1981 Dodge Mirada
|Assembly||Windsor, Ontario, Canada|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door coupé|
|Engine||225 cu in (3.7 L) Slant 6 I6
318 cu in (5.2 L) LA V8
360 cu in (5.9 L) LA V8
|Transmission||3-speed A904 automatic
3-speed A727 automatic
|Wheelbase||112.7 in (2,863 mm)|
|Length||209.5 in (5,321 mm)|
|Width||72.7 in (1,847 mm)|
|Height||53.3 in (1,354 mm) (1980)
53.2 in (1,351 mm) (1981–83)
|Curb weight||3,373 lb (1,530 kg) (1980)
3,380 lb (1,533 kg) (1981–83)
The Dodge Mirada was a mid-sized, rear-wheel drive coupe built from 1980–83, and was one of the three cars based on the Chrysler J platform, the other models being the second generation Chrysler Cordoba and the Imperial. These three vehicles were the result of Chrysler's downsizing of its car lines. The Mirada was 800 lb (360 kg) lighter and its wheelbase 2.3" shorter (112.7" vs 115") than the Magnum it replaced. Production numbers were low, with just under 53,000 units sold during its production run. The Mirada would stay relatively unchanged during its 4-year run, with the exception of paint colors and engines. Because of the low production and survival rate, Miradas today are garnering some limited interest from collectors, particularly models with the 5.9 liter V8.
The Mirada was marketed as a sporty personal luxury car, an extremely popular segment at the time. Advertising and marketing were limited, as the car was introduced when Chrysler was in deep financial difficulty.
Trims and options
There were several different types of rooflines offered. The base models all received a basic metal roof with a chrome beauty strip extending from the bottom of the opera windows and across the roof. Those who chose to have their Mirada look a bit sportier could opt for either a power sunroof, or a glass T-top roof; and those who wanted a more luxurious look could choose either chose a vinyl Landau roof or a Cabriolet roof, which was basically a mock convertible top. The T-tops and Landau would be offered every year except for 1983, and the Cabriolet top would be offered every year. However, the power sunroof was not very popular and was only offered for 1980 and 1981.
There were a few basic wheel options. The base models came with 15” steel wheels with turbine-like hubcaps, or polished ten-spoke, 15” aluminum wheels with painted section and bright chrome center caps.
Mirada was offered in the following trims:
- S (also referred to as "SE")
The interior of the Mirada was offered in a variety of materials and colors. The base model dashboard was black with a faux woodgrain finish, which surrounded the gauges and center console, but the CMX came with a brushed aluminum finish replacing the woodgrain. The seat options were either vinyl bucket seats, leather bucket seats, or a 60/40 split cloth bench seat. Since the Mirada could be chosen with either a column shift or floor shift, the bench seat was only offered with the column shifter. Buyers had the choice of either an AM/FM stereo or an AM/FM/cassette stereo, an AM/FM/8-Track stereo, and a Chrysler CB radio could be chosen as well. The steering wheels offered were either an interior-matched two-spoke wheel with horn buttons in the spokes. The standard steering wheel for the CMX in 1980 and 1981 was the Mopar “Tuff Wheel”, which was similar to the sport wheel found on the vintage Mopar muscle cars such as the early 1970s Dodge Challenger. Manual windows were standard on the base model, but the power windows from the CMX could be ordered on the base models as well. A rare option was a Cabriolet mock-convertible roof, featuring a blocked-out quarter window.
The 3.7 L inline slant-6 engine was available in the base Mirada, with the 5.2 L V8 offered as optional, and the 5.9 L V8 available in the Mirada CMX. All of these engines were mated to the A904 automatic transmission except the 360 (5.9L), which received the beefier A727.
|engine displacement, type,
|max. motive power
|225 cu in (3,687 cc) Slant 6 I6
|90 bhp (67 kW; 91 PS) (1980)
85 bhp (63 kW; 86 PS) (1981–83)
|160 lb·ft (217 N·m) (1980)
165 lb·ft (224 N·m) (1981–83)
|3-speed A904 automatic|
|318 cu in (5,211 cc) LA V8
|120 bhp (89 kW; 122 PS) (1980)
130 bhp (97 kW; 132 PS) (1981–83)
|245 lb·ft (332 N·m) (1980)
230 lb·ft (312 N·m) (1981–83)
|360 cu in (5,899 cc) LA V8
|185 bhp (138 kW; 188 PS)
|275 lb·ft (373 N·m)
|3-speed A727 automatic|
The suspension of the Mirada utilized transverse torsion bars in the front and leaf springs with a sway bar in the rear. A "Sport Handling Package" was offered, which included heavy-duty shock absorbers, torsion bar bushings, springs, as well as anti-sway bars in both the front and rear. The braking system used power assisted disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in the rear.
It was hoped that the Mirada would reopen the door to Dodge success in NASCAR racing, as the nameplate had not won a race since November 1977. Lee Iacocca personally called Richard Petty, a longtime Dodge driver, in late October 1980 and asked him to build and test a race spec Mirada, saying Chrysler would supply Petty Enterprises the necessary body sheetmetal and engine parts Petty would need to build and campaign the car. Petty, who had left Dodge for General Motors in 1978, agreed, and had his team immediately set about and build a Mirada-based race-car. A few other teams including Junior Johnson's team built race-spec Mirada's to test. Johnson's team would have been a major coup for Dodge, as they had been running GM cars since the team's inception and the team had just signed Darrell Waltrip away from DiGard Motorsports to drive for them (Waltrip having won 22 races in GM cars prior to this).
After their car was built, the Petty team thought the Mirada looked like a great race car, and some initial testing pleased the longtime Dodge driver. A January 17, 1981 test session at Daytona Speedway (where 15,000 or so Petty fans showed up to watch) however, showed the Mirada to be 8 mph (13 km/h) slower than the GM and Ford cars of the day. This testing of the car, as well as the Junior Johnson teams testing, revealed that while it looked fairly aerodynamic, the bodystyle actually had a very high coeficient of drag that made it incapable of speeds over 185 mph. The Petty team removed the Mirada sheet metal (passing it to Buddy Arrington) and like the Johnson team elected to build Buick Regal bodied racecars, and this put an end to Chrysler's attempt to re-establish itself in NASCAR. However, two small and independent racing teams, Arrington Racing (which was using, strangely enough, secondhand rebadge Petty Dodges) and Negre Racing, decided to make a go of the car and campaigned it during the 1981 to 1984 racing seasons. Buddy Arrington managed 17 top-ten finishes during those years, though all were on short (1 mile or less) length tracks. A few other drivers (Dave Marcis in four races, and Dick May in three) ran Mirada's occasionally in 1981, but the cars were either plagued with mechanical issues, or finished several laps off the leaders. Up until the end of 1984, Miradas raced from time to time, but without much success, and ultimately lead to Dodge disappearing from NASCAR until 2001.
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