by Brian Jackson
Jack Purcell gave me these items and told me the story behind the Mirage. GM Heritage has all these items now I thought it was the best place for them.
My business partner, Jack Juratovic, myself, and a friend involved in SCCA racing came upon the idea of a “street” IMSA-style Monza package that we could aftermarket in body panel kits. At the time, Jack and myself were pretty good buddies with Vince Piggens and Gene Malloy at Chevrolet Division Performance HQ because we had already done certain aero body parts contracted by/to Chev Division for racing (ie: Yenko Vegas, Camaros and others). We took a gamble and built the first Monza Mirage out of our own beer money and showed it to Vince who immediately told us it was too good to be a magazine-sell body kit. He introduced us to Bob Krupka who was head of Chevrolet Marketing-Planning who bought into the idea with enthusiasm but had to get approval from GM Design for a Chev Division go-ahead.
Enter corporate politics and prejudices: Charles (Chuck/Charlie) Jordan VP and chief of GM Design “didn’t like whale-tails” and scrapped that deal. Jerry Palmer, head of Corvette/Camaro at the time, said the NASA scoops on the front air dam looked “too much like something Ford would do” and scrapped that little detail as well. (Interestingly, shortly thereafter, the Camaro Z-28 [created in Palmer’s Chevy III Studio] sported the largest phoney NASA scoops on the hood that industry has ever seen). What to do?
Well, since Chevrolet Marketing WANTED this car, we sez to GM Design, why don’t YOU guys just scale-down the IMSA body, make your own changes and we’ll build it? Case solved. There’s still some of our touch in tweaking the final appearance and feasibility, and although I’m still in love with the original Rapide styling, I think the Mirage was and (still) is a successful commentary on the “neat car genre.” Can’t believe it’s been over thirty years.
The “Berger” Monza used as the original prototype Rapide was privately owned by Pat Wahl who raced it in that SCCA Class. Jack Juratovic and myself knew Pat Wahl through “car stuff.” Pat and his dad, Rex Coleman, owned and operated C&F Stamping in Grand Rapids, MI. One of C&F’s contracts was the stamped steel inner door panels for the production Corvettes, hence there was another professional GM connection for us. Using Pat’s Monza as a donor car also meant we had no “upfront” dollars necessary to invest in a vehicle for the prototype. Pat and Rex where also close friends of Dale Berger, the local Chevy dealer. The vehicle used for the Mirage prototype clay and approval parts for production tooling was a General Motors property.
All production Monza Mirages were built in Canada, shipped via rail to Detroit, then they were trucked via convoy to Berger Chevrolet for dealer prep. The most difficult part of the dealer prep was repairing the bullet holes! Seems the out-back Canadians were fond of using using the vehicles for moving target practice! After repair and prep, the individual vehicles were driven from Berger Chevrolet to C&F Stamping’s large lot (only a few city blocks away) where we would run them through our production line.
Prior to this, Jack, Pat, Rex and myself formed MATC as a separate company. Rex and Pat built a new facility for producing the Mirage parts and installing them on C&F property. All of this, including paintng the finished parts were done onsite at that facility. The new company’s original name was Auto Tech, then Auto Techniques, then something else, all being thrown out by the state because the names were too close to exsisting copyrighted trademarks or other company names. That’s when we added “Michigan” to the company title. Kind of long and clumsy sounding name but necessary for incorporation. I was president and Jack, Pat and Rex were VP’s at the time.
The decal on the Rapide side glass is an SCCA decal; it was on the car during racing, clay modeling, prototype parts fab+install and the final Rapide vehicle presentation and never removed.
According to Jack GM did not like the Rapide name and choose Mirage. On the drivers side of the Rapide it said Mirage.
Editor’s Note: Thanks, Brian.