Did you have trouble recognizing Holden Commodore Ute from Australia? If so, you’re not alone. It’s understandable to do a double or triple take before deciding whether to call the Ute a car, a pickup truck, or an SUV of some sort. But four decades before the Holden Ute was born in Australia, Chevrolet introduced the El Camino, with a similar body style that resembles an unlikely marriage between the Chevelle midsize sedan and a pickup.
It gets more interesting if you put the words “Cadillac” and “pickup” in the same sentence. But it’s real, and it’s the Cadillac Mirage. Just as Chevy dismantled the Chevelle to create the El Camino, Cadillac cut a functional cargo box on the 1976 DeVille Coupe to create the Mirage. Cadillac commissioned Gene Winfield to build 204 examples of the ute DeVilles.
Winfield did more than hollow out the coupe and add a bed to the back of the DeVille. The custom builder also stretched the 4,500-lb car and grafted a special golf club door to increase its luxury suitability. With a power output of 200 horsepower, this American luxury ute could have done better. But with a massive 400 lb-ft of torque powered by an 8.2-liter V8, the 1976 Cadillac Mirage certainly wasn’t a boring jack.
Barrett-Jackson has auctioned a rare 1976 Cadillac Mirage pickup for $41,000
We could list at least ten reasons why ’70s people bought an El Camino or a Mirage, but practical pickup trucks can’t be one of them. Plus, the 1976 Cadillac Mirage must have been the better option for American ute shoppers who wanted something with more flair and gravitas than Chevrolet’s El Camino.
We saw that market dynamic again in January, when a 1976 Cadillac Mirage rolled up at a Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, and went home to a new owner who put down more than $41,800 (buyer’s premium included). The auctioned Mirage sported a Georgian Silver Metallic finish accented by an Elk Grain vinyl top and Tru-Spoke chrome wire wheels wrapped in white wall radials.
Remember that separate door to a storage compartment for your golf gear we mentioned in the intro? This one had it too, thanks to custom car builder Gene Winfield and his buddies at Traditional Coach Works. To fold the truck bed, the boys first had to stretch the car a little further and widen the back. The limited edition vehicles may not have had the full backing of General Motors, but were sold exclusively at Cadillac dealerships.
Learn everything there is to know about the Cadillac Mirage Pickup
The automotive term “ute” is Australian for coupe utility. If there’s an American equivalent to this term, we’ve never heard of it. That’s why we know vehicles like the Chevrolet El Camino and Cadillac Mirage simply as pickups. You can trace the ute’s Australian roots to the Australian-focused 1930s Ford Coupé Utility, developed to meet the transportation needs of workers.
Introduced in 1934, the Ford Coupé Utility seemed like a suitable vehicle, but it also marked the beginning of a fascination with pick-up/car hybrids – a fascination that never died in Australia until the death toll for the Holden Commodore Ute in 2017.
In the US, the Ford Ranchero, introduced in 1957, played a similar role to the Australia Coupe Utility. General Motors caught on and introduced the El Camino in 1959. By the 1970s, deep-walled customers who needed something with more class than GMC’s version of the El Camino dubbed “Sprint” turned to smaller customizers like the Chatsworth-based, California-based Traditional Coachworks auto customization company.
The renowned Gene Winfield was working at the company at the time. Affluent customers found what they were looking for in Winfield’s Mirage, a Cadillac DeVille-based car. Traditional Coachworks in particular had similar creations in their portfolio, including the Castilian Fleetwood Estate Wagon and Mirage Sports Wagon. There was also a DeVille-based pickup of the era called Caribou introduced by a California-based company. The Caribou was a few years older than Winfield’s Mirage and couldn’t do much to repel the onslaught of the more refined and luxurious Mirage.
Between 1975 and 1976, Winfield and friends at Traditional built just over 200 Cadillac Mirage units, but without GM’s backing. Some believe the number is significantly higher given America’s fascination with pickup trucks in the 1970s. Perhaps because Winfield’s Mirage was an expensive luxury unicorn, commanding more than half the price of the standard Cadillac DeVille.
The car was what we know today as full-optioned, including features such as power locks, automatic climate control, power steering, power seats, and power brakes. Cadillac’s hefty 8.2-liter V8, paired with an automatic transmission that put 200 horsepower to the ground.
And that pickup practicality we mentioned? It did have a secret storage space under the bed floor, while the bed itself was wide enough for a large piece of plywood. Not all 204 examples had the special storage space for golf equipment, which is accessible through a side door. The modifications made Winfield’s Mirage significantly more expensive than the standard DeVille coupe, but the type of customers the car was made for didn’t matter. Famous stuntman Evel Knievel was first in line to buy the car.