The classic Italian Vitaloni California mirrors were fitted to sports cars in the 1950s onwards such as many Fiats, the Lancia Fulvia, Alfa Spider and Ferrari 308 as well as being featured on many more vehicles in period. They were also used on many racing cars including some of the Formula 1 cars of the era.
I originally bought these for my Lotus Europa but after installing them decided to take the Lotus off the road and drive my MGB GT for a while. Since the mirror on the MGB is totally useless I removed the Vitaloni mirrors from the Lotus and installed them on the MGB. I like the look although maybe it isn’t good for purists. I also have a front air dam so for me they work well with the sporty look.
These Vitaloni California Mirrors I purchased from England and I expect are real although who knows. With shipping they came to $157 CAN or about $120 US. Of course, having mounted these mirrors on the MGB I now required a new set of mirrors for the Lotus. On a few Ferrari forums it came up that many of the Chinese copies were almost identical so I ordered a set from China for $40.49 US, a full 1/3 of the cost of the British mirrors. As I recall they arrived in about 1 month. How do the mirrors compare?
The Vitaloni California mirrors bought from England have a very smooth shiny surface and show few flaws in both the mirrors and the bases. The base itself is made from metal, I’m not sure if it’s aluminum but will check later. As a contrast, the Chinese Vitaloni California mirrors are a textured plastic surface and show many mold marks. The bases are metal like the more expensive mirrors and look really great.
I would not buy the Chinese mirrors again but since I have them I figured a little work and they should look great. I sanded the mirrors down first with 220 grit sandpaper and then 400 grit before hitting them with a filler primer to get a smooth surface. They were then wet sanded with 1000 grit paper in preparation for painting.
As these cheap mirrors were going on my brightly coloured Lotus Europa I thought I could have fun with the colour I painted them. How does British Racing Green sound? Three coats of paint followed by two coats of clearcoat and they look fabulous, I hope you agree!
Now for the bad part. Both the mirrors from England and China are very difficult to lock into place. They have a bolt running through the base that clamps the mirror at the angle you desire. This tends to slip if you slam the door to hard or bump into the mirror. The British bought mirrors are certainly better at holding than the Chinese mirrors. To solve this problem I cut small shims from drywall sanding screen that grip very well between the base and the mirror. An easy solution.
Of course, how do they work in real life? On the MGB GT the drivers side mirror is great and the passenger side mirror works well. I think a convex mirror on the passenger side would be an improvement.
On the Lotus Europa the drivers side mirror works very well and the passenger side mirror is totally useless except to look good. I really don’t think there is much of a solution to this although once again a convex mirror might improve the view.