Oh My God! It’s a Mirage! The Rare ’70s Cadillac Pickup That’s Very, Very Real ""

By | March 22, 2018

1976 Cadillac Mirage

In 1934, the Australian Ford Coupe Utility was born of a farm wife’s protest that there was no vehicle suitable for doing work around the family homestead that could also ferry herself and her husband to church. It thus kicked off a fascination with car/truck hybrids that persists to the present day—even if today’s hybrids seem to have grown the wrong way ’round. For decades, the formula was simply a sedan-based light pickup, pioneered in the United States by the Ford Ranchero in 1957.

Chevrolet countered in 1959 with the El Camino, having tested the market’s waters with the truck-based, fiberglass-and-steel-bedded Cameo in 1955. Today, of course, everybody from down-home Ram to highfalutin Lamborghini sells a gussied-up trucklike object of some sort, but the scales have tipped in favor of lifted wagons and leather-trimmed behemoths in the half-ton-and-up classes. In the mid-1970s, the classiest option available from a factory was GMC’s El Camino clone, the Sprint, but the well-heeled sort of folks who thought Nudie Cohn’s idea of vehicle customization wasn’t entirely off base had to turn to small-batch private enterprise to feed their need for legitimate luxury in pickup form.

1976 Cadillac Mirage

One contender came from Traditional Coach Works, a concern based in Chatsworth, California, that once employed famed customizer Gene Winfield. Its Mirage, a Coupe de Ville–based pickup, wasn’t the only customized Caddy to emerge from the shop. Traditional also built a de Ville–based wagon called the Mirage Sports Wagon and a Fleetwood longroof called the Castillian Fleetwood Estate Wagon, the latter combining the then hot trend of Iberian-themed American luxury (see: Cordoba, Chrysler) with the preferred British nomenclature for the five-door, sedan-based family hauler. To punctuate it, of course, they appended the good old American term “wagon” to the end, just in case you weren’t sure what you were getting into. In retrospect, we figure the name is no worse than gibberish like Buick TourX, and it’s certainly less of a mouthful than BMW Individual M760Li xDrive Model V12 Excellence THE NEXT 100 YEARS.

Between 1975 and 1976, Traditional turned out a couple hundred Mirages. Although Traditional Coach Works wasn’t endorsed by General Motors, the vehicles were sold via regular Cadillac dealerships. Nobody seems to be quite sure how many were constructed, although numbers quoted on the internet range as high as 240. Why so few, given America’s fascination with pickups—and during the 1970s, at least—vehicles that seem tailor made to carry steer-horn hood ornaments? For one, they were spendy. A customer would find himself soaked for double the price of a new Coupe de Ville. But a select few American visionaries like Evel Knievel, who purchased Traditional’s first Mirage, obviously didn’t care.

1976 Cadillac Mirage


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Of course, the Mirage wasn’t the only Cadillac-based truck/car of the era. There was the Caribou, built by another California outfit that changed its name to reflect its marquee model. The Caribou, which actually predates the Mirage by a couple of years, was also based on the de Ville, but it didn’t feature the Mirage’s bachelor-elegant flying buttresses behind the cab. Pixies fans may get off on its decidedly awkward take on the shape, however.

Interestingly, in the prewar era of coachbuilding, “coupe de ville” denoted a body with an open driver compartment and an enclosed cabin for passengers. In our February 1977 issue, the late Leon Mandel flipped this conceit on its head, advertising free rides around greater Los Angeles in a “new Cadillac and chauffeur.” The Cadillac, of course, was a Mirage, and passengers were expected to ride in the bed, a manner of carriage legal in California at the time. The saga could well have ended with Mandel’s arrest, due to a series of complications arising from an act of public pantomime that involved an avid C/D reader and the “theft” of the luxury truck/car. Not long after this Mandel-led journey to the heart of darkness, Traditional Coach Works ceased operations.

1976 Cadillac Mirage

A quarter of a century later, the Mirage made an appearance in C/D’s own John Phillips’s side-splitting takedown of the 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT. In a Facebook comment referencing that story, current Cadillac honcho Johan de Nysschen responded, “You are no doubt aware that people keep asking us to build another [EXT]. I think not. But that’s just me.” What then, Johan, about building us a CTS-based truck/car? The people, obviously, have been clamoring for a Cadillac-car-based pickup longer than they’ve known they wanted a Cad equipped with a midgate. Tradition, we say, wins out. Heck, throw in that fancy 627-lb-ft twin-turbo V-8 you just announced. Only a curmudgeonly coal roller could argue with that torque figure. Let the Germans have their back-assward notion of a coupe utility, and build us a strapping Cadamino that zigs.

Until that day arrives, one lucky sap can fill the gaping hole in his heart with the 1976 Mirage seen in these photos, as it’s available for sale at Bring a Trailer as of this writing. This particular machine was owned by the late head of the Mirage Registry and has been fully redone. The resto job included a red-to-silver color change, and the Mirage features a few nonstandard parts, like a steering wheel that’d be more at home in a billet-clad Deuce roadster from the 1990s, but it presents well, and according to the seller, the warmed-over 512-cubic-inch engine should make about 600 lb-ft of torque. In short, buy this, roll a star-spangled XR750 into the bed, and go be Evel.

Cadillac-Mirage-REEL

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