Last weekend I attended the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where I got a ride in a Lucid Air, nearly shit myself driving an original, manual Beetle for the first time ever and generally felt skittish for the entire weekend because nobody except staff was wearing masks or distancing, even indoors. That last part is just a heads up that if you’re planning to attend such an event. That’s where we’re at right now!
Anyway, the biggest surprise of my weekend had nothing to do with any that. They were all fairly predictable experiences. Rather, it was what I saw when I walked past a Type 916 Alfa Romeo Spider with its hood up, and instantly realized I’ve been lied to my entire life.
That in and of itself is sort of a lie, because when I first laid eyes on the car, I didn’t even know what I was looking at. I understood it was an Alfa of course — it was sitting next to all the other Alfas during the Saturday morning Cars and Coffee. I just wasn’t quite sure what model it was — the headlights were rounded rectangles. It briefly crossed my mind that this might’ve been a midcycle GTV refresh I wasn’t aware of, but then I peered at the hood and at once, all was understood.
The GTV never actually had four circular, discrete headlights. The units were two rectangles, divided into circles by cutouts in the hood that had rubber padding around them presumably to protect against the ingress of gunk. This is something I’m sure every owner and savvy Alfa enthusiast knows, but it was a shock to me. I’ve been a fan of the car’s design since I was a kid, driving it in Metropolis Street Racer and Sega GT 2002. Much like the BMW Z8, the Alfa GTV stands as proof that parted pencil mustaches can work equally well on some cars as on movie stars.
Anyway, the headlight thing is a clever bit of engineering and I suppose if you’re especially perceptive, you probably could have sussed out the truth based on how deep the circles are set in the hood when it’s shut. That always struck me as odd, but without having seen the headlights in their undisguised state, I never connected the dots.
This all got me wondering what other cars might’ve used a similar trick. Of course, automotive history is peppered with weird headlights that conceal and reveal themselves in amusing ways, but what the GTV’s doing is less talked about. In a way, it reminds me of the redundant taillights that some cars have (particularly those with rear hatches), so the lights remain visible when the normal, exterior ones are not. Like with the GTV, you’d never know the true nature of the car’s lighting situation until you moved a panel.