You try finding an intact gen1 Eclipse; it took me months. And forget about it being a Turbo; they’ve all been riced, diced, sliced and mashed into oblivion. Was there ever more of a young guy car than this? I’ll go out on a limb and say that the turbo AWD version of this and its Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon DSM clones were the closest thing there was to a four-wheeler crotch rocket in their day. It may be a bit on the young side for Curbside Classics, but I figured I’d better grab this Eclipse now, because it may well be the last in town, and its driver is a young guy. High testosterone levels lead to drives of several types, but not generally the one that pertains to preservation. The Eclipse is the victim of its intended demographic.
The fruit of the then fertile Diamond Star Motors (DSM) joint venture with Chrysler, the Eclipse and its Laser and Eagle buddies hit the scene in 1990, at the height of the market for small sporty coupes, and made quite a splash. The Turbo Eclipse made C/D’s Ten Best Cars list the first year out, and stayed on it every year through 1992. Based loosely on the Galant, the Eclipse trio benefited from Mitsubishi’s competition cars going well back into the seventies and the more definitive Lancer VR-4 of 1987 that led to the Evo series. The DSM trio didn’t get the unadulterated Evo engine tune (247 hp), but the 180-195 horses it did have was a good start, although I suspect very few of them ended up with those numbers. How many Eclipses gave their life to the experiment of “lets see what happens when we raise the boost…now some more…and a just a little bit more… Oh, so that’s what happens!”
But it was a fun experiment while it lasted. And that includes for its maker too. The DSM trio were a popular seller, but its been a long slide downhill, especially after the end of the similar-sized gen2 version in 1999. The combination of growth, bloat and indifference makes it a very reasonable question to ask: Do they even make the Eclipse anymore? I assume so, but can’t be bothered to check to make sure. The Eclipse has been permanently eclipsed by Subaru WRX/STIs and of course the Lancer Evo, although their numbers are probably a small fraction of what the Eclipse and friends sold in their heyday.
I keep running across solid old (non-Eclipse) Mitsubishi cars, and the stats from the German reliability post we did recently remind me what a vibrant company it once was, and how well built their cars were. I don’t blame the lack of Eclipses, Talons and Lasers on the streets to Mitsubishi; we’ve covered that already here. Or were their US DSM-made cars not as good as the real Nipponese thing? If anyone would have told me as recently as when this car was made that Mitsu would be hanging by a thread now, I wouldn’t have believed it. But perhaps chasing the turbosterone demographic wasn’t such a hot idea after all.