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Eye of the Tiger
the art of the head lamp
by Rick Smith

What impressed me at the first auto show I covered as a journalist wasn't truly new, but as I saw each new production and concept car on display, I noticed that the "eyes" (headlights) of these vehicles have radically changed and they are defining the shape of new cars.

Thinking back 25 years ago, there was only one basic shape of headlights in new domestic cars - ROUND. These were found in two configurations - single light and double light (per side). Auto manufacturers positioned these lamps in a horizontal configuration in the late fifties and as the sixties progressed, they went to a vertical configuration. Then the style changed back to the horizontal configuration. Before they went back to vertical again, rectangular and larger oval headlights were created in the mid and late seventies. These also started out with a horizontal configuration and a few vehicles used the vertical configuration. Headlights defined the looks of the cars from the late fifties to the mid eighties. In fact, the shape of the headlight is very helpful in determining the year of an older car you see on the highway..

As technological innovation and new technologies have grown, new designs and new headlight shapes have been created. It seems like almost any shape is now possible and each headlight appears to be different for almost every model of car. The auto designer is now given exceptional freedom to get the exact look and style they want. Here is a few of the "eyes" I saw at the 1999 Chicago Auto Show.


1999 Honda Civic Si Coupe


1999 Subaru 2.5 RS Coupe


1999 Honda S2000 Convertible


1999 Hyundai Tiburon Coupe


1999 Saturn SC2 Coupe


1999 Porsche Boxster Tip


1999 Kia Sportage


Chrysler Citadel concept car


1999 Dodge Viper RT/10


Dodge Charger 4 door concept car


Dodge Power Wagon concept truck


1967 Toyota Land Cruiser (on new chassis)
See what I meant about round headlamps?


1999 Isuzu Vehicross


Harry Hyundai "talking" car

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the "eyes of the tiger" in 1999. How future automotive designs will incorporate newer headlamp shapes is anyone's guess, but years from now, these new designs may begin to look vintage.

Dated: March 1999


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Copyright 1999 Rick Smith
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