Right by my house is a small bar called The Amber Flash, one of the oldest and most run-down turn-signal fetishist bars. I went by there the other night for a nice crisp Blinker Fluid to, you know, take the edge off, when I noticed two sullen guys slumped over at the bar, holding damp paper towels to their faces.
I asked a woman sitting nearby what happened, and she told me: bar fight. Now, a bar fight in the Amber Flash is almost unheard of, since the only people who show up are doughy pedants who talk about turn signals and side marker lamps and resent the expended effort of having to lift their glass to their mouths when they want to drink.
I asked what the fight was about.
“Retractable turn signals,” she said. “Not trafficators, though, more like pop-up headlights. This guy said they exist, this one said they don’t, and then they slapped each other for, like, eight seconds. The rest you can see for yourself.”
Retractable turn signals! Of course! It’s like the Holy Grail of turn indicators, if the Grail was more like a colander, terrible at its basic job, because, let’s be honest, having retractable turn indicators is sort of a terrible idea.
Retractable or pop-up or covered headlights are one thing—it’s okay to have a whole complicated motor assembly for a lamp that isn’t generally turned on and off multiple times in a trip—if it’s dark, you turn them on, and that’s it.
Turn signals, though, can be used scores of times for even a short trip, and the idea of actuating a motor to open a panel to reveal them every time is, well, nuts.
That’s why it seems to have only been attempted once, on an experimental 1966 turbine concept truck from Chevrolet called the Turbo Titan III.
The Turbo Titan III was a remarkable vehicle with all kinds of bizarre features (like a 280 horspower, 35,000 RPM gas turbine and a bonkers steering system), some of which I’ll cover in more detail in later stories, since today I just want to focus on its flip-out turn signals.
The design of the truck was clean and sleek, and the front end was dominated by a pair of massive chrome trimmed air intake scoops. These scoops also contained the truck’s lighting: a trio of vertically stacked headlamps that popped out sideways and those unique indicators, which slid out from the side of the vehicle like a drawer.
Sure, you could argue that semaphores or trafficators were pop-out and retractable indicators, because, yeah, they sort of were, but I’m talking about post-semaphore, blinking-light indicators, and in that context, the Turbo Titan III I think is the sole car to use them. But, yeah, now that I think about it, maybe they do sort of count. Shit.
The indicator pods on the Turbo Titan III seem to contain two separate lamps—a clear running light on top and the amber indicator below.
I’m not sure if the lamp-drawer would stay open when the running light was on? I assume so. If the running light was off, then I think the pod would retract, as it’s seen (or, not seen) in pictures of the truck running with lights off.
That means every time the blinker gets turned on, the drawer slides out, the blinker blinks and indicates the crap out of the turn, then, when cancelled, retreats back inside the truck.
So, I guess whichever guy was saying pop-out flashing non-trafficator turn signals did exist was right, and maybe justified in defending the truth with his ineffectual, floppy slaps. Then again, they are sort of deeply stupid and never caught on, so perhaps the other slapper was right.
I’m just glad people still believe passionately in the important things.