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The World Needs More Manta

Manta Mirage for sale

By Dean Larson

The Manta Mirage does everything a proper kit car should do. It has radical Can-Am looks but comes with a title for the street, giving you a 110-percent chance of confusing the heck out of your neighbors. The Manta may not be perfect, and might only hang on to street legality by the loosest definition, but it’s damn good car when you consider the fact that it was designed to be built in your garage.

The Mirage was the first product from Manta Cars, founded by Brad and Tim LoVette in Costa Mesa, California. Originally called the Manta Can-Am, the Mirage was designed to be a super lightweight car for the track and the street using predominantly Chevrolet parts. Most cars were assembled with Chevy small blocks and used a transaxle from the Corvair.

While many kits of the 1970s and 80s aren’t known for engineering prowess, Manta’s tube-frame cars were engineered well with decent chassis triangulation and suspension geometry. Manta’s chassis was fabricated from a mix of round and square steel with A-arm suspension up front, and coil-over IRS in the rear. Bodywork consisted of hand-laid fiberglass with doors that flip forward and a small, race-style cockpit. The finished Mirage usually weighs in the neighborhood of 1,900 pounds, making them a pretty serious performer if equipped with anything better than a standard SBC truck motor.

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Manta was in operation from 1974 to 1986 and also produced the VW-based Manta Montage, and the mid-engine Montage-T. They closed their doors for good after building around 1,000 kits and factory built cars.

The Mirage listed here on eBay is a complete and titled car with a few odds and ends to wrap up. The car was built by an alleged “Manta aficionado” and comes with a Chevrolet 383 stroker engine and Corvair transaxle. The car is said to run and drive and has about 2,500 miles on the clock. Aside from a bit of clean up, the mechanicals of the Mirage look to be in decent order. It’s obvious the builder went to great lengths to control heat under the rear clamshell as just about everything is covered in some sort of heat shielding.

There are, however, a few cosmetic details that should be addressed on the car. The air scoop on the rear breaks the smooth profile of the Mirage a bit, but I assume it makes up for it in terms of cool air delivery. There does appear to be some additional finish work required around the scoop though. And while that’s being done, it would be a good idea to rework the headlights also. The HID headlights probably provide better light than period-correct lights, but they just give the car such a pouty look. Two vertically stacked lights like the McLaren M6-GT design had would transform the Mirage’s attitude entirely.

Aside from the tweaks this car needs, it’s a solid example. The seller has a buy-it-now price of $15,000, but the bids have leveled off just under $12,000 for now. Either way, the Mirage is surely the quickest thing around for that money, perfectly fulfilling the vision of its creators.

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