By Dean Larson

Photos: Sellers, Craigslist

I’ve got a soft spot for the Manta and it’s no secret. Its looks are shamelessly ’70s, no doubt about it, but the Manta accomplished what the ideal kit car should. It offered real performance potential in a home-built car, something can’t say about all kit cars of the day. Add in super exotic looks that mirrored hot Can-Am cars of the ’70s, and you’ve got a winner in my book.

The Mirage is the most prominent of Manta's models, and it's based on a steel space frame with an exotic, hand-laid fiberglass body. Most Mirages were powered by Chevrolet small blocks with four-speed transaxles, but big-block and Ford-powered cars exist as well. With curb weights hovering around 2,000 pounds, the Mirage could be a serious performer depending on specification, and its looks were sure to astonish your neighbors at first sight.

Even though Manta only built about 1,000 cars across all models, Mirages come up for sale often enough. But it just so happens that we were able to find two cars for sale on Craigslist for the exact same sum — $28,500. So how do they stack up?

Cali Manta McLaren Special

“Fully registered and street legal in California make offer.”

Billed by its owner as a 1969 McLaren M8 replica, this Mirage on Orange County Craigslist is a fairly straightforward build with a reserved appearance. Power comes from a Chevrolet 350 ci small block, and we can spot a single-plane intake manifold and some nice Mickey Thompson valve covers under the hatch.

The exterior is finished in Ferrari-esque red, with turbine-type alloys and covered headlights. A McLaren-branded splitter has been added on the front bumper and the indicators have been worked into the grille opening nicely.

The selling point on this Mirage is really the transaxle, which has been upgraded to a ZF five-speed unit. Titled and tagged in California, the seller is asking $28,500 for the car, which we feel is a little steep. But with those magic words of “make offer” in the ad, there’s some room to get a deal.

See the Manta here on Orange County Craigslist.

Chrome-yellow Chicagoland Mirage

“… custom wheels, Chrome Yellow, show winner, fast.”

I don’t know what is about this Manta (probably the color), but it really strikes me as the perfect representation of an era. It’s flashy and exotic, and I guarantee this thing gets an obnoxious amount of looks on the street. Located in Antioch, Illinois, this Manta is another solid contender at $28,500.

The seller doesn’t get into the details, but states that the car is powered by a Chevrolet small-block with a four-speed transaxle. Everything is really tidy under the hatch, and the car looks to be very well cared for.

The exterior of the Mirage is as right as could be, with bright yellow paint and unique custom wheels. Unfortunately, there isn’t any additional information on the cast wheels, which is a drag, as they’re quite interesting. Interior treatments in this Manta are a little better than the competition, especially in dash, which is well laid out. The upholstery is the standard snap-in affair in good condition, but the butterscotch shade shows a little age.

As stated, the seller is asking the same $28,500 for the car here on North Chicagoland Craigslist.

So which car is the better buy? Well breezing past the fact that these cars are separated by roughly five states, the question is really a matter of opinion. The red paint on the first Manta is probably a bit easier to live with for most, and the car also has a five-speed transaxle to its credit. With the yellow Manta, I think you’re getting more aggressive looks, and the car appears to be a little more tidy in the engine bay and interior.

Say what you will, but I’d have the yellow one. It’s a bit more radical, but has all the flair a Manta should. I’m also a bit bias, as this exact Mirage is the first kit car I ever inspected up close. It was a few years back at Road America, and this Manta really looked right in person. Plus, I’m positively vexed by those wheels… Someone let me know where I can get a set in the comments below.