March is Galant VR4 Month here at Mitsubishi Gearbox Magazine. We start things off with an interview with Ryan Hertz, who runs GalantVR4.org. The number of Galant VR4s is dwindling, but ownership continues to prove rewarding. Read on! What’s your real name? (What’s your screen name?)
Ryan Hertz (Hertz)
What do you do for a living and where do you live?
Software Analyst in Chicago, IL
What Mitsubishi(s) do you drive? How long have you had it/them?
I’ve previously owned a Ram 50 (Mighty Max) and a 1990 Galant GSR. I’ve also recently retired from my possession 1991 Galant VR-4 #858/2000 after about 7 years of mostly daily driving. My current daily driver is a 2007 Outlander LS. In the last 6 months I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase 1991 Galant VR-4 #77/2000 as a rolling shell.
What’s your build philosophy/goals for your Galant? How do you use it?
It has been proven that the VR-4 is a very potent and capable platform: top speed class world record holder on salt flats, three time FIA World Rally Championship race winner, serious class contender in the 2009 One Lap of America (I predict in a few years when it qualifies as Vintage Import it will be dominant), quarter-mile drag race monster, Auto-X cone dodger… but I feel like the VR-4 is most at home embracing it’s category-storming transformation from a run-of-mill 4-door Japanese sedan into an aggressive display of technology and careful adaptation to American sensibilities, circa 1990. It is a black sheep in so many ways. I feel it works best as a street car.
You started a Mitsubishi community. What’s it called? When did you start it?
The community began as a mailing list run by Ron Vasquez on April 6, 1999 (the GVR4list on Yahoo Groups) as an offshoot of the typical DSM email lists. Jon Roberts started a web-based forum with “insidetheweb” and linked to it from his personal page; originally hosted on whiterose.net/gvr4/ and later moved to jgronline.com in April of 2000. The current incarnation was started February 21st, 2001 and eventually moved to GalantVR4.org in November 2002 as Jon separated the community from his personal website and he sold his VR-4.
I joined the community in July of 2002. I originally started a personal page of my own to keep track of links of interest as I moved between computers and eventually to share with other enthusiasts. That page still stands today with only minor updates at www.galantvr4.org/rhertz/. Using my personal resources and abilities to help the community, I started to offer additional functionality to the forum by creating an image hosting service in late January of 2003. The image hosting still runs today and contains over 104,000 uploads.
The site was transferred to me a few months later, around February 2003.
Although we’ve been through a few upgrades we hold true to Jon’s original mantra: “No ads, no crap, just the best Galant VR4 site on the web!”
Why did you decide to start a Mitsubishi community?
I’ve made a lot of friends through the site and it is a way to give back to the community. I hope it remains as a lasting tribute to all those who came before me and continues to be a place where we can share our trials, tribulations and aspirations.
Who are your members? How many are there? Where do they come from?
Our membership consists of mostly U.S. residents and a lesser number of members from Australia, New Zealand and some in Russia. A few members are scattered about in the most unlikely places, from Columbia to Hong Kong and the Middle East.
Most of the membership are current 6G Galant VR-4 owners, followed by former VR-4 owners (who won’t give up the fraternity despite the loss of interest in the car itself) and then a smaller number of DSM enthusiasts who use the site for research in the issues that our platforms share.
We periodically cull membership to those visiting within the last 12 months and the base fluctuates around 2,500-3,000 members. What I would consider “active” members number about 1,000 (visiting within 30 days). We’ve logged 124,000 unique visits in the last year and served 9.6 million pages. Membership/registration is not a requirement to view most parts of the site. In 24 hours we will have about 450 registered members and 550 unique guests visit.
How many GVR4s were sold worldwide? In the United States? How many likely remain?
No idea, I don’t think we have this data.
3,009 where imported into the United States. Not all of them were sold directly. 9 of them never received numbered badges. The badges we covet here are numbered “limited edition” plaques that were fitted onto the cars by Mitsubishi Motors North America at the port when the cars arrived to the United States (there is no correlation between VIN, build sequence and edition number). The un-badged cars were likely for testing, media mules or company cars. Some of these are owned by our members today.
Some more of the uniquely American features I think are worth mentioning are the USDM bumpers. Our models, to meet NHTSA crash requirements, were fitted with rather protruding front and rear crash bars/bumpers. As such, the foreign market’s larger intercooler was foregone for a much smaller, inefficient part.
One of my favorite features is the leather seating which is unique to the USDM VR-4. The all black leather seats were manufactured by AMG (Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach) that most people would recognize historically as a Mercedes-Benz tuner, and now a wholly-owned division. This unique feature likely stemmed from the MMC AMG collaboration Galant AMG which sported a tuned naturally-aspirated motor and many cosmetic upgrades, including two-tone leather seating. The origin of the seating can be confirmed by examining the backside of the upper rear bench in which AMG is embossed into the foam.
We don’t know for certain how many remain, but here’s my best deduction:
We are currently tracking 717 badges in our membership (again, active in the last year) and our registry project, which attempts to document VIN and badge number, has the following: 366 ’91s and 193 ’92s for 559 total matches between VIN and badge. Of those 559, 38 ’91s and 16 ’92s for 54 total documented scrapped (About 10%). So let’s say that enthusiasts’ scrappage rate is about 10%. If we factor that 10% of those members may be scrapped it brings us down to 645.
717 badges out of 2,638 current members is 27% so I believe at least 27% of our users currently have or had a VR-4. Our current membership vs. historic membership (10,501 members) roughly gives us 25% representation of the general public. So I would say our community’s slice of the total USDM VR-4 population is likely between 25-27% of the total.
Take the maximum examples of 3,009 at 25% and we have 752. That puts us within 5% of our 717, and since not all members list their badge numbers, I think we’re close.
Nationwide, scrappage rates have been 70% to 85% and rising between 1990 and 2010. So let’s take the membership out of the population (3,009-25% = 2,256 cars) and assume that these are not held by enthusiasts and were scrapped at 75% (2,256-75% = 1,692) outside of the community.
That leaves us with 564 in the wild, 717 registered and 35 unregistered for a total of 1,316 USDM VR-4s hopefully still in existence.
Tell us about something really exciting your members have done or regularly do.
Salt flats, One Lap, international visits, donating to worthy causes…
What’s the best part about running a Mitsubishi community? The most challenging?
The fraternity, the knowledge, the humor.
Although we all have a common thread in our love for this platform we are still a wide cross-section of demographics. Our problems may not be unique to an online community, they are just more apparent and on display for all to see. We have to deal with troublemakers and scammers just as you do in “the real world.” Our philosophy is mostly that of a self-policing group and we encourage everyone to watch out for each other. It can be a challenge to balance freedom and moderation. Whenever there is question on how to resolve a situation there is one guiding principal: knowledge and information above all. If it doesn’t support the community, whatever it is, it doesn’t belong.
All of our staff:
2 administrators, 9 moderators are volunteers donating countless, thankless hours to the group. We survive solely on donations, there are no membership dues, no advertisements, no paying vendor sponsors.
What excites you about the coming year? (Your Galant and your community)
I’m really looking forward to the 2010 One Lap of America as a way our community can again be represented in a highly visible, national venue with a long history.
For my personal goals, I hope to again have a running VR-4 by mid-Summer.
Do you organize any contests or face-to-face meets for your members?
We don’t do contests too often, but I do organize regional meets (Midwest). There have been talks of a national meet in years past, but because of the size of our membership, their schedules and the breadth of the United States it is unlikely to have the draw we’d like to see. We did have a Midwest meets Colorado meet a few years ago where we logged about 6,000 miles collectively. The Mitsubishi Owner’s Day (MOD) events are a good draw, as is the DSM Shootout.
How do you want your community to benefit Mitsubishi owners? What steps are you taking to make sure that happens?
We have recently increased our available information to the public and have steadily increased our archives and accessibility to search engines. As hosting costs have plummeted, we’re able to retain more in general for the public to find via their search engines.
What do you think could be done to improve the value of the Galant VR-4 and how could this benefit your community?
My strongest conviction is that available information is one of the biggest drivers of the perceived value. Lack of information on repairs and maintenance drives the value down as issues that affect non-enthusiast owners turn out to be expensive problems that result in selling at a depressed public market rate or crushing of the car. The best example of this is ECU failure due to ruptured capacitors. A factory replacement will cost you $900. A high-school electronics student could replace just the capacitors for free with $2 in parts.
There is also some spillover from the DSM crowd who don’t have the same consideration of the VR-4’s rarity and are interested in “fast, cheap and easy”. Or new owners who get frustrated or are unable to get the knowledge they need from the community and often damage something or hack something and end up selling for cheap just to dump their problems. These vehicles are often picked up again by like-minded individuals who repeat the process, giving the perception of falling or low value.
After seeing a low in the last 2-3 years, market value of a VR-4 has started to climb up. It used to be that a Kelley Blue Book search would show the car’s value only marginally higher than any other trim 6th generation Galant. The spread is now about 3x. In general I believe that the United States is now more receptive to all wheel drive and turbocharged automobiles than in years past.
Sometimes these cars are removed from the market by those who know how to extract more value from the car, sometimes in a manner that is not very popular.
Your thoughts on those who part out otherwise salvageable cars?
Yup, we’ve got a few members who do not hesitate to scoop these cars up and sell off the parts individually. I personally like to see every bit of value extracted from these cars; but it does thin the heard. With all respect, this may be a necessary “evil”. On the plus side it often returns quality used parts back into deserving cars and improves their condition. Losing 10% at the hands of enthusiasts for parts and profit stings a lot less than 75% lost to scrap steel and the new-car-every-4-years general public.
How do you feel building a Mitsubishi compares to building a Mitsubishi community?
You shouldn’t do either of them alone.
How has your Galant build benefited from your involvement in the community?
I have spent 7 years of my life and probably 4,000 hours in developing, growing and giving to this community. But, it is something that comes naturally to me, that I’m good at and I typically enjoy. There have been dozens of members who have the same gift when it comes to their knowledge and skills with a wrench. These people have given back to the community by working on my cars or documenting the work on their own.
What’s next for your Galant?
What’s next for GalantVR4.org?
It may be time to upgrade the software, but we always want to focus on the community and that is rarely augmented by more bells and whistles. Twitter would be the greatest example of all time on how a social network requires not much more than a line of text and a message that people want to share.
Who has helped you the most along the way with the car? With the community?
Chris Beran/Headdynamics, Bob Heitsch, Doug Lila, Terry Posten, Aaron Rausch, Rob Neubauer, Charles Prell…
Steve Riedmueller, Jeff Oberholtzer, Jeremy Clark, Dave Bliese, Harry Blanchard, Nate Pharr, Gabor Meyer, Curtis Thomas, Andrew Staley, Mark Minjin, Rich Humphrey, all of our moderators.
Were you inspired by any other Mitsubishi community organizer? Who? Why?
Jon Roberts (galantvr4.org), of course. Todd Day (dsm.org): the frontrunner for Mitsubishi and DSM enthusiasts on the internet. Tom Stangl (vfaq.org): the original archivist for automotive how-to.
Who do you look up to in the Mitsubishi community?
I honestly don’t think we play second fiddle to anyone in terms of our mission and how we’ve stayed true.
Is there a particular shop you’d like to recommend? Want to thank any sponsors?
I’d like to thank everyone who has donated to the site, hosted a meet, answered a question or turned a wrench for a fellow member.
Other than your own, do you spend time on any Mitsubishi sites? Which ones?
Not a one.
“Anything Goes” was originally called “Yo Momma”
Original site logo, circa 2002. Refreshed in late 2005. Current version, 2009.
March is officially Galant VR4 Month here at Mitsubishi Gearbox Magazine. We remain dedicated to sharing the stories of owners of ALL Mitsubishi models from around the world. DISCLAIMER: Both Ricky Vigil and Brian Driggs are Galant VR4 owners. Ricky owns 1991 464/2000 and Brian owns 1992 464/1000. We are members of GalantVR4.org.
Thank you to Ryan for taking the time to share so much with us and thank you to all our readers. Go fast with class.