Real Deal? 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage

Had things gone according to plan, the Chevrolet Monza Mirage would have remained in production for more than its single model year. As a result, there could potentially have been significantly more built than the original 4,097 cars sold to the American motoring public. Natural attrition has seen numbers dwindle markedly, but this Mirage is a rust-free example that is ripe for restoration. It is located in Kingman, Arizona, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $3,300 in what is a No Reserve auction. I have to say thank you to Barn Finder Enthusiast for referring the Monza to us.

This isn’t the first time that this Mirage has appeared on our desks. It was previously featured in this excellent article written by our own Jeff Lavery. General Motors has always been a company that has kept a sharp eye open in a bid to spot a great marketing opportunity. One came its way in 1976 and 1977 via the IMSA Camel GT Challenge Series. The Monza competed in this series with great distinction, and Chevrolet could see an opportunity to benefit from this racing success. They contracted a company called BORT (British Overseas Racing Team) to develop a street version of the wild IMSA Monza body kit. GM approved of the design and contracted a second company to produce the Monza Mirage for sale during the 1977 model year. In this case, Monzas built at the Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, plant were shipped to a company called Michigan Auto Techniques Corp (MAT), in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Once at MAT, the cars would be fitted with their unique body kit and stripes, and would then be shipped to dealers. The only item not installed was the front air dam. This was deemed to be too low for safe fitment at MAT, so it was shipped inside the car for dealer fitting. The Mirage was only offered in Antique White, although had production continued as planned into 1978, other colors would have been available. The original plan had called for the sale of up to 12,000 cars, but the buyer response was not as strong as expected. That meant that after only 4,097 vehicles had been built, the Monza Mirage project was quietly canceled. As well as a lack of buyer enthusiasm, there were a couple of other issues that plagued the Mirage. The first was that Chevrolet found itself in a position where the “Mirage” name was already registered. As a result, they were forced to pay a royalty on every car sold. Also, all of the unique body additions and graphics could be ordered by dealers through the GM Parts Catalog. There are known examples of dealers ordering these components, building their own versions of the Mirage, and selling them through their dealerships. That does raise one question about this particular vehicle, and that is whether it is a genuine MAT-built Mirage. All cars that left the MAT workshop did so sporting an identifying plaque mounted on the dash. This car doesn’t have that plaque, which places a question mark over its authenticity. However, these plaques also had a reputation for coming loose, so that could be the explanation in this case. The first piece of good news is that the Monza appears to be rust-free. The owner provides a wide selection of photos, and while there is surface corrosion present, there are no signs of any rust. The paint is looking tired and faded, and some of the distinctive stripes are only visible as ghosts. However, the panels appear to be quite straight, while the gaps are consistent. Also on a positive note, the vast majority of the distinctive body additions, along with the original wheels and caps, are present and in a restorable state. The bad news is that the front air dam is missing, and this could be a problem. This is because they are no longer in production. There are several enthusiast groups that might be able to assist the next owner to locate a secondhand replacement. Alternatively, quizzing a few Chevrolet dealerships might be worth a shot. You would think that someone has a NOS air dam squirreled away somewhere. It will be well worth asking the question if a high-quality restoration is on the cards.

When it came to engines, there was no hard-and-fast rule with the Monza Mirage. It was highly recommended that buyers order their new Monza equipped with the 305ci V8. This didn’t stop a few buyers from choosing to equip their Mirage with the 140ci 4-cylinder engine. In this case, we do get the 305, while it also features a 3-speed Hydramatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. This was the depths of the Malaise Era, so engine power was a modest 145hp. However, the Monza Mirage was not a particularly heavy car. It tipped the scales at 3,066lbs, which enabled the vehicle to cover the ¼ mile in a flat 17 seconds. I have heard of Monza owners performing some relatively minor tweaks to these engines, and that has seen some of them knock at least a second off that ET figure. This car does run and drive, although it has been unused for an extended period. That means that it would be fine to drive around a yard or onto a trailer, but it will require a thorough inspection before it could safely be driven any distance.

The interior of the Mirage is another interesting area. The vast majority of buyers followed Chevrolet recommendations and chose to order their Monza with Firethorn Red vinyl interior trim. However, the reality was that buyers could choose any interior trim color or material that they desired. A few chose the White and Red vinyl trim, but it is rare to see any other colors. The interior of this Monza is finished in Red, and it does look a bit on the tired side. It is serviceable, and it is a lot better than some examples that I have seen. The dash and rear seat look good, as does what we can see of the headliner. There are some seam separations on the front seats, and I’m not sure whether these could be repaired. However, if the buyer invested some money in a pair of door trims, new covers for the front seats, and a new carpet set, this is an interior that could potentially look quite nice.

There have been various estimates as to exactly how many of these 1977 Monza Mirages still exist because that number is sure to be a long way short of the original build total. There are currently only 59 cars listed on the Oficial Monza Mirage Register, but this car isn’t one of them. This highlights the fact that virtually none of these registers are complete, because vehicles will slip through the cracks. Of course, it could also raise the specter of this car not being a genuine Mirage, which is a possibility. Even if it isn’t, it is still unusual to find a ’77 Monza that hasn’t been afflicted with significant rust issues. Think back and try to remember the last time that you saw a nice Monza during your daily travels. These were considered to be a disposable car in the 1970s and 1980s, so they are rare today. Maybe that’s enough to justify returning this car to its former glory.

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Comments

  1. Steve Bush Member

    Owned a Monza Mirage for a couple years in the mid 1980s. It was in somewhat better shape overall than this one although the driver’s side floor rusted through and I ended up selling it for maybe $300. Other than it’s looks, an average car. A bit ironic that a friend of mine badly wanted one when they were new. Unfortunately for him, he was only 20 or so and had only his dad’s Lincoln Town Cars, a 1972 and later a 1979, to drive.

    3
  2. Superdessucke

    It’s a real Mirage.

    1
  3. Jack M.

    Between the three of these cars, you might be able to create one good one.
    https://bangshift.com/general-news/craigslist-find/rough-start-bogo-1979-chevy-monza-22-and-1980-monza-spyder/

    1
  4. redwagon

    I doubt it will ever be highly desirable, more of an interesting oddity than anything else. The 305 is not known to be an enthusiast engine but the fact that it fits makes me think this Mirage would be a lot more fun with a 283 or 327 in there.

    2
  5. Mike Sabolic

    I had one for a few years. It was a fun little toy with pretty good pick up. I had the 305cu in with a 4 speed transmission. The biggest problem I had was the doors rusted away. To do a tune up,you had to undue motor mounts to raise the engine enough to change all the spark plugs. Mine went to the car grave yard after an accident.

    1
  6. Arthur

    Even if this isn’t a genuine Monza Mirage, I could see it being turned into 21st century Mirage with the following items:

    Art Morrison Max-G chassis
    Tremec T-56 Magnum
    Forgeline SE1 Wheels
    Pirelli P-Zero Tires
    GM Performance LSA E-Rod

    I wonder … who could pull off such a project?

    • Steve R

      The question is not who, but why. Why put a $10,000+ aftermarket chassis on a unibody car? It’s hard to imagine someone doing what would essentially be a six figure custom build on a $3,000-5,000 car.

      Steve R

      2
      • B302

        I see 5000 dollar cars that 6 figures have been spent on every year but this year on the HOT ROD POWER TOUR, Woodward Dream Cruise , Good Guys, etc or even in a garage or man cave. High dollar chassises are put under or in unibody cars all the time. I have not been surprised for years at the money that will be spent on a car (a dream) for the street, track , or just to look at. Many off these cars are like this one. As of right now Hemmings has a street Monza for sale at $74,500 and a collector Monza at $219,000.

        1
    • Poppapork

      $18,000 chassis?
      $16,000 engine?

      Come on now… if you want to see how to build this car google “opel manta B 400 rallye”
      For a GM homologation low volume car on a manufactured on a related platform

      3
  7. Maestro1 Member

    I think Monzas are stunning. I don’t care about the Mirage stuff, it’s not important. With a V-8 in it it’s a little killer (I owned one; not a Mirage) so
    this would be fund with A/C here and whatever it needs. But I have no room.

    5
  8. Mitchell Member

    Every time I hear about a Mirage Beastie Boys’ Sabotage immediately starts playing in my head

    1
  9. Stevieg Member

    I had a ’75 Monza hatchback that I really liked. It was a factory 262 V-8 with a 4 speed. That 262 was pretty well toast & in it’s place went a 400 small block out of an early 70’s wagon. Yeah, it would twist a bit when I played with it.
    I sold it cheap because I was young and stupid lol. It was pretty rust though, and I highly doubt it would still be around even if I had kept it.

    2
  10. Small block

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