Cabriolet Roofline: 1981 Dodge Mirada

The Mirada was a personal luxury car fielded by Dodge from 1980-83. It shared its J-body platform with the Chrysler Cordoba and Imperial and was a derivative of the Aspen/Volare. It was offered during some of Chrysler’s most difficult financial times, so it borrowed quite a bit from the family parts bin. This 1981 example is a good-looking car from twenty feet, but flaws in the paint begin to appear when you get closer. Located in Marlboro, New Jersey, the car runs great and may only need some TLC. Available here on eBay, the bidding has only reached $2,850 though the reserve is still waiting to be triggered.

J-body Chryslers followed the then-trend of so many other domestic cars, downsized to be smaller and more fuel-efficient than their predecessors. The Mirada was added to the mix after the redesign of the Cordoba was set in stone, so it was similar yet sportier. One of the interesting twists was the cabriolet roof option, in which the car looks remarkably like a convertible with the top up but isn’t. Upfront, the Mirada wore a flexible plastic snout with a grille design inspired by the “coffin-nosed” Cord 810/812. Over four production years, fewer than 53,000 copies of the Mirada were built, making it seldom seen in car circles today.

The seller’s hardtop in convertible disguise and CMX trim wears Nightwatch Blue paint with a white simulated drop-top roof. Rust doesn’t appear to be an issue, though the body wears a few scrapes and scratches, and the hood was dented by hail in days gone by. The plastic rear fender extensions had deteriorated and were replaced with fiberglass replacements. New paint might be all that it takes to make a good-looking car even better. The car’s aluminum road wheels are said to be in great condition.

Under the hood resides a 318 cubic-inch V8 which is said to start and run fine. Paired with an automatic transmission, the car won’t burn rubber, but it wasn’t intended to. Everything works as it should, including this Dodge’s factory air conditioning. The dark blue interior (dare we say fine, rich Corinthian leather?) has held up well with wear limited to the brushed trim on the console. A new battery has been installed to help with the car’s reliability.

This Dodge is said to have fewer than 60,000 miles and is being sold because the owner is himself downsizing. He has several other Mopars for sale, including a New Yorker, Imperial, LeBaron convertible, and a first-generation Plymouth Valiant. The Mirada doesn’t appear to have developed a following and of the few examples we found online for sale, $7,000 seems to be top dollar. So, if you looking for an inexpensive entry into the vintage car scene, is this one you’d buy?

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Comments

  1. Moparman Member

    *SIGH* If only it were just the CMX version, minus the vinyl cabriolet roof! Otherwise, fresh paint and a little TLC would make this nice one really stand out. My search continues…GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 6
    • Gary

      I agree, the fake roof is so wrong on these, the standard roof is the best. These if redone with new paint really are slick. I have seen a few like that online that were just great. I think there was one this color and another in white, both superb. Thought about buying a new one 40 years ago but needed four doors for the family at the time, have always wanted one since. It is too bad the money is wrong to restore the few of these that are still around today. Chrysler design was spot on then, too bad the company was on the brink of failure and people were afraid to buy. I guess it makes the few around more desirable. I don’t understand though, why they are not more popular. Any Chrysler engine will fit if performance is what you want. I am not a speed freak, but I will admit that the car looks the part, so maybe it needs the get up and go under the hood too.

      Like 4
      • EricN

        Gary – if I ever get one of these I want to put the 6.4L 475 HP engine in it that comes in the current Challenger Scat Pak. That should give it enough get up & go!

        Like 1
  2. Matt in L.A. Member

    I look for these too, Moparman! In 1981, I bought a 1980 with the slant 6 (the slowest car I’ve ever owned! LOL) I went around saying “I shoulda had a V8!” The leather was nice and the styling was beautiful. It was comfortable and the AirTemp A/C was chilly! I got lots of comments. The Mirada, Cordova and the Imperial were the last of Chryslers large rear wheel drive personal luxury coupes. Sigh…….

    Like 11
    • Barry Skog

      Cordova?

      Like 1
    • George Louis

      If you want to talk about a slow car that will not get out of the way, try a Plymouth breeze with the 2.0 liter engine and auto transmission.

      Like 1
  3. nlpnt

    I like the double windows on those, shared with a number of Japanese hardtops that appeared at the same time (Subaru, Datsun 200SX, Corolla SR5) but unique to Mopar in Detroit; a case of convergent evolution as an answer to allowing a true hardtop with slim pillars and good all-around visibility. Of course on this one they’re deleted by the faux-convertible top.

  4. Raymond

    Had a 81 w 225 1bbl…hated it, put a old super six and carter afb carb on it, was a different car…put 300k on that car…and no mock top…those ruin these..

    Like 4
  5. Ted68

    I had a 1980 CMX in 1986. It was a nice looking car and I broke in the passenger seat right after I got it. Honestly it broke as we must of gotten a little carried away. Good memories and maybe I should join you guys into looking for another one.

    Like 1
  6. Chris Webster

    I like it, and I’m not a Mopar guy.

    Like 6
  7. Rob

    I always found the Mirada to be an unsuccessful effort to refine the Magnum. Someone once commented “These were great cars as long as YOU weren’t the owner.” . . . an interesting way to look at them. While I am a fan of the ’81 – ’83 Imperial from a design standpoint, I can’t say the same for the Cordoba or Mirada. The Malaise Era was aptly named (as I see it).

    Like 1
  8. Russ Ashley

    I might be the only one here that loves the look of that top on these cars. I had an 82 Mirada, 318 engine, silver with grey leather interior, same wheels as these, but no imitation convertible top. It was a good driving and running car. I wanted a Cordoba because I liked the front end better but the low mileage Mirada came along so I bought it.

    Like 6
    • Michael L Gregory

      I agree with your comment about the top. This was simply a style exercise for that era and it looked good on a lot of cars when convertibles were still fairly rare. My cousin had an Eldorado with one and it looked fantastic to me.

  9. flynndawg

    i owned 1 of these sometime in the 80’s, sweet car, black with red ‘Corinthian’ swede interior, same wheels, 318… it had a few cool options as in pull the door handle and it had a soft glow lite appear around the key hole… cool… :)

    Like 5
    • Russ Ashley

      Flynndawg, I had forgotten about that. Now thinking back, it also had cornering lights which illuminated the area in the direction you were turning, which I really liked. I’m surprised that the govt. hasn’t mandated turning lights by now. I only sold my Mirada because I got a chance to buy a very nice 86 Dodge short passenger van.

      Like 3
      • George Louis

        That feature exists on the 2021 Jeep Compass among other vehicles.

  10. Pete Kaczmarski

    Wow, as of this writing, $5500 on eBay. Well, let it continue to go up so when I decide to sell my ’79 Dodge Magnum GT (E58 and T-tops) it will be more than the Dodge Mirada.

    Like 2
  11. Dwcisme

    These were a popular car on the rental fleets (minus the tarted up roof). I remember a few issues. The extremely long, heavy doors had a problem with interior window base trim breaking and putting major prangs in the neighbouring cars if the wind caught them. There were issues early on with electrical and fuel delivery but I suppose people would have sorted those out by now. Also, one of the noisiest starter motors known to man.

  12. RICHARD SCHICKLING

    I would like to have the first edition Valiant that the seller has for sale.

  13. EricN

    I had an ’80 CMX in light blue with a light blue half vinyl roof and med blue interior and 318. It was the roomiest car I ever owned and comfortable. Finally got rid of it with 196k on it and a trans that leaked like a sieve. A new 1991 Dakota replaced it. Would love to get another.

  14. Russ Ashley

    George Lewis: My Mirada had cornering lights forty years ago. That’s what I mean, it’s such a nice feature that you learn to love when you have a vehicle with them. It’s a safety feature, and that’s why I’m surprised that the govt. hasn’t mandated them.

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