Interesting Factoids About Chrysler's Mirror-Matic by Tony:
For those who have NO idea what a Mirror-matic is, it's an extra-cost option for Chrysler Products of the late 1950's through 1961 and brought back in 1963 as a one year only option. It's a THICK rear-view mirror that sits on the dash. The head-unit contains simple electronics and a hole just right of top center on the glass that an electric-eye peers through. You can adjust the sensitivity with a slider. In theory, whenever it sees headlights out the back window, it automatically dims the mirror so that you're not blinded by the glare. I say "in theory" because my own NOS unit (still in factory box) has never been installed on my car, because it doesn't fit my mirror-stanchion. I've heard gossip that the Mirror-matic is easily fooled, and that somebody would light a match inside the car, causing the Mirror-matic to go "BR-R-R-R". If you notice how the Mirror-matic is built, it's way too thick (there's a vacuum-tube inside) to attach to your existing mirror-base, unless you plan to be using it to inspect the front seatback. As far as wiring goes, there's only one wire coming out of the bottom, and it hangs alongside the supporting-post. Very much of an afterthought. On the convertible models, the cables for your Mirror-Matic run the same way they do on the Chrysler: within the overhead consoles. Pull off the chrome headliner beauty trim (along the top of the windshield...and yes I realize that it's a lot narrower on your convertible than on my hardtop...but it is there) and the front post valance chrome on whichever side of the car you want to bring the wire to the power source. Secure your wire(s) inside the channel which is in these regions with some monkey s__t and replace the chrome. Since these babies had a vacuum tube in the assembly, make sure that you fuse that power feed, or that circuit could spot weld your trim before the tube gives up in the event of a circuit "malf".
Tip from Bryan:
The 60-62 Mirrormatics differ cosmetically from the 59. More importantly, they mount differently; 59's are dash-mounted while 60-62 are mounted between the visors.
Tip from Brett:
I just found my '59 Mopar Accessories catalog which lists the Mirror-matic and its part number 2161-079.
Tip from Dick:
If you need the photodiodes, I bought a package of 10 of them in various sensitivities for around 2 bucks from Radio Shack. These are easy to change and a quick fix for most of the problems with these mirrors.
Question from Luke:
I'm just about to buy a Mirrormatic. The guy's sending me photos first but the glass is rough and it's not going. There is no wire lead but otherwise he says it looks like most of it's there. Should there be a control box with these units? And has anyone had experience getting these things to work? The thing is I feel I should just grab it, they don't seem to come up too often. What do you think?
Reply from Brett:
The '60 Imperial is the ONLY year a mirror-matic was configured to mount from the roof instead of the dash. So make sure it is the correct unit (or will at least hook up properly). I know the mirror-matic on my '59 Adventurer would probably not fit correctly, as the mounting is towards the bottom of the unit (instead of the top).
Hmmm... Now that I look in the Master Parts book, there is only one part number listed (2161-079) without any special reference to Imperial's different mirror mounting.... and both the '59 and '60 mirror-matic pictures appear to be the same.
However the 1960 Mopar Accessories Dealer Catalog lists the mirror-matic for "All models except Imperial." Retail price: $23.25, dealer net $16.28
Furthermore, the 1960 Salesman's Data Book lists the mirror-matic as available for the Imperial except for the convertible.
AS to the one that is tempting you... if the mirror is "cruddy" you will be reminded of it every time you look behind you. There is a small hole in the "silvering" that allows the sensor to pick up headlight glare, and this would be next to impossible to duplicate should you try to replace the glass or simply cover it. So, I would pass on the basis of poor cosmetics. They do show up from time to time, so it's best to be patient and wait for a nice one.
The electrical restoration could be a challenge or quite simple, depending on the skill and experience of the technician. A common problem with electronics of the era is drying up of capacitors or other components. I've restored a few '58-'59 Philco Predicta television sets with this problem. They key is to have a source for parts, as modern capacitors and such are not available in the proper resistance any more. Quite honestly, I don't know if it would be worth all the fuss... OK, it would be real cool if the mirror-matic worked. But, I'd put that challenge at the bottom of my "to do" list.
Update and Tips from Luke (1960):
The Nola household is full of excitement also tonight because after a week of work I've finally managed to breath life into my Mirrormatic!! Yes I now know all there is to know about that crazy contraption. Yes they can be re-built. Basically I needed a new 12K5valve but also had to re-solder all the connections because over time they can become non conductive. I'm re mirroring the mirror and have replaced the tiny springs on the relay. This must sound like nonsense if you haven't had one of these babies apart but it works! I went to three old radio repair codgers here and simply picked there brains. One guy Ross was just like the old guy in Back to the Future. His whole house was just packed with radio stuff and new old stock valves. He gave me a new one and told me all about the history of the company contracted to make the things for Chrysler (too much information I'm afraid) but anyway it worked.
Question from Elijah
Tell me please how you are going about re-mirrorizing the mirror? It's something I'd like to know how to do!
Follow-up from Luke:
With regard to the re mirroring. I have found a mirror place here that re-silvers the back of mirrors. The guy says it's very common with classics. You'd have to ring around a few mirror manufactures where you live. It really is no drama to have done. But what I've had to do is find a new mirror completely because mine has surface damage that can't be repaired. What I've done is find a prismatic mirror larger than the Mirrormatic one and I'm going to cut it to the exact size of the old one. The final thing is the 'eye' hole. I'm told that if you mount an eraser in a drill bit and carefully 'drill' the mirrored surface away you can make a new eye in the mirror.
Question from Steve (1960):
I have found a rear view mirror with a wire going to it. It has a switch (slider type) on the base. It has a knob to switch to the high beam angle. It has a rubber cover over its mount which also has groves to hold the sun visors, Tan in color. Is it a Chrysler product and what year?
Reply from Pete:
I'm shooting from the hip, here, but I know of two possibilities: 1) you may have a mirror with built-in courtesy lights. Look at the bottom edge (where the slider switch is) for a clear lens or lenses. Is it single wire or more? Check the connector. You'd need power and ground for this to work. I've seen several cars vintage 1970 that had this option. One was an Impala convertible. If it's GM it may have the word "GUIDE" somewhere on it. 2) you may have a motor-driven auto-dimming mirror. A photocell on the front face detects darkness and activates the system. A photocell on the rear face detects headlights of the car behind you and causes the tiny electric motor inside the mirror to "dim" to the night position. I'd expect additional controls on this type of mirror, though -- an on/off switch and sensitivity control. Also at least 3 wires (in a tiny ribbon cable). This device probably sounds trivial and stupid, but my 1985 Olds Ninety-Eight has one and it is SO cool. I only mention this type of mirror because earlier versions may have had the photocells and/or electronics mounted on/behind the dash.