Journal: Which Classic Cars Pulled Off Fender Mirrors Best?

Which Classic Cars Pulled Off Fender Mirrors Best?

Andrew Golseth By Andrew Golseth
May 19, 2016
20 comments

Take a trip to Japan and you’ll be surprised just how many vehicles have side view mirrors mounted topside their fenders. Much like the strong influence (in some cases, borderline copyright infringement) taken from European and American automobile design, the Japanese were far from the first to utilize this obscure styling cue.

Regardless of where you stand on the matter, I think we can all agree: some vehicles pull off fender mirrors better than others. Personally, I quite like them and, although they weren’t the pioneers, the Japanese adopted the idea and mastered fender mirrors in the ’60s and ’70s in their home market. In fact, fendā mirā were standard in Japan until the regulation changed in 1983, allowing door-mounted side view mirrors. That’s not to say they’re not an option today. In fact, like the original VG30 model Toyota Century (that came standard with wing mirrors), the current GZG50 Toyota Century is still offered with optional fender mirrors.

Even today, nearly every Toyota Crown Comfort taxi on Honshu has large chrome capped wing mirrors. Now, you’re probably wondering, “I can see the appeal for styling, but why would a service vehicle like a taxi use those novel mirrors?” Well, there’s actually some sound Japanese wisdom behind their reasoning. Although the field of vision in fender mirrors is generally smaller than door mounted mirrors, they do offer some benefits—especially for Tokyo cab drivers.

Fender mirrors eliminate typical C-pillar blind spots and allow the driver to focus their eyes on the road without having to refer to door-mounted mirrors in order to see what’s going on at the flanks and rear of the car. They also protrude less from the sides of the vehicle, which comes in handy when maneuvering the narrow roads of Japan. Finally, it’s said that out of respect for their passengers, wing mirrors eliminate the extra head turning needed for door equipped side view mirrors, providing more privacy for occupants.

But enough about Japanese cabs! Some of the more popular Japanese Nostalgic Cars of relevance are the Nissan Hakosuka and Kenmeri model Skylines—both of which look fantastic with their low-slung black fender mirrors.

Another Nissan that, in my opinion is a contender for best fender mirror application, is the Japanese market Fairlady Z—also known as the Datsun 240z here in North America. With its long, gradually sloping forward hood line, the S30 Z-car’s bonnet is only further exaggerated with fender bolted bullet mirrors. The mirrors’ thin support arms are swept back giving the car an extra sporty look.

There are plenty of other Japanese classics that look great with fender mirrors, including the Honda S600 and S800, Mazda RX-7 and Cosmo, and first generation Nissan Silvia—which I’ve always thought resembles a better looking rear-wheel-drive version of the Lancia Fulvia.

Some of the earlier European contestants are the Jaguar XK120, Triumph TR3, various Rolls Royce, and even select BMW. Even some Mercedes 300SL came with either a single driver’s side or, even more rarely, two fender mirrors. We can’t forget some utility vehicles were optioned with wing mirrors including early Land Rovers!

What do you folks think? Do you like fender mirrors or are they a foreign design language that doesn’t translate to you? Do you love them? What classics look best with fender mirrors? Tell us in the comments!

Photography by Abhi Chatterjee, Andrew Schneider, Courtney Cutchen, & Otis Blank

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Aidan IrelanJohanMark BuchananDanaJim Levitt Recent comment authors
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Johan
Johan

I would say the Volvo would look amazing with them!

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Mark Buchanan
Mark Buchanan

My 70 MGB had one on the passenger side. Loved it. Made for easy maneuvering through traffic.

Dana
Dana

I’ve often thought about the wisdom of wing mounted mirrors as I crank my head to the right to look out the side mirror of my car while I’m driving! With the advantage of electric adjusters, I don’t see why they aren’t adopted everywhere!

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

I thought it was the law (at least in the 60s and 70s) that in Japan that all cars had to have a pair of these mounted?

Joshua Atlas DiVirgilio
Joshua Atlas DiVirgilio

I loved the fender mirrors in my 1990 Century. It was always one of the biggest compliments I got. Or people would just say how weird they were.

Michael Micetich
Michael Micetich

Glas/BMW

Teddy Ruxpin
Teddy Ruxpin

Celica 1st generation. BAM!!!

Todd Vess
Todd Vess

They worked great and looked good on my 1972 Land Rover 5-door wagon. No blind spots. Especially good when driving a RHD truck in America.

Tom Bruynel
Tom Bruynel

…although admittedly too new to be a classic.

Tom Bruynel
Tom Bruynel

Pagani Zonda. End of argument!

Aidan Irelan

I’d toss the Huayra in there too, except they aren’t classic cars.

Benjamin Adler
Benjamin Adler

I think the 240Z looks the best, but as you see from my car, I’m a bit biased 🙂 I don’t know what you guys who say they don’t function right are talking about, do yours not adjust? To get mine just right took me in the driver’s seat and a buddy with a screwdriver out front setting them just so (nobody else drives it anyway, so no need for easy adjustment) I have a great field of vision and no blind spots now! At any rate, fender flares and fender mirrors just go together so well 🙂

Doug Escriva
Doug Escriva

They are a classic look, though very inefficient. The English cars do it best, I left them on my Austin Healey 3000 MKIII.

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo

I used to think they were just the coolest thing until I owned a few cars with them. Rubbish.

Myron Vernis
Myron Vernis

I just did a quick count and I own fifteen cars with fender mirrors including the Mazda R130 Luce Coupe pictured above. Not only is the look cool, the mirrors provide amazing visibility to the rear. I really miss them when I drive cars without them.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Porsche 906

Chris Manner
Chris Manner

I have them on my MGA and although they look good, I hate them. They are impossible to adjust with or without help and, since they are invariably flat mirrors, their field of view is like looking for traffic through a paper towel cardboard tube. i.e. basically useless.

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant

Not to mention the pain they are when you are trying to lean over them to access something in the engine bay……literally.

Dane Traill-Forbyth
Dane Traill-Forbyth

I’m so torn between the 510 and 240z…

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Which classic cars pull off fender mirrors best you ask ?

In my less than humble opinion … None ! To a number on every car that has ever suffered the misfortune of having fender mirrors …. they look like functional warts …. tacked on as an afterthought .