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This whole theme kicked off early last year when we featured a couple of articles on the topic of headlights being the face of your classic car, and how they contribute to – or in some cases even define – the design of certain cars. We were immediately pleased to find our readers chirping in with their own favourites, and we could have no doubt featured even more articles on exceptional headlight designs. But we chose instead to move focus to the taillights. After all, everyone appreciates a good booty.

If you missed those previous articles or you just fancy revisiting them, here’s a little helping hand which will save you from exploring the delights of ViaRETRO’s search function:

Stylised Headlights – The Face of Your Car

Stylised Headlights – The Face of Your Car (Part 2)

Stylised Taillights – The Booty of Your Car

Thankfully, our readers clearly have just as strong views when it comes to a good booty as they do about pretty faces, so there were plenty of suggestions from you lot when we started looking at taillights. Some of those have made it into the Part 2, just as I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few of my favourites which just didn’t quite make the cut for the first booty article.

Some of them will be elegant and stylish, others quirky and others still just outright extravagant. But they certainly aren’t bland. In their own way, each of these taillights add something to the overall design and character of each car.

1959 Cadillac De Ville
Our very own Tony Wawryk pointed out that I had forgotten the iconic ’59 de Ville in our first taillight article, and he’s of course entirely right as I struggle to think of any other taillight arrangement which is more of a statement. The scene is of course set by those massive fins. Then, towards the very top of them, place to distinct bullet-shaped lights side by side like a double-barrel shotgun, and wham… you’ve just created the very definition of extravagant! But it’s also oh-so-cool…

1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto
In very stark contrast to the Cadi, this little Italian temptress has a very pert and delicate rear – so much so, that it would feel wrong calling it a booty. Suggested to us by reader Peter, the taillights of the Duetto represent the exact opposite of the de Ville taillights. Here it’s all about unadorned simplicity – and with it follows a beautiful delicacy matched only by very few.

1960 Porsche 356 B
This one is another of my personal favourites – that applies both to the taillights alone, but certainly also to the car as a whole. While the first 356’s were equipped with two very small and minimalistic round taillights either side, the Germans got a lot more artistic when the B-series was launched in 1960. Those exquisite little teardrop lights just look so right sat as shiny gems on the back of that rounded booty.

1965 Chevrolet Impala
Besides suggesting the ’59 de Ville, our dear Tony also suggested the ’59 Chevy Impala, but while that too is rather special, I’ve elected to stick with the Impala but just move forward a couple of generations to the ’65 model. It’s not just the six individual round lights which make it special; it’s actually more the way those taillights sit exposed, strutting their stuff, almost protruding as far from the bootlid as the diameter of each light itself. With all six lights lit up at night, it truly is an excellent look.

1964 TVR Grantura series III and IV
Let’s be honest, everyone loves round rear lights. As the owner of two round-rear-light BMW 2002’s I’m of course biased, but I genuinely feel that they’re a charming attribute to any classic car that has them. They just never look wrong – not even when combined with a three-box design like the 02 or the Cortina Mk.1 for that matter. But as reader Niels V. pointed out after the first taillight article, those jewel-like Cortina lights look even better on the back of the series III and IV of the petite TVR Grantura. Pardon my language, but what an arse…!

1969 Datsun Bluebird 510 SSS Coupé
Full-width taillights always provide drama to any design. Up through the sixties, the Americans perfected this concept on several cars such as the ’66 Charger and the ’66 T-bird. But we should never rule out the Japanese, and when it comes to inspiring taillights, we should especially never rule out Datsun/Nissan. They have given us several; but more often than not, it’s been by utilising round taillights such as on their first-generation Cherry 120A Coupé and their second-generation Skyline. However, when it came to creating a coupé version of their bread-and-butter 510 saloon, they had a stab at the full-width taillights as well, and frankly, they nailed it! I would love to add one to my garage, and it wouldn’t just be for the lower roofline and the raked rear window either – it would be for that dramatic Nippon interpretation of full-width taillights.

1965 BMW 2000CS
While the 2000CS has often been regarded as the marmite of Bavarian coupés, that’s probably mostly down to its controversial face. The rear however is just sublime. Light and elegant with those slim taillights delicately resting in that broad, but in no way obtrusive, full-width stainless steel strip. It’s every bit as graceful as even the crème of what the legendary Italian carrozzeria have treated us to during their golden era.

1961 Dodge Polara
The Polara is not the most famed of Americana. But have the guts to position the taillights on the sides of the rear wing (rather than on the rear panel as convention would have it), and really, you should at least be entitled to a reaction of some sort. From here, Dodge took it not just a step further, but a great big leap further, by creating taillights resembling a red pearl nesting within an open clamshell. The clamshell then became an integral part of the shapely fins. Just WAUW

1959 Facel Vega HK500
Some taillights don’t settle with just radiating light – they radiate class! None master this better than the subtle, yet entirely fabulous taillights of the Facel Vega HK500 as suggested by reader Dries Leysen. Sat atop discreet fins, the taillight is an extension of the wing as it is vertically split down the middle by a red piece of glass decorated further by a “V” set into the glass. Only the French could have ever dreamt up something this stylish.

1961 Jaguar E-type series 1
The E-type is of course a design icon – perhaps even THE design icon. So much so that I think we sometimes forget to appreciate the details, as we simply view the entire car as the perfect package – every part complimenting the next. But that would leave us at a loss, as the E-type has multiple intricate little details. Perhaps none so more than the taillights of the series 1. More than just taillights, they are a piece of art…

As always, we’re of course keen to hear your feelings about these taillights. Which is your favourite? And as tradition would have it by now, please tell us which ones we forgot to include…


3 Responses

  1. Niels v

    One other application of the cortina lights might even surpass the TVR/Griffith.
    The Lola GT

  2. Tony Wawryk

    I’ll throw in this example of French elegance that I saw at Prescott recently, on a Panhard 24CL – nicely integrated into the rear wing curves, slender and stylish.

  3. yrhmblhst

    Well, contrary to what Mr Bilidt and Mr Ebberfield think – it IS their inalienable right to be wrong I reckon – we have in this article the ONLY jap car ever. We never got the SSS models over here regrettably, but the standard taillights are pretty nice too imnsho…especially the Euro spec ones.
    Just off the top of my head, I would add Triumph Dolomite Sprint / late Spitfire units, 66 GTO, 68 Impala, early Mustang, 70 RoadRunner, the first Alfetta coupes – actually, most anything Alfa Romeo does – and lets not forget the 70-71 Torino as discussed here earlier this week, especially with the ‘honeycomb’ overlay. I have a real weakness for 64 Pontiac Grand Prix tailights and early Cougars too. And midyear Corvettes. And 39 Ford with BlueDots.


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