If you see this car cruising around Trail, don’t blink – it is a Mirage.
Trail’s Rocky McOrmond bought and built the 2002 Manta Mirage kit car, a rare 1970s collectible with a direct link to racing legend Bruce McLaren and the storied Can-Am racing series.
More than 30 years after his death behind the wheel, McLaren is still regarded as one of the all-time great drivers, constructors and engineers, and his name is still a fixture in Formula One racing.
McOrmond’s Mirage is modeled after and uses the same basic shell as McLaren’s 1969 M8B Can-Am roadster.
The tube-frame kits were designed to take a mid-engine V-8 and use off-the-shelf parts from major manufacturers to recreate the Can-Am experience.
“I spent about four year building it,” said McOrmond. “It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun at the same time.”
Once constructed, he had to jump through a litany of hoops to meet insurance and government standards such as adding a windshield wiper.
He also added plenty of personal modifications such as converting the two-piece, gull-wing doors to a single piece unit that flips to the front of the car rather than the sides. He cut custom headlight buckets into the Mirage that hold lights from a 1987 Chrysler Intrepid.
McOrmond also fabricated his own custom carbon-fibre dash and did all the build-up including the white and burgundy paint scheme.
Rocky’s wife Barb loves cruising around the West Kootenays in the unique automobile.
“It’s so fun to see people’s reaction,” she said. “I mean its’ really one of a kind that car.”
McOrmond says he has never pushed it to its limit but its light-weight frame (less than 2,000 pounds) combined with a 400 horsepower Chevy 350, would more than likely push it over 200 mph.
Both the front and back ends of the Mirage flip up to reveal the car’s inner secrets. Under the wedge shaped front is room for your feet, the radiator, clutch and master brake cylinder.
The battery and gas tank are in the side-pods and in the rear is a Corvair transaxle with a General Motors four-speed transmission to accompany the 350.
The exhaust headers are heat-wrapped to keep high temperatures away from body panels.
The Mirage also sports Corvair rear suspension and Mustang II front end pieces, a little unconventional but it is a 70s kit car and with a pair of 335 35 series boots and 215 45 series 17-inch rubber on three-piece HRE modular wheels, the lightweight Mirage handles surprisingly well.
Another pleasant surprise is that the Manta Mirage also gets good gas mileage, cruising at about 28 miles per gallon on the highway – not bad for a V-8.
But what’s it like to drive?
“The acceleration is just wild,” says McOrmond. “It handles like a go-kart.”