Can you imagine driving a luxury vehicle with all the comforts you'd expect from a Cadillac, including the capabilities of a truck? When you dig into the archives of Cadillac, the Mirage is the now-classic vehicle that delivered on both fronts. The best way to fully appreciate the one-of-a-kind Cadillac Mirage is to understand its history and the intention behind its creation. We cover the facts about the Mirage with an in-depth look at the production run, the specifications, and the unique capabilities that combine to make it one of the rarest classic vehicles in the history of Cadillac.
The conceptualization of the Cadillac Mirage
Facerplace reveals a collection of facts about the development of the Mirage. It all began with a visualization of a customized version of the 1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and the musings of how it could be converted to a high-end version of the El Camino. A melding of the comforts and luxury of the Cadillac model with practical applications of a floor bed capable of carrying building supplies and a tailgate for loading and unloading items one would otherwise haul in a truck. A small area for private storage was hidden in the floor of the bed for transporting small items out of the view of others. The truck component was separated from the cabin to prevent intrusion on the comfort of the driver and passengers. In place of a trunk, a truck bed stored the spare tire. This design was also applied to the front-wheel-drive versions of Cadillac's El Dorado during the 1975-6 era and it inspired a very special coachbuilder to create a fleet of these customized vehicles for sale to the public.
Who manufactured the Cadillac Mirage?
Several coachbuilders tried their hand at converting the El Dorado and Coupe de Ville to a luxury pickup truck, but Traditional Coach Works maintained the stringent standards imposed by Cadillac. This company is the only professional coachbuilder to make alterations to a Cadillac car to create a luxury truck model. It's the one that created the examples that were made available through select Caddy dealerships. The agreement became the equivalent of a seal of approval by Cadillac dealerships, but not from the company of manufacture. The California based company contributed more than 200 customized models of the Mirage during its short time in business. The designer who created the Mirage was Gene Winfield who joined Traditional Coach Works in 1974 and remained with the company until 1977. These were the only three years that the Mirage was produced by Traditional Coach Works. Winfield achieved numerous accolades for his coachbuilding skills. He was named Car Craft Magazine's 2008 builder of the year. His cars are original, considered works of art, and quite rare.
Winfield was hired by James Kribbs, manager of Wilshire Cadillac in the 1970s. James Patrick was an associate in the business who first approached Kribbs with his ideas for creating a luxury truck. Patrick presented three drawings to Kribbs to show the possibilities associated with converting a Cadillac to a truck. Kribbs liked the idea and he founded the Traditional Coachworks company to bring the concept to reality. The first example of the Mirage completed in 1976 was snapped up by the legendary Evel Knievel who purchased the converted Caddy and ordered a second one to feature in a film.
The Great Mystery of the Cadillac Mirage
Nobody knows for certain how many editions of the Cadillac Mirage were made. Even the son of the owner of Traditional Coach Works is uncertain. A few numbers were thrown around including 204, 234, and 260. There doesn't seem to be an accounting documented by the coachbuilder. Car and Driver puts the possible number as high as 240 examples but admits that this is just a guess. They further rationalize that between 1975 and 1976, the nation experienced a trend in consumer interest in pickups and the customized Coupe de Ville to truck conversions were the choices of affluent Americans who had the money to spend on one-of-a-kind dual-purpose luxury vehicles. The price averaged double of what the Cadillac in its original form fetched. General Motors didn't officially endorse Traditional Coach Works creations but regular Cadillac dealerships were happy to have the additions to their fleet of custom vehicles to make commissions from.
What's so special about the Cadillac Mirage
We must consider the fact that the Mirage wasn't the only Cadillac converted to a truck/car combo. Multiple other companies tried their hand at production. Another California coachbuilder released its take on the conversion before the Mirage was imagined. It lacked the flying buttresses applied by Traditional Coach Works, but the intention was similar. What makes the Mirage such a valuable classic these days? According to Alt-Driver, the Mirage is an extremely rare classic vehicle. You can't classify it as a car, or as a truck because it's both. The site elevates the Mirage to the status of a unicorn in its rarity. They're sticking with the widely accepted production number of just 204 examples ever built in the US. They reveal that GM did enter a phase of experimentation with the 1976 Coupe de Villes to add a pickup truck bed to a cut and widened car. This disputes the theory that GM didn't endorse the Mirage built by Traditional Coach Works, but they did manage to keep it on the down-low. The Mirage was offered exclusively from Cadillac Dealers and the conversion was the work of a third-party coachbuilder. It was never a factory production model. The design of the Mirage was unique and although some cars were similar in aesthetics. Only 60 of the vehicles were made each year according to Winfield, which brings the production numbers to just 120 over two years. He offered no guess about how many were made the final production year at Traditional Coach Works, or if the other 100 or so models were built by other conversion specialists.
Some of the mid-1970s model Cadillac Mirages were built with a golf bag door feature. If you find one of the few sporting this door, it's an exceptionally rare model. The power plant was an 8.2-liter 500 cubic inch engine that generated 200 horsepower with 400 lb-ft of torque. The flying buttresses behind the cab gave it an additional feature that distinguished the Traditional Coach Works editions from the others. According to Bring A Trailer, the most expensive model that sold at auction for $48,000, featured a modified engine with cylinder heads tweaked to improve flow. The camshaft was custom ground and the compression was elevated to 0.05:1 with Diamond Racing projects forged pistons. The Turbo Hydramatic transmission that was fortified with heavy-duty components. The tranny was modified by Jack Merkel Performance Engines of New York. The braking system was a Hydratech hydro-boost conversion. The sale was completed in 2018.
What is the current value of a Cadillac Mirage?
This is a question that is difficult to answer. One of the first considerations in establishing value is to have an idea of how many examples are still in existence. This figure helps to determine rarity. Since no more than 240 are suggested, and a number of 204 total is widely accepted, the Mirage qualifies for its rarity. As previously indicated, the Mirages featuring the golf bag door are the rarest because just a few of them were made. Classic.com tracked sales of the Cadillac Mirage for the past five years. The model used to assess value can be a bit confusing. It follows the market for the Cadillac Mirage but also includes other vehicles made from 1973 through 1976, suggesting that there may have been a few examples built as prototypes. It places the original example made by Traditional Coach Works as 1973. Who are we to argue? The website confirmed that approximately two-hundred of the Cadillac Mirage ever were built.
- A slightly different recollection of the history of the Mirage places the conversions between the years 1973 and 1976.
- There were four Cadillac Mirages tracked by Classic.com.
- The figures obtained from this site include all that sold within the last five years.
- The average sale price came out to $30,013. The lowest sale listed was $7,150. The dollar volume for the four equaled $120,050. The highest price within the site's tracking radar was $48,000 for the specially restored model listed above.
- We took our investigation up a notch to high-end auction houses. Barrett-Jackson featured a 1976 Mirage with a Silver exterior. Another restoration feature is the Maroon interior. It sold at the prestigious classic car auction.
- The year was estimated to be either a 1975 or 1976 edition. The Mirage compares to a Picasso painting. Like Picasso, it increases in value as it ages. The title listing claimed it as a 1976 Cadillac Reconstructed vehicle. The vehicle was confirmed to be a rare find as well.
Condition is everything
The Mirage is no doubt a valuable vehicle, but the condition of a particular example is the real driver for its value. When you note that one may sell for nearly $50,00 and another less than $10,000, you can assume that the latter needed repairs or restorations. According to Car Scoops, there are a number of these vehicles that have received a new paint job along with new upholstery. Some alterations were deemed necessary by the owner. These include an upgrade to modern technology in air conditioning and advances to a digital instrument cluster. Cruise control, new headlights, leather 6-way power seats, an adjustable steering wheel, and more have not seemed to decrease the value as we've seen happen with other restorations that interfere with an all-original theme. The same Mirage that received the update also received an upgraded engine that generated over 400 horsepower with 600 lb-ft of torque. The transmission and customized braking system also received an upgrade to handle the more powerful engine.
We can assume that since the Mirage is a collectible vehicle, it's more valuable when found in pristine or mint condition with all of its original components. A good maintenance garaged version is even better. Purists would argue that any classic collectible loss in value if the basic features become altered. The Winfield designs trump other attempts at conversion in the collectibles' market. As we've seen in the most expensive Mirage sold at auction, there is no harm in beefing up the vehicle and updating a few of its components.
The Cadillac Mirage is a customized version of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Some coachbuilders performed similar conversions on the El Dorado model, but the most valuable Mirage hails from the 1976 edition that was built by Traditional Coach Works. It is assumed that less than 240 examples of this custom conversion from a car to a vehicle that is compared to an El Camino. There is no accounting for the true numbers of Cadillac Mirages still in existence, or a definite count on those ever built, but rather, estimations of the numbers converted by those who attempt to recollect the facts from nearly 50 years ago. Since the Mirage was not a factory model, the history has faded into obscurity with a few remaining incidental notes passed on from those who recall a few hazy comments made from the original designers and producers. The mystery surrounding the Mirage is almost as intriguing as the unique design of the luxury car converted into a pickup truck. The Cadillac Mirage is the high-end version of an El Camino without question. Some drivers required a bit more style and could only find it through a modified vehicle such as the customized Mirage. The unique design made for a consumer base in the 1970s that didn't mind paying double for a unique blend of car and truck.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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