For a very long time automobile lighting was seen as a purely utilitarian affair, making sure the general shape of the lights harmonises with the overall design and passes the safety regulations of every market the vehicle is sold in. Tuners began to experiment with lighting rather aggressively in the early 2000’s. Most of that was neon fitted underneath the bodywork to give the car that much extra presence. But none of the car manufacturers adopted those, much like no sensible adult adopts shoes with lights in the heels. However, the innovation also touched rear light design and headlight design. To spruce up the standard halogen boredom, tuners began to create elaborate shapes, playing with geometry, brightness, colour inlays of the casing, and tint. Headlights were also given treatment, blacking out sections that didn’t need to be reflective, adding an LED section, or covering a portion of the headlight, within safety limits, that made it look narrower and more aggressive. Ten years later, and car manufacturers have headlight design departments with 20 full-time employees. Headlight design are becoming distinctive features for manufacturers. Rear lights now have pronounced LEDs and dynamic turn signals. BMW even created an accessory for its current 5 series, where the rear lights can be retrofitted to look completely transparent and devoid of colour, until the LEDs are turned on. Completely pointless from a utilitarian perspective, but it wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the tuners who thought it would be cool to make the car look like it didn’t have rear lights at all.
If you take a car from the 1950’s you’ll note how narrow the tyre is compared to modern vehicles. Much of that has to do with innovation towards safety. Vehicles with wider tyres handle better, reduces braking distance, and can cope with higher speeds. But you will also note that something as basic as a Toyota Corolla can start with 15 inch wheels and get all the way up to 19 inch wheels. Why? For safety? Of course not. There was a time when ostentatious car tuning jobs for most popular R&B artist of that year included chrome 22 inch wheels fitted to a Cadillac Escalade. This year of 2020, chrome wheels, Escalades and R&B have largely faded into obscurity, but the love for bigger wheels seems to have endured rather well. Mainstream SUVs such as the 2020 Audi SQ8 are fitting 23 inch wheels from the factory! It is worth noting that tyre technology has improved to the point of making this wheel size not only possible but also actually safe. Twenty years ago, it was quite difficult to find a 22 inch replacement tyre, when now you can easily order a set online. But that is exactly because for years the global market unanimously voted for larger wheels with their hard-earned cash. Everyone agrees – big wheels look cool on cars, especially given that cars themselves are getting bigger with each generation to accommodate the comfort and safety features that customers have come to expect.