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Estate Sale Find: 1978 Manta Mirage

Anyone who has followed my writings about kit cars over the years likely knows I have a fondness for them, but often gripe that the installed engine never lived up to the wild styling of the bodies that enveloped it. One of my favorite sayings is that the “…body was writing a check the powertrain couldn’t cash.” In the case of this barn find Manta Mirage, there is absolutely zero concern that the racy looks are supported by an equally-racy engine. Powered by a small block Chevrolet engine that the seller believes is a 350, the 1,900-pound Manta can certainly get out of its own way. Find it here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $18,000 and the option to submit a best offer.

Now, the seller seems to be well enough informed that I’m sure he knows that price is a bit ambitious, and really he’s hoping for a fair offer in the ballpark of what he’s listed it at. I am not sure how willing I am to say this is worth more than $10,000 at the moment, given previous listings elsewhere have shown drivers offered in the neighborhood of $15,000. Regardless, this Manta likely has a very cool story, and I’m willing to bet that between the paint job, vanity license plate, and custom stereo install that there’s a group of folks who know this car and the original builder.

To me, that always adds a bit of value, as it may indicate that the previous owner was a Manta fanatic (or more broadly, a kit car fanatic) who built this car to be a very competitive track vehicle. We have seen plenty of vehicles like this over the years that were clearly owned by someone who just wanted a piece of cheap exotica but had no real interest in building a legitimate road car you could take to Riverside on the weekends. The listing notes that in addition to the 350, the Manta features a Corvair four-speed transmission; a Volkswagen front suspension with air shocks that still work(!); a fuel cell that was removed and replaced with a new unit; and more.

The original Manta doors are included, along with a host of spare parts, which is likely a huge concern for anyone who trades in cars like these. It sounds like some critical parts are still missing – the seller references making new door windows and that you can still buy the windshields new – but you’ll need to reach out to him or her and ask just exactly what is wrong with the existing glass. Local speculation indicates the Manta went into storage in 1986 and no one has seen it since, but the seller still has it running and driving under its own power, which may indicate your road back to good health isn’t as long as one might think. What are your feelings about the Manta – is it a five-figure car at the moment?


  1. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Not sure it was ever a five figure car. Lot of rough edges and a transmission that won’t last long hooked up to that engine. Maybe worth the cost of the engine but not much more. Pretty lousy presentation doesn’t do much to help it either.

    Like 16
    • Avatar photo Robert Starinsky

      If this were a pristine condition kit car…but given its status and its mismatch of transmission and engine, it’s a rolling project likely worth about a 1/3 of the ask. Kit cars just don’t command much market attention and hence that limits their market value.

      Like 9
      • Avatar photo douglas hunt

        lots built with small blocks and the corvair trans…..as it’s not a drag racer im sure being easy on “off the line” take offs would make it not grenade so quick.

        Like 2
    • Avatar photo Gary Crush

      Yeah his price is crazy, 5 yrs ago i almost bought a show car mirage built only for advertisements, 2 owner car with 500 original show miles, the second owner said he was having trouble with shifter linkage, he could drive short distances but DIDN’T drive long distance, he said being it was a show car he wasn’t worried about the hassle of figuring it out, he was an English teacher in pa. The reason he was selling it was he was moving from pa. TO Georgia and COULDN’T take it with him moving into an apt, he said he paid $23,000 and put another $2,000 in it and just wanted something close for moving expenses, I settled on $19,000 the only reason he took it was he was leaving that afternoon, I was working 12 hr shifts at that time and had just started 7 DAYS straight and COULDN’T get off with short notice, I called him and told him I COULDN’T GET there for 6 more days, he had free storage in the school bus garages and thought when he settled his new job he could come back so we could finalize the deal, he was originally told he could leave the car there as long as he needed, THEN the head of the school told him because he was leaving he could no longer store the car there, somebody else knew about the car but DIDN’T know it was for sale until they heard the car had to be moved from storage, he contacted the teacher and be cause he DIDN’T want to come back to pa. he sold the car on the spot for $15,000 when he finally reached me he said he had no choice but to sell because the move to Georgia then coming back to pa. Then back to Georgia he tried to figure the expense, THAT’S why he dropped the price from 19 to 15 was he figured moving expenses was thousands then another $1,000 or more just to come back to sell the car, i’ve got the pictures he sent me, this car is amazing and the 1 on eBay now is worse than buying an uncompleted kit because instead of starting from scratch with everything brand new you now have to take apart somebody else’s mess and start from scratch and redo all the crap I see in those pictures, THAT car maybe worth 5 grand depending on the condition IT’S in by the pictures, THAT car for $18,000 is crazy if you see pics of one from 5 yrs ago even at his 1st asking price of $25,000 I can send you pics Bob if you want to see a real mirage even at max of $7,000 more than than this joke, people get nuts about something that they think is rare, I had a friend of mine that has a 68 vette with the ecklers wagon kit on it with the Greenwood and ecklers kit on it, THAT’S the tilt front end with flair and the wagon kit with rear flairs, it’s a total waste for what he wants, he told me because we were friends he would take $15,000, that’s nuts if i sent tou the pictures, he doesn’t even have a title for it, the condition of that car at best would be just because wagon vettes are rare maybe $6,000 i haven’t seen him for a couple yrs but the last time i tried to call him his number was no good, plus the cars moved and i have no idea where, I do know nobody bought it because his best offer and he was insulted was $2,800, I tried going to $10,000 only because at my age that car would probably be my last build, but even I cringed at 10 grand, only because the kit was installed right and THAT’S why I would take a chance, it would probably cost me another $100,000 to build it my way and that’s cheap with a blown 572 there’s over $20,000 just in motor not counting trans, wheels, tires, bodywork, interior at today’s inflated crazy prices, I’d rather put that money into an account for my 4 yr old granddaughter, IF you want to see both the vetted and the mantra Bob email me at reiderdoug@yahoo.com

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo PairsNPaint

        Did that English teacher in Pennsylvania teach punctuation?

        Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Kenneth Carney

    It reminds me of the car used in the ABC series Hardcastle & McCormick
    that ran from ’82-’86. Although I read
    somewhere that the TV car was running a Foyte Coyote engine hooked to a 5-speed gearbox. Not my cup of tea, but it could be a lot of
    fun when finished. And since I’m a
    professional family guy, I’d be more
    interested in the ’51 Pontiac Chieftain
    sedan though it needs two more doors to make me really happy. A great project for someone out there
    with the need for speed.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo douglas hunt

      the Coyote was a Manta Montage, and also 1st built with WV pan, but a Montage -T was built with a tube chassis V8 not sure of trans as there are many out there https://barnfinds.com/hardcastle-mccormick-fame-coyote-x-kit-car/

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Rick Smith

        You’ve got that backwards, Coyotes arent Mantas! Coyotes and Montage were voltswagon, Mantas were 2×3 frame V8 chevys with corvair driveline! I built and had all 3 in mid 80’s. There were ok I guess! Things were built cheap back then but the Manta with full frame/ corvair driveline was good upgrade! No moving door glass was a downfall. They needed alot of improvements to make a desent car!

        Like 1
      • Avatar photo douglas hunt

        Did you read that barn finds link…they DID make Montage’s with tube frame mid engine power, the Montage -T [ though im not sure if they were the olds powered/auto trans style]
        Manta was the brand, Mirage and Montage were the models.
        see links for examples:
        they are out there

        Like 0
    • Avatar photo jimmie roan

      that car was a montage not a mirage, world of difference

      Like 0
  3. Avatar photo Rick in Oregon

    I whole heartedly agree with bobhess, this thing is a rolling project at best. The transmission WILL grenade after a couple good stabs on the throttle. Presentation? Wow, a low five figure price tag may find a buyer but at $18k? I suspect it may be in that garage another decade or three….

    Like 5
  4. Avatar photo Camaro Joe

    The Corvair 4 speed will last (for a while) if the driver doesn’t banzi it from a standing start or slam gears. I’m told that the internals are similar to a Saginaw 4 speed that was designed for nothing more than a low HP small block. The 350 may tax it a little, but if the driver is careful it may live.

    There was a guy around NW PA 40 years ago with a Corvair “Crown Corv-8” mid engine conversion. He claimed that he never broke the Corvair 4 speed with a 350 HP 327, but he was fairly careful not to abuse it.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo douglas hunt

      I said basically the same thing, and there were “in period” companies making improvements to the corvair transaxle to make it more grenade proof

      Like 0
  5. Avatar photo greg v.

    Is that a two barrel? Or a one barrel?!? Kinda cool looking car. But price seems a bit optimistic.

    Greg V.

    Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Rick

    And ended already. Fishing expedition I would think. Manta’s have a huge cult following – someone in that group would gladly pay that asking price, no matter what the condition.

    Like 3
  7. Avatar photo Rod Brace

    The trans is the same. As a Saginaw 4speed except it’s main shaft is hollow to run the imput shaft of the diff through it. They will take power if gingerly applied. Windshields are not still available yet. Bodies and new aluminum chassis are through Strickland Racing. Watch Gearz TV in February 5 or 6 episodes as they assemble one.

    Like 2
  8. Avatar photo Howie

    The auction ended, no sale.

    Like 3
  9. Avatar photo MICHAEL Patrick NICHOLAS

    buick w a 2bbl?

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo PairsNPaint

    Always wanted to build one of these. IIRC, the windshield sourced was the rear glass of a ’78-83 Corvette, though ICBW.

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Tim W

    A co-worker had one in the early 80’s. Replaced several trannies, then went to Olds 455 with a Toronado trans-axle. Like it wasn’t scary enough with the 350..
    If you’re reading this Steve W, I’m talking about you lol.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo douglas hunt

      That brings on my way back machine….a long long time ago I was always looking thru a car trader paper “rag” for my 3 or 4 state area, and a Montage with the 455/Olds Toronado popped up in a 65 mile away town.
      I did call about it, but never went to see it….In my mind it needed a manual trans to go with the McClaren super sexy body lines, I lusted for one with a smallblock and the corvair trans as more traditional powertrain as the real thing had

      Like 0

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