Before there were pop-up ads, there were pop-up headlights. When they weren’t on, you couldn’t see them – because when they were off, they retracted or rolled over so that all you saw was a cover. This gave the car’s nose a sleek look as well as something to look at when you turned the headlights on.
Not just that they were on, either. They gave you something to watch, too.
So why aren’t they popular anymore?
It’s not the right question. Or rather, the answer – which is that they were made de facto illegal, via government regulations. Specifically, those requiring Daytime Running Lamps. More accurately, always-on lights. Which defeats the purpose of pop-ups, both functionally as well as aesthetically. If the lights are always on, then the headlights are always popped-up. If they are always on (and up) what would be the point of their being able to pop-down? Sure, the car would still look smooth – when parked. But it would be less aerodynamic when moving, because the headlights would be popped-up and breaking up the slipstream.
But the more fatal problem was the additional cost of the pop-ups, which was harder to justify when they were almost always popped-up, courtesy of always-on headlight requirements. Fixed headlights don’t have moving parts (usually; some newer designs have lenses that turn with the steering) and are more aerodynamically advantageous because they don’t pop-up.
And that’s why you don’t see pop-up headlights anymore.
How about some other things you don’t see anymore?
Mast antennas, for instance. Both fixed – and powered. They have become a very rare sight, if you see them at all. Usually, they can be seen poking up from the fenders of cars made before the early 2000s. Why don’t you see them poking through the fenders of new cars, anymore?
You can’t blame the government for this one. Instead, blame technology. Assuming you want to blame something.
New cars had mast antennas when all they had were radios. The mast antenna picked up FM and AM signals – and that’s all there was to pick up. New cars pick up additional signals – and send them, too. They have satellite radio. And satellite-based GPS mapping. They also, many of them, have the ability to send (and receive) data, which is picked up by a new type of shark fin antenna. These latter have a definite aesthetic advantage over the old-school mast antenna in that they are less visually observable, being lower-profile and body colored and mounted on the vehicle’s roof rather than a fender. And you’ll never have to worry about someone (or a car wash) bending it – or breaking it.
How about vinyl (also called landau) roofs?
They were once considered very classy – before they came to be considered very cheesy. Originally, they were meant to recall the look of a high-end horse-drawn coach, which was something only the rich could afford. Similarly, at first, landau roofs were installed on high-end cars, most famously big Cadillacs and Lincolns. But – for just the same reason that, today, even some entry level cars have heated seats and digital-display gauges – high-end features are often used to make cars not as high-end look more high-end. The problem with the landau look was that it looked . . . cheesy on lower-end cars.
As in old people – who, at the height of landau roof popularity – very frequently drove big Cadillacs and Lincolns fitted with them. Because, for the most part, only older people could afford such cars. But younger people began to not want such cars. Or rather, cars with such roofs. And that’s why you don’t see many landau-roofed cars anymore, except parked outside of retirement communities.
Speaking of big cars . . .
Those are a rare sight nowadays as well. By the standards of 1970, even the biggest new cars – models like the current Mercedes S-Class, for instance – would be considered mid-sized. And their trunks would be considered laughable.
This is something you can blame the government for. Specifically, government regulations (again) which have had the de facto effect of outlawing big cars without actually outlawing them. The difficulty lies in making them – and making them compliant with the regs. Specifically, federal fuel efficiency regs, which have prompted a downsizing of cars generally, so as to make them smaller (and so, lighter) and thus, more “efficient.” The passenger cabin may still be sizable, but the trunk typically gets bobbed – making it small and the car less imposing as well as useful.
What good is a big car with a small trunk, after all? It can carry five, but not their things. And that’s why you see so many big trucks and SUVs these days, rather than downsized cars.
. . .
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