The last thing you want if trying to shake off the cops is distinctive tail-lights. But we love ’em, especially these
1 BMW Z8
The look was blatantly pinched from BMW’s classic 507; the cabin created in a parallel universe where it’s always 1958, except with microchips. Yet amid all this r etrorehashing, BMW had the fore (or rear-) sight to graft on some of the slimmest , coolest tail-lights ever seen in the pr eMillennium era.
2 Mercury Cougar
An upmarket Mustang spin-off using most of the same har dware, Mercury’s pony car got a stretched wheelbase and more posh, with hidden front lights and some ver y cool sequential rears copied from the earlier Thunderbird, that pulsed in the direction you were indicating. So cool, Carol Shelby nabbed them for his modded 1967 Mustangs.
3 Maserati 3200GT
Though they looked identical, Maserati’s raw 3200GT was radically re-engineered in 2002 to become the much better Coupé, swapping a twin-turbo V6 (and optional auto) for a naturally aspirated V8 (and optional robotised manual). Sadly, the best feature of the original didn’t make the transition — the oh-so elegant boomerang rear lights.
4 1959 Cadillac
Fifty-nine was the peak, quite literally, of Detroit’s obsession with fins, but the showy sheet-metal appendages wouldn’t have looked half as loud without that year’s twin-rocket-flameshaped lamps at each side. For 1960 the lights were neatly integrated into a pair of distinctly atrophied fins.
5 Mazda Furai
The striking threads of illumination on this 2007 concept car looked like a shower of sparks lighting the midnight blackness of the L e Mans 24 Hour race that the concept longed to contest. Sadly, there were more than sparks coming from the Furai when ‘Top Gear’ barbecued it during testing for the television show in 2008.
6 Audi Swarm OLED
Back in 2013 Audi gave us the first taste of the OLED technology it productionised in time for last month’s Frankfurt show. The bizarre Swarm lights look as if the y’d escape up the road if your lamp e ver got smashed in a fender bender. Worth Googling for a video if you missed them the first time round.
7 Mk1 Cortina
You want mash with that? Ford’s iconic pie lights, or Pye, if you remember the period hi-fi brand, are as recognisable as the Lotus version’s green stripes, and turned up on TVR’s Grantura in an early bit of kit-car scavenging. BMW’s 02 Series riffed on the same theme.
8 Dodge Charger
Chargers almost always had cool lamps, but it’s not the four circles of the much-admired Bullitt-era ’68 that the 200-mph modern version references. Instead it’s the full-width light bar of the very first, back in 1966, combined with a bit of Duk es’-spec ’69 for good measure.
9 Lamborghini Asterion
Lambo lamps were lamentable until Sant’Agata turned the wick up on the Murcielago to create the trick Reventon. Now they’ve settled on an instantly recognisable motif, you’ll still be able t o tell a Lamborghini from lesser supercars even when electrification finally silences the V12 — though that’s not happening just yet.
10 McLaren P1
You can’t truly appreciate how sensational the P1 looks until you’ve seen one at night , impossibly slender tail-lamps wrapping around the rear fascia like a neon motel sign on Route 66. But this is a McLaren, so there’s science involved too: conventional lights would have stopped the colossal amount of heat the V8 generates escaping.