The circular tail lights on cars make a bold statement about its stylistic aspirations. It also serves to telegraph a car’s unique attributes.
Of course, this isn’t always the case.
For instance, the circular tail lights on the eighth generation Chevrolet Impala doesn’t do enough to distract from the car’s generic sedan design.
But more often than not circular tail lights draw your attention to the car.
Every manufacturer executes this distinctive design element differently. Below is our list of cars with circular tail lights.
This is by no means an exhaustive list just an intimate collection of automobiles we’ve come across with beautiful circular tail lights.
1. Chevrolet Corvette
The latest C8 Corvette is the first not to feature circular tail lights.
However, the current tail light design still gives nod to the tail lights that have graced the rear end of Corvettes since 1961.
Perhaps a tell-tail indication of the time in which I grew up (and likely to the exasperation of fans of other Corvettes).
For me no other Corvette is as quintessentially Corvette as the C4 generation. And can you blame me?
This shape was around throughout most of my formative years from 1984 to 1996.
2. Ferrari F355 Berlinetta
Another dream car of my childhood was the F355.
While its shape graced as many covers of automobile magazines as the C4 Corvette throughout the 90s.
It doesn’t hold the same position as the C4 Corvette as the most Ferrari of all Ferraris. Circular tail lights have been an abiding design element for Ferrari.
In fact, as I write this, I’m hard pressed to think of a Ferrari without circular tail lights.
Certainly, one must exist, I just can’t think of any. Built from 1994 to 1999 the F355 Berlinetta is a beautiful car.
You can see bits of its styling in the Lamborghini Gallardo, which is likely one of the reasons why I like the Gallardo so much.
3. Nissan Skyline GT-R R34
Skylines have had circular tail lights since the second generation was introduced in 1963.
But the first GT-R wasn’t included into Nissan’s Skyline lineup until 1968 as the Skyline 2000 GT-R sedan.
Then in 1970, the two-door Skyline 2000 GT-R was added to the mix.
If you’re a fan of Japanese cars, you’ve no doubt spent hours starring at this car like we have.
But one thing we never noticed is the fact that the R34 tail lights aren’t perfectly circular.
And it only has one backup light, the other is amber colored. Here in North America, we’ve been given the green light to import GT-Rs since 2008.
4. Ford GT
Ford GT tail lights have been circular since the car was introduced in the 1960s.
The first place wins it took over Ferrari in 1967, ’68 and ’69 prompted Ford to produce a retro-styled GT in 2005.
And in 2017 we got a new GT which was for the first time powered by a twin-turbo V6. I still haven’t had the opportunity to experience this car.
But if you’re in the market for one you should know that it’s built for performance, not comfort.
Like the La Ferrari the seats are fixed but the pedals and steering wheel are adjustable so that you can move them closer to you.
5. Dodge Charger
The circular tail lights were only available on the second generation 1968 Charger. It came with a 440 Magnum V8.
And while I think the tail lights that originally came on these cars are distinctive enough. I have to admit that I quite like these dual circular tail lights too.
There’s even what looks to be circular tail lights on the Super Charger concept developed by Mopar.
But they’re actually exhaust tips with red LEDs surrounding them and serving as brake lamps which I think are clever.
This one makes 1000 horsepower courtesy of a Supercharged Mopar Crate Hemi motor.
6. Lotus Elise
With a long successful production run spanning from 1996 to 2021, the Lotus Elise is an amazing, lightweight sports car – A pure-driving roadster as Car and Driver called it.
And indeed, it features everything you need for driving fun with nothing that isn’t absolutely crucial.
The Elise is a car that rewards you for loving the art of driving. The car has won many deserving awards for handling, innovation and for being fun to drive.
Since the beginning it had circular tail lights. Later versions dropped the dual tail light design for the cleaner singular, circular tail light structure.
7. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The latest Miata has adopted a more decidedly circular tail light design than its forebearers.
Miata has played around with circular elements in its tail light design since the NA version.
But the circular element in the latest ND model is the most pronounced featuring a single circular element taking center stage.
Introduced in 2014, this latest Miata is the most aggressive looking.
It retains its familiar sporty convertible aesthetics with an old British roadster seating capacity that’s been its hallmark since 1989.
But perhaps the best part of the Miata in a world full of automatics is that you can still get it with a proper manual transmission.
8. Ford Thunderbird
Introduced in 1954, Thunderbird’s original concept was a personal sports car with two seats. But by 1958 it expanded to include rear seat passengers.
The first Corvette was even developed to compete against the two-seat Thunderbird.
Up until 1964, the Thunderbird featured circular tail lights in a bookend manner that reflect the circular head lights up front.
It was such an iconic part of the original design that when Ford attempted to capitalize on the retro styling trend of the late 90s and early 2000s this was the design they chose for the final Thunderbird.
Although production ended in 2005, the Ford Thunderbird enjoyed a long history first as a sporty vehicle then as a personal luxury car and back to its roots.
9. Pagani Huayra
The official end of the Zonda’s production run was sad. What was going to hang on bedroom walls now? Waiting in the shadows was the Huayra.
And if we thought the styling of the Zonda was extreme, the Huayra carries even higher level of details.
The most insane thing I’ve seen on a production car is the Huayra’s active aerodynamics to enhance stability which also works to enhance braking performance.
I haven’t seen anything like it since KITT’s SPM (Super Pursuit Mode) and EMS (Emergency Braking System) on TV’s Knight Rider.
A perfect example of the distinctive quality of circular tail lights are the ones on the back of the Huayra.
I mean you’re just not going to mistake Huayra tail lights for the ones on any other car.