Our friends (at least, I hope we’re friends) over at Hooniverse ran an interesting story earlier this week. Bradley Brownell asked their readers, “Could you recommend a vintage?” Basically, the game was to share a single year when just about everything a specific manufacturer had on offer was awesome. Mr. Brownell’s story focused on the 1985 Toyota lineup, with the Celica, MkII Supra, MR2, Hilux, and so on. Stuck in a meeting earlier today I thought I would recommend a 1992 Mitsubishi.
(What? You didn’t know I was a dyed-in-the-wool Mitsubishi fanboy?) That said, make mine a ’92 Mitsubishi.
Already in its 5th generation, the Mitsubishi Colt (aka: Plymouth/Dodge Colt, aka: Suzuki Swift, aka: Mirage Cyborg, aka: CSM) model was already 30 years old by the time 1992 rolled around. Somewhere between the DSM and the Lancer Evolution, the Colt was an inexpensive pocket rocket and remains so today (even if we don’t get them here in the States). At a semi-recent trip to a Mitsubishi meet in Germany, we were advised the Colt Turbo attending was the fastest vehicle of the group.
First generation of a new model designed, built, and predominately sold in the United States, the 92 Eclipse was one of the DSM vehicles produced under the Diamond Star Motors partnership between Mitsubishi and Chrysler. And, as a courtesy to the more red-blooded Americans among our readers, every Mitsubishi Eclipse made was made in Normal, Illinois, USA. The tried and true Mitsubishi 4G63T, turbocharged inline four bolted to a viscous coupled, full-time all-wheel drive system under that characteristically 90’s “cheese wedge” sheetmetal was already well known for being the bad boy of the budding sport compact scene in North America.
The RVR Hyper Sports Gear R
Also known as the epic little hoonivan that we never got in the United States and precursor to the current generation Outlander (which is also sold as a Citroën C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007), the RVR HSG R was one of the first crossover SUVs, with it’s minivan-inspired sliding passenger rear door. Beneath the grocery-getter exterior, however, lived a fire-breathing Galant VR4 powertrain. That’s right. Another turbocharged, all wheel drive Mitsubishi. Epic.
1992 marked the beginning of an arms race which continues to this very day, more than 20 years later. Mitsubishi struck first, replacing the venerable Galant VR4 with the first ever Lancer Evolution. Their plan: defeat Subaru in the World Rally Championship. Subaru would introduce the first Impreza WRX in November of the same year, but the Evo II would show up only a few short months later. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Galant VR4
Lest we forget our history, the replaced-at-the-WRC-level 6th generation Galant VR4 was still available. Technically the original Mitsubishi Evolution, just 1,000 1992 GVR4s made it to North America. I consider myself fortunate to get to daily drive one that’s not been too badly abused by its previous owners. Pictured above is the Earth-shaking, nobody-knows-how-much-power-it-makes-because-it-redlines-the-dyno Smith Auto land speed car which has done 224mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats at Speed Week. (We’re also fortunate to know the team – and need to get that story moved over to this site.)
The 3000GT V4
Known elsewhere in the world as the GTO, the 3000GT VR4 was something of a Diamond Star Motors twin to the Dodge Stealth R/T. It was almost as if Mitsubishi was drunk on what they learned racing the GVR4 – they put the GVR4 powertrain under the DSM, they used it as the foundation for what would become one of the winningest rally cars in modern history in the Lancer Evolution – and then they decided to turn it up to ’11’ with their super touring car.
The ‘3/S’ as they’re called got a 3.0L 24-valve V6 with not one, but two turbochargers feeding it, rolling off the showroom floors with 300hp, all-wheel drive, four wheel steering, and, unless I’m gravely mistaken – active aero. The 3/S was a US$40k near-supercar when it was new and faced the same sales volume challenges that lead to its market segment cohorts vanishing almost overnight.
At first glance, you might think the car above was some kind of BMW. An E38 or E39, perhaps. But you’d be wrong. This is one of the finest examples of a 92 Mitsubishi Sigma (aka: Diamante) I could find on Google Images. Available (in Japan, of course) with the sturdy 24-valve 3-liter V6 also found in the 3Si (sans turbochargers) making just over 200hp and AWD, the Sigma was the mack daddy of diamonds.
The Mighty Max
Maybe 20 years ago, the Big Three in Detroit were so confident in the quality of their products, they lobbied their way into protectionist taxes on imported trucks and vans. At that time, the Dodge was putting their D50 badge on the Mitsubishi Mighty Max, a tough little pick-em-up still alive and kicking today. Not uncommon for these things to pop up on the local Mitsu forum with a 400hp+ 4G63T under the hood spinning the rear wheels. Sound like fun? You bet!
Little known fact. The Mitsubishi Montero can trace its roots back to the original Willys Jeep. You see, Mitsubishi was licensed to build the original Jeep and continued to do so until 1998. Did Jeep technology and design make its way into the sporting models previously mentioned here? I don’t know, but I do know the Pajero (aka: Montero, aka: Shogun) was how Mitsubishi took that Jeep blueprint to the next level. (By 1997, they would introduce a 320hp naturally aspirated V6 version called the Pajero Evolution.)
Last, but certainly not least, is perhaps my favorite Mitsubishi. The Delica. This is the one I want more than any other. Available with a 2.5L turbo-diesel lump turning all four wheels, the Delica is the forbidden fruit for this American bloke. It’s not the fastest thing on the street, but it’s just incredibly cool. From videos of Russian owners criss-crossing Siberian forests and rivers, to Ari’s trip nearly the length of North America on used vegetable oil in one, to our good friend Falco Columbarius’ sharing the adventures in Delica ownership, to the sinister Post Apocalypse Delica, these are just damn cool rigs.
So there you have it. My chosen “vintage” would be a 1992 Mitsubishi.
Just about everything was turbocharged and all- or 4-wheel drive, they were designed to perform on tarmac, gravel, and beyond, and they did it with a style long since forgotten by the consumer masses.
- What’s YOUR favorite vintage?
- Have we ween the last of the truly awesome models?