Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

A Mostly Forgotten Automotive Detail: The Dash-Mounted Rear-View Mirror

Years ago, I used to have a very lovely yellow 1967 Volvo P1800S. I really loved that car, and one of the things I loved best about it was the placement of the rear-view mirror: right smack dab in the middle of the dashboard.


Most people who got in my old Volvo, used as they were to having mirrors mounted just above and in front of them, could not fathom how the mirror could possibly work way down there.

How? They’d scream, pointing to the mirror? “This is madness,” they’d yell, before desperately clawing at the inner door handle, desperate to leave a place of such madness. I gave rides to some really agitated people.

Illustration for article titled A Mostly Forgotten Automotive Detail: The Dash-Mounted Rear-View Mirror

The truth is, though, those mirrors show what’s behind you just as well as any other mirror, really. Even with people in the back seat, I don’t recall the view as being obstructed.

So, why do just about zero cars use this mirror placement today? I’m not really sure. The inside mirror regulations don’t seem to disqualify it:

S5. Requirements for passenger cars.

S5.1 Inside rearview mirror. Each passenger car shall have an inside rearview mirror of unit magnification.

S5.1.1 Field of view. Except as provided in S5.3, the mirror shall provide a field of view with an included horizontal angle measured from the projected eye point of at least 20 degrees, and a sufficient vertical angle to provide a view of a level road surface extending to the horizon beginning at a point not greater than 61 m to the rear of the vehicle when the vehicle is occupied by the driver and four passengers or the designated occupant capacity, if less, based on an average occupant weight of 68 kg. The line of sight may be partially obscured by seated occupants or by head restraints. The location of the driver’s eye reference points shall be those established in Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 104 ( § 571.104) or a nominal location appropriate for any 95th percentile male driver.

S5.1.2 Mounting. The mirror mounting shall provide a stable support for the mirror, and shall provide for mirror adjustment by tilting in both the horizontal and vertical directions. If the mirror is in the head impact area, the mounting shall deflect, collapse or break away without leaving sharp edges when the reflective surface of the mirror is subjected to a force of 400 N in any forward direction that is not more than 45° from the forward longitudinal direction.


In fact, they mention “if the mirror is in the head impact area” which suggests there’s more than one place to mount a mirror, including places, like on the dash, that aren’t in the head impact area! Who wants to be in a head impact area? Not me.

Illustration for article titled A Mostly Forgotten Automotive Detail: The Dash-Mounted Rear-View Mirror

Still, these sorts of mirrors are effectively extinct. Perhaps some daring automaker will try it again. In the meantime, I’d tell you to reflect on this, but I can’t deal with a pun like that. I just can’t.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



This is unrelated to the article, except for the header image, but a customer of mine had this towed to my shop. He’s been asking if I could give him an estimate to get it moving under it’s own power for months, and I told him if he can get it here, if take a look, figuring he’s never do it. The Virginia safety inspection sticker on the windshield expired April 1987, and the floorpan is transparent in spots...