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.

Jack Purcell:

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.

  1. Wayne Barratt

    I enjoyed reading about the Mirage project and the Monza, as I owned one in the mid 80’s.
    Mine was an Belgian assembled V8 2+2 , and I added a couple of “Mirage” type features that I was able to find.
    The glasshouse was pure Ferrari 356 GTC, so naturally I painted it bright red to complete the effect.
    Neat car, I had alot of fun with it once I had transplanted a Corvette engine into it.

  2. The Monza in all its iterations was an interesting and extremely handsome little package. I for one am glad they were made. I remember going to see them in the showroom and had one for a while. Not sure why I ever sold it…

  3. econobiker

    Interesting to see the influence that Ron Nowicki had on the Buick Grand National with the blacked out Skyhawk.

  4. mirage owner

    I bought a mirage when I was eighteen I am forty two now and still own the car, mine was a factory V8 car with air and was the first car I had ever bought. It has gone through a lot of changes over the years but it is still a Mirage and will always be a special monza, today they are very rare and I have only seen a couple of them besides mine they are sort of a mystery as to how many were made nobody seems to really know today.

  5. Brian Jackson

    Mirage Owner,

    The 1977 Chevy option report shows 4097 Monza’s with the RPO ZX1 (Mirage interrupt shipment). There are people on the H body site who know of Dealer made Mirage’s but I’m sure the number for them is low.

    Also since your car was made in Canada there are factory records available if you are interested. http://www.vintagevehicleservices.com/options.html

    Hope this helps! Brian

  6. Norman

    Is it true that the V8 Monzas had unreachable rear spark plugs that could only be changed by separating the engine from the trans and lifting it out? Or is that a legend?

  7. Brian Jackson

    Norman, mostly legend. I’ve never done it but have lots of friends who have. After removing bolts at the lower drivers side motor mount the engine is jacked up some making access much easier. Those bolts are not bad to reach the motor mounts sit on plates and the plates are attached to the uni-body. More than the typical but not bad. Passenger side can be accessed without additional work. One friend has mentioned something similar to a tech bulletin that described the work needed back in the day.

    New York Times article Jan/1975 – DETROIT, Jan. 9 (AP)—General Motors said today that the entire engine sometimes has to be lifted to change the spark plugs in tune‐ups on its Chevrolet Monza 2‐plus‐2 V‐8.

    The plug is very close to the steering column and sometimes the engine has to be lifted as much as one‐half inch in order to remove the plug, a spokesman said.

    “It would be easier to jack up the horn button and put whole new car under it,” said one disgruntled Chevrolet dealer service manager who did not want to he identified.

    Another service manager was not that pessimistic. The manager, Mike Welch. of Merolis Chevrolet in east Detroit, said: “It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s not as serious as it’s made out. But it’s an individual thing. Some people will use it as an excuse to make big money” by charging excessive fees for a tune‐up.

    “There’s a production variance there,” the General Motors spokesman said, “the cars we checked at the proving ground had enough clearance and the engine did not have to be lifted.”

    But on some cars—G.M. does not know how many, the spokesman said—the plug cannot be removed without lifting the engine. The engine is Chevrolet’s 262 V‐8, a small, eight cylinder engine with the same size block as other Chevrolet engines ranging up to 400 cubic inches displacement. Plugs on that car are designed to last at least 22,500 miles.

    In its recommended procedure for warranty work, G.M. says that changing plugs cn the engine should take 1.3 hours and that it pays dealers accordingly.

    The average time needed to change plugs on a Chevrolet is about 36 to 48 minutes, with other V‐8’s taking more than one hour, the spokesman said.

    The 1.3 hours for Monza includes time for hoisting the car, loosening the engine mounts from underneath, lifting the engine one‐half inch, removing the No, 3 plug, then reversing the procedure to replace the plug and replacing all other plugs from above.

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