In America, for a very long time automotive designers were forced into using standardized headlight units. First round sealed beams, then rectangular ones, and often they got so bored with these that they just hid the lights altogether, often in very creative ways. In one particular case, though, I think you could argue that an automotive headlight designer just totally lost their shit, because of the existence of the 1980-1983 Lincoln Continental Mark VI and its optional Auxiliary Front Lamps.
This particular light setup has to be the most batshit in all of automobilia because this is the fundamental guiding concept: Hide the headlights, but put an extra set of almost-headlights right on the covers that are hiding the actual headlights!
So, you’ve basically got working lights that weren’t really bright enough to be actual headlights (the auxiliary lights just were glorified parking lights) even though they were the same size and shape as normal round sealed-beam headlights, on the cover over a set of dual round sealed-beam headlights. You’re hiding a set of headlights under another set of fake headlights.
It’s kind of like getting eyes tattooed on your eyelids. But on a Lincoln.
Now, I realize that in this era Ford seemed to be really dissatisfied with the state of headlights. They were bored with round, bored with rectangular, they were trying all kinds of ways of covering them, and seemed to be longing for something else.
I mean, I kind of know they were, since in 1984 the Lincoln Mark VII became the first car to use replaceable-bulb, plastic composite headlamps that could be shaped however the designer wanted.
But we weren’t there just yet. Ford was clearly aching to have more control over the shape of lights, and we see some of this wish-based-design in cars like the early ’80s Thunderbird, which had headlight covers that looked like what the car’s designer really wanted headlights to look like:
Sure, the sort of fake, wide, wraparound dream-lights were a little odd, but at least you could understand why a designer may have done this: because you just couldn’t have real lights that looked like that.
And that’s part of why the Auxiliary Front Lamps on the Lincoln Mark VI are so insane: They’re pretty much the exact size and shape as standard round sealed-beam headlights. Ford could have just yanked the whole complicated covered-headlight assembly and the inner quad headlights and just put two, basic round headlights on the car if that’s the look they wanted.
It’s all so hard to understand. The whole front end look of the car seemed to hinge on the look of covered lights, too:
The addition of those Auxiliary Front Lamps kind of kills the clean lines, and the whole design language they seemed to be going for, and, well, pretty much everything. I don’t get it.
It’s also worth mentioning how half-assed and unfinished these Lincolns looked with their headlight doors open:
That burgundy-colored bumper impact strip kind of makes up for it, though.
I feel like the dead area around those lights should have had a cover or bezel or something, right? I guess they were counting on the dark to hide all of that emptiness. It’s like looking behind the set of a play.
But back to the fake lights. If they wanted to do something special, why didn’t they make the auxiliary lights some design that fit better with the look of the car, but would have been impossible with period headlight regulations? They could have done anything, and what they chose to do was make fake versions of the cheapest headlight solution available on the market at the time.
This is easily one of the most absurd and baffling headlight designs ever. And, they kind of make the car look like an old man with little reading glasses.
I love it.