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One would perhaps think that classic cars – essentially a celebration of what used to be – would be less susceptible to following trends and fashions. But one would then be wrong.

Classic car owners clearly have an appreciation of history and of heritage, but many of us clearly still have a desire to personalize our chosen classic car. This can of course often be achieved through period-correct modifications right from kitsch little add-ons to rare and now insanely expensive aftermarket steering wheels, period aftermarket wheel upgrades or even full-blown engine tuning executed as one would have done back in the day.

While the self-confessed purists and members of Das Original Polizei may well find themselves having a minor seizure over such obscene behaviour, I’ve always taken the view, that as long as it’s truly period-correct, then it’s absolutely fine by me. After all, the pleasure I get from classic cars is not in any way restricted to experiencing classic cars which present exactly and precisely down to the very smallest detail, as they were delivered new from the factory. No, for me it’s more about the virtual time travel back to a better and simpler era. While a factory-correct early seventies safety colour or a factory fitted mono Blaupunkt radio help me achieve that illusion of time travel, so does a set of chrome-back Carello spotlights on the front of a classic Lancia, a set of aftermarket Cosmic alloys on a Mini, or even plastic rear window louvres on a late seventies Opel Manta. I am in all honesty a real sucker for those period-defining aftermarket add-ons.

But every so often a new trend rudely enters our classic car community. A non-period-compliant fashion statement of sorts, which is bizarrely immediately embraced and spread among certain groups of enthusiasts. The latest one seems to be tinting the inner highbeam headlights yellow on classics with quad headlight set-ups. I’m sure you too will have noticed this modern and utterly pointless trend. In short, the normal and outer headlights are left white, while the inner highbeam is tinted yellow, leaving an odd mix of that classic French look with yellow headlights and the regular white headlight look. But why?

I frankly struggle to answer that question. What precisely is achieved with this latest fashion statement which is now polluting the classic car scene? Personally I’m actually a huge fan of yellow headlights – especially if they adorn a French classic car, where it simply perfects the aura surrounding la voiture trés chic. But then they obviously need to all be yellow, as would have been the case back in the day. I’m even okay with a classic car having regular white headlights, but supplemented with a pair of retro-fitted stand-alone spotlights on the front bumper which have yellow glass in them. That works too. But the headlights – all the headlights – which are an integral part of the bodywork, should also have the same colour glass. Either white or yellow. But never both. This, after all, is the way it has always been, so this is naturally the way it should continue to be!

Do you too have a pet hate, when it comes to modern trends without any period background making their way onto classic cars? Or are you on the other side of the fence, so you would rather try to explain to me why non-period-compliant fads are at all relevant on classic cars?

6 Responses

  1. Paul Hill

    The need to tittyfy your car or Classic has always been trend set either from the factory or from aftermarket retailers from year dot. Some are ageless and cool and some are more dubious and seriously hair raising. From Halfords to specialised shops there is something for everyone. I loved the Alfasud I saw on eBay a few years ago that looked like it had ram raided Halfords in period. Resplendent in yellow with many many and I mean many stick on stripes and stickers to make sure you know it’s an Alfa Romeo and certainly to make sure it looks fast even when it’s parked.

    I remember in the BMW 2002 scene in the early 90’s all 02’s had to be seen wearing a set of spot lamps. I gues this was practical for pre 74 models as the lights were notoriously dismal especially as the silvered bowls started to deteriorate. Bodykits are my pet peev. Even factory ones I find hard to swallow let alone aftermarket atrocities fitted in a back street shop by Stevie Wonder. One thing is for sure, all that said I did find myself drawn to a 1968 1600-2 that had been fully dipped in the 1980’s home customisation bucket of wrongness. With its custom arches which looked like they were crafted from a transit van and Wolfrace wheels to huge plastic rear spoiler and home made front spoiler. My head said return that car to stock but my sense of humour wanted it to stay time warped in 1980. Nether the less built by the owners father and proudly passed onto his son. Don’t change a thing. The scene has room for all, the good the bad the ugly…

  2. Anders Bilidt

    Excellent reply Paul – thx for contributing with your thoughts…
    It does also raise the very relevant question: When is something “period-correct”?

    For instance, you mention Wolfrace alloys on a BMW 02. Well, if the modification – tasteful or not – was available when the car was brand new, then it’s by default period correct. But how about 80’s modifications on a 70’s car? Strictly speaking that’s not period-correct. But they are of course still very old modifications, which represent another bygone era. One could also argue that by now, those modifications – while made when the car was perhaps 10 years old – have been part of a particular car for the vast majority of that cars life, and as such have become part of its history.

    I just find it amusing when a brand new trend, with zero historical relevance or background, suddenly makes its debut in the classic car scene. Where does it start? And why?
    But you are of course right Paul – the scene should have room for all! – as long as they don’t mix white lowbeam outer lights with yellow highbeam inner lights, naturally… ;-)

  3. Claus Ebberfeld

    That’s very interesting, Anders: Like you I absolutely adore the yellow look on a true French classic car, but have also found that it automatically lends a bit of international mystique to other cars as well. Surely you remember my BMW 628 CSi with its double yellow headlights? I always thought it suited that car perfectly well.

    But I find this matter of “half yellow” especially interesting as I was indeed looking into giving my Rover that exact treatment. Without realizing that it was any sort of trend, I must admit.

    No, I actually found my inspiration in period. Please see this Rover 3500 from “The new Avengers”, circa 1976:

    See? At least for the Rover it seems to be correct with only the inner lights yellow. Well, for a French car, at least. And no, my car is of course not French. But neither was my BMW and as I said, I like the touch of international mystique. I hope you will tolerate it if I go forward with this!

  4. Anders Bilidt

    Aha! We learn something new every day… :-)
    Claus, the picture you link to is in all honesty the first “period” picture I have ever seen where white and yellow has been mixed.

    It still looks ridiculous though…

  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    I am also going to get yellow fog lights for the SLC. Ha!

    Seriously, though – on the Rover I have now put the period-correct wheels on instead of the too modern alloys, so I think I am entitled to a little excess elsewhere :-)

  6. Dave Leadbetter

    About a year ago a really tidy and completely standard Mk2 Golf Driver appeared round here. As soon as the inner lights got tinted I knew it was doomed. It now sports cut springs and stupid stickers across the windscreen pretty much exactly as illustrated by the Volvo 240 pictured above. All these people are individuals. Just like their friends.


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