I have a list, right here on my computer, of a bunch of interesting and important stories I need to be working on. And yet I know, deep down, that I’m not going to be able to do jack feces on anything until I get this insanely unimportant, painfully geeky, incredibly minor observation about one particular Jaguar XJ taillight out of my system. I think I have brain problems.
Here’s how screwed my brain is: I’ve noticed this about these taillights since I was a kid, back when these cars actually still existed on the roads, and I’ve never really discussed it with anyone because I couldn’t for the life of me imagine anyone could possibly give a shit. So, instead, I decided my best bet was to talk about it on a globally-read automotive website. Because I’m an idiot.
Okay, enough preamble. Here it is: the taillights in question are ones used on North American-market Series 2 Jaguar XJ sedans. These were very attractive (if notoriously unreliable) cars, and they had quaint little Gothic-tombstone-shaped taillights.
Early on, the taillights were all red, as you’d expect. Later, when amber turn indicators became required in Europe, they switched to a version with an amber section for the indicator at the top:
Okay, no big deal, we’ve seen that on all kinds of cars. This isn’t the weird part. The weird part is, for some reason, the American-market version came with taillight lenses that looked like this:
Okay. Deep breaths. Do you see what’s going on here? The entire lens for the whole taillamp is amber. Yes, you can see the red stop/taillight bulb in the lower section hiding redly behind the amber lens, but the overall look when you see the car is an entirely amber taillight.
This, I believe, is unique in automotive history, at least since taillight colors became standardized.
If you’re going to pick one color for your taillight lens, it’s almost always red. That’s absolutely inherent to the very nature of a taillight. It’s red.
Legally, there’s no problem here. The tail and brake section has a red bulb, and there’s a separate red reflector, so the letter of the law is met. It’s just never done this way. Who the fuck makes an all-amber taillight?
Sure, sometimes, especially with the Altezza clear taillight craze in the early 2000s, you’d see clear taillights with colored bulbs. So, it’s not like there’s no non-predominantly red taillight lenses out there, by a long shot. And most contain a combination of red, amber, and clear. But if you’re only choosing one color, it’s almost always red.
Unless you’re one of these Jaguar XJs.
Man, I feel weirdly ashamed writing this. Like it’s so minor and idiosyncratic it’s almost too personal to discuss. But that’s crazy, right? It’s just a taillight.
I’m no closer to understanding these taillights, but I do feel better having just had the chance to mention them. I sort of love them, if I’m honest, because they’re something tiny and trivial and yet also completely different from how these things are normally done, just, because it seems, for the hell of it.
I’m still sort of amazed/ashamed I’ve been thinking about this at all. I can’t believe I wrote about it. Or that you’re reading it, right now. It makes me both have a lot of love and respect for Jalopnik and some real concerns about my mental health.
But I’m past it now. We got through it. Together.