A few years back, I wrote a series of tributes to Poseur Muscle Cars--the Ford Mustang II Cobra II, Chevy Monte Carlo SS, Dodge Magnum XE, Ford Gran Torino, and Spirit-based AMC AMX--celebrating those toothless but highly endearing cars that matched their highly extroverted visual bravado with a nearly complete lack of actual performance. Like its Magnum cousin, the Dodge Mirada richly deserves inclusion into this hallowed pantheon.
Like those other other flabby would-be performance cars, the Mirada had star potential that didn't quite translate into reality. The Mirada was built to the tried-and-true muscle-car formula, with a large V-8 driving the rear wheels and bold, aggressive styling enhancing its large long-hood, short-deck proportions. It's a formula that, when executed well back in the 1960s, helped make the Mirada's Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger forebears.
Unfortunately, just as the Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 was a tepid, leisure-suited distortion of the classic Chevelle muscle car, the Mirada was a pale shadow of a muscle car. Like the Laguna, the Mirada's otherwise clean styling had a strong late-1970s, early-1980s disco flavor, and its V-8 power was sapped by the anti-performance influences of its time.
The Mirada's biggest engine, the classic Mopar 5.9-liter V-8, produced a measly 185 horsepower and was only offered for one year. The mid-range engine, the 5.2-liter V-8, made only 120-130 horsepower, and the standard slant six put out only 90 horses. That's a dismal level of output in virtually any context, but for a big, bulky faux-muscle car it was a travesty.
For a variety of reasons, the Mirada never really caught on. For one thing, it was overshadowed by the similar Chrysler Cordoba; for another, as a big, soft rear-wheel-drive Poseur Muscle Car, it was very late on the scene. The Mirada debuted in 1980, at which time the move towards smaller, front-wheel-drive cars was already well underway. Chrysler in particular had already begun shifting its focus in earnest towards the front-wheel-drive K-car that would underpin its offerings for the following decade. The Mirada was essentially an afterthought--a big-engined, rear-wheel-drive cruiser in a decade in which consumer tastes shifted away from those cars and towards smaller, front-wheel-drive, more European sporty cars.
As with the other Poseur Muscle Cars, none of this means that I dislike the Mirada. In fact, it has been one of my objects of lust for years. For one thing, I love the way the Mirada looks--big, smooth, and nicely aggressive. For another, I like the fact that it's essentially a Chrysler Cordoba--Ricardo Montalban's own personal-luxury cruiser--in activewear.
If equipped with the desirable 5.9-liter V-8, the Mirada could serve as a rare cruiser with torquey performance and distinctive, attractive styling. That's in stock form; adding more power by either freeing the 5.9 from its artificial restrictions or dropping in a crate engine would help give the Mirada the power its good looks deserve.
I mean, just look at the white Mirada pictured here--imagine cruising in that beauty with the T-tops off, the big V-8 burbling softly under the hood, and some ABBA playing softly over the speakers. Who could resist the Mirada's siren call? I would so drive the Mirada, and I'd drive it proudly.
The video below highlights fantastic examples of the Magnum and Mirada, Chrysler's two under-appreciated and, to my mind, highly desirable muscle car/personal luxury crossovers. The top image is from Wikipedia; the other two are contemporary Chysler press shots.