10 Reasonably Cheap Cars With Pop-Up Headlights

Pop-up headlights are great, so if that’s a feature you desperately want in an inexpensive car, what should you buy? Here are our suggestions


Image via car collection

Since we originally compiled this post about seven years ago, a lot has changed in the world of used cars with pop-up headlights. While non-rust-loving examples were wiped out and recycled to make Prius parts, survivors are now modern classics, with upward prices that reflect both their increasing rarity and the growing nostalgia for headlights hidden under the bodywork.
Mostly gone are the days of casual browsing through classified ads and discovering a single owner pop-up with an amazing headlight for a bargain amount. Instead, you would be better off browsing forums and auction sites enthusiastic to find the car you want, with a known date and at a realistic price.
Here are our picks:

Mazda MX-5 (NA)

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It’s a good job Mazda has built many Miatas and MX-5s over the years, with dozens killed by station rot. The starting point for an N/A Survivor MX-5 is now around £1,500, although you’ll need to pay a little more for a really nice original one that will last.
Be extra careful to check for rust in problem areas like sills and rear wheel arches, unless you want a car that spends weeks in a garage being attacked by angle grinders (Cough Elephant Cough). Once you’ve tracked down a good car, you’ll have a great sports car that’s fun, easy to drive and cheap.
While the imported cars have been resented by some UK owners, they could be a good bet, as JDM Miatas often have lower mileage and are in better condition than British-spec cars.

Porsche 924

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In a perfect world, we’d advise you to buy the 944, but it’s a little late – prices have gotten out of hand. Of course, that means 924s aren’t quite as affordable as they once were, but one with 125bhp of four VWs can still be found out of a limp for around £5,000.
Want a Model S with the right Porsche 163-horsepower 2.5-liter engine? Be prepared to spend more like £10,000 depending on the situation. Low mileage and special edition cars can double, but the 924 is still one of the cheapest entry points into Porsche ownership.

Toyota MR2 (SW20)

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When it comes to older MR2s with popups, the tidy first generation would be our favorite, but good luck finding one for a reasonable amount that’s not a basket. The second ‘SW20’ MR2 germination values ​​remain in a not-too-ridiculous region, meanwhile, with the cheapest usable examples weighing in at around £2,500.
They have an entirely undeserved reputation for handling hardships at the max, but as long as you drive smoothly to avoid any moments of overdrive – and/or buy one of the friendlier, newer versions – you’ll align with Mr. Two just fine.

Volvo 480

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It won’t be so fast or particularly sports To drive, but how not to be tempted by an old Volvo 480? Not only is it painfully cool with all-important pop-up headlights and that glass tailgate, it’s also still reasonably cheap.
However, the numbers are dwindling in the UK, where around 200 are registered for the road at the time of writing. This drives up prices, so you’ll need to budget £4,000 to get a decent price at under 100,000 miles per hour. Just be prepared to search for a while – plenty of owners have been in it for a long time.

Mazda 323 F

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We won’t pretend the Mazda 323F is fast. Or particularly exciting to drive. But, if you want a cheap, crooked, sloppy flight with popups, you could do much worse. price? As low as £2000. For that amount of money, you can forgive the fact that it takes more than 10 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill. Even with that headlight arrangement, the 323F doesn’t exactly scream as a car worth keeping, so there are still a few of them kicking in.

Honda Prelude (3rd generation)

Sure, the fourth-generation Honda Prelude might have that cool digital dashboard and put out 190 horsepower, but it also has some of the dumbest headlights we’ve ever seen. However, its predecessor not only had headlights – it also had a secret “feature” where you could make the car look drunk by turning it on and off frequently (see above). Endless entertainment.
Remaining UK residents are scarce now (you’re sensing a topic here, aren’t you?), but the third-generation Prelude isn’t likable enough that £2,000 would be enough to buy a usable one, while a budget of £4,000+ would secure a really good idea.

Ford probe

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For a long time, the second-generation Ford Probe was an automotive joke, but time and a steady head-down in the UK mean the coupe is viewed more fondly these days. You get pop-ups, of course, but there’s an extra treat sitting right behind it: a 2.5-liter Mazda KL V6 that’s silky-smooth. You can get it with a 16-valve inboard four, but you definitely want the bigger engine. Just be prepared for a long wait – at the time of writing there are only a few hundred on UK roads.

Lotus Ilan

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Also, the most affordable Lotus money can buy are those with pop-up headlights. The ‘M100’ is also Hethel’s only production front-wheel drive car, but don’t think that means disappointment in the handling department.
These small sports cars are properly sorted, and as for size, Lotus engineers insisted a front-engine FWD design was the way to go. The power comes from Isuzu’s overhauled 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that produces just over 160 horsepower, which is plenty in a car tipping the scales at around a ton.
Expect to pay at least £8000 for a decent purchase.

Chevrolet Corvette (C4)

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If you were thinking about paying that much money and ended up with a car with a 4WD inline to drive the “wrong” wheels, let’s offer an alternative. Yes, the C4′ Vette isn’t officially sold in the UK (the new C8 is built to accommodate a right-hand-wheel drive), but a decent number has made it here via unofficial channels.
The C4 Corvette is about the size of a Cayman, lighter than you might expect, and yes, it’s available with a range of V8s. Power levels were low at first, but Chevrolet soon installed a 245-hp V8 “L98” and eventually a 405-hp “LT5”. A 1986 example with the former was sold at an online auction not so long ago for just £6000.

Pontiac Verse

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Another car that has popped up in people’s ratings over the years, the Pontiac Vero deserves a lot more than being one of the go-to platforms for shonky supercar replicas. The Iron Duke inline-four in the middle isn’t the most inspiring treadmill, but the Fiero is light thanks to the use of a reinforced composite plastic chassis which also means you won’t have any nasty rust issues.
Like the Corvette, it’s not officially sold in the UK, but there are a few import models around. Finding the probe wouldn’t be much more difficult than finding the probe, and having a steering wheel on the left isn’t the big problem some see. Those that come under the grand.

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