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Replacing rotten rears: new Dodge Mirada fiberglass

by Patrick Rall

The Dodge Mirada has a sharply sculpted front and rear end, both of which are made of plastic composites - a common characteristic of cars from the 1980s to today. The Mirada has a one-piece front fascia, and, in back, smaller pieces, all plastic other than the big chrome bumper, the trunk lid, and the taillights.

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The advantage of using these composite pieces on the front and rear of the Mirada was that the Chrysler Corporation was able to achieve the sporty, sculpted look of the big Dodge two-door. The problem is that, like many composites from the early 1980s, these pieces didn't age very well.

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My white 1983 Mirada, shown above, has lived in a dry, heated garage since 1994; while it was run for a few winters in the mid-90s, it isn't been outside in freezing temperatures since 1998. The one piece front fascia has held up well, but by 2012, despite being pampered, almost all of the composite pieces across the back end had crumbled away.

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"Jam1" added that, for smaller jobs, one can buy "filler plates" that go between the plastic panels and bumpers.

Like most Dodge Mirada owners, I found that the pieces that fill the gap between the rear face of the car and the bumper were the first to go, chipping away like shattered safety glass. The quarter panel extensions were next; when I took to the Internet, I learned that this was a common problem (see the car above - not mine), so the likelihood of finding replacement parts in a junkyard aren't very good. Even if you can find a car with the rear plastic pieces, the odds are good that they are in just as bad of shape as the components you have, and even if they are in good shape now, those parts are all still at least 32 years old. In many cases, just getting them off of the car will tear them up.

The good news is that there is a company that makes an all-in-one replacement part for the rear end of the Dodge Mirada and when the time came to fix my car, I went with this one-piece rear end from VFN Fiberglass.

At "press time," VFN had parts for the AMC AMX, Javelin, Hornet, and Gremlin; Dodge Avenger, Challenger, Charger, Coronet, Polara, Dart, Duster, Demon, Daytona, Magnum, Mirada, and Omni; Plymouth Barracuda, Belvedere, Fury, Road Runner, Satellite, and Valiant; 1963-70 standard Plymouths; and LeBaron Coupe. Their Charger range stretches from 1966 to 1973, then from 2005 to 2013.

VFN specializes in race car parts, so if you plan to use their replacement for a street car, you will need to customize it. Their piece replaces everything across the back end of the car - including the steel bumper and the taillights - so, if you want to keep the metal bumper and your taillights, you will have to cut the VFN piece.

In my case, the car is mostly used for drag racing at this point, so we removed the rear bumper and all of the other components, cutting holes for the taillights to fit into the huge rear clip. I did not cut out the bumper area, but I have seen others cut it out and the result is a factory-like fit.

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After cutting (if needed), the VFN rear clip bolts up to the factory bolt holes for the quarter panel extensions and above the taillights. There was little need to sand or trim to get the piece to bolt up, and for anyone who has dealt with fiberglass components, you know how hard it can be to find pieces that will bolt up without significant prep work.

The corners and edges were all very nicely finished straight out of the crate, so with the exception of cutting out the taillight openings, little prep work was needed for this piece to fit my Mirada.

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More importantly, while the VFN rear clip for the Mirada is incredibly light, it is also sturdy. Some fiberglass replacement parts, especially those intended for racing, cut weight by sacrificing strength, but the rear clip feels strong, even with the holes for the taillights cut. I did add one oddly placed bolt in the license plate area to reinforce the center section, as I was concerned about the amount of flex in the middle at 120 miles an hour.

The only downside that I can see to the VFN piece for my Mirada is that the license plate area is much shallower than the stock license plate box. As a result, the factory license plate lights and mounting bracket won't work. I plan to fix this problem by simply bolting the plate to the rear fascia and adding some small LED lights above the plate to light it up at night.

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The VFN piece lists for $330. If you are looking to cut weight from your Mirada while improving the look, this piece is an incredible option. When you remove the rear bumper, the bumper mounts and all of the factory composite pieces, you cut at least a hundred pounds from the car. For those looking to keep the metal rear bumper, you will need to do some extra trim work, but as you can see in the images here, the fitment provides a cleaner look than the factory setup.

The VFN piece is the only option I've seen in terms of fixing the entire Mirada rear clip with new parts, but having purchased and installed this piece on my own car, I would recommend it to every Mirada owner. This is a much easier way to clean up the crumbling rear trim and once I have my car painted, it will be hard to tell that I'm not using factory parts.

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