You know what a padiddle is, don’t you? It’s a game, actually. We all used to play it from our late teens probably into and maybe even through our twenties.
Padiddle is a term that refers to a car with only one working headlight, as is the case in the photo above of an old VW Beetle. The way the padiddle game worked was that if you were out for a drive with your girlfriend and you saw a car with only one working headlight, the first one of you to shout out “Padiddle!” was the winner. If the guy was the first to shout the word, he got to kiss the girl. If the girl said it first, she could either slap or kiss the guy.
The game was a played a little differently if your driving companion happened to be another guy. In that case, the first one to shout “Padiddle!” got to punch the other guy in the upper arm. Fun, huh?
Anyway, I thought about padiddle the other night when I was walking my dog. I noticed that I hardly ever see cars at night with only one working headlight and I wondered why. And then the answer came to me: sealed beam headlights.These days, nearly all cars have composite headlight assemblies, uniquely designed for each specific make and model car. If a light within the assembly burns out, which is relatively rare, you simply replace just the bulb.
But back in the day, all U.S. cars were required by law to use “sealed beam headlights,” and they were pretty much standardized in size (i.e., not vehicle specific). The headlight consisted of an enclosure with a bulb in front of a lens, completely made of glass. The entire unit is sealed (hence the name) and none of the parts can be replaced separately. If the headlight stopped functioning or broke, you’d have to replace the entire sealed beam light.
These sealed beam headlight bulbs used to burn out every few years. Hence, there were more cars on the road with only one working headlight. Which meant a lot more opportunities for the padiddle game and a legitimate excuse to kiss your sweetie (or to arm-punch your buddy.)
But then in the mid 80s, U.S. laws changed to allow composite headlight assemblies with replaceable bulbs for the first time. And these bulbs were brighter and lasted a lot longer than those sealed beam headlights.
When was the last time you saw a padiddle? In fact, when was the last time you saw a car (other than at old time car shows or fairs) with sealed beam headlights?
For what it’s worth, I came across this picture of a ‘56 Chevy Bel Air on Pinterest. Notice its sealed beam headlights. Sexy, right?