Headlights are a defining feature of a car’s design. If you’re able to identify a car by its lights alone, even when 98 percent of a car is shrouded in the pitch black of night, then the design’s a winner. Great headlight designs can define a manufacturer’s ethos for generations, while others may be one off-designs unique to individual models. We’ve come a long way since the gas-lit acetylene headlamps of the 1800s — these are 15 of the most gorgeous and iconic headlights of all time.
2015 Volvo XC90
As far as modern headlights go, Volvo knocked it out of the park. Not only does this design have a cool nickname in ‘Thor’s Hammer’ but it looks beautiful on every Volvo car it graces.
1968 Ferrari Daytona
Pop-up headlights are prettiest when they’re down. Unfortunately, to be of any use they have to flip up, which absolutely ruins the design — usually. The Ferrari Daytona is one of those rare gems that looks stunning no matter its headlight position.
2004 Ford GT
If you look closely, the headlights form a “100,” which commemorates Ford’s 100th anniversary. Just a little easter egg for fans of the Blue Oval.
1968 Dodge Charger
Technically, and thankfully, these aren’t not pop-up headlights. Their “garage door” motion is just as iconic as the Charger itself.
1968 BMW 2800 CS
The E9 generation of BMW coupes was the first to debut the New Class (“Neue Klass“) design. The ’68 2800 CS also debuted BMW’s quad headlamp layout, which can still be seen gracing today’s Bimmers.
1963 Porsche 911
Aside from the 996, a generation of the 911 that Porschephiles would love to forget, the 911’s low, round headlights are right next to the rear-mounted flat-six on of the car’s list of defining features.
1989 Alfa Romeo SZ
The Alfa Romeo SZ wouldn’t be an Alfa Romeo SZ with anything less lighting its way.
1963 Corvette Stingray
Something about the ’60s inspired designers to just nail pop-up healights.
2017 Audi R8 V10 Plus
The ’17 R8 V10 wasn’t the first to get Audi’s laser light tech, brought over from their motorsport initiatives, but it was the first US-spec car to get the technology. (If you’re going to introduce a beautiful lighting system, why not stick a V10 behind it?)
1967 Citroen DS
The first headlights on a mass-market car to swivel dynamically need no further justification.
1992 Jaguar XJ220
The ’80s and ’90s were peak ‘pop-up headlight’ era, and Jaguar’s innovation added to the mystique that was the XJ220’s design.
1970 Alfa Romeo Montreal
The only time shutter shades are acceptable.
2017 Ford GT
The Ford GT’s lamps are a study in mechanical-watch-level intricacy.
1965 Ford Mustang
The original Mustang’s iconic headlight design stayed with the car over multiple generations, making the front end of the classic muscle car unmistakable. After a brief hiatus, the design language made a return, thankfully, and continues to influence the current Stang’s lighting.
2013 Jaguar F-Type
Similar to the way “Thor’s Hammer” has found its way onto every Volvo, the F-Type’s J-Blade design has played a part in distinguishing modern Jaguars.
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