By on September 29, 2012

I’m always looking for more Mitsubishi Junkyard finds, because the Mitsubishi-in-America story has been fascinating ever since the days when the first Mitsubishi product was imported via the Aleutian Islands. The Mitsubishi GTO (which was sold in the United States as the Mitsubishi 3000GT and the Dodge Stealth) didn’t steal many sales from prospective Supra Turbo— or even fourth-gen GM F-body— buyers, but it was still a fairly credible high-performance machine for its day.
Nowadays, though, depreciation has sent the value of all but the most perfect 3000GTs into the realm of the eighth-owner ’92 Plymouth Sundance. This means that moderately beat examples end up in places like this Colorado self-service wrecking yard.
With 220 horsepower out of its 24-valve V6 and optional all-wheel-drive, the 3000GT was pretty quick.
We’ve seen a half-dozen or so Mitsubishi GTOs in 24 Hours of LeMons racing, and they’ve been pretty poor performers (though, to be fair, such cars as the Supra, GTI, and Mustang also fare badly in LeMons racing). Stealths and 3000GTs have managed to squeeze into the upper reaches of the standings several times at LeMons events, but then mechanical problems put them onto the jackstands (note the fuel gushing out of the filler neck on this Stealth in Texas, for example).


Within a few years, I predict that the only 3000GTs left in America will be coddled garage queens, and the occasional example that ends up in the junkyard will be picked clean by owners of those few yars.

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48 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Mitsubishi 3000GT...”


  • avatar
    LeeK

    I remember the hype associated with the car when it debuted, particularly the Dodge Stealth variant: “Ferrari performance with Dodge pricing”. The enemy of the car was weight — it was a pig compared to its competition. still, it looked pretty cool and usually drew a crowd of appreciative boys and teenagers wherever it appeared.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I’m surprised nobody mentioned the absurd Spyder model. It was an ASC conversion with the first modern folding hardtop, and looked great IMO. It beat the SLK to market by a full model year. I think about 1500 were made over 2-3 model years. IIRC, it could come in VR-4 or FWD 24-valve trims, but cost a major chunk of change (like $60k in ’95 dollars). I’ve always really wanted one.

      This car was the Eclipse’s big brother in that, like the Eclipse, it was based on a sedan platform. In the 3000GT’s case, that sedan was the Diamante. The Eclipse, of course, was based on the Galant.

      Sure, the beat examples of more basic FWD (base and SL trims with the 3.0L N/A SOHC or DOHC V6) are fairly cheap, but price a well-kept VR-4. The Stealth suffered from name recognition problems then and continues today, depressing them, though most of the tech was there with slightly gaudier styling. ’97-99 VR-4s in decent nick are still $15-20k cars today. Not many cars from those model years held onto value that well.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I remember the buzz created by these cars. I also recall a major defect these were delivered with. My father was on the road next to one of these when tire smoke started to come out of the wheel wells and the car slid off the road and into a utility pole. The woman said the car just slid off the road “by itself”. My father corroborated the woman’s story to the police. Turns out a recall for center transfer case failure was issued for the cars. Seems the failure locked all for wheels without warning. I’d hate to see what would happen if that happen as near triple digit speeds….still these were cool for the day and back then, anything that offered the promise of performance and speed was welcome. Remember that the roads were still littered with late Malaise era/early post Malaise vehicles and the memory of slow cars was still fresh for most of us.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I tagged along when my college roommate cross shopped the 3000 and the then new Z. Even at 19, we could see that the Z was classier and a better driver.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    these were supposed to be Mitsubishi’s Skyline GTR being 4wd, twin turbo and all the rest

    problem is they were tranverse twin turbo with all the packaging woes that had… and they had none of the race success that the Skyline had

    a forgettable car i doubt anyone truly will lavish any love on

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    This was one of the cars that ushered in the “Twin Turbo” era of Japanese sports cars. RX-7, Nissan 300ZX, Supra, and these. The only Japanese sports car of the time that didn’t have turbos was the NSX. While the RX-7 ‘only’ had 240HP, the others were 300HP or more. This in an era when anything north of 250 was exotic territory.

    The weight and FWD architecture of these cars made them second rate in terms of sporting characteristics compared to the other Japanese competition.

  • avatar
    tobiasfunkemd

    I remember seeing these while working at a Kragen Auto Parts in the East Bay. It was a welcome change from the usual cast of mid to late-80’s beaters being bled of every last usable mile. Having an ’89 RX-7 parked in back (to avoid the parking lot mechanics out front), I was a little jealous of the attention it received from the opposite sex. Such are the things you think about around your 18th birthday. Still remember that job as being one of the best of my life, if only for the employee discount and the motley selection of cars we’d see on a daily basis.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    Umm Scuse me Mr Martin but I take umbrage at your remarks. When this auto debuted in 1991 with twin turbos all wheel drive all wheel steering front and rear speed sensitive aerodynamics. And magneto shocks. This was the giant killer, 20 years ahead of the gtr here, sure 0-60 in 5.2 does not sound fast now. But if you compare it to its only competition at the time, the corvette guess which one is the pig? Now having owned a subishi myself I have come to understand them very well. The devil with these cars is in the details, specifically the maintenance. It like the Bavarians do not call it suggested maintenance, it is required. That’s not too much to ask is it? When it has a roundel on the hood its called German quality standards, put a Mitsubishi logo on it and all of a sudden they gain a bad reputation, I don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      1991 Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4 curb weight = 3900 lbs., 300 HP

      1991 Dodge Stealth R/T turbo curb weight = 3732 lbs., 300 HP

      1991 Chevrolet Corvette base model curb weight = 3263 lbs., 240 HP. The ZR1 had 375 HP.

      1991 Toyota Supra Turbo curb weight = 3463 lbs, 232 HP.

      The all-wheel drive Mitsubishi was a porker compared to the competition, and it showed in its reputation for less than crisp handling. Nothing against Mitsubishi (I owned an Evo), but the 3000 constantly lost comparos in the buff books of the day to cars that were more nimble. That doesn’t take anything away from the accomplishment of the 3000 GT/Stealth. There were quite impressive on their own, if not quite the “Ferrari Killers” they were marketed as.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        And once again, the HP to weight ratio of all of these cars is very close. Sure they were not as refined as even a Nissan or any other Japanese appliance of the era. But that’s what I love about them and the evo and the gsx, they were raw and unbridled and begging to be hooned and hooned hard. Being at the bottom of the Japanese reliability standings was still a hell of a lot better then anything the domestics were putting out. I suspect at some point In the future it will be looked at as an undiscovered performance gem by the mainstream, kinda like the galant vr4 . These things were so quirky for the time I’m surprised that Malcolm Bricklin had nothing to do with them.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        Even though the US never got this car, here’s more food for thought and again why this car never really caught on, even in Japan:

        R32 Skyline GTR (base version)
        weight: 3,265 (the VSpec weighed slightly more)
        hp: “275”- in reality it made more from it’s 2.6L DOHC Twin Turbo straight 6… Japan had a silly “Gentleman’s Agreement” for cars not to exceed 275 hp.
        torque: 260 ibs
        More importantly, this:
        0-60: 4.7
        quarter mile: 13.0

        This was for a late 80’s and early 90’s!

  • avatar
    rustyra24

    This one has been torn apart by people looking for parts. The VR4 models had lots of tech which unfortunately over time would break. They had a pretty big following and most of the major mechanical issues can be remedied if you delete active aero, aws, and a few other things.

    At that point the only thing stopping you is making sure to change the timing belt and not throwing a bearing. These cars have quite a following because they are cheap performers if well maintained.

  • avatar
    musicalmcs8706

    One of my classmates in college had an earlier VR4 model that in 2008 he sold as it had a lot of problems coming up. He went to an RS-X Type S. Some days I think he misses the 3000GT, but the Acura has been much more reliable for him.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I bought a 1994 Mits 3000 VR4 in 1997 with 30,000 miles for about 1/2 MSRP. The 1994 model went from pop-up headlights to project style and got rid of the hood zits that were added to make room for the shock towers (one of the greatest automotive design errors).

    Yes, it was heavy, but still pretty quick, fun to drive, got good gas mileage, and cheap to maintain. It was more of an open road GT car than a canyon carver. It was no Ferrari, but cost less to buy than a Ferrari would have been to maintain. I sold it two years later for just about what I paid for it.

    I cross-shopped it against the 300 ZX and Toyota Supra Turbo. The Toyota was Toyota boring — did everything right, but not inspiring. I would have bought the Nissan 300 ZX if the twin turbo was available in the 2+2 configuration like the European version. I did pick up a non-turbo 2+2 a couple of years later. Nice car, but the goofy steering column controls drove me nuts.

    The Mits will never be a collectable car,

  • avatar
    sideshowtom98

    In 1992 I was given the option of upgrading my company car from an econobox to the base Dodge Stealth for a onetime, tax deductible fee of $1K. Of the 15 or so people eligible to do so, I was the only one who opted for this. Most felt it was too small to do 50K miles in over 2 years.

    Having a Stealth, with all gas, insurance, and maintenance paid for for $500 per year! It was a no brainier.

    I had 1 minor problem in 2 years that required a dealer visit, which was a little bit of a challenge, as there was only 1 dealer in the immediate area of LA that had a Stealth Certified mechanic.

    I have nothing but praise for the car, and it got a lot of looks and thumbs up.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    These cars were notable to me for two reasons.

    The first ones had plastic pips on the hood, which otherwise wouldn’t clear the top of the shock rod (supposedly an oversight by the Mitsubishi engineers, which cemented my opinion of Mitsu as the bottom rung of the Japanese auto industry).

    The Dodge Stealth version gained a measure of infamy as the car that roused the ire of the UAW, and forced Dodge to doctor up a pre-production Viper show car to pace the 1991 Indy 500.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    When I was a kid, I thought this was the coolest car on the road. Most folks from my generation know it better as ‘that car in Gran Turismo you can upgrade to 900HP’.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      I got to ride in a chipped one with upgraded turbos and fuel delivery system. It turns that thing into a big red land rocket. Listen to those turbos spool up and you will smile from ear to ear

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      +1 to the Gran Turismo reference. It’s the same car there as it is in real life: You buy it cheap, upgrade it to 900hp, drive the shite out of it (with the weight reduction mods, it wasn’t awful) and let it languish in the garage when something better comes along. Or in real life, it ends in the “recycle yard” like this one.

      The early 90’s I remember was the something of a high point for Mitsubishi, pre-Evo (in the US anyway). The VR4 Galant, the 3000GT/Stealth twins in high spec were all fascinating cars with loads of Japanese tech and performance for the time. All that stuff that was fine when new or even in a well cared for model.

      But Mitsubishi cars are rarely bought by those who care so much for their cars. “It’s Japanese, like my Toyota was, I never have to do anything to it” Plus, Mitsu’s are always heavily discounted and/or financed by the no credit/troubled credit crowd.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        Yup I agree, I got financed for my Mitsubishi on my own at 19. No money down no payments for a year, ya know the deal that almost killed Mitsubishi in north America? Best Deal ever still have it, nothing besides regular maintenance. But the crowd that bought these didn’t know what that meant. I think if they released the 3000gt the evo and the eclipse gsx in 2001 instead of the early. 1990′ s things may have been different.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      In ’96 I was schooling people in Gran Turismo and driving an Eclipse GS-T. I looked into getting a 3000GT but the main thing I remember (and that scared me off) was the car itself seemed HUGE, like aircraft carrier huge. Keep in mind I was coming from Honda Prelude Si. I also looked at 300 ZX, which I really liked. However in typical Mitsubishi style their aggressive financing made getting a deal on the Eclipse turbo super easy.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    “The Mitsubishi GTO (which was sold in the United States as the Mitsubishi 3000GT and the Dodge Stealth) didn’t steal many sales from prospective Supra Turbo”
    Just a quick google search turned this up. I don’t know how accurate the numbers are:
    Supra US Imports

    1993: 4504
    1994: 2562
    1995: 1747
    1996: 534
    1997: 1379
    1998: 589

    Total: 11,315
    TOTAL YTD 3000GT sales by Model years:
    1991MY = 9812
    1992MY = 13043
    1993MY = 12715
    1994MY = 15973
    1995MY = 14532
    1996MY = 4307
    1997MY = 6009
    1998MY = 2619
    1999MY = 526
    TOTAL 3000GT Lifecycle = 79,536

    I dunno if that comment applied to the Japanese market specifically or how accurate these numbers are but my own personal experience is that 3000GTs/Stealths are way more common than Supras and RX7s and maybe just slightly more common than a 300ZX.
    These cars have long suffered from a poor reputation, mainly from people that never drove one, expected something Miata like from them, or were ready to root for Honda/Toyota/Nissan at all costs. Rumors that Nissan basically gave/subsidized a bunch of auto scribes 300ZXs didn’t help. That said, they certainly have their issues, are potential maintenance and repair nightmares, and have had most of the nice example used up by a generation of kids modding from a JC Whitney catalog and ebay. The comments of them being whales ignores what the numbers support. They are fast in twin turbo form and handle well. If you’re lucky to have one that works, they offer good performance and still look great.
    I still have a 92 VR4 with 150K and some minor issues and drove a 93 Stealth ES up over 200K. The non turbo models are much, much more forgiving, offer reasonable performance for what they are, and tend to develop less issues.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I never understood why people are buying these things, they’re big but not that roomy and they can’t corner, yea they’re fast (with two turbos) but what good is it with a car thats just a FF sedan underneath.

    These cars are basically budget Veyrons, fast, stylish, 4wd, and they hate corners.

  • avatar
    sideshowtom98

    A quick look on Ebay Motors found 10 examples of the Dodge Stealth/Mitsubishi 3000 available, including this R/T TT with only 4K miles.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/R-T-TT-/280979106605?forcev4exp=true#ht_14184wt_978

  • avatar
    Slab

    My boss had one of these in the early 90s. It was his fun weekend car. He would brag about going 75 on the freeway to LA. Fast forward 20 years, and everyone does 75 on the freeway to LA.

    The car had an active suspension that would automatically lower the car at high speeds. It once got stuck in the lower position, and he had to have it towed on a flatbed. He couldn’t get it out of the parking lot!

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    I wouldn’t call that moderately beat, it looks like it was run hard and used up. Wouldn’t be surprised if this car spent its twilight years sitting in the student parking lot of a high school or college – that seems to be the last stop for a lot of 3000GTs and similar sporty coupes from the 90s (Eclipses, Stealths, Avengers, Talons, Probes, Celicas, etc.).

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    These cars taught me something a dozen or so years back. That thing is that people that spend money on enthusiast cars often don’t know much at all about cars. These things competed with vehicles that were all fundamentally superior. Competitors were lighter, better balanced, more durable, and at least as quick and efficient. The GTOs were basically Japanese Reattas. They combined sports car utility with luxobarge handling, chassis balance and weight. They also shared only average quality. The Mitsubishi ‘looked like a Ferrari’ though. How much so? Guys that were progressing at the investment banks I worked for often traded them in for Ferraris, or sold them privately and bought Ferraris or E39 M5s if they were too insulted by the offered trade in values.

  • avatar
    skor

    They weren’t bad cars for the money. The problem was they were over hyped which led to inevitable disappointment.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I don’t fit in these. Im not that tall (5’10) but for reasons I can’t quite figure out I can’t sit with my feet comfortably able to engage the clutch without having the sun visors on my head. My general asumption is that this car is for people with long legs and shorter torsos or really small people.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I recently was offered a dodge stealth for a reasonable price (about 4K) and I got in. It wasn’t all that cramped and I’m 6’4″ but I’m about even between legs and torso. I did gt the joy of test driving it and it was tempting as it was a garage queen in perfect order. If I wasn’t paying off my xB I probably would have cut a check for him on the spot and started to ramp up the HP with aftermarket parts for some track days.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    The VR4 was one of the cars I took on an extended test drive when I was a young mechanic in 96. I thought they looked super, and wanted to like it. It was a first gen that was already in horrid shape. It had chrome peeling off the wheels like razors which slashed my hands as I worked on it. The electronically adjustable exhaust was seized up. The active aero front lip was frozen, but the movable rear wing flicking impressed the ladies. I recall it being slower than an LT1 Impala SS, another car whose performance I was disappointed with.

    It was ponderous and felt plasticky, cheap. It’s msrp was the equivalent of $55,000 today. Far from a bargain.

    I could go on and on ripping on this car. I kinda feel sorry for it. When their current enthusiast owners move on, they will disappear. Only the rare spyders will hold any value. I bet they are fantastic highway cruisers though.

    • 0 avatar
      luvmyv8

      Really?

      While I haven’t driven an Impala SS per se, in my younger porter days at my dealership a customer traded in a ’94 Caprice… but this wasn’t grandma’s Caprice…. it was a former Portland, Oregon police car. It was a real 9C1 Caprice and apparently Portland checked the options box for the LT1…. that sucker was fast… and it was used and abused- but definately not tired. Put this way: my former ’06 Mustang GT would out accelerate it (but not totally run away from it) but I have no doubt the Caprice would easily keep pace and eventually beat it as the police Caprice equipped with the LT1 and no lightbar could easily exceed 140 MPH…. easily.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I really liked the mid-cycle refresh the front facias of these received. That’s when they moved from the pop-up headlamps to exposed headlights that were advertised as being a tribute to some Japanese warrior or something like that.

    It was one of the only times I remember exposed headlaps looking better than hidden.

  • avatar
    detlump

    I worked at a Mitsu dealer while in college,and got to drive all the new Mitsus from the drop off lot to the dealer for prepping. Naturally I enjoyed the Eclipses and the 3000s the most. One of the reasons I think I got the job was that I drove a stick every day, when many kids had no clue.

    I liked these cars, it does make me sad to see one picked over. I had a hard time getting my size 13s in the footwells. I preferred the base models with no turbos and the manual. It was pretty comparable to a Mustang and Camaro at that trim level. It was awesome to drive the VR4 though, especially when it was new and had a $38K sticker I believe. I’ve always liked cars that weren’t common, so I had a soft spot for the Mitsu lineup.

    I can still recall the big auto trans shifter Mitsu used, it wasn’t a T-handle, kinda strange.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “… this car spent its twilight years sitting in the student parking lot of a high school or college…”

    Now, HS kids don’t bother to learn to drive, since they text on smart phones all day. No need to go anywhere, and their ‘helicopter’ parents and teachers have told them “driving is dangerous”. So, they get chauffered everywhere.

  • avatar

    We have a guy at work driving a sun-baked red 3000 that seems to be holding fine. Definitely has a lot of wear on it and he’s an older gent who isn’t hooning it, and he’s the original owner. Those things just didn’t hold up well I suppose.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I actually liked the lines for the ones near the end of the model run. Sort of a Japanese Corvette. There was one color in particular I really liked, it was sort of a gray/eggshell white. The early models though suffered from some bad styling elements like cheese grater air ducts to make it look like a Ferrari Testarosa.

    They were also fairly quick for the day, you had to get in pretty lofty company to beat one. It was a Japanese muscle car, and a different tune could get you into some absurd power levels with the twin turbos.

    The big mistake was they just tried to put too much gimmicks in the cars, things like active aerodynamic features, tuneable exhaust, video game interior, etc. That’s probably a big reason why they don’t have the following other cars of that era do, just too much to go wrong. I also think the association with the Dodge Stealth hurt it, most people (wisely) assumed anything associated with Dodge was crap in the quality department.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      If they had developed it properly with better turbos, 4 wheel steering components, active aero that worked long term,you have a Japanese builder that out gizmoed porsche… If only it was allowed to develop properly.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      MMNA called that “Platinum White Pearl.” Althought, depending on the car, it was more of a gold-layered white or the gray-ish, more true pearl white you’re referring to.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I helped blow one of these up for Cash-For-Clunkers. Sad.

  • avatar
    jgcaulder

    I briefly owned one of these this year. I paid $1900 for it and it had seen better days. It was a red base model with a 5 speed. Fun little car to drive, but the previous owners must have smoked a pack of butts a day in it with the windows up because it was the worst smelling car imaginable. I tried vinegar, char coal, aftermarket soultions, and noting worked. I sold it to a high school kid a few months later. It was a good little car outside of the smell.

  • avatar
    japgto

    I bought a Dodge stealth twin turbo this summer from a friend that was a well taken care of car. A lot of the comments on here are pretty funny. The car does handle well and is more predictable than either of the 2 911s I own. However, it is a big heavy complicated car. That is the price for the 4-wheel drive and other stuff it has. The other thing that is funny is how much other drivers on the road truly hate this car for some reason. Even the dumbest clown in some beat up mini truck will try to hang with it in some corner or try to race it, with predictable results. They disappear in the mirror and you worry they ran off the road.

    I suspect many of the posts here are from folks who either:
    A: never drove one
    B: drove or rode in a non-turbo model
    C: just hate Mitsubishi in general

    I don’t really care, it’s a fun car to drive and if the soccer-mom and gofast-civic crowd hate it, so what.

    I am daunted by the factory manual I downloaded though. There are quite a few pages of just special tool the factory made to work on it. I will be doing the timing belt this coming spring and my opinion may change.

  • avatar
    mtboy

    Japgto: I agree. I drove my ’93 VR4 from CT to MT in Winter. It is an amazing car. It seems the thread starts with a slam – and it just kinda keeps building. It’s fast, full of gadgets and a blast to drive. The style I love. Yeah, give me those pop up headlights, too cool. The hood “blisters” just add to the look.


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