the road with this unique lighting feature.

Are pop- up headlights illegal in Canada?

Some people assume that pop up headlights are illegal in Canada, which is why you no longer see them on the road anymore. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, pop up headlamps are perfectly legal, whether you are driving a classic car or want to modify a newer model.

Speaking of classic cars, contact BrokerLink to learn more about qualifying for classic car insurance and insuring a classic car. The challenge is that with safety regulations being what they are today, incorporating pop up headlamps into a modern-day vehicle is not particularly cost-effective, which is why you don’t see any new models with the design.

List of cars with pop up headlights

Interested in buying a car with pop up headlights? This is one of many factors that people consider when buying a used vehicle. For a list of cars with pop up headlamps, keep reading:

Mazda MX-5

The first generation Mazda Miata, known as the Mazda MX-5 is one classic car that comes with retractable headlamps. The vehicle was originally introduced in 1989 and lasted until 1997 when it was phased out. Please note that the second generation model of the Mazda Miata does not feature pop up headlamps, as enough laws had changed by that point to make pop up headlamps not very cost-effective.

Mazda RX-7

The Mazda RX-7 is another Mazda model that features pop up headlamps. The first generation of this model came out in 1978, though most experts would agree that it was the third generation of the vehicle that became popular thanks to its pop up headlamps. The third generation Mazda RX-7 was produced between 1992 and 1995 and only just over 1,000 vehicles were made, which makes it one of the rarer classic cars on the market today.

C5 Generation Corvette

The C5 Generation Corvette, produced between 1997 and 2004, is a popular choice among classic car enthusiasts looking for a vehicle that has pop up headlights. This was the last Corvette model to feature pop up headlights, though it was far from the first. Both the second generation, C2 Generation Corvette, and third generation, C3 Generational Corvette, also feature retractable lights. That said, the C5 Generation Corvette is lightyears ahead of the C2 and C3 in terms of performance.

Toyota AE86 Corolla

The Toyota AE86 is another type of classic car that has pop up headlamps. It is a sports car and experienced a level of global popularity unmatched by any of Toyota’s other cars with pop up headlamps, like the MR2 and MK III generation of the Supra. This is in part due to the fact that the Toyota AE86 Corolla was featured in the hit anime, Initial D. Beyond having pop up headlights, the Toyota AE86 Corollas also came equipped with rear-wheel-drive, the last of the Toyota Corollas with this type of configuration. To learn more about sports car insurance, get in touch with BrokerLink.

Nissan 300ZX

The Nissan 300ZX is one of only a few Nissan models that have retractable headlights. Of the few models that do, the first generation Nissan 300ZX is the most popular by a long shot. It was sold between 1984 and 1996 and its pop up headlights were particularly unique in that, when they were closed, the lamps were not completely concealed like most either automotive lights of this kind. This allowed them to sit lower in the front of the car.


The BMW M1 also features pop up headlights. The BMW model made its debut in 1981 and was the German automaker’s only supercar. It even ended up being the flagship in a one-car race series that served as a warm-up for the Formula 1 weekend. Very few M1s were made, making it an extremely rare classic car.

Porsche 944

Next, the Porsche 944 is a classic car with pop up headlights, and strangely enough, is one of the less expensive models with retractable headlamps out there. This is largely due to the fact that it is not the brand’s most high-quality offering. In fact, the design largely hasn’t aged well. That said, it does have the distinct look that pop up headlights offer, so if that matters to you, the status that comes with purchasing this car might be worthwhile.

Ferrari F40

Second to last is the Ferrari F40. Introduced in 1987 and produced until 1992, the Ferrari F40 is perhaps one of the most iconic cars on the market with pop up headlights. Just over 1,300 vehicles were ever made, which makes it extremely rare.

Honda NSX

Finally, the Honda NSX is another vintage car with pop up headlights worth knowing about. Although Honda has several models that feature hidden headlamps, one of the best, most popular options is the NSX. It shares several similarities with the Ferrari F40, in that it’s also a supercar. That said, the NSX was much less expensive to produce.

Modifying a car by adding pop up headlamps

If you do not want to buy a classic car but you still want to drive a car with pop up headlamps, another option that may be available to you is modifying a modern car. That said, modifying a vehicle affects insurance, and some insurance companies do not allow certain types of modifications. Thus, you will need to check with your insurer before modifying your car to ensure that you will still be covered after adding pop up headlamps to your car. Buying a policy without reading through the modification allowances is one of the top mistakes to avoid when buying insurance.

Qualifying for classic car insurance in Canada

It is important to note that if you intend to drive a classic car in Canada, you will need to purchase insurance for it. However, car insurance is not automatically available on all types of cars. Read below for a list of the types of cars that classic car insurance is likely to cover and unlikely to cover:

Types of cars that are likely to be covered by classic car insurance

  • Collector and classic cars manufactured in 1979 or before:
    • Antique – cars built between 1896 to 1948
    • Classics – built between 1924 and 1948 featuring custom coachwork
    • Post-War – popular cars manufactured in the years following World War II
    • Muscle Cars – American made, V-8 engine cars made between 1968 and 1972
  • Collector trucks and SUVs that are 25 years or older (stock), or 15 years or older (modified)
  • Military vehicles – retired, demilitarized vehicles from 1985 and older
  • Classic and antique tractors – restored vintage models 30 years of age and older
  • Car trailers for vehicles and street rods
  • Retired commercial vehicles that are 25 years or older
  • Classic vehicles under construction for active restoration projects

Types of cars that may not be covered by classic car insurance

  • Commercial-use vehicles
  • Motorcycles or scooters
  • Vehicles used for off-roading, camping, or utility purposes
  • Vehicles with 700 horsepower or greater (no matter whether they've been manufactured or modified)
  • Dune buggies
  • Motorhomes or recreational homes
  • Vehicles used for racing or autocross events
  • Vehicles that are highly customized for appearance and suspension

Classic car insurance coverage

Assuming your car with pop up headlights qualifies for coverage, the following is the type of coverage that you must have if you want to legally drive in Ontario:

Keep in mind that driving a car without car insurance anywhere in Canada is illegal. In Ontario specifically, the penalties for uninsured driving include up to $25,000 in fines for a first offence and up to $50,000 in fines for a second offence, a 25% surcharge on top of any fines incurred, the impoundment of your vehicle, and the suspension of your driver’s licence for up to one year. Thus, driving without Toronto car insurance is not worth the risk. If you aren’t sure what the coverage requirements are in your province, contact BrokerLink today. In the meantime, we outline some of the most common types of car insurance below.

Third party liability coverage

Third party liability coverage will protect you if you get into an accident in your classic car that you are responsible for. This type of coverage can pay for expenses like medical bills, repair bills, and legal fees, such as defence and settlement fees, if you are found to be at fault for a car accident.

Accident benefits coverage

Accident benefits coverage can pay for the cost of seeking medical attention if you suffer an injury as a result of a car accident. The same goes for if someone else involved in the accident was injured, like a pedestrian or passenger.

Specifically, accident benefits can pay for medical fees not covered by the victim’s health insurance, like physical therapy or rehabilitation. However, it can also pay for costs associated with injury, like lost income if someone is unable to do their job while they are injured, or funeral fees, if someone dies in the accident.

Direct compensation - property damage coverage

Direct compensation - property damage coverage can help drivers pay for the cost of repairing their cars if they are damaged in an accident. This type of coverage can only be claimed if you are not responsible for the accident.

Uninsured automobile coverage

Uninsured automobile coverage protects drivers who find themselves in accidents with other motorists who are uninsured, underinsured, or anonymous. For example, if you get into an accident with an at-fault driver who was driving without car insurance at the time of the accident, i.e. driving illegally, uninsured automobile insurance can cover the cost of repairs. The same goes for if you never learn the at-fault driver’s identity because they flee the scene, e.g. with a hit and run accident.

Collision coverage

Collision car coverage is optional but can be worthwhile for many owners of classic cars. With this type of coverage, your insurer will pay for the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle if it is involved in a major accident. It is important to note that, unlike other types of coverage, collision car coverage can be claimed whether the policyholder caused the accident or not, as well as whether the accident involved another vehicle, an animal, or a grounded object on the road.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive car coverage is also optional but can be worthwhile for many policyholders, especially owners of classic cars. Why? Due to the fact that it’s the only type of coverage that will protect your car from damage while parked. For example, if you store your classic car in the garage for part of the year, it is still susceptible to damage. Someone could steal it, a fire could break out in your house and damage it, or a tree branch could fall on it.

As long as the damage was caused by an insured peril, you can file a comprehensive car insurance claim with your provider. Comprehensive insurance will help you pay to repair or replace your damaged car. Common perils that comprehensive coverage safeguards against include fire, theft, vandalism, falling and flying objects, explosions and riots, wind, and weather-related incidents.

Accident forgiveness coverage

One more type of optional car insurance coverage popular among drivers is accident forgiveness. Accident forgiveness is additional coverage that can be added to your car insurance policy as an endorsement, to protect your driving record and to help prevent your insurance premium from increasing if you have an at-fault accident claim. Note: coverage and eligibility varies by province.

Loss of use coverage

Loss of use coverage is the last type of optional coverage that you may wish to add to your classic car insurance policy, especially if your classic car is your only vehicle. With this type of coverage, you can be reimbursed for the cost of alternate travel arrangements if your classic car is damaged and needs to go into the shop for repair. While your car is in the shop, your insurer will cover you for the cost of getting around, whether you choose to rent a car, take public transit, or hire ride shares or taxis.

Contact BrokerLink

Do you still have questions about cars with pop up headlights? Whether you want to know more about how these unique lighting features work, BrokerLink is here. As one of the leading insurance brokerages in Canada, we can also explain how vehicle modifications, such as pop up headlamps, have the potential to impact your insurance rates. Further, no matter what type of car you drive, whether it’s a classic car or a modern car, one of our licensed insurance advisors will help you find a car insurance policy that complies with local laws. We can explain the various types of auto insurance out there, as well as the differences between mandatory coverage and optional coverage. We can also shop around and compare insurance quotes on your behalf to ensure you get the most competitive rate for your coverage, as well as unlock discounts that can help you save money on auto insurance. Get started today by contacting BrokerLink for a free quote. Using the online quote tool on our website, you can receive a free car insurance quote in five minutes or less!

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