Hardcastle & McCormick: Manta Montage Kit Car

For those of us who can remember it, this Montage Kit Car looks remarkably like the Manta Mirage that was used in the 1983 TV series, Hardcastle and McCormick. There is a good reason for this, and that is because it came from the same company. Where the Mirage was powered by V8 engines of varying capacities, the Montage was very much a VW-based kit car. Barn Finder Jimmy spotted this Montage for us, so thank you for that Jimmy. Located in Azusa, California, you will find the Montage listed for sale here on Craigslist. The price for this kit car has been set at $1,500.

Manta Cars operated between 1974 and 1986, and undoubtedly their most famous model was the V8-powered Mirage. For those whose budgets didn’t run to the cost of a Mirage, the Montage offered very similar looks without the higher price tag. Typically for a kit car of this period, the Montage was based on the ubiquitous Volkswagen Bug frame, floors, and drive-train. The owner doesn’t indicate the state of the floors or frame, but the lack of side glass would have a tendency to allow plenty of moisture into the car, so these would need to be given a pretty thorough check. That side glass is also a potential problem, as replacement pieces may be difficult to obtain. The fiberglass body generally looks pretty reasonable, while those enormous wheels certainly give the vehicle a sense of purpose.

The interior is pretty typical of kit cars from this era, and if this was my car, I would certainly be trying to find a way to make that dash look a bit nicer and more professional. The original seats are present but don’t look particularly comfortable, so new ones may be on the cards. The Montage would originally have been fitted with a VW engine and transmission, but these are both gone. Sourcing replacement units will be pretty easy, and a well-built engine should provide the car with pretty respectable performance. I have actually driven a similar kit car where the owner chose to ditch the VW engine in favor of a Mazda Wankel rotary unit, and that thing had performance that was mighty impressive. So, I guess that this could be another possibility.

In the 1970s, kit cars were pretty much a dime a dozen, and some of these were better than others. The styling of the Montage is quite nice compared to these others, and there is some potential there. It really depends on individual tastes, but is this one that you would like to take on?


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  1. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Dang….check put those airplane instruments ! Wasn’t this MaCgyver’s car ?

    Like 4
    • Rodger Ralphs

      Those were VDO gauges with plastic trim rings. If I remember correctly they were called the aviation series gauges. It wasn’t McGuyvers car. It was mine. Check the story farther down in the comments.

      Like 6
  2. Ike Onick

    A quick browse through BF will confirm there is no such thing as a “Cool” Kit Car.

    Like 5
  3. Dickie F

    I have always liked the look of that body.
    Seems to be aerodynamic – I often imagined many a race car designer could slip a budget racing chassis underneath.

    Rear screen is missing thou, could take a while to obtain one.
    There are many stunning professionally built kit cars on the road today.

    Like 10
    • Ike Onick

      As aerodynamic as a wet towel.

      Like 1
      • Rodger Ralphs

        It had a drag coefficient of 0.03. If that was good enough for Bruce McLaren, it’s good enough for me.

        Like 10
      • Concinnity

        Bruce McLaren the designer of the car, and winning driver at Le Mans in a GT40 didn’t think so. If he hadn’t been killed that body would have made production as the McLaren M6 GT. Here is a picture of Bruce himself in the first prototype.https://bobandsuewilliams.com/images/mclaren-first-5.jpg
        You might have heard of the race team he founded.
        The company that made the bodies for him took off some extra moulds. Voila! Kit car.

        Like 4
      • Dickie F

        After reading the comment from Concinnity, I remembered seeing this McLaren car locally. It forms part of a very nice car collection in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa, which includes many similar rare cars, like the Rothmans 962 etc. It seems to be licenced for the road.

        Like 10
      • Ike Onick

        How was the drag coefficient calculated on this piece of work?

      • Ike Onick

        @Dickie- A striking resemblance to the car for sale.

        Like 1
      • Concinnity

        The drag coefficient of this body was calculated and measured at MIRA in the UK by the McLaren racing team, who designed the body, back in 1968/69.The team is still in exisrence, you might have heard of it?

        Like 3
  4. Saylor

    Watched that show religiously at 7 years old ..

    Like 7
    • Capriest

      I as well, but other than the car I have no recollection of it lol. I think I remember a Hasselhoff looking dude drove this thing, and wasn’t there a Brian Dennehy looking dude that drove like a 83ish Blazer or Silverado? The wheels on this are RAD as all get out I will give it that.

      • Roland Schoenke

        I was almost 20, the older guy was a retired judge and his main car of interest was a second gen corvette. The main guy was an excon racecar driver that drove the mirage.
        It was called a Coyote.

        Like 10
  5. Kevin Harper

    Use lexan for the rear window. I think that is what was used originally. It shouldn’t be that hard to mold.

    Like 4
    • JMB#7

      I know I guy in Ohio that formed canopies for experimental aircraft out of lexan. He used multiple salamander heaters and a vacuum box. Perfect optics are not required for the back window.

      Like 1
  6. Ward William

    Swap that sad beetle donk for a Subaru boxer and we are talking interesting.

    Like 4
  7. rod444

    Well proportioned. Appropriate size wheels. Matching sized wheel wells. A body with smooth lines. No radically odd bits or pieces sticking out anywhere. A dash with not centrally clustered instruments… I’d say on a scale of 0 to Cool, this one is much closer to cool than the average fiberglass body.

    Like 8
  8. DayDreamBeliever Member

    With this starting price, why not just go ahead and ditch the VW underpinnings in favor of a custom tube frame, with modern suspension and drivetrain to match?

    I agree regarding the Subie being a possibility as a power source. So many options, and the body shape is nice.

    Like 4
  9. Karl

    I wonder what the frame was from, I sure hope it wasn’t a very bug that would destroy anything good about this car. If it had a decent undercarriage with a decent v-8 I would at least look otherwise I would walk away

  10. kenzo

    If only it was closer :-(
    I’d be a serious bidder with a upgraded powertrain and maybe an upgraded chassis.
    Wonder what it is registered as?

  11. Al

    I don’t know. These ‘kit’ cars from the 70’s remind me of a one step up from those .25 cent ride cars out in front of K-Mart. Probably not as much fun.

    Like 1
    • Rodger Ralphs

      Oh it was a lot of fun. I went 183 mph in it in forth gear. The dream wheel said it would do 217. Never found anyplace to really open it up.

      Like 6
  12. Rodger Ralphs

    I don’t believe I saw this article. I am the original builder of this car. I built it wit a custom tube frame with a 400ci. small block, ZF transaxle, Pantera suspension Weber 48IDA’s on Moon manifold. Featured on Kit Car magazine in July ’83. I sold the body in ’92 to a friend of mine who built it back as a VW based car. He was killed in a boating accident a year later and his dad got rid of it. I lost track of it until now, 25 years later. And it’s only 5 miles from where I live.

    Like 23
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Wow, it’s a small world here on Barn Finds!

      Like 6
    • Ward William

      Chance to buy it back ?

      Like 3
  13. Rodger Ralphs

    I would buy it back in two seconds if I weren’t working on two Manta Mirages right now. By the way the picture is me in 1982 with the porn star mustache with Tim Lovette standing.

    Like 9
  14. sluggo

    I kept reaching for the downvote button for Ikes comments that were so negative. “Cool” kit cars?? You bet! I used to be in the Oregon Handcrafted auto club, And have seen many VERY cool kit cars. Enough that i stopped doing restorations so I could build a kit car with no rules, or obsessing about OEM correct fasterner finishes. I love how the original owner dropped in. Hope this founds a loving forever home.

    Like 6
    • Ike Onick

      @Sluggo- Keep busy man. I’ll cut to the chase- 70’s and 80’s kit cars are garbage and always will be. They are clown cars with room for one or two clowns tops.

  15. fred


    How is the car registered ?
    Just for me to check if it’s street legal in my country.

    Where’s the car located ?

    Thanks for answering.

  16. DayDreamBeliever Member

    CL ad is deleted.

    This car would have been very well worth the price if it still had the custom frame and suspension which was described by Rodger Ralphs.

    I do wonder though, why the 4-lug front hub setup? From a period Mustang? The Pantera brakes would certainly have five.

  17. Rodger Ralphs

    You have a sharp eye DayDreamerBeliever. I sold the body to my friend and he put it back together as a VW Montage, so I assume the car for sale in the ad still has the VW pan. I kept the frame and drive-train for another project. Since I didn’t have any Pantera front suspension I used a VW ball joint front end for ease of construction. It handled really well on mountain roads. I tried to go see the car but the owner didn’t want strangers poking around if I wasn’t going to buy it.

  18. fred

    But how do you get in touch with the seller ?…


  19. E.J.

    Whoever wrote the article is mistaken about the Coyote being a Mirage. It was, if anything, a modified Montage. The Mirage was a rear engine V8 powered open cockpit car while the Montage was a rear engine flat 4, usually a VW, coupe. The later Montage T used a GM V6 drivetrain from the 80’s X body cars and had a tube chassis so it did not need a donor VW.

    The original Coyote was built on a VW pan and ran with Porsche 914 engine. (There was another Coyote that was based on a DeLorean.) The Montage body was either modified to look more like the original M6GT or an actual M6GT body may have been used, or even some combination. Trojan made the bodies for the production version of the M6GT and a number of bodies were completed, around 250, before Bruce McLaren’s death and the project shelved. I always wondered if one of those bodies was used as there are notable differences from the Montage and the Coyote, i.e. roll pan, wheel wheels, etc.

    The original Coyote “money shot” car is now owned by a private individual on the East Coast. I had the chance to buy it in 2000 from Code One but passed on it. I still kick myself for that one.

    Like 1
  20. Kevin Black

    A Mirage on an un-shortened VW chassis was used for some scenes, while a modified Montage was used for scenes in which Brian Keith had to sit in the car. He couldn’t get into the Mirage. Another modified Mirage with a VW dunebuggy chassis was used for scenes in which the car had to jump.

    Like 1
  21. Joe

    Coyote was a j foyt/Ford project. I had a miraage with Chevy 350 I bought in Georgia and drove back to illinois, gets attention everywhere, and very fast at such light weight!

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