Though the company itself has undergone some big changes in 2016, Mitsubishi Owners Day was the same as ever. And by that, we mean as many chrome-bumpered classics as you can count on one hand, a only slightly more 80s cars, and every Lancer Evolution from San Diego to Vancouver.
This year, we tried to tip the scales in favor of the classics by arranging a special display of JNC‘s web admin Matt De Mangos’s 1974 Colt Galant GTO GS-R. It would be the car’s first pilgrimage to Mitsubishi Motors’ US headquarters in Cypress, California.
We arrived bright and early in order to set up in the plaza under the main offices of Mitsubishi’s massive US campus. It’s a spot that’s hosted cars from Mitsubishi’s collection in Japan, concepts, and other rare cars that the automaker have deemed worthy.
It was quite an honor, actually. We even got our own official-looking placard that provided a brief history of the GTO, written by yours truly. Turns out it was quite necessary, because a good number of Mitsubishi fans had no idea that Mitsubishi had built a homologation special in the class of the Nissan Skyline, Celica GT, or Mazda RX-3 in the 1970s. It was a hit.
Even though it’s not quite stock, lowered a bit and rolling on 15-inch RS-Watanabes wrapped in Yokohama A048s, the body is stock, including the factory flares. As one of two known Galant GTOs to exist in the US, it’s a good enough history lesson.
As a side note, I can’t help but rib Matt for being next to a booth prominently labeled “Recall Station Checkpoint.” It was meant to help newer Mitsubishi owners affected by the huge Takata airbag scandal, but it was funny nonetheless.
Nearby, the last Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution built for North America tempered the mood. It was Final Edition number 1,600 of 1,600, a car that ends a long and storied lineage of Mitsubishi performance cars. Mitsubishi had set up a photo stand for fans to take pictures with the last of the breed, but the bittersweet acceptance of the Evo’s end was palpable on every face that smiled for the camera.
With the Evo gone, Mitsubishi’s flagship is now the the Pajero, still sold in many countries around the world but not the US. Much of Mitsu’s motorsports legacy was in off-road racing, and the Dakar-dominating SUV should qualify just as much for halo status as any turbocharged sports model. Also, with the values of Toyota Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols rising, there’s no reason why the Pajero (aka Montero) can’t follow. Several generations of Monteros were in attendance, including a nicely done first-gen and a trick third-gen loaded with JDM and Ralliart parts and accessories.
Speaking of trucks, tucked between a VR-4 and a first-gen Eclipse, even the Mighty Max pickup was represented, complete with matching camper shell.
As for the rest of the gathering, we counted only two other similar era cars. Mo Castro’s Lancer Celeste, aka Plymouth Arrow, was saved from an Arizona junkyard. As part of the rescue, the car has been swapped with a turbo Starion setup.
Josh Mead’s Mitsubishi Sigma Wagon was an original Arizona car with aircon. The Sigma Wagon holds the distinction as being one of the rarest stateside JNCs, sold for only a single year as the Dodge Colt Wagon. It was rear-wheel-drive, much bigger than the Lancer based Colt Sedan sold alongside it, and came with one of the meanest factory steelies ever made. Beside it was Steven Zimbrich’s Mitsubishi Mirage, also confusingly named the Dodge Colt in US markets. Driven as a rally car and sporting a fantastic shade of teal, it was the sole representative of the third-gen Mirage.
Each year at MOD we hope will be the Starion’s breakout showing, but the StarQuests can never seem to crack single-digit attendance. While the ones that do appear have potential, the Starion is an icon of not just Mitsubishi, but Japanese cars of the 1980s, and we’d like to see more restored enough to take center stage at an upcoming MOD.
One turbocharged 80s Mitsu that is seeing high-quality builds is the Galant VR-4. By all accounts these should be rarer than Starions, but more examples were scattered throughout, from the stock-bodied to the highly modified. One particular standout was a black, JDM-ified example contrasted by distinctly non-JDM, orange Fifteen52 wheels.
Last but not least, a large number of 3000GTs and their Dodge Stealth twins were present. Most were chuuki and kouki examples, but a few exceptional zenki models made an impression. In particular, it was impossible to pick a favorite between an incredibly clean 1991 in Jamaican Blue Metallic (only 129 VR-4s were believed to be produced in this color) and a genuine, imported, right-hand-drive GTO.
After the show, Matt took his OG GTO for a touge run in the mountains with the Arizona Celeste and Sigma. Despite numbering only three, it was perhaps one of the largest ever all-classic Mitsubishi canyon dashes. If there’s one thing that is clear, there needs to be many more.