Frankly, we’re a bit surprised that nobody seems to have built a modern Nissan Z (350Z, 370Z, and 2023 Z) with pop-up headlights. So, let’s see if we can do something about that, shall we? We’ve brought along a rendering of a 350Z with pop-ups that shows how the Z car could tap into its hidden headlight DNA to bring a look that would stand out in any scenario.
Sure, the 350Z entered production two decades ago. But we brought this together with its 370Z successor and the current Z in the intro because of their shared platform, which naturally got upgraded for the generation changes.
Not sure what that means for the look? Well, 350Z owners have made their cars resemble the 370Z for years now, while somebody was even bold enough to (visually) convert a 350Z into a 2023 Z.
So, if this rendering, which comes from digital artist Sean Demetros (aka demetr0s_designs), inspires somebody to come up with a hidden headlight conversion kit for the 350Z, perhaps the 370Z and the 2023+ Z could also benefit from that.
After all, as mentioned in the intro, pop-ups have been used on a factory Z car before. That would be the first-gen 300ZX built between 1983 and 1989. However, the second-generation 300ZX came back to fixed light clusters, a move facilitated by the introduction of more efficient projector beam headlights. The Japanese sports car even famously lent its headlights to the Lamborghini Diablo as the latter’s facelift left the pop-ups behind.
How pop-up headlights came and gone
Back in 1935 when the Cord 810 (here’s a Cord barn find getting supercharged) introduced the car world to concealed headlights, this was purely a styling choice. Over the decades, pop-ups went mainstream (1960s/1970s America and 1980s Japan) and then became more of a performance vehicle thing (late 1990s) based on regulations and old tech limiting what carmakers could do with fixed headlamps.
However, with the electrical hardware and/or the vacuum equipment powering these hidden headlights being prone to failure (remember Tyler Hoover’s ex-Superbird? That vacuum pump was noisy!) and legislation eventually becoming more permissive, automakers no longer had to deal with the issues the said mechanism involved. Of course, new technology like the one mentioned above also led to the demise of pop-up headlights in 2004, with the Lotus Esprit V8 and the Chevrolet Corvette seeing the feature retiring.
Nowadays, with LED and laser headlights giving designers a wide array of options, there’s little need for pop-ups. Besides, European pedestrian protection standards mean designing such hardware for the present times would involve extra costs.
However, with many modern classic cars (aged between 10 and 30), a genre that has gained a cult following these days, featuring pop-ups, pushing enthusiasts’ nostalgia button this way is now a thing.
Even the winks (one headlight up and the other own down), which used to be a bug, have been turned into a feature by the aftermarket. Perhaps the most famous example is the Mk I Miata wink, but it seems the shenanigan also suits the 350Z, doesn’t it?