Rare Desert Mirage: 1977 Chevy Monza Mirage

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

For all the chatter about how few of the Chevy Monza Mirages are left – rumors cite fewer than 30 as being on the road currently – there always seems to be at least one for sale each year. For a car with just over two dozen remaining, finding one each year for sale would seem to suggest there are more than originally thought still in existence. This rough example here on craigslist has been parked for 20 years, according to the seller, who says it was running and driving when it stopped in front of this trailer. 

Just over 4,000 of these IMSA tribute cars were built, with big spoilers, fender flares, and optional V8 motors listing out the Mirage’s major achievements. Any color was available provided it was red, white, and blue, and there were a few additional options like an eight-track player. This one has been hiding out in what looks like the Las Vegas desert, which helps explain its surprisingly good condition despite its long-term slumber.

While a four-cylinder was the standard fare, this Monza at least has one of the optional V8 motors and is equipped with a 305 paired to an automatic transmission. The 305 was the engine the manufacturer actually recommended be paired with the light-weight chassis, but regardless of engine choice, the hot-rodding set liked the Monza for its lower mass and ability to harness a V8 in the engine bay. By the way, thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find.

While most desert cars force owners to compromise for the rust-free exterior with a sun-wrecked interior, this Monza Mirage is holding up pretty well. Seats are far from perfect and the original red carpets and plastic surfaces have faded, but nothing in the cabin is outright destroyed. The seller further notes the original hubcaps (I thought the Mirage had true alloy wheels…) will be included, but the price of $4,500 still seems high despite the rarity and potential completeness. Rare, yes – valuable? Not so much.

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Comments

  1. poseur Member

    Patrick had one of these in the Senior lot when i was a Junior. it allegedly had a strong 350 4-barrel bolted to the TH350 trans & a set of 3.73’s.

    He’d put wider wheels & tires on the back, helping to fill out the swollen rear fenders, losing the knock-knee look & gaining some much-needed traction.

    it was one of the quickest cars in our high school, along with Trissler’s former sprint car 355-equipped ’74 Z28, Baker’s built 400 small block Laguna S3 & Harner’s 4-speed Ram Air III GTO convertible.

    we didn’t like Patrick. he was a wrestler, short & wiry & cocky & blond & handsome & popular with the girls in our class. yeah, we were jealous. pretty sure he was dating one or our ex-gf’s at the time but can’t recall whose or who now.

    i had the bright idea of us parking & partying in the school parking lot on this rainy Friday night for an away football game….nobody would know we were there, hiding in plain sight amongst all the empty cars of fellow students who had ridden the fan bus, listening along on the radio & enjoying a smoke & a 7 oz Little King’s Ale or dozen in peace.

    i don’t remember whose idea it was, mine or Bruce’s, but when the message to release excess liquid hit our impaired brains, the Mirage’s fuel tank was announced as the intended target.

    Paul went first & we giggled in buzzed disbelief as he did his best Belushi-in-Animal House impression, bobbing & weaving through the cars, even doing a roll & popping-up in a karate stance upon arrival at the improvised white four-wheeled urinal.

    Patrick was read for us & had installed a locking gas cap so Paul’s efforts were reduced to a ceremonial hose down of its flanks, a meaningless gesture in the steady downpour.

    Probably best for all involved in retrospect.

    16
    • John m leyshon

      Must be near Ohio ? Little Kings 7 oz ? love ’em , great memories…Like these cars a lot. Monza/Vega, Pinto/Mustang… Same stuff, great potential with a small block literally stuffed in

      9
  2. Nick

    Interesting. No AC, but it does have the V8 and tilt wheel.

    2
  3. RoughDiamond Member

    How in the heck do you change the plugs in these things, raise the body above the subframe?

    2
    • Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

      Hey RoughDiamond. Good eye – the plugs are jam-packed for sure. A buddy of mine back in the day claimed to have factory-ordered his ’76 Mirage with a 350 and 4-speed, though I believe the 305 was the biggest factory motor. Anyway point of my story… he said he’d loosen the motor mounts and get a volunteer to heave on a spud bar and crank the engine to one side while he changed the rear plugs. I bet that technique wasn’t in the shop manual. (Nice find Jeff!) I put 100,000+ miles on a $1200 ’76 Skyhawk 3.8, 5sp and always drooled over the V8s.

      5
      • bobk

        I had the exact same experience except that I was the one on the spud bar, saying “HURRY ******* UP!”.

        4
    • TinCanSailor

      I tuned one of these up in college – a base model with a 262 V8. I thought I had some easy money… right up until plug #7. I had to unhook the driver side exhaust from the manifold, unbolt the motor mount, and jack the engine about 3-4 inches – then risk losing my hand by reaching in and removing the plug while hoping the jack didn’t slip. A simple tune-up took me about 5-6 hours out in our dorm parking lot. He bought the parts, and I think I charged him $15-20 (1984 bucks) for labor.

      I was a poor college kid, and I guess that was about minimum wage back then, so no harm, no foul!

      3
      • Lynn Dockey

        That’s why the spark plugs are good for 100,000 miles now. I had a 2014 Chevy SS and u can barely see the # 5, 7 and 8 plugs.

        2
  4. Air Boss

    Poor, poseur relatives of the potent DeKon Monzas.

    1
  5. Vance

    My buddy’s Dad had a plain Jane company car beige, tan interior, dog dish hub caps, really ugly. But it did have a 4 speed with the V8. Best sleeper ever. My friend was mechanically inclined and he made some “adjustments” that made this thing quite fast. We won a lot of beer money racing that thing. The looks on the faces of the guys we beat was priceless.

    3
  6. That AMC guy

    A lot of people don’t remember that, like the AMC Pacer, the Chevy Monza was originally slated to receive GM’s Wankel rotary engine. When the company cancelled that engine GM had to fit their conventional piston engines. (They did have more engine choices to work with than AMC did of course.)

    3
  7. Barefoot335is

    We Had one of these in Driver’s Ed!, LOL
    We had a closed course driving course set up by the football field and would do power brake burnouts at the stop signs on the course. Coach would come on the radio saying, “Very Cute, now stop it or you get to drive the Granda next time!”
    Great times!!!!

    3
    • Lynn Dockey

      Must have been a cool school

      1
  8. Maestro1 Member

    Actually I like the design of this car, and owned one way back when they were new, just a Monza, Black, with a V8 Automatic and PS. It was a real
    sleeper in traffic and in general, very poor ergonomics, but in general a blast to drive. If I remember correctly I sold it for within 100.00 of what i paid for it.
    Which was not very much. And it was a new car!

    3
  9. Lynn Dockey

    In fact the way to change plugs was in the service manual. My buddy beat the snot out of his. V8 and 13 inch tires. Not a good combo.

    2
  10. Moparmann

    I almost pulled the trigger on a V-8 Monza. A customer had special ordered it and wanted a full size spare. Since the spare tire well was too small, they’d bolted it to the floor in the rear hatch area. For some reason, the car was refused, and the location of the full size spare made it a no-go for me as well! 🙂

    1
  11. Lynn Dockey

    Never knew that gm had the space saver donut tire back then. The way they go now is a can of tire goo that messes up the TPMS and an air compressor that couldn’t blow up a beach ball at a jimmy buffet concert.

    2
  12. charlie

    For the time, and the price, they were fast and solid, and a joy to drive. They would still out handle your typical SUV or mini van today.

    1
  13. nrg8

    I always imagined this would be the Rockwellian imagery that would accompany these little beasties before they were picked up by a wrecker. Well, one or two tires off wedged under the rockers like jack stands. Brake job almost completed. And the local kids playing in it. A toddler in a diaper standing behind the steering wheel honking the horn till the battery died or hung over parents ended the fun

    2
  14. Tom Member

    Based on what it looks like it would take to get this thing back into shape…..it might be better IF is actually were a MIRAGE !!! (As I rub my eyes only to find it has disappeared!) Sorry, couldn’t resist !

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