Okay, the Alfa Romeo Montreal doesn't have pop-up headlights, but the design is so cool that it deserves recognition.
During normal driving, the Montreal features louvered panels that cover the top half of the headlights and make the coupe look like it has eyelashes. However, when the time comes to turn on the lights, these pieces tip downward to sit underneath the lamps. The result is a machine that appears to be blinking when the headlights come on.
Famous automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro went through a period of creating low-slung, angular sports cars, and he often used pop-up headlights on these vehicles to allow for a pointy nose that looked very aerodynamic.
As an example of this shape, check out Giugiaro's gorgeous body for the BMW M1. The pop-up lights let him give the machine a low nose that makes the rare BMW appear ready to slice through the air.
Ferrari spent decades using pop-up headlights as a defining feature at the front of its vehicles going from the 1970s with the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona to the late 1990s with the 456M.
For Americans of a certain age, there's still nothing cooler than Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett getting behind the wheel of his white Ferrari Testarossa, popping up the headlights, and driving into the neon-soaked night to the strains of a synth-heavy track.
Kids of the 1980s could also get behind the wheel of convertible Testarossa (a version Ferrari never officially sold to the public) in the video game Outrun.
You didn't have to be rich to get a car with pop-up headlights. Case in point: the Ford Probe. It was the product of Ford's partnership with Mazda at the time, and the first-generation model (2nd gen pictured here) was nearly the replacement for the Mustang until Ford realized that was an awful idea.
Instead, the Probe gave Ford a competitor against the bevy of front-drive sporty coupes available in the United States at the time, like the Honda Prelude, Mitsubishi Eclipse, and Toyota Celica. Mazda had a mechanically similar model called the MX-6, but it featured a completely different body with fixed headlights.
It's hard to imagine how the Lamborghini Countach would look without the pop-up headlights that give the supercar its iconic wedge-shaped appearance.
Lamborghini initially showed the Countach as a concept in 1971 and introduced the slightly modified production version in 1974. Production lasted until 1990. Over those years, the machine gained power and sprouted a variety of vents and wings that gave it a much more aggressive look. The pop-up lights always were there, though.
Originally designed by Giugiaro with his trademark combination of a wedge shape and pop-up headlights, the Lotus Espirit received a restyling from Peter Stevens in 1987. The result (pictured here) retained the sharp-edged look and hidden lights.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Of all the vehicles on this list, the first-gen Miata (known to fans as the NA) is probably the model with pop-up headlights that you're most likely to see on the road today. They were fairly affordable when new and proved to be quite reliable. Plus, there's huge aftermarket support that should ensure that these little roadsters are on the street for years to come.
Porsche took part in the pop-up headlight fad, too. From the lowly 924 to the limited production 930 with the slantnose option, retractable illumination was available throughout the range.
Sitting somewhere in the middle of the Porsche lineup, there was the 944 pictured here. Introduced for the 1982 model year and lasting until 1991, the company kept things fresh through multiple upgrades, including installing larger displacement engines and launching a turbocharged version.
The first-generation Toyota Celica arrived in 1970 as a small sports coupe that looked like someone left a Ford Mustang in the dryer for too long. The designers followed the contemporary trends, and the model gained a wedge shape with pop-up headlights in the 1980s. Things changed for the 1994 model year when the sixth-gen Celica arrived and switched to four circular lamps in a fixed position up front.
And now for something weird. The Volvo 480 was the Swedish brand's entry into Europe's compact segment in 1986, and the weird looking little hatchback lasted until 1995. It was also Volvo's first front-wheel-drive model.
Looking at the front end, there appears to be plenty of room for fixed headlights, but Volvo's designers decided to add some pop-ups, too. When in place, they give the nose a really weird look.
Pop-up and retractable headlights experienced a burst in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s as a way to give a model a sporty, aerodynamic aesthetic at the front end. Unfortunately, they've disappeared from showrooms today. As a design cue, pop-up lights could probably still be very attractive, but pedestrian safety standards, particularly in Europe, make them difficult to implement because of the potential for hurting a person in a collision. In addition, efficiency regulations make fuel economy a major concern, and the extending lights affect aerodynamics at night.
Let's not dwell on a negative point, though. Click on the arrow above to remember some of the cool machines with pop-up headlights.