Your Name In Lights

Today, Andrew Miles gets his Super Trouper out for the lads.

(c) st.automobilemag.com

Research (undertaken by no-one in particular) has shown racing cars to be 0.02 faster and infinitely more aggressive when their lights are switched on. My amazement is that manufacturers haven’t as yet cottoned on to this phenomenon.

Car makers spend spend a great deal of time and resources on those devices that help us to see and be seen. From the rudimentary acetylene lamps of yore to today’s laser beam-like LED’s found in ever more angular and reflective cages. The head, and indeed tail lights can make or break a car’s appearance.

Examples abound regardless of make – does anyone out there NOT like the pop up headlight? Would anyone argue that the Allegro’s frumpy look comes from those almost rectangular headlamps? As for la derrière, personal favourites include the Giulia cone shell variant and the beguiling, rectangular yet ovoid shaped translucent red found on certain Citroën’s.

But today’s rumination relates to the subject of headlights and the placing of manufacturers names upon them. Do they consider us so forgetful as to place another badge to remind us?

A Mk2 Škoda Octavia piqued my interest as a pedestrian, whilst waiting to cross a busy road. Casting a sidelong glance over the car with a DTW influenced gaze, my eyes caught the headlamp and the Octavia name on the side. Intrigued by these plastic and glass signatures, I donned my trusted but weatherbeaten deerstalker and my freshly polished magnifying glass to look closer.

It seems the slightly older Škoda models of Yeti and Superb were similarly adorned but this was seemingly dropped for the following instalment. And the phenomenon gets stranger for the makers appear not to include these scriptures for every model bearing the winged arrow.

Cars I can categorically say contain no adornment at all include Kias, Hyundais, Dacia’s, not to mention Fiats. Bentley contain the most bold headlamp treatments whereas the Jaguar F-Pace’s I’ve encountered sport a miniature leaper to both front and rear. 

The Seat Ateca’s rear lamps inform us quite smartly that this is indeed a Seat lamp. The front was unbelievably difficult to ascertain being curved and hiding behind some reflective steps.

MINIs from the second generation have just that in a very spirit level-like bubble on the front. The Union Flags on the back are NOT for this debate.

The Toyota Aygo has that stylised type up front.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class: Again, newer affairs have both front and back placing, whereas the GLC thing has only the headlight so adorned.

But why stop here, I ask. Surely there must be more the carmakers could do to entertain and (one imagines), enlighten us?

Such crazy but lucrative ideas for instance as alerting you to the nearest cheese shop by flashing a green tone at their door. Why not project a rainbow when the weather seems to be bright yet wet? Or, instead of puddle lamps emanating from a door mounted light – perhaps head and rear lamps projecting your mood – angry, sleepy, distracted, angrier. Maybe personalise your headlights: LOVE on the left, HATE to the right…

Despite still being the World’s Least Influential Motoring site, this is one idea I hope the automotive world doesn’t connect with. While hardly a major issue in the grand scheme of things, especially in the current, unenlightening times we suffer, these details I may never have noticed without DTW’s assistance.

*STOP PRESS* Brand new Fiesta seen with Ford script in back light only. Hardly worth stopping the press for, is it?

All images (apart from lead image) courtesy of the author.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

22 thoughts on “Your Name In Lights”

  1. Good morning, Andrew. Well done for a thoroughly researched and expertly illustrated piece! I suppose it’s because LED lighting technology is a new(ish) innovation for the automotive industry that manufacturers are so keen to draw attention to it. It reminds me of earlier eras when ‘Automatic’, ’16V’ and ‘Injection’ was proudly written on boot lids.

    I vaguely recall some silly marketing guff about Skoda headlamps emulating Bohemia crystal when (I think) the Mk2 Octavia was facelifted. The Seat example above makes me laugh: do we need to be told that it’s ‘lighting’. Why not ‘door’ impressed in the metal next to the handle so we know where to get in?

    The MINI example is annoying because the script should be contained within a circle, not an ellipse. The Volvo and Peugeot are both too wordy.

  2. This particular trend isn’t restricted to headlights, you’ll find logos on Jeep windows too for instance. The reason manufacturers do this is that aftermarket parts suppliers can’t use these registered and trademarked logos. They can of course make parts to OEM specifications, but they will always look a bit off. Not all manufacturers do this of course, but it seems that Chrysler is replacing more windshields now in the US.

  3. Morning Andrew. Even Sally Smart has the logo, not the name, in the headlights.
    This reminded me of a lighting issue back in the mid seventies when I was an apprentice auto electrician. Back then, Volvo introduced day running lights on the new 240 range. They were scoffed by the media and motoring press. Now they are the norm, but Volvo introduced it 40+ years ago. Anyway, we had several customers come in and ask for a switch to be added to the dash so they could turn them off.

  4. Regarding “not to mention Fiats,” they do mould the number 500 in their headlights, at least in North America. Perhaps the European models are different.

  5. We interrupt this programme to bring you some breaking news. Images of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class have leaked onto the Internet:

    Asked to comment on the new grille, an official spokesperson for Driven To Write sobbed uncontrollably and curled up into a ball…

    1. You could make the entire front of the car into a grille and put everything inside it. This is the end-game they are working towards. I am sorry to say but design leadership left the halls of MB, VAG and BMW quite some time ago. Having defined a peerless standard of refined good taste, they passed the baton elsewhere. These cars have their qualities: I am assured they are fast, comfortable and well-made. They do not look attractive.

    2. Mercedes just uses the same parts for passenger cars and trucks to reduce costs

  6. Bad design. Tiny grille, way to small, can be bigger, there is still wasted space to extend…

    1. Is it not the case that Car Manufacturers generally have to adopt similar “designs” these days to satisfy legislation for things such as pedestrian safety as well as aerodynamics/ fuel consumption? I do not like the design either but maybe there are extenuating circumstances at play too.

  7. Hi Andrew
    Another interesting piece so many thanks for posting. Not got my car back from the garage after it’s service some 6 weeks ago but will certainly check my lights when I do!

    1. Otherwise I think VW was probably one of the precursor for logos in headlights with the Golf 5 units and the tiny VW logo covering the bulb. Quite a neat novelty at the time.

  8. Hi Andrew,

    This is a great subject. Logos and brand names seem to have proliferated on cars lately. Peugeot had a phase where they put the brand name in all letters up-front but this seems to have been dropped with the latest 208 and 2008.

    The trend seems to have logos and brand names appearing now on the profile of cars where usually you’d only find the trim level or engine size badges but I’ve talked about that before.

    I’am not too bothered by the logos appearing in head or tail lights, in fact I quite liked it when they first started to appear: somehow the name or logo engraved on metal or metal-looking piece inside a headlamp conveyed a certain technological cachet. With the democratisation of this practise (I bet some dirt-cheap chinese cars have it) this ‘technological’ detail might loose some of its influence or appeal in the near future.

    Talking about China, they do love some logos over there. They sell a lot of cheap replacement door lights that reflects the brand’s logos on the floor. I think some high-end manufacturers already do this but here they have cheap alternatives for cars that do not usually offer that option for about 15 euro.

  9. What killed the prestige of supplier logos, not just on exterior lighting, but also on dashboard gauges, brake calipers and other parts? For a long time, the presence of just a Hurst shifter was justification for a special car model. If your gauges said “Stewart Warner”, “Smiths” or “VDO” than you knew your car was among the very finest. Now I am quite old, so knowing that Hella made those VW headlights raises my opinion of the Golf V, but I guess that is not the case for everyone.

    Why this sea change? Third party suppliers remain as important as ever. Brembo brakes are everywhere, but their name is not.

    It seems the truly huge players can still call their own shots. For example, the Bosch logo still appears on lots of smaller OEM parts, like wiper arms. I see their logo almost every day. However, I don’t find them particularly special.

    Something you would have wanted, ca. 1975. Better this cat than a sochaux lion, am I right?

    1. Marchal lights were named as those fitted on the 604. The hi-fi suppliers still get their names on the equipement eg. Harman Kardon and B&O. For me Marchal lamps would be a selling point.

  10. I was particularly proud of the squircals headlamp I did for the 2006 Ford Transit. I kept sending data for a squircal bulb shield on the main H4 bulb to the supplier and one day they said they had something to show me. It was a perfect bent metal bulb shield in a prototype part. Whenever it was proposed this could be deleted as a cost saving the CEO of Ford of Europe would say No because he liked it so much!

    1. Hi Simon. If I recall correctly, some months ago you volunteered to tell us the thinking behind the 2006 facelift to the Transit after I had speculated that it was to make it look more like a typical commercial vehicle. I’d still be interested to hear about it, if you might oblige?

    2. The facelift was partly to introduce a bit more corner impact structure and the metal steps in their “stirrup” shape did most of this. Obviously it was an opportunity to restyle the Transit too with a corner with more tension to it. One of the references internally was a black coloured US Ford sedan concept the name of which I forget. The a pillars now had water management rather than just giving a wrap around graphic and the revised stance no longer caused police to stop the Transit for looking over-laden. I could go on…

    3. I have a few Pavlovian utterances when out with the family. 1) Astra! 2) Ignis! and 3) Ford Transit – best van in the world! To be honest, I wasn´t clear on the difference between the 2000-2006 version and the facelifted one. It seems to me the launch design was about being horizontal. The lamps flow into a crease on the body side. The facelifted one is more vertical (and interestingly has the same lamp-body concept as the Ignis Mk2). Both are quite fine and dandy with me.

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