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Remember the Cross-Hatched 1980s Taillights?

I was recently pondering taillights, as I often am, and I remembered something interesting that happened in the 1980s: Several cars released back then had lines or cross-hatches within their taillights. Specifically, I’m talking about the Nissan Pulsar and the Pontiac Grand Prix, but I suspect there were others.

For the Pulsar, the design was highly distinctive: The small Japanese car had large, square brake lights, like everything else in the 1980s, but then Nissan attached a cover over them with many diagonal lines that covered the whole taillight, brake light and turn signal. This was apparently an easy way to make this car more stylish, and anyone who’s spent any time around a Pulsar likely remembers the unusual taillights.

The 1988-1996 Pontiac Grand Prix’s rear lights, to me, were even more unusual. The Grand Prix’s rear lights were cross-hatched with black lines — some that were vertical and some that were horizontal. But, if I recall correctly, the brake lights themselves were below all this madness, and the cross-hatches were over the turn signal, which was larger in overall size than the brake light.

The mid- to late-1980s Pontiac Grand Am also had a similar setup at the time — possibly with the same rear lights. Cross-hatches over some portion of the light, and (oddly) just horizontal lines over the reverse light, as in the Grand Prix.

I suspect these lights were designed to give all of these vehicles extra "style," though I must say that, looking at all this 30 years later, I don’t see an excess of beauty on these things. What I do see are weird lines that diminish the effectiveness of the brake lights and turn signals. But it was an attempt, and I don’t think Nissan and Pontiac were the only ones making this attempt; I seem to remember similar taillights on pickup trucks and maybe even some other cars — but if other vehicles used them, I can’t quite place them. Does anyone else remember any other lined or cross-hatched 1980s taillights?

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Eh, the Jaguar XJ40 (88-94 US market sedans) had three or four horizontal slats engraved in the plastic and came with a slew of different smoked lens covers.  LeBaron, Shadow/Horizon, Dayton, Mustang GT, Mercury Capri…..

    And let’s not forget the white lenses on the Allanté.  I know there are TONS more.   I kind of liked them.   Very nice compared to today’s drab seemingly one size fits all designs.  
  2. The E28 5 series kinda had horizontal lines on its taillights. Done in chrome and a whole lot higher class than the GM effort which looks like it was done with insulating tape as an afterthought.

    Then there are those with horizontal indents or crenelations, a lot of 70s/80s mercedes, and my own beloved rover sd1 had these. There was an apparent function to these, trapping dust from covering the light.
  3. 4th Generation Pontiac firebird had the cross-hatch similar to the Grand Prix and then went to hexagons in ’98(?). 

  4. I don’t know if this counts necessarily, but the original Lexus LS400 had some weird tail lights. They weren’t covered by anything, but they had several sections, not all of which illuminate, and when the brake lights are on it reminds me of a checkerboard.

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