Top Gear’s Top 9: greatest car mirrors

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From Pagani to, erm, Opel, let’s reflect on the art of the humble motoring mirror

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BMW E36 M3
A real Nineties classic here to kick us off. The E36’s mirrors are smart sculptures: neatly oval, with aero-ish spars. These little ears were the curviest part of the mk2 M3, and have been lovingly imitated, shamelessly copied (and nicked to adorn more humble 3ers) countless times since.

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Porsche 911 Speedster concept
Yep, we’re cheating already. Sorry. In our defence, it’s not our fault – it’s Porsche’s. Stuttgart went to the not inconsiderable trouble of dreaming up these gorgeous retro-modern bullet-style mirrors for the 911 Speedster concept… then promptly binned them for the production car, which makes do with standard 911 mirrors.

For that reason alone, the Top Gear office is not buying one of these sold-out, S$1.14+m machines. That’s literally the only reason. Nice going, Porsche.

(More on the 911 Speedster Concept HERE)

(...And HERE'S a look at the production model)

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Opel (Vauxhall) Vectra
The most remarkable design detail from Vauxhall’s rightly maligned repmobile was the wraparound door mirrors which daringly blended into the A-pillar and bonnet. It was sleek. It was original. It was… the only thing worth remembering about the rubbish old Vectra. And Vauxhall binned this signature detail for the follow-up Vectra snoozefest. What was Luton thinking?

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Pagani Huayra
Right, let’s shift this list towards the exotic. One of the Pagani Huayra’s signature pieces of jewellery are its door mirrors, woven from carbonfibre and designed, as per the pen of Horacio Pagani himself, to look like a woman’s eye.

Even the stalk upon which the teardrop mirror casings are balanced is a beautifully curved piece of carbon sculpture. Beware: they’re not cheap if you knock one off while parking. We’ve heard.

(More Pagani madness HERE)

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Lexus LFA
Everything about Lexus’s money-losing V10 supercar dripped with attention to detail. The carbon weave, the screaming 4.8-litre engine – even the windscreen washer fluid bottle was buried deep within the chassis to help the weight distribution.

Now take a closer look at the mirrors. That curved surface complete with four little fins was honed and shaped to guide airflow over the side of the car and force it into the radiator air-intake on the car’s hips. Using a mirror to aid airflow – that’s Formula One-spec nerdery. Fabulous.

(Click HERE to read about the Lexus LFA and a full JDM ensemble)

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Ferrari Testrarossa Monospecchio
All Testarossas are cool. Even though they’re massive and heavy and by modern standards, not exactly dainty to drive. What a style icon, though. They are an achingly awesome symbol of Eighties excess.

And the most Eighties-ish of the lot are the early ‘Monospecchio’ versions – literally ‘one mirror’. Because of course, absolutely everything mundane sounds spectacular if you say it in Italian. Later ‘red-heads’ got two door mirrors, one mounted at the base of each A-pillar, in a much more conventional fashion.

That makes these single-mirror cars rarer, more valuable, and puts them in an exclusive club. That club being ‘Old Italian Supercars with Silly Short-Lived Mirrors’. And here’s the next member…

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Lamborghini Countach LP 400 Periscopica
The original 1975 Lamborghini Countach was a very pure, elegant-looking piece of kit, before the wings and scoops and lunacy of the later, faster versions turned it into a 1980s icon of excess.

It even featured attempts to be user-friendly. The first 150 examples featured something called the ‘Periscopica’: basically a groove cut into the roof and a high-mounted rear-view mirror, allowing the driver to check behind by looking straight out through the roof, not over the engine.

Nice idea. Unfortunately, in reality it was wonderfully useless, so Lamborghini binned the gimmick and just accepted that the Countach had the exterior view capability of a nuclear bunker. These early rare Countachs now command upwards of £700,000 at auction. Top Gear top tip: remember to check for parking damage before buying. Or stick bubble-wrap around the back wall of your garage.

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Ferrari LaFerrari
Ferrari hasn’t forgotten the art of putting preposterous mirrors on its V12 flagships. Just check out the size of the stalks on the LaFerrari – they’re enormous. In-a-hurry owners probably unlock another 15km/h of top speed just by swapping them for slipperier cameras.

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Honda e / McLaren Speedtail
A double-trouble example of the future of car mirrors to finish. And it’s another glorious chapter in the McLaren-Honda relationship! Sort of.

(More on the McLaren Speedtail HERE)

Not that the Honda e electric city car lacks desirability, but isn’t it excellent to know that its stubby ickle cameras look oh-so-similar to the new-age door mirror arrangement as fitted to McLaren’s 400km/h Speedtail hypercar? The McLaren’s retract for extra speed, too.

What a two-car garage this would be…

STORY Ollie Kew
Opening Photo Zotiq Visuals

TopGear
Author: TopGear
Top Gear is a British television series about motor vehicles, primarily cars, and is the most widely watched factual television programme in the world.