Over the years, Mitsubishi Motors actually had a lot more rally car and sports car models than one would think. Now mainly focusing on its SUVs, barely paying any attention to the Mirage hatchback or sedan, and keeping other models like pickup trucks (L200) and vans (Delica) overseas, there isn’t a whole lot else Mitsubishi Motors seems to be releasing. The rebadged Renault Clio is actually going to be the first new addition to the Mitsubishi Motors lineup – and here we thought Mitsubishi would be releasing its own new vehicle for the C/D segment. Nope. Along with the Mitsubishi Galant AMG, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Mitsubishi Starion 4WD, and the Lancer Evolution, there is one other sports car that’s easy to forget – the Colt.
1962 – 1971
A nameplate that’s been used everywhere, and not just on Mitsubishi Motors models, the “Colt” first started as a line of small cars sold in Japan, produced by Shin Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (a sub-company of Mitsubishi before forming into just Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and focusing on large machines). This first rendition of the Colt, the Colt 600, only lasted three years, built as a two-door sedan with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine.
Succeeding this model were the Colt 800, Colt 1000, Colt 1100, Colt 1200, and Colt 1500. Just about each model replaced another, with the Colt 1500 becoming known as the Galant Colt. Then, the third Colt, a fastback (Colt 800) arrived in 1965 and took on a more traditional style with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive design, powered by an inline three-cylinder with three versions until late 1971.
Mitsubishi Motors was once known as a racecar automaker. Entering rally car races and winning the World Rally Championship (WRC) multiple times with a variety of models, we looked at the Starion 4WD, the Lancer Evolution, and the Galant AMG. Although most of these have yet to be seen again, one model found a new life as a crossover. The one and only Mitsubishi Eclipse had a wonderful life, spanning from 1990 – 2012, and found a new spark as the Eclipse Cross.
Named after an 18th century English racehorse, when the first generation of the two-door, four-seat Mitsubishi sports car launched, the sporty coupe had a diverse lineup with the Eclipse, Eclipse GS, Eclipse GS-T (Turbo), and Eclipse GSX making up the group. The high-end trim GSX came with all-wheel drive (AWD), with front-wheel drive (FWD) standard on the rest of the lineup. For a power boost, the Turbo and GSX trims came with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4G63 engine under the hood, able to generate up to 195 horsepower, accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds, this engine made it to Car and Driver’s “10 Best Lift” for four years running (1989 -1992). The Eclipse was a terrific combination of form, function, beauty, and technology.
A game-changer came with the second-generation, introducing the Eclipse Spyder. Designed as a soft-top convertible, Mitsubishi consumers could enjoy the open air in this new coupe. Available in two trim levels, GS and GS-T, the standard powertrain was a 4G64 aspirated engine, whereas the GS-T of course came with the turbocharged 4G63 of the first generation. We saw some real changes in 2003 onward.
After talking about the Mitsubishi Galant AMG and the Lancer Evolution, it only feels right to revisit the Mitsubishi Starion 4WD. Highly sought after back in the day, the Mitsubishi Starion 4WD was the car that was never meant to be. After the Lancer Evolution won the World Rally Championship (WRC) for four years running, Ralliart decided to get back to work to making an even better rally car racer, a coupe that would be a part of a collective called “Group B rally”, known as rally cars that were some of the fastest, most powerful, and most sophisticated rally cars ever manufactured. However, the popularity for Group B cars took a dark turn after an accident during the Tour de Corse rally in 1986. For some reason, Mitsubishi Motors showed us the concept art for the Starion 4WD, and one still hopes that the rally car days are not completely over.
We talked a little about this with our piece on the Lancer Evolution. Although the last Lancer Evolition was auctioned off in America on eBay in 2016, and a special Tommi Makinen Edition was auctioned off in 2021 in Europe, Mitsubishi has rumored the return of the EVO nameplate, the same one that made the Lancer so famous and popular among rally car racers. Brought to life by Mitsubishi Motors’ Ralliart team, the high-performance team dedicated to some of its well-known racing vehicles, the EVO nameplate could make a comeback with the e-Evolution concept. There has been very little talk of it since it was first revealed, so there’s no guarantee Mitsubishi is still focused on high-performance vehicles, and may be focusing strictly on electric vehicles (EVs).
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was a rally car by the Japanese automaker that really changed the way consumers looked at the brand. Starting in 1992 and spanning over ten generations, the days of Mitsubishi sports cars have long since passed. With so much history and a legend in the world of rally cars, Mitsubishi has multiple well-known vehicles that have won titles and many races. Last week, we talked about the Mitsubishi Galant AMG, based off of the Galant VR4 (sixth generation). Only a true fan would know another vehicle was based off of the Galant VR4 when it first launched – none other than the Lancer Evolution.
It’s true. The first generation of the Lancer Evolution was built using the 2.0 L turbocharged DOHC engine and AWD drivetrain from the original Galant VR4. Using a different chassis, the vehicle was sold as a “Gran Sport Racing” (GRS) model and a “Rally Sport” (RS) model. The one and only Ralliart was responsible for the Lancer Evolution, the name behind some of Mitsubishi Motors most well-known racing vehicles. They made the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI that won the World Rally Championship (WRC) for four years in a row from 1996 – 1999, driven by rally driver Tommi Maikinen. The Galant VR4 also won a championship title from the WRC, but the four year winning of the Lancer EVO earned it a special Tommi Makinen Edition that was auctioned off in 2021 in Europe for £100,100. Back in 2016, another treasure, the Lancer EVO X was sold on eBay in 2016 for $76,400.
It wasn’t too long ago that Mitsubishi Motors sent racing fans for a whirl when the automaker revived the Ralliart team, responsible for turning the Mitsubishi Lancer into the Lancer Evolution, becoming a staple for rally cars and amateur racing fans everywhere. Like Dodge//SRT, the latter is known for taking vehicles fans already love and making them more powerful than ever before. Ralliart does the same, and shortly after its revival, the canceled Mitsubishi Starion 4WD was revealed. Sadly, it would remain canceled, and although the automaker has claimed its only focus is electric vehicle (EV) development, fans of its rally car roots are still hoping for a return of the Evolution nameplate, or even a mashup of Mitsubishi and AMG once more. Sure, the name is mostly associated with Mercedes-Benz these days, but back in 1991, AMG and Mitsubishi teamed up to make a product unlike any Mitsubishi vehicle before it – the AMG-tuned Mitsubishi Galant.
AMG, performance-enhancing folks from Affalterbach, play to the tune of Mercedes-Benz, but before 1999, the group had no ties to any one automaker. If they were willing to pay, then AMG was willing to modify and enhance any vehicle model that came their way. That’s what happened in 1991 when about 500 AMG Galants were produced, all exclusive to Japan. It’s a surprise, too, because the Mitsubishi Galant AMG was not the first time AMG partnered with the automaker? Ever hear of the Mitsubishi Debonair V 3000 Royal AMG? The partnership can be traced back to 1987, but the body was more so a Debonair with few AMG upgrades, but the name stuck.