History of the Cadillac Mirage

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Concept to Conception

 A long time back in 1975 to 1976 a Cadillac Coupe de Ville was made into a custom body pickup. It was an upscale El Camino. The floor bed could carry flat plywood 4 x 8 sheets with the tail gate closed while the driver and the passenger ride in great comfort. A hidden storage area was at the end of the floor bed. It was used to store small articles of value out of view. The spare tire was also located there in the back. There was a metal cover that had a lock on it, just as a trunk would also have. Traditional Coach Works manufactured 204 Cadillac Mirage's. There were also several other companies that made pickup trucks from the front wheel drive El dorado and also from the standard Coupe de Ville. Traditional Coach Works built theirs to Cadillac standards and one could be ordered through a participating Cadillac dealer.

Traditional Coach Works Ltd. was located at 9344 N, Oso St, In Chatsworth CA. The actual production numbers seem to be a bit of a mystery. I’ve seen numbers 204,234,240 and 6. I’m not clear if these production numbers are across 1975-1976 or for each year. The first three numbers appear to have a dyslexic similarity. If you can answer this mystery, please email me at trace@facereplace.com. Their wagons were called the Mirage Sports Wagon and Castilian Fleetwood Estate Wagon. The Mirage was distinctive from any of the other Cadillac custom built pickups with its rear quarter windows and padded full top. The next runner up was called the Caribou built by “American Built Cars, Inc." of San Francisco. Although the Caribou was nice too, it just didn’t have the same appeal as the Mirage (Just my opinion).  From the research I have done this week, I’ve discovered that the Cadillac Mirage is a piece of art created by the brilliant mind of Gene Winfield, that came to work with Traditional Coach Works from 1974-1977 which was directly inline with the production of the Mirage.  Gene Winfield is the creator of just about any wild car ever seen on TV and in the movies and is still active today. Gene is the Car Craft Magazine builder of the year for 2008. Gene’s cars are all original, and all works of art. Owning a Gene Winfield original is much like owning a Picasso. 

The Mirage seems to have originally evolved from the custom made flower cars used in funeral processions. The flower cars were designed as special occasion vehicles, as was the Hearse. The cool factor only naturally created the desire to convert the flower car into something less associated with death, and instead a sexy and seductive pickup truck targeted to the affluent. It appears as though that’s where Gene Winfield came in. Here’s a good article about the Hearse and flower cars and some interesting facts about how they were used.


James Kribbs and Jack Patrick

It was recently brought to my attention from Michael Kribbs, Son of James Kribbs that Traditional Coach Works was born with and idea over a meal . Michael sent me this information.

My dad passed away October 18, 2010 and I decided to search the Internet for the company he started named “Traditional Coachworks”.

     I came across your website and saw this 204,234,240 figure for the cars that were made at his company.  I know the company made more than 200 conversions while I was there but I am not sure how many more.  That’s nowhere near the 204 million figure.
     Traditional Coachworks was only in business about 3 years.

     Here are some other photos you might want to share on your website with a bit of history of how the company began.

     James Kribbs was a manager at Wilshire Cadillac on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, California and worked a man named Jack Patrick. 
     They went out to eat one Friday and had a small conversation about what they would do if they could start a company that converted Cadillac’s into trucks and station wagons.
     After the meal they left and my dad James Kribbs came home for the weekend without giving any serious consideration concerning the conversation he had with Jack.
     When he went back to work in Beverly Hills, Jack Patrick brought in 3 drawings he made during the weekend.  The drawings were ideas of what the Cadillac conversions could look like.
     My dad was impressed with the drawings and decided to start the company.
     He started "Traditional Coachworks" in Chatsworth, California while doing business with Wilshire Cadillac.
     The very first conversion was a Cadillac truck that Evel Knievel bought.  Mr. Knievel liked the truck and ordered a white one with extra chrome that was used in his movie. 

Hope you enjoy,

Michael Kribbs

Thank you Michael, and thank you  James Kribbs for your contribution to this world.  Legendary, no doubt

James was born on November 8, 1931 and passed away on Monday, October 18, 2010.

Year: 1976
CADILLAC (Mirage Sports Wagon and Castilian Fleetwood Estate Wagon), "Traditional Coach Works, Ltd.: Conversions Complementary to Cadillac Standards": 6 page color folder, 4x9. Cover is photograph showing three-quarter frontal view of brown Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian Station Wagon conversion by Traditional Coachworks, Ltd., with country club style building in background. Folder opens to 11x9 layout with six photographs showing exterior and interior of Mirage Sports Wagon and Castilian Fleetwood Estate Wagon, with discussion. Reverse side has two additional full page photographs showing three-quarter rear views of models. Price: $15.

Traditional Coach Works

By Rob Einaudi


The good folks at Motorbooks have started sending us books to review. We just got their recent title The Legendary Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield, which is super cool (expect a full review later when I get my act together). But the pics of an old brochure for Traditional Couch Works in the introduction really caught my eye. I've seen a few of these Cadillac conversions over the years but didn't know the story behind them. Turns out that author David Grant first came to know the legendary Gene Winfield in the early 70s, and while he was in high school Winfield got him a job working with him at Traditional Coach Works in Chattsworth, California, where they did all sorts of wild conversions on Cadillac’s. Gene took the young David under his wing and taught him how to shave emblems, shape metal, hammer-weld and metal finish. Sounds like a pretty cool guy. I drove a '77 Coupe DeVille for most of my high school years, and love the idea of a Caddy "Sports Wagon" or "Estate Wagon." Apparently Evil Knievel purchased their first "Mirage" Sports Wagon, which can be seen in the movie Viva Knievel! One more pic of the brochure after the jump.

Product Description

for the book

 The Legendary Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield,

Of all the pioneering custom-car builders to come to prominence in the 1950s scene—Harry Westergard, George Barris, and Dean Jeffries, among others—one of the most prolific was a young man from Modesto, California, named Gene Winfield. Cutting his teeth in California’s hopping postwar hot rod scene, Winfield eventually gravitated to the media of custom cars, becoming one of its preeminent purveyors.
For the first time, Winfield’s career is examined in this volume fully illustrated with photography from Gene’s personal archive. Written by longtime Winfield protégé David Grant, The Custom Cars and Hot Rods of Gene Winfield is culled from hours of interviews with Winfield and recounts everything from his early days in Modesto and his emersion in California car culture, to his role in forming the Century Toppers car club, his involvement in dry lakes racing, the formation of Winfield’s Custom Shop in 1955, and the impressive string of vehicles that followed. Cars featured include the 1946 Ford convertible that graced the second issue of Rod & Custom, the 1950 Solar Scene Mercury, and the Ford King T that won
the 1963 AMBR award, among dozens of others. Grant also delves into Winfield’s involvement with AMT, movie and TV vehicles for such projects as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart.