Mirage Origins


Monza Mirage | Mirage Origins | DeKon | 1001 | 1002 | 1003 | 1004 | 1005 | 1006 | 1007 | 1008 | 1010 | 1011 | 1012 | 1014 | 1015* | 1016

Agor1 | Agor2 | Baird & Trivette | Fischer | Fournier | Gallant | Hinchcliff | Huffaker | Hunt | King | Overbagh | SRD | Stairs | Trueman | Unknowns
Aussie Monzas | Purcell-Jane | Riordon-Whincup | Seidel-Whincup | Webb-Blacklaw | White

The ZX1 Monza Mirage Package by Michigan Automotive Techniques Corporation


by Stacy Scharch



My Mirage had a one-of-a-kind red spearhead on the hood with white spyder and two red stripes painted on the rear hatch.  Mine didn't have a front air dam either, but had a 305 V-8 and four speed transmission. MATC's original blue/red decal stripes had problems peeling off. This prompted some owners to remove the decals and paint instead. This may explain why my car appeared differently.





I kept the original hubcaps off the car, they were surprisingly heavy and had a tendency to pop off.  But, I gave them to the next owner when I sold the car in '82. This car would look great with black side pipes turning out below doors.





Weight distribution on V8 Monzas was about 58/42. The unibody chassis had a lot flex, especially when you got on the power or hit a turn hard and fast. Unfortunately, the '77 Monza Mirage didn't have a limited-slip differential available, which the V-8 really needed to keep the scrawny 13s from misbehaving. It wasn't until the 1978 Monza Spyder model rolled out, that a LSD was finally available.

The 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage is a special edition 2+2 sports sedan based on GM's H-body Monza. Michigan Auto Techniques Corporation (MAT) of Grand Rapids, Michigan produced the Mirage trim package for only one year. They were an aftermarket company contracted by GM to produce and install the custom add-on package. It featured racing stripes along the length of the car, flared body panels, and a special air dam & spoiler.

The vehicles were built in GM's St. Therese, Quebec plant, and sent to MAT for modification, after which they would ship completed cars to the dealer. There were approx 2,400 Monza Mirages made from MAT, but there were also Mirages created by Chevrolet dealerships, as the body add-ons and stripes were available ordered through dealer parts. The 5.0-liter (305 cid) engine was the only V8 option for the 1977 model year and highly recommended.

The Mirage's styling was modeled after the specially prepared successful Monza racecars that racked up an impressive record on the track in 1975 and 1976 IMSA Camel GT Challenge Series, long dominated by Porsche and BMW. These racecars were also successful in the SCCA Tran-Am pro series. Chevrolet decided to draw on that fame to enhance sales by making a "street version" of the IMSA GT Monza that was burning up road courses from Le Mans to Laguna Seca. It was one of the smallest sport sedans available with a V8 engine that came out of Detroit.

The idea of the design for the Mirage appearance package originated with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based BORT (British Overseas Racing Team), an assemblage of former Ford and Chrysler design staffers who had made their mark by designing the Ford Cobra II. Chevrolet contracted with BORT to design an IMSA Monza “street version” and MATC to install the kit's components, for the 8,000 or more orders originally anticipated.

The package was special ordered by the Chevrolet dealer for customers. A complete Monza was built on the assembly line at GM's St. Therese plant in Quebec Canada, then shipped to Grand Rapids where MATC applied the custom Mirage trim panels, decals and hub caps.

The add-on body panels were all made of Reaction Injection Molded (RIM) urethane. The complete body kit included a front air dam, rear spoiler, front and rear fender flares that were not nearly as wide as on IMSA racecar. Then a special decal and striping appearance package was applied to doors, fenders, hood, roof, and the rear hatch lid. "Monza Mirage" identification was applied to both doors as well.

Everything was installed on the car except the front air dam, which was to be installed by the dealership upon arrival. It was a precaution taken to avoid damaging the car’s front air dam on the vehicle transport. The Mirage's trim package by MATC was a visually stunning package. The upgrade was less than $700 for the consumer.

The only color available for the Monza 2+2 Sport Hatchback was Antique White (11L & 11U). Ordering the Firethorn red interior was highly suggested to maintain the red white and blue theme, but any color interior was available. Another highly recommended option was Chevrolet's new 305 cu. in. (LG3) V8, although a few Mirages were actually ordered with the base four cylinder engine. The Mirage package options included Sport Mirrors (D35), Sport Suspension (F41), Sport Steering Wheel (N31), Special Instrumentation (U14) and BR70-13/C Raised White Lettered Radial Tires (QKZ).

MATC mounted a plaque on the dash pad of every Mirage conversion it turned out, it read, "Specially Prepared by Michigan Automotive Techniques Corporation" followed by a serial number. There were approximately 4,097 Mirages built, mostly by MATC. There were a few Chevy dealerships that assembled the Mirage package as well.

Production of the Monza Mirage was originally scheduled to run through 1978 with other color options, but was discontinued. Chevrolet had originally planned to produce between eight and twelve thousand Mirage models. Reasons for cancellation of the special edition were mainly a lower than expected sales, decal stability issues, and there were royalties due for the name 'Mirage'.

Chevrolet had disappointing sales with its highly anticipated Monza line, having only sold 73,348 units for 1977. Only 18% of all Monza sales were the special edition Mirage that was planned and designed to boost sales. The Chevrolet Monza Spyder assumed the role created by the Mirage for the 1978 production year.

Owner's Impression

A corner F&C worker at Blackhawk Farms, IL stands outside of spectator safety line, which is a rope that is barely noticeable. Now days, wooden snow fence serves that purpose.






The Monza's 4-speed shifter had short throws but easily bound up during rapid shifts. My solution was a replacement Hurst shifter that went for about $100 in '81. It took a friend and I about 3 hours to install. The hole on the tunnel had to be enlarged slightly for the lever's clearance.  It hit against the sheet metal when thrown into reverse. The end result was worth it. Shifting the Saginaw transmission was still sluggish when done too quickly, but the precision and feel of gear selection was improved and more accurate.








A day at the races. In 1981, I drove it in a high speed autocross event at Blackhawk Farms Raceway, a closed road course.  The event was sanctioned by Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs.  

My Monza Mirage was less than two years old when I became second owner in early '79. I bought it from a used car dealer called Schoepp Motors in Madison, WI, which was a small shabby second-hand bargain lot. So, I was surprised they were selling such a clean sports coupe with some 8,000 miles on the odometer. It was all too perfect, and somehow too nice for that dealer to be selling. The car had been on the lot for over a month, it seemed to be waiting for me. I took it as a sign and I wanted it.

The asking price was just $3,900, I barely counter-offered with $3,600. In my mind the car was already mine at the initial price. After a quick confirmation the salesman eagerly accepted, didn't think he'd go much lower. I was already satisfied with the original price. Immediately gave the salesman a deposit and ran to the bank for a loan. The banker looked up the car’s loan value and said I was getting a pretty good deal. I felt electric, a 20 year old that just bought a hot little sporty sedan with a four-speed and V8!

Driving it off the lot and down the frontage road, I felt like a pilot taxiing out for an initial test flight. Very little pedal was required to move the car, just a soft touch. I approached the freeway entrance and sensed the car wanting me to go full throttle.

These cars are very fun to drive, even though they were not crazy fast like a '70 1/2 Camaro Z-28. For the money I paid it turned as many and more heads than a Corvette or Trans-Am. Another 100 hp and a little more suspension would have made it a great car.

My Monza didn't have the typical front air dam or complete decal package, and there wasn't a dash plaque from MATC. The only Mirage decals on it were the lower stripes and “Monza Mirage” name on doors. Also missing was the typical red and blue accent striping on the hood, roof, and hatch back. Instead, it had a red paint scheme highlight. The front hood had a distinctive red spearhead like shape white spider block-out in the middle. The roof was just all-original white paint. The rear hatch and spoiler had the same red paint accent similar on hood, but with two stripes. This may have been one of those Mirages slapped together at a dealership.

After talking with another Mirage owner and well-known local mechanic, he said the previous owner may have removed the problematic decal stripes that peeled off and painted the red accents. I think the Mirage looked more balanced without the blue and red stripes and “Spirit of America” theme was already passé, and probably out before it was ever in. The color Mirage's scheme may have contributed to its demise.

It still had the original BR70x13 “Firestone Steel Radial 500” raised white-lettered tires mounted. Later, I replaced them with a set of Dunlop GT Qualifiers. I also got the recall notice from Firestone because their tires were plagued with belt separation problems.

The car didn't have A/C or need it, in part, because it was white. The cabin had good air circulation with exit vents located under the plastic gills on the B-pillars. Also, the rear triangular windows were hinged and could be propped open a couple of inches and the clasps could be easily reached from the drivers seat. And, the bright red interior could burn out your eyes on a long trip.

The engine compartment was a little cramped. It helped to jack the left side of the engine slightly and reach through the wheel opening to change #3 spark plug on the 305 V8 Monza. After all the car was designed to be driven by GM's very own rotary engine, which got shelved by the new R&D engineering head in 1974.

One summer evening, I pulled up to a club near downtown Madison with my Mirage. I just installed Hooker headers and a dual glass pack exhaust and rumbled up to the curb. I got out of the car and some guy came running out of a shop door and up to my car. Wasn't sure what was going to happen next. He became transfixed and just stared at my car all wide-eyed. He was a mechanic working late at Foreign Car Specialists. He proclaimed, “I have the same car!” He was surprised to see a second Mirage driving around in Madison, there were so few. I didn't know what to say. Sorry? We talked for about 15 minutes about the car and what modifications we made or wanted to make.

In 1981, after joining Madison Sports Car Club chapter of Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs, I entered a "Gymkhana" or PDX at Blackhawk Farms Raceway. There were three timed runs around the 1.9-mile 10-turn road course. My very first run gave me my best time and 7th best against 20 other cars that were mostly Camaros, Firebirds and Mustangs. On my second run it began to rain. A cloudburst let lose after turn 1 and there was no hint of the rear tires breaking loose until I was going sideways through a long sweeping right turn. Luckily, it was on the inside. A Camaro, which followed my run, was not so fortunate, he spun at the same point but outside of the turn and folded his front end on a big oak tree.

The last time I saw the car was around winter of '85, a few years after selling it. It suddenly pulled up in the next lane. One of the flared fender panels was hanging loose and flopping around. The exhaust had a noisy leak like the headers were rusting out. I wanted to wave roll down my window and try to get the guy's attention, but didn't. It was no long the car I knew. Just a noisy heap that looked like it was hung-over from a party that was a few years ago. I heard later the owner was driving it around as a winter beater car. Glad I didn't stop. Who knows where the car is, or if it found a second life?

The '77 Monza Mirage is a rare limited edition model, but not as highly sought after as a Z/28 Camaro. However, it could hold its own against the other in 1977

But, it did keep up with the other small-block sport sedans. It was a nice looking, detuned, low compression smog fighter with much potential. If you own one and think it's worse for wear, don't junk it. There are many talented craftsmen around who can work magic with these old cars like a fountain of youth. There are Monza clubs and H-body organizations and forums on the Internet, and people that would be all too grateful to get their hands on one. They would pay top dollar for a Detroit pocket rocket.





Some rights reserved by scharch.org