A Return To My Youth: 1980 Dodge Mirada CMX

By Jeff Bennett

We all have personal connections to cars in our past, and the 1980-1983 Chrysler Cordoba/Dodge Mirada twins figured large in my early driving misadventures.  Built by the Chrysler Corporation as a downsized version (I am not kidding here.) of the earlier Chrysler Cordoba and Dodge Charger, they came out at the worst possible time.  Gas prices were climbing, interest rates were in the double digits for even the most sterling of borrowers, and the Chrysler Corporation was on the ropes.  While the earlier versions of these automobiles were great sellers, these particular personal luxury coupes fell flat on their faces sales wise.  This is a shame, because they weren’t bad cars.  This particular example, a 1980 Dodge Mirada CMX being sold on EBay out of Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, is worth a second look.  With just 87,749 miles on the odometer, and in excellent condition, it has only been bid up to $3,350 as of this writing.  Many thanks to Matt Williams for finding this Mirada for us!

My personal experiences with these cars started when my grandfather purchased a 1980 Chrysler Cordoba from a friend in the glass business.  This friend, named Galen, used to work for Chrysler’s distribution center in Florida, and had purchased the car directly through corporate.  My grandfather got it cheap because a limb had fallen on the front part of the roof, bending it and shattering the windshield.  He fixed it pretty easily, and the car was used as a second car to run errands with on the weekends while my grandmother used their Cadillac.  Usually, we were stranded on the weekends, as she roamed far and wide taking care of a trot line of elderly shut ins.  However, this car allowed grandpa, my brother, and I to go to car shows, hobby shops, and hardware stores whenever we wanted.  My grandfather was like a father to my brother and I, and he spent a lot of time with us.  I guess he was more influential than anyone else was in getting me interested in cars, and for that and for many other things, I am eternally grateful.

So, when I turned 16, he gave me the Cordoba.  I had already driven it a few times before, including a night that I “borrowed” it while they were out of town.  Given that I was just 14 at the time, and I was performing some high speed stupidity, I never told him about that ride.  Anyway, it was a good car for a first car, especially since I felt like a car had two speeds at the time: off and full throttle.  It was slow enough to not cause any major trouble, but it had three major faults that I later found out that the Mirada shared (He replaced his former Cordoba with a 1980 Mirada.).  The first was the gas mileage.  My Cordoba got 6mpg city, and 8 mpg highway, but that was with me driving.  The Mirada got 10 mpg city, and 12 mpg highway, and that was with my grandfather driving.  Second, the cars were poor handlers in the rain.  They tended to slide around a bit, and the brakes would lock up with just a little bit of pedal pressure.  Finally, one of the most aggravating problems was that the control box for the electronic ignition would occasionally fail.  A failure would cause the car to run very rough, and clear plastic would ooze from the box and down the cowl.

This particular Mirada the same color, and is about in the same condition now as the one my grandfather bought as a used car.  It seems to be a less optioned car, but it does have some important ones.  Inside, this one has vinyl upholstery, and it seems to have held up well over the years.  It also has a center console with a floor shifter, and even an AM/FM radio with a CB radio.  This is pretty cool, as I have never seen one before.  The windows are the old school crank up type, and it doesn’t appear that the car has power door locks.  Under the hood, it has the same 318 cubic inch Chrysler V-8, with a two barrel carburetor.  It also has air conditioning, and it has been upgraded from a R-12 refrigerant to a more available R-134A type.  Overall, the car has no rust, and sports just a few dings here and there.

One other important detail on this car is that the rubber “tips” on the back corners look to be in perfect condition.  These were made of a soft material, and they rotted away quickly on every Mirada and Cordoba I have ever seen.  Cordobas also had them on the front corners as well.  When the Cordoba and Mirada were in my family, we tried to get replacements from Chrysler.  They were all sold out then, but I later heard that someone was making fiberglass replacements.  If you needed a set, you could probably get some enterprising twelve year old to 3-D print you a set nowadays!

So, is this car worth spending over $3,000 on?  For me, I think it is a good deal for that price range.  They are comfortable, reliable cars that handle well in every condition except for rain, and it is still a handsome design.  The success of these cars was crucial for Chrysler’s survival, but they failed to sell in high enough numbers to help the company.  Compared to the Ford Thunderbird, which was part of its competition, it was a much better looking car.  However, the personal luxury coupes from GM, such as the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, were probably better cars.  The Cordoba and Mirada twins are fairly rare in the collectible market, and this one would make for a good conversation starter at car shows and cruise ins.  I hope someone buys this car and preserves it.  Good examples of these are hard to find, and seeing this one takes me back.

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  1. Moparman

    OOOOOOOOH! I WANT this so badly! I just don’t have the room, and too many vehicles @ present! Maybe if I can just……… 🙂

  2. Oingo

    I had an 81 same color combo but a base with the leaning tower of power and velour interior same red. Very comfortable and quiet (for the day) and cheap to run and fix. Not sure about the leanburn as mine had the one barrel.

  3. MichaelV

    My mom had this exact car, it was her favorite of all of her cars. She got t-boned by a school bus and it got totaled.

  4. ruxvette

    To be correct it is a 1980 Mirada with CMX wheels, NOT a CMX equipped car. The CMX comes with power windows, 360 motor, etc, etc.
    I had a 1980 Mirada with the CMX wheels, leather buckets, floor console, etc, and loved the car.

  5. Nova Scotian

    Nice write up, but dude, you should just buy this thing, and take her home. Seems to me you would look after it for the next 30 years or so.

  6. Rock On

    I bought a 1981 Mirada CMX with 12,000 miles on it in 1982. It was black with tan velour interior. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the CMX stood for the imitation convertable top that mine was equipped with. Looked pretty sharp for the day and fooled a lot of people.

  7. Chuck Cobb

    I want the wheels BADLY for my street rod 38 Plymouth. Anybody have a reasonably priced set of 4?

  8. Nrg8

    Yep. This one isn’t a cmx. Has some parts from one, like the rims, aluminum dash treatment as opposed to the wood grain. It is missing the 3 spoke steering wheel. I had an 80 cmx that I bought in 89 at the tender age of 17. Silver w/t-tops 360 w/727. Tranny was pushing out fluid faster than you could put it in and the doors were starting to blister on the bottom. Bought it cause my 76 Aspen se coupe was coming apart from the rot. Took the 4 speed OD out of the Aspen with the pedal assembly, flywheel and starter. Buddy and I had it in over the course of a weekend complete with the amber reverse indicator light on the dash. Had to do a little fabricating to the tranny mount, and the drive shaft front yoke was swapped. The 360 purportedly was 185hp. Kinda meh power for that car. It was unique with the stick. Had a set of true duals put on, light tint, fixed the rust and drove it. Typical linkage bind once in a while. It was my summer car, always wrenching on it and enjoying it. Best part was the big back seat, lots of backseat brawlin’ …..

  9. Billy

    Bought a 1983 in the fall of 1986. Got her for a song with low miles and pristine condition. Still have it, but right now it sits being restored so she will outlast me, but thats okay, she is far prettier then I will ever be. Tried to post a picture, but the site firewall is being pissy, anyone else having that trouble?

    • Pharm Guy

      Yes, but I still appreciate the forgotten, common man’s coupé

  10. imperial1scott

    This is a real CMX….Not all 1980 CMX’S had the 360 4bbl,E58 police motor in them.Only about 76 were ordered with that engine combo.Only around 5400 CMX’s were made in 1980 only.After 1980 the standard Mirada had the stainless wrap over the roof like this one and the CMX from 1981-1983 came with the fake convertible “Cabriolet” top.

  11. gtyates

    My folks had an ’80 Mirada when I was a teen. I got to drive it some. Ours was not a CMX, but it was loaded with all power options, rear defrost (that was an option back then), tilt wheel/cruise control, and power driver seat. Ours was white, white vinyl top, and white leatherette seats. The console, dash, and carpet were maroon. It had the 318. They kept it until around 70k miles and it began to develop a few issues. I agree about rain, it did not like rain at all. Or snow.. Gas mileage was terrible. They sold in in ’84 and bought one of the first Ford Tempo cars sold in the Nashville area. It was a POS, but at least it was loaded as well, including the extra audio amplifier with an on/off switch. The next Tempo they bought was actually a very reliable vehicle, so Ford fixed the bugs.

  12. Chebby

    Really good-looking wheels that were never used on any other Mopar, as far as I’ve seen.

  13. Michael Carney

    I bought a white 1980 Mirada, the sales managers demonstrater. White vinyl with red dash, carpet and doors. V-8, sweet tough looking ride. It was stolen and stripped. I had first dibs on the hull – and declined. My local Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealer tried to put me in a mocha colored Cordoba. Not on my watch. My Mirada was the sweetest one ever. A friend had one with the fake convertible top, dark blue with white top – almost as sweet as mine. Good memories… I was in my early 20’s. Thanks for the memories.

  14. Alexander

    I had an 81 Cordoba that I bought used in 84 or 85 from a friend of mine. It was a Mexican version with the 360/4bbl combo, power everything, and those same wheels. My friend drove it from Mexico City to Laredo, Texas, and had a Chrysler Imperial header panel and bumper installed. The thing looked absolutely gorgeous! I still regret selling it, even if it has been almost 30 years!


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