Which Miata Has Pop Up Headlights? All Miata Headlights

By Dan Ross

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Mazda Miata pop up headlights have become an iconic feature. But which year models come with this? This question has stirred the curiosity of car enthusiasts and fans of the beloved Mazda MX-5 Miata for years. For many, the Miata embodies driving joy and timeless design, and its distinctive hidden headlights are a symbol of a bygone era in automotive history.

Let’s dive deeper into the topic and uncover the model that proudly carries this unique headlight design!

Which Miata With Pop Up Headlights?

The only Miata model coming with pop up headlights is the first-generation Mazda MX-5, also known as the Mazda MX-5 NA. Introduced in 1989 and produced until 1997, this best-selling roadster quickly gained popularity for its timeless aerodynamic design and agile handling. 

The NA Miata’s coveted pop-up headlight feature added a touch of nostalgia, harkening back to the era when many best-selling two-seat sports cars featured this distinctive design element.

While subsequent generations of the Mazda MX-5 (NB, NC, and ND) adopted fixed headlights, the NA Miata remains a beloved classic among enthusiasts. This is largely because of its charming pop-up headlights that capture the spirit of driving enjoyment and visual history.

About Mazda MX-5 Miata & Its Pop-Up Headlights

Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda MX-5 Miata

The first-generation MX-5 Miata NA was a game-changer in the automotive world since its debut. The Miata is celebrated for its agile and responsive handling. A lightweight chassis, near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, and precise steering make it a joy to drive on twisty roads.

Its designers took a bold step by incorporating pop-up headlights into the conservative design. The feature that instantly set it apart from the crowd.

What Made These Pop-Up Headlights So Special?

First, The allure of Miata headlights encapsulates the essence of what makes this iconic crazy roadster so special. These lights epitomize the factory’s commitment to pure driving enjoyment. 

The pop-up headlights weren’t just a visual treat; they served a functional purpose. By retracting into the body when not in use, they reduced aerodynamic drag, improving the car’s performance and fuel efficiency. This design choice perfectly embodied the Miata’s “Jinba Ittai” philosophy, where this compact  vehicle and driver are in perfect harmony.

Miata's Pop-Up Headlights
Miata’s Pop-Up Headlights

Plus, these headlights can often be positioned at varying angles, allowing for enhanced illumination of the road ahead. This flexibility in headlight placement contributes to improved nighttime visibility, making pop-up headlights a practical choice.

While subsequent generations of the MX-5 Miata opted for fixed headlights, the NA remains an automotive icon, largely due to its charming pop-up headlights. They serve as a testament to Mazda’s dedication to innovative design and engineering while paying homage to the timeless appeal of classic sports cars.

Still, perhaps the most compelling aspect of these headlights is the sense of personality they imbue. They seem to wink at onlookers when activated, as if the vehicle itself is excited to hit the open road. This playfulness and connection between the car and driver is a hallmark of the Miata experience, forging a bond that goes beyond mere transportation.

Why Were The Miata’s Pop-Up Headlights Removed?

The decision to retire the iconic pop-up headlights from the Mazda MX-5 Miata after the first-generation NA model was primarily driven by evolving automotive standards and design considerations. As the automotive industry progressed, safety regulations became more stringent, particularly in the United States, which is a significant market for the Miata.

Fixed headlights were deemed safer as they eliminated the potential for injury in low-speed pedestrian collisions involving pop-up headlights. Additionally, advancements in lighting technology allowed for more efficient and effective headlight designs, making retractable headlights less necessary for improved visibility.

The transition to fixed headlights allowed for a more streamlined and aerodynamic front-end design, contributing to better fuel efficiency and reduced wind noise. While the removal of pop-up headlights marked the end of an era, Mazda’s commitment to safety, performance, and modern design standards drove this change to ensure the Miata’s continued success and compliance with global automotive regulations.

Will Pop-Up Headlights Design Return?

The resurgence of pop-up headlights in modern automotive design is highly unlikely for several compelling reasons. First and foremost, safety regulations have become increasingly stringent, with a focus on pedestrian safety. Pop-up headlights, due to their retractable nature, pose a potential risk in pedestrian collisions at lower speeds, making them a less attractive option for automakers aiming to meet safety standards.

Secondly, advances in lighting technology have rendered fixed headlights more efficient and versatile, eliminating the need for pop-up mechanisms to achieve optimal illumination. Modern vehicles utilize adaptive LED and laser headlights that can adjust their beam patterns dynamically, enhancing visibility without the need for movable components.

Lastly, contemporary automotive design trends prioritize aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, and sleek aesthetics. Fixed headlights integrate seamlessly into streamlined front-end designs, reducing drag and wind noise, which is essential for fuel economy and a quieter ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pop-Up Headlights Legal?

The legality depends on your location and specific vehicle regulations. In many places, pop-up headlights are legal as long as they meet safety and visibility requirements. However, some jurisdictions may have restrictions or bans on them due to concerns about their potential impact on pedestrian safety and modern headlight design standards.

Why Do Old Cars Have Pop-Up Headlights?

Old cars often featured pop-up headlights as they helped improve their aerodynamic efficiency by reducing drag when the headlights were not in use. This design contributed to better fuel efficiency and performance. Also, they were considered a stylish and futuristic design element during the mid-20th century. They added a distinctive and eye-catching look to the car’s front end, making it stand out from the competition.

Who Started Pop-Up Headlights?

It’s Gordon Buehrig who laid the first brick for this iconic feature. He presented a “baby Duesenberg” sedan in 1933 with headlights that folded back into the fenders. He received a patent for the design in 1934, and these hidden lights became another stylistic device.

The Bottom Line

The first-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata, the NA base model produced from 1989 to 1997, is the year pop-up headlights first appeared in this product line. 

These distinctive pop-up headlights, while no longer a part of the Miata’s design in later generations, remain an iconic symbol of this beloved roadster’s enduring charm. Their legacy lives on in the hearts of car enthusiasts, reminding us that in the world of automotive design.

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