You Can Talk About This Taillight Mystery At Thanksgiving To Avoid Talking About Politics

Happy Thanksgiving! As you may have suspected, one of the biggest things I’m thankful for is you, all of you, you glorious loons who read what I write and comment and engage and argue and delight. That’s why I want to try and lend a hand here. I know Thanksgiving means, for many of us, interactions with relatives with dramatically opposing views on many things—politics, religion, life choices of all sorts—and talking to them can be, well, hell. So, I’m offering you this: a taillight mystery that’s sure to distract even the most cult-like devotee of whatever political stripe you hate most.

I know this will work because it’s about taillights, the single most engaging conversational topic known to humankind.


The taillight in question is this one I happened to see on a very modified Volkswagen Rabbit at a Los Angeles-area Cars and Coffee. There were many interesting things about that car, but the taillights were especially strange, if in a perhaps subtle way.

This is what they looked like:

Okay, if, somehow, you’re not intimately familiar with Mark I Golf/Rabbit taillights, then let me show you what most Golf/Rabbit taillights looked like:


As you can see, normally, these lights incorporated a reverse lamp at the inside edge there, that vertical block of clear. The just amber-and-red lamps of the car I saw, I soon learned, were taillights that were used exclusively on Golfs made for the German postal service, the Deutsche Bundespost.

So here’s the mystery: why?

Why would the German postal service specify taillights without reverse lamps? Keep in mind that the process of speccing out an entirely different (if similar) part from a supplier (in this case Hella) and going through all the logistics of arranging the supply of those parts and getting them installed on a particular subset of cars has to be more of a pain than just, you know, sticking with the normal lamps. Right?


I mean, the postal Golfs must have had reverse gear, right? They had to. But, for whatever reason, the Bundespost decided they shouldn’t have a reverse lamp because, uh, conceptually, the Post Office must always seek to advance? Never retreat?

Maybe there were some super low-spec Golfs that had no reverse lights to save some pennies, and these were from those. If so, why not just leave the normal lenses and let there just be an empty, inactive clear area? I mean, I guess it’s deceptive? Pretending to have the extravagance of a reverse lamp when you don’t?


I’m baffled. If there’s some reason here that justifies all the extra logistical hassles these lamps must have created, I can’t figure it out.

But maybe your terrible old Uncle or weird-ass Aunt can!

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)