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Remember Front Light Bars?

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one of the interesting trends that started to develop from certain automakers was the front light bar. Do you remember this? The most obvious “front light bar” car was the late 1980s and early 1990s Mercury Sable, but other models had them too — including the Mercury Villager, the Pontiac Grand Prix and a few others. It was a mini-“trend” that quickly went out of fashion.

Naturally, this trend was a bad idea in the 1990s, and it never really looked good. All the cars that had this feature also had halogen lighting, which meant instead of two lights you had up front that could burn out, you now had four or five. And, of course, they did burn out, which gave incoming Mercury Sable models the appearance of a smiling hockey player who had a few teeth knocked out.

I bring up these light bars now largely because I actually wonder if they’ll come back. In the days of LED lighting, light bars are a lot more attractive — and rear light bars have returned with a vengeance, now becoming one of the most popular styling trends in the automotive industry.

And, indeed, some futuristic cars have also showed off front light bars in concepts, though none have made it to production … yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens soon. So this is a warning to be on the lookout for the front light bar, the scourge of mediocre 1990s cars, potentially returning to the roads. Fortunately, with modern LEDs, now it won’t look like a car driving around with a few missing front teeth.

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  1. One nice thing about them was that when you were driving somewhere that you didn’t want to shine your headlights on or into (sneaking home late, neighbor’s window etc.) you could kill the main beams and the white lights would illuminate enough to still be safe and not hit anything while you killed the engine for final approach to a safe landing.

  2. If it kills today’s current trend of unnecessarily huge grilles (looking at you, Audi. Lexus. Half of Chevrolet’s current designs.), I’m all for it.

  3. Now imagine if something like this came out today. the lights would more than likely be LED’s. Just imagine what the aftermarket could do with light shows. 

    On a side note. How many people still see these cars on the road? Same thing with Tempos. They sold a few dozen million of these cars. I don’t even see them in junkyards anymore. 
    • If that light bar was full LED it would hurt eyes. I have 20/20 vision and my eyes get really strained driving on one lane roads at night where passing LED cars are shining their lights on my eyes. They need to do something about it.

  4. Love light bars. I think it’s because of the Sable – it just looked like “future” to me. Lincoln MKVIII with the full length rear neon light bar from 1998 was awesome.

    Doug – I think most of these didn’t have lights in the middle. They just were long reflectors to look like they should have lights. 

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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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