Let There Be Light

More than just an old NA mirror.

More than just an old NA mirror.

What can Wage and Icebat be up to? They found an old Miata mirror to play with?

It has the early window frame mount...

It has the early window frame mount…

Yes… that’s the funky mount the 89-95s used. But it’s a little off. It should go straight into the mirror rather than into that adapter.

OOOOOH. LIGHTS!

OOOOOH. LIGHTS!

Dun dun DUN!!!!!!!!!!! Lights! That’s what all the fuss is about.

Some History

I’ve been into these little cars for a long time. As a result, there’s a lot of items over the years that have been on my wish list. This mirror is one. These were sold over a decade ago. I remember seeing them around 2000. They disappeared a few years later. A few shops sold them (I think I saw them at Performance Buyers Club and Brainstorm) but they were never very popular. I assume that was due to the price.

These things used to sell for around $300 each.

That, my friends, is insanity. There is absolutely nothing about this mirror that commands that price. The mount is indeed unique, but it’s an OEM part. That can’t have contributed that much to the price. The mirror itself is a generic item that should also have been pretty cheap. The only unique part is the adapter that connects the OEM mount to the mirror. Can that have been $100 each to machine? Doubtful. I’ve no idea why these used to be so expensive.

Due to the price, these mirrors basically vanished. No one bought them new and no one today remembers they existed. I mean, why try to source a rare Miata mirror when you could hit the junkyard and get a lighted mirror for $6 and an hour’s time digging?

So, I never owned one. I always thought they were cool, but I never spent the money. Also, I had a 97, which would have required the mirror be glued to the windshield rather than mounted to the frame. I always admired these mirrors and their superior lights, but they remained on my mental “wish I had one but doubt I ever will” list.

Until now!

Wiring

Electrons flowing to the right places.

Electrons flowing to the right places.

This mirror came to me in a box with a wiring pigtail. That’s it. No instructions. No wiring diagram. And I’ll tell you how it came to me in a bit, but first, the wiring.

The mirror has three wires. They are labeled A, B, and C. According to the mirror’s previous owner, they would come on with the door switch. But when the doors were closed and the lights were off, the mirror lights could still turn on with their own switches to act as map lights. That, to me, meant that there must have been one power wire and two grounds. One ground would be constant so that the lights could be activated with their own switches. One ground would splice into the door plunger.

A little trial and error on my workbench with a power supply and multimeter revealed which wires had continuity depending on how the switches were set. I was very happy with how easy it was to figure out.
C – constant power
B – switched ground
A – constant ground

Now to find power and ground for this little guy. And, well, remove the stock mirror. That was something I’d never done.

The Install

The plastic OEM mirror plate cover.

The plastic OEM mirror plate cover.

This was the worst part of the entire install – getting this damn little plastic cover off. It clips on, but I had no idea how. I ended up prying it off with a large flat blade screwdriver from one side. That got me enough wiggle room to slide the screwdriver around and pop it out the rest of the way. Not much damage doing this, but there are a few tiny scratch marks. There must be a better way, but I don’t know what it would be.

The mirror base plate exposed.

The mirror base plate exposed.

It was fortunate that I needed to change out my mirror. The OEM one was very loose in the mount. The screws would have needed tightening soon to keep the mirror from flopping around.

Windshield frame trim removed.

Windshield frame trim removed.

Once the mirror and visors are removed, this piece of plastic trim can just be pulled down. It has a few metal clips holding it in place, but nothing more.

A-pillar trim removed.

A-pillar trim removed.

The A-pillar trim is rather delicate. You have to pop the two metal clips free on the top, but not just yank the whole thing free. Once the top half is loose, you have to slide the whole thing UP to avoid breaking the little plastic grabber at the bottom. If broken, the trim will buzz at certain RPMs.

.
.
.
.

So. How did I get the mirror?

My buddy Stoly used to have a car named Flipper. He had fun with the car and sold it off, as was his plan all along (hence the name… FLIPper). One of the items on the car was this mirror. When I first saw it, I assume I made a big deal about the mirror, because holy shit are these things rare. I’ve never seen one in person. I never knew anyone who bought one years ago. I never expected to see one.

And there it was.

Stoly sold the car to a few guys who split the cost and were parting out the car between them. He called Kent, the fellow who drove it back home from Texas, and asked if I could somehow have the mirror. As a gift. Because Geoff is awesome and remembered how much I liked it. Kent said “sure!” and asked his buddy Adam who had the body and was stripping it. Adam removed the mirror and popped it in a box for me. It arrived less than a week ago. I opened the box and was greeted by this little mirror. Just staring back at me. It was amazing.

So, before I go any farther, I want to say thank you. THANK YOU Geoff, Kent, and Adam. I can’t believe I finally own this rare part.

Now, back to the install. I believe I needed to find a ground wire…

The driver's side knee light removed.

The driver’s side knee light removed.

This little guy comes on when the door opens. He has a switch that lets the light be shut off completely. He has power. In other words, this little light has everything I need. I just need to figure out how to access those items.

I have big plans for this light.

I have big plans for this light.

Thanks to my dash restoration last summer, I’m very familiar with every part of Sharka’s interior, including this light. I took both apart to clean the contacts before installing in the leather dash. I remembered that the switch had a nice metal screw that held it together. My plan was to attach a wire to that screw and use that as my variable ground.

YES. That's how your splice in a ground wire.

YES. That’s how your splice in a ground wire.

The ground wire actually slides with the switch and there’s plenty of space for it to do that. In the off position, there’s no ground to the mirror and the lights won’t come on with the door. In the door position, the 3 lights will come on together (along with the passenger knee light depending on the position of that switch). And in the ON position, the 3 lights will light together.

See the red wire? That one is 12v. I tapped into it for power to the mirror lights. So that’s TWO wires all sorted out. I just need to find a nice hole in the windshield frame to put a bolt through for my constant ground.

Let me take a moment and mention my awesome ratcheting crimper. It came from Parts Express. I think I paid less than $20. It works wonderfully. If you do much wiring, I highly suggest buying one. The price is the lowest I’ve ever seen a ratcheting crimper go for and the quality is very high.

Wires travelling up the A-pillar.

Wires travelling up the A-pillar.

Wires running across the windshield frame.

Wires running across the windshield frame.

I connected about 6 feet of 16 gauge wire to the driver’s knee light and fished it up through the dash. Then I used crappy black electrical tape to hold it in place. My thinking was that the black trim will hold the wires pretty tight (there’s NO space on the leading edge where I ran the wires) so I didn’t need much to hold it up. If the tape gives and wires start to rattle, I’ll take things apart again and use gaffer tape.

Notice the ring terminal in the windshield frame pic? That goes to one of the sun visor mounting holes. That is my constant ground which enables the lights to work when the mirror-mounted switches are flipped. That’s all three wires sorted!

Trim installed. Tiny wire poking out.

Trim installed. Tiny wire poking out.

Wiring is a lot of work for not a lot of visible results. But a good wiring job is worth the effort. Always.

Mirror installed!

Mirror installed!

It hardly looks different than stock. Unless you know what to look for, you’d either ignore the mirror or think it was a factory option.

LIGHTS!!!

LIGHTS!!!

NA Miatas have horrible interior lighting. Seriously, it’s just shameful. This little mirror fixes the situation single handedly. I am SO happy to have this. I should have bought it a decade ago.

Night Mode

And Rev saw that there was light. And it was good.

And Rev saw that there was light. And it was good.

On the 18th photo, Rev rested.

On the 18th photo, Rev rested.

These photos were taken inside my completely dark garage. The only light in the interior was the mirror and knee lights. I shot these hand-held with a not-fast lens. It’s… just amazing. Having real light inside a Miata? Light that you can read with? That’s something I’ve never had.

Thank you again, Geoff, Kent, and Adam. You made me one very happy Roadster nerd. And Sharka will proudly wear this mirror for the rest of his life.

« | »
  • Conrad says:

    That is amazing! looks brilliant as well!

    • revlimiter says:

      Thanks! It’s a shame these things weren’t priced better years ago so there could be more of them now.

    • Ed B says:

      Great blog! I have a similar story with a slightly different outcome
      . My ’93 ‘C’ package Black and Tan “WandaLust” which was my mid life crisis car a few years back and I agree too, that the interior light was weak and the one aftermarket available was way too expensive. I took on the task of making a custom LED light that worked in theory perfectly but LED technology was in it’s infancy back then. I bought an OEM mirror, carefully removed the glass and proceeded to connect an NGK sub miniature 3 way switch accounting for the required 3 modes: always on, door open and off. I sourced samples of LED bulbs from overseas and ran two in series to barely get the light output I wanted in the limited space of the OEM mirror. Soldered it all together and ran the power and ground also along the window edge down to the footwell lights for the hot lead. It looked totally OEM except for a small black shrink wrapped wire that went from the top of the mirror into the windshield edge cover and Voila! Looked cool but never was quite as bright as the one you have…ps…great story on Miata.net

  • brontosaurus says:

    Seriously, the light that thing puts out is great. It’s probably the only reason I didn’t fall asleep on the way back from Texas.

    Happy to see it in your car Adam, cheers!

  • spindiscs says:

    You are so lucky you don’t have the stoopid mirror stuck in the middle of the screen, (like Bucks I guess). The loss of visibility continually makes me curse Mazda for not putting the mounting in the frame. Along with the stoopid Oil Press guage which is useless this is the most annoying thing about the car. Arggggh!

    PS. When I need to change the screen then some turkey has to scrape the mirror off and then stick it to the new one. I can see that being a lot of fun.

    PPS. Lets see what it looks like with led globes, but maybe you are happy enough with the output already. I did leds and it’s now like the midnight sun.

    • revlimiter says:

      Heh. My 97 had it in the middle of the glass. Removing the mirror from the mount was one of the hardest parts of stripping that car after the wreck. It literally took hours, even with the dash out.

      As for LEDs, I’d probably not do it. I don’t believe they have a place in Sharka. That car enjoys old fashioned incandescents too much.

  • Sploinkin says:

    The easy way to take off the ’90-’95 header mounted mirror is to reach up behind it and give it a good yank. As I’m sure you noticed while mounting it, there is a clip under the ugly white plastic that is only thing actually holding it on. I’m assuming that it was there to break away if needed.

    • revlimiter says:

      Er… really? Because mine bolts to the windshield header itself with sheet metal screws. The big yellow/white clip is just a spacer that came off when I removed the mirror. I had to transplant the spacer from one mirror to the other.

      Maybe early years were different?

      Hmmmm… I’m thinking how it all actually mounts. It looks like the sheet metal screws do indeed just attach the white spacer to the windshield. There’s a little spring clip holding the mirror to that. Probably a break-away type device as you say!

      • Sploinkin says:

        Ah yes, I had it backwards. The mirror itself is held onto the white/yellow spacer with the spring clip and the giant flathead bolt (2nd picture) so the mirror can breakaway while the spacer stays put.

  • Stoly says:

    I too would like to thank Adam and Kent for helping me keep my promise to Adam… I had no idea the mirror was rare and I’d promised Adam I’d swap him mirrors when I got rid of Flipper. I failed to remember that and glad to have friends in the community that helped get this mirror to its proper home. Looks awesome and seems fitting to have a Flipper part in Sharka as Sharka donated a radiator to Flipper. All part of the greater community these cars create if you take the opportunity to meet the people in it.

  • s0verybored says:

    I have two of them. Found one of them at the junk yard, and the other came with my car. There is a couple of different mounts out there but the mirror is usually the same. Mine has an oem like harness that made it plug and play. Its definitely handy as a map light.

  • shifty says:

    Has anyone come across another car that has a mirror like this that can be adapted? What was the car that used these originally?

  • AMMendes says:

    I had a story similar to yours, but i still didn’t found that mirror, i’m now after some thing similar to the KG one, as the old jaguar can be made an adaptor plate to fit it. But this was mi favourite one.

  • Steve Baker says:

    Adam, as usual great write up. Those mirrors can be found CHEAP in your local salvage yard. They were used in GM and Ford procucts in the mid 90’s and are made by the same compay that provided them to Mazda. For those of us with the windshield mount mirrors they will slip right on to the existing mount! Just tie the wires into the existing light mounted in windshield frame. Most of them had a little piece of plastic trim that ran down to the mirror to hide the wires from the inside view. I put some black electical tape on the inside of the windshield, snap the wire cover in place and trim the excess tape. Looks factory.

    • revlimiter says:

      Yes sir! For those with the glue-on mirrors, there’s really no excuse for not having one of these. An hour picking through cars on a Saturday should yield a few mirrors that would work.

  • Star says:

    The Chevy Camaro/ TransAm had them, they are still available on EBay for around 25 to 35 dollars

  • Al says:

    Hi revlimiter, I just picked up an MX-5 with this mirror already in it. Doesn’t work right now but I’m thinking it might just be the bulbs since the mirror itself seems to be completely wired up. What bulbs does this thing take? Ideas? Thanks.

  • Kevin says:

    Picked up a mirror from a 97 Firebird that I will be using, I will be glueing it to the windshield on my 94 though which will allow me to angle it higher than the stock location.

    The factory mirror does indeed just pop off with a gentle tug. One thing to note, the constant ground and the switched ground can be reversed. If you don’t choose correctly your map switches on/off functionality will also be reversed. (Off position will light the bulb, on will turn it off).

    I’m sad now that I realize my car only has the knee light on the passenger side, any idea why that is? Anyhow I know how I will route my wires and where to put my grounds thanks to you.

  • Leave a Reply