The Ultimate Italian Vega: 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage

Todd FitchBy Todd Fitch

The Italian city of Monza has hosted a variety of international racing series since the construction of a very NASCAR-looking high-speed oval in 1922. Later a road course blended with the oval and Monza hosted the Italian Grand Prix, always as a fast course with long high-speed straights (thanks to Wikipedia.org and AboutMilan.com for some details). The 1970s saw epic battles at Monza between Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart, both household names in America where they drove in America’s premier racing event, the Indianapolis 500. With this backdrop, Chevrolet introduced the Vega-based 2+2 named Monza with styling inspired by Ferrari’s lovely 365 GTC/4. General Motors’ John DeLorean nicknamed it “The Italian Vega” (thanks to Wikia.com for some details and picture from 365gtc4.com). This 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage in Racine, Wisconsin is offered here on eBay with a single bid under $3000. The Mirage package (details below) and V8 engine add impact and performance to this special model.

In America, Chevy Monzas campaigned in the IMSA GT Series with outrageous body modifications and Corvette engines. The combination proved nearly unbeatable in 1976 and 1977 when they won the series cup. DeansGarage.com details the first-hand account of how the idea to make an IMSA-looking aftermarket body kit for road cars grew into a factory-authorized special model. A coworker in Pennsylvania claimed to have ordered a 1976 Monza Mirage with a 350 cid V8, though research indicates the 350 saw use only in California, and this car’s 305 would have been the largest engine available in other states. For a Wisconsin car from the ’70s, this Mirage shows remarkably little resemblance to Swiss cheese. The seller describes cosmetic rust only thanks to years of indoor storage.

The two-tone interior shows well. The exterior white paint and red and blue stripes (the only colors available on a Mirage) are original and faded, but authentic. I owned this car’s Buick stablemate, a 1976 Skyhawk with a 3.8L V6 and a rare five speed Borg Warner manual transmission. My interior had the black carpet and dash with white seats and I’m partial to this two-tone effect.

This is a driver, folks, though it could use a thorough once-over. With a claimed 52,000 miles, it may visit many car shows before needing major attention. This Monza appears to have retained most of its underhood parts including air conditioning compressor with belt attached – a rare sight in the North. With fewer than 2400 Mirage cars made (each outsourced by GM to Michigan Automotive Techniques), most would advocate an all stock restoration, but it would be possible to breathe some life into a stock-appearing rebuild of the venerable small block. A savvy shopper might find a rust-free example with patience, but if you want one now and/or funds are limited, this might be the time to strike. What do you think of this race-inspired custom-built Mirage?

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Comments

  1. Phil

    I was in high school riding the bus in 1977 and would pass by this huge lot with many of these Monza’s awaiting shipment after the addition of the body panels. I was fascinated by the sight of so many cars that were exactly alike! Grand Rapids at NW corner of Breton Ave and 32nd St.. Don’t know if they were only stored here or were finished here. The way my memory is, I couldn’t really say….

    7+
  2. 86 Vette Convertible

    Is this the one you had to jack the engine up to change the sparkplugs? It should have a good hp to weight ratio which should help it perform.

    Never a major fan of Monza’s but then again to each his own.

    3+
    • Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

      Hi 86 Vette… Yes! My buddy who owned one had to loosen the motor mounts and crank the motor to one side to change the rear plugs. Yikes!

      4+
      • Vincent vanasco

        I had a Chrysler 300 G which had the same problem, only no cranking of the motor.Still was a pain, but loved that convertible,blood red and fast hauling 5,800 lbs. 18 foot beast.

        0
      • Rhonda

        Hi 86 Vette Convertible, Yeal I would always change 7 plugs, even my small
        hands I could never get that 8th one in.

        My brother owned a brand new 77′ Monza Mirage-auto. Mine was a used
        one, auto also. Bothe ours had red interior. I had to get door pins replaced
        my mech said that was a job, those doors were so heavy. I had dual exhaust
        put on mine. . sweet. Love thatt car. Won a few races with the boys, lol.

        0
    • RichS

      Yup – hated these things with a passion when they would come in for the $49.95 “maintenance tune” my small shop advertised. They added a $50 surcharge for these but it was not even close to being enough. More often than not, the rear two plugs were AC and the rest were something else.

      1+
  3. Supernova72

    Had a 1978 Monza Spyder in college. Decal delete! 3.8 v6 4 speed. Fun car. Some bolt on stuff. Friend of mine took it up to 118mph pacing a 280z.

    1+
  4. Pa Tina

    Mirage. Indeed.

    4+
    • RichS

      Pa Tina – have a thumbs up just for the name!

      1+
  5. whmracer99

    Notice no pictures of the top of the car. You can see by the hood open shot the tops of the fenders are roached — probably the rest of the horizontal surfaces are as well. Another one of those cars that’s probably at the bottom of the value curve. Even with the 305 these were pretty light cars that would scoot — a little work on the motor and these could be a lot of fun. Probably fairly valued in the $3K to $4K range.

    0
  6. Michael A King

    Still sitting on 2 monza spyders 1 gold and 1 black. Both 305 v8. Black 1979 monza factory v8. 1980 gold monza removed 231 V-6 and pulled a strong v-8 from another monza. I have owned gold monza since 1989 and black monza since 1993.

    1+
  7. Ron Lee

    Nice write-up. There were 4,124 Mirages built in 1977
    according to GM Canada. The 350 V8 was only available in California and only in 1975.

    0
  8. Keith

    Weren’t these unibodies? I seem to remember a friend that built one back in the day, he had a hard time keeping a nice paint job on it due to the body flexing and causing the paint to crack.

    0
  9. Rick pyle

    A good friend of mine had one of these back in the day we would race all the time against my Chevy Laguna I could never beat him it was a runner

    0
  10. Coventrycat

    Yeah, and my Focus looks like Ford GT.

    0
  11. Comet

    I worked at a large Chevy dealer that had a few of these pass through. They appeared hastily thrown together with ill fitting plastic body panel covers adorned with equally tacky and poorly fitted tape stripes. I vividly remember the front chin spoilers were attached with what appeared to be heavy duty staples. I can still see them. A tribute to the dark decade of GM “quality”.

    0
  12. Troy S.

    The sporty car market was making a comeback, but now it was mostly a visual look with some kind of warmed up smog motor. These mid to late 70’s image cars might not have run anywhere close to the likes of super duty trans ams or boss 351 mustangs but they were much better sellers.

    1+
  13. Debby Watson

    My very first car I bought after high school graduation was a blue/white 1977 Chev Monza Coupe, 8 cyl. I bought it brand new! I loved that car!

    1+
  14. michael

    Monzas are easy to work on. The best.

    0
    • carsofchaos

      You sir, just destroyed my Sarcasm Detector

      1+
  15. stigshift

    I bought a Buick version of this car with a V6 5-speed and the weird glass roof years ago. Probably should have kept that one. And all of the other ones…

    1+
  16. chad

    yep, 305’s a good engine (like em in sm trucks) would rather C that 3.8 in this vehicle, tho.
    EDIT:
    o0OP, this is the bent 8, wuz talkin bout the straight 6.
    hmmm, this it’d B interesting…

    0
  17. michael

    Non steel engine block made the 3.8 a challange to keep. V-8 was the best…

    0
  18. kenzo

    Nice interior. Fix up the outside and you’d have a fun daily driver.
    Listing has been sold @ 2700.
    Probably worth it.

    1+
  19. michael

    May start working on them in the next 5 years..time flies…

    0
  20. Terry

    I bought it and had bought one new in 1977, gave it to my little brother and he destroyed it. Always wanted another and will do a complete restoration on it

    0

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