By on December 15, 2011

When you find a ’72 Dodge Colt wagon and an ’83 Mitsubishi Cordia within 15 feet of one another in a self-service junkyard, what more could you ask for? Why, you could go for the Mitsubishi Trifecta and ask for a Plymouth Sapporo right next to both of them!
During my recent trip to California, I dropped by one of my old junkyard haunts and found this scene: Sapporo and Colt on the left, Cordia on the right (the remainder of the Chrysler/Mitsubishi section is mostly LHs and Neons, and it will remain so for the next decade or so).
The Sapporo was a Mitsubishi Galant Lambda; its Dodge sibling was badged as a Challenger.
It was a rear-wheel-drive machine with a big four-cylinder making a not-too-bad-for-Late-Malaise 100 horses. Not a bad car, but nothing about it really stood out from the pack.
Thanks to the car-versus-pole damage on the front, this example managed to avoid the handful of Northern California vintage-Mitsubishi fans that might have restored it. Next stop: Chinese container ship at the Port of Oakland.

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45 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Plymouth Sapporo...”

  • avatar

    There’s a baby benz with a stick at my local yard…hopefully it’s still there on Saturday, so I can pluck the trans to make my self a stick 1987 300d

  • avatar

    History repeats itself. We bailed Cry-sler out in the 80s to see them pepper their lineup with foreign made cars that were not as good as other foreign made cars.

    Sounds eerily familiar.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, Chrysler saved itself in the 1980s with the K-Car and minivan, which were not foreign made or designed, and their sales are up quite substantially now with improved versions of what they were selling before BK.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually there was no bailout in 1980. Chrysler was given loans from privately held banks. The loans were guaranteed by the government but as long as Chrysler paid them back there was no money taken out of your pocket (or mine), unless your name is Chase or Manufactures Hanover. Chrysler paid the private loans back early and with interest and the rest is as we say history.

      As for peppering their lineup with foreign cars, Chrysler is no different than Ford or GM in this respect. Remember GEO? Aveo? Remember the Ford Aspire? I could go on till I bore all of you with all the models and car lines from Japan and Korea. Why does Ford and GM get a pass but Chrysler is bad for a SMALL percentage of cars made for them by a foreign maker? During the 90’s Chrysler got away from Mitsubishi as supplier of cars. Was there a Dodge Colt in the mid to late 90’s?

  • avatar

    Betty Boop decal plus automatic. CHICK CAR!!!!!!!!!

    As, I seem to remember, were the Challengers.

    Actually, back then the Mitsubishi’s were as good as the other Japanese competition. They just didn’t have anything in particular to make them any more desirable, and were saddled with a sales force that was a lot more inclined to put your butt in a Chrysler or a big Dodge.

    • 0 avatar

      Huh. Did not know that about the dealers.

      Twenty years after this car was new, Mrs. and I were out shopping for a new small family sedan. We went to a dealer that sold both Dodges and Mitsus to look at the new 2nd-gen Stratus. After driving it we found it unpleasant and were ready to leave, but the dealer asked (begged) us to look at a Galant.

      I don’t know exactly why he was pushing it so hard, but we drove it and frankly it was a considerably better car than the Dodge. However we ended up going elsewhere and buying a slightly used Intrepid, which we liked because it was really nice and roomy, but given how its 2.7 engine ended up we would have been better off with the Mitsu…..

  • avatar

    That instrument cluster is downright modern.

    • 0 avatar

      JCraig…yeah, I prefer that dash instrument cluster over quite a few of today’s. An overall decent car…makes me still miss my Arrow!

    • 0 avatar

      Those gauges look very similar to the guages in my old second-gen RX-7. I wonder if they shared a supplier?

    • 0 avatar

      The IP wasn’t bad, but how did you like the Sparkomatic-quality radio?

      I also wonder how the guy who installed the aftermarket cassette player tied it in to the audio system. Judging by the quality of his mounting, I shudder to think what the wiring looks like.

      • 0 avatar

        Dad did that to our ’84 Olds Delta 88. It had a relay setup to kill the radio power. It was then tied into the speakers at the harness. Kind of ghetto but it worked well for 12 years. One of the less problematic parts of that car.

      • 0 avatar

        That was a Clarion cassette deck, a pretty good name back then and even now. What’s surprising to me is that the dash is set up with what appears to be a double DIN chassis.

        It almost makes me think that the cassette player was a dealer added option, like so many Japanese cars had back in the day. I don’t know if Chrysler worked it that way with their captive imports or not.

        But yeah, look at that installation. Yikes!

  • avatar

    I was intrigued when these came out, because another Japanese OEM still offered a genuine pillarless coupe (yes, that back window was not fixed) besides Datsun and Subaru. Unfortunately, side-impact regs caught up with them, though, as they disappeared by 1984, I believe, if not earlier.


    Still wouldn’t have bought one back then, even if I could afford it, as I felt they were very flimsy. I recall that many of the Japanese cars were somewhat cleaner in design than most American cars, which came across as “clunkier”, certainly heavier, but felt more solid – well, except for the Citation, that is!

  • avatar

    I like how they stuck an “AUTOMATIC” label on the transmission console. Just in case you’re driving along and suddenly wonder why there’s only 2 pedals at your feet. (Oh that’s right, it’s an automatic! Glad they reminded me!)

  • avatar

    A friend of mine had one of these when we were in college 20-mumble years ago. He let me drive it a bunch of times. It was a fun car. Certainly not a high-performance car, but quirky in a delightful way, down to the gentle “ding-ding, ding-ding” noise it made when you opened the door while the key was still in the ignition (or was it when you left the headlights on? it was a long time ago).

  • avatar

    ahh the mitsu 2.6! That brings back memories of my 85 Reliant from 10 years ago. Aside from being a gas guzzler (20 mpg) cuz of the impossible to service and too expensive to replace mikuni carb it wasn’t a bad motor… until the timing chian guides wear away and the motor self destructs. Mine didn’t get to that point although at the end I expected it to blow up every time I drove it.

    oh and it’s a hemi! lol

  • avatar
    Buster Brew

    My first new car was a copper colored Plymouth Sapporo. I settled for the Sapporo as there were no, mechanically identical but sportier looking, Dodge Challengers to be found at the time. The car was exceptional in many ways:

    Rear wheel drive
    5sp (many manuals were still only 4sp)
    4 wheel disk brakes, with alloy option
    Pillar-less coupe
    Orange back-lit gauges
    Indestructible and powerful for the day, 2.6 “silent shaft” 4cyl
    Electric side mirrors

    Few small cars offered the style and features the Sapporo/Challenger did in 1982. I always preferred the subtle clean styling of this car over the boy racer “look at me!” styling of it’s successor, the Mitsubishi Starion and Chrysler Conquest

  • avatar

    Back when I was in high school, as a joke I was thinking of getting the badge from another model car and re-arrange the letters to spell “POS” and put it on my car. I tried to think of models that had all three letters in the name, and all I could think of was Sapporo.

    So I finally found one in the junkyard and was prepared to take the badge and cut it up, until I realized it was the stylized badge you pictured above, and my plan wouldn’t work.

    Super cool story, bro.

  • avatar

    Those black velour seat covers make me feel a little tingly.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember Mr. Vecore had one of these after he retired from Chrysler. White (maybe red, I can’t refer that any more) with red velour interior. I recall my 19 y/o self thinking it was a deluxe cool ride then.

      I think because of this I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Mitsubishi styling (maybe not the bland styling of the recent Gallant – earlier Gallant had styling good enough that Helmut Schraeder copied it over onto the Lincoln LS to an embarrassing high degree.)

      Haven’t yet looked at the story pics yet as I was savoring the memory of 30 years ago, perhaps for the last time, before subjecting it to a revalidation 30y down the road with the DOTJ car pictured here.

  • avatar

    I seriously wanted one of these back in the early 80’s but opted for an ’83 Toyota Celica GT instead. No complaints, the Celica was great but I really liked these cars; as one poster indicated, it was a true hardtop and not a sedan/coupe; a feature that I valued. The Plymouth association threw me off however even though I knew they did nothing more than market, sell & service it. It was Mitsubishi through and through.

  • avatar

    Nice find. I like the styling even now, it is clean and uncluttered. If you added composite headlamps to the front and recessed the reflectors it would look even better.

    I think coming up with a new name for the Plymouth was better than using Challenger for the Dodge.

    I also like the 944-esque (or Mazda RX-7-esque) styling of the next generation, even though it wasn’t particularly fast either.

    I really enjoy these articles – please keep them coming. It would be even better to find a running example of older cars and do a review of those too. Some people forget how far we have come.

  • avatar

    What a great find! Looks like it was in fantastic shape before its encounter with a pole. I always liked these but they seemed to disappear pretty quickly. A neighbor had one of these in light brown but it left them in the mid 80s.

  • avatar

    Definitely a less gaudy alternative to the Japanese sport coupes of the day (200SX/Celica).

  • avatar

    I agree with most of the readers that for its day, this was a good car with clean lines and a powerful 4cy motor. I thought at the time that these were every bit as nice as the competition from Datsun to Toyota.

  • avatar

    My parents had one of these back in the day. I loved the electronic dash. I used to set it on kilometers so I could go “over 100”. It had a voice that would remind you if your door was open. Ours was a 5-speed manual. I remember the Mitsu 2.6 had a lot of torque compared to our (lighter) Plymouth TC3 (swoopy Horizon) with the Chrysler 2.2 liter engine. Gas mileage was so-so, maybe low-20s.

  • avatar

    History passing before our eyes! I’m with Sajeev on the black velour seats.

  • avatar

    I had a buddy of mine back then who would buy salvageable wrecks and fix them up (he worked at a body shop). He got one of these that had some front end damage and got it back together rather quickly. I think he bought a junkyard clip and other body pieces.

    It was a fairly loaded car, but I remember all of the little lights and the tinkly tones the key-in-ignition reminder would play. It just seemed so cheesy. I have to admit, it was nicer than the miniature klaxon buzzer most domestics used at that time.

    Not too long into his ownership, the car’s balance shaft chain or tensioner broke. I really don’t remember a lot about it, other than the fact that he had to order the parts, and they were coming in from Japan. He was glad he hadn’t sold his AMC Hornet winter beater that year. I think he waited a month for the parts to come in.

    He didn’t keep the car long after that, IIRC he found another nice salvage car by then, and he was off on his next adventure.

  • avatar

    Nice tail of Corolla there.

    When is the END of the Impala getting posted, Murilee?

  • avatar

    I had the Dodge Challenger version of this with the 5-speed as a company car in 1981 or so. It was OK, but entirely unremarkable. I actually forgot all about my short tenure driving it until this article. I like the more conservative look of the IP and the exterior design. Shortly before this car I had a Dodge Colt hatch with the 8-speed dual range manual trans. Right after the Challenger I drove a first-generation Mazda 626 with a 5-speed. Very similar layout and conservative style. Also a pretty nice ride that like the Dodge/Mitsubishi had a different/better look and performance profile than the Toyotas and Nissans/Datsuns? of the times. They were a nice alternative to Toyota and Nissan on one side and the crazies paying thousands over MSRP for a Honda.

  • avatar

    If anyone sees one of these un-wrecked perhaps they’ll see some Delorean in the nose, certainly nicer looking than the recent Eclipse.

  • avatar

    I had one of these in ’87. It was an ’83. It had all the fancy stuff, power windows/locks, digital dash, lady’s voice to remind me the door was a jar. I thought the silver/black paint job looked good, but made it too warm in the summer (why black on the roof?)

    I was 17, and I gave it hell for a year. My dad didn’t think I should have bought it, because it had rust on the frame rails. That’s why I eventually sold it. It was a fun little b pillar-less beast. Got 25mpg on a regular basis with the stick.

  • avatar

    This one looks like a later model, after the trim had been toned down. At introduction, about ’78 as I recall, these cars were tarted up like mini-Cordobas.

    They had velour seats (usually red), power everything, a canopy vinyl top, and the same wheel covers and whitewalls the Volare Premier had. It didn’t look bad by the standards of the time, but the disparity between the small/import body and the big/domestic gingerbread was almost too weird to process.

    I had a female friend who bought one (yep, chick car), and the engine grenaded pretty shortly even under her light use. I can’t remember the cause, but I guess it was balance chains as noted above.

    Overall, one of ChryCo’s weirder moments.

  • avatar

    Chysler Sigma Scorpion, Mitsubishi Sigma Scorpion. These were the cars that bailed Chrysler Australia out until Chysler went home and the factory was taken over by Mitsubishi. The Colt and Sigma came from Mitsubishi until Mitsubishi Australia sliced the Sigma down the middle, widened it about 65mm, and created the “Magna”

  • avatar

    Ok you have officially finally found a car I had totally forgotten about.

    I had to think a long time to remember this one.

  • avatar

    These are also some of the cars which bailed out Chrysler USA (including the Colts, Colt Wagons, Champs, D50, Arrow and Arrow Trucks)throughout the late ’70s-early 80’s. The quality of these vehicles was great compared to the rest of the Chrysler lineup and most went 150K miles before they gave up due to the aforementioned timing chain guide issue or the tinworm. The hardtop styling was the cleanest of the Japanese coupes of that era and the instrument cluster was the best.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I remember looking at one back in the late 80’s for my sister. Many of these suffered from lower door rot where the skin would seperate from the door shell.

    Many well optioned ones had a neat roof console w/aircraft style lights.

  • avatar

    As I recall, the 2.6 had a double-row timing chain for the cam & a single-row chain [looked like a bicycle chain] that ran the 2 balance shafts. One balance shaft ran in crankshaft direction @ 2x crankshaft speed. The other balance shaft was lower & ran @ 2x crankshaft speed, but in the other direction. Engineers couldn’t resist making the gears to make the lower balance shaft the oil pump. Result- on most engines, oil pump runs @ half crankshaft speed, but on the Mitsubishi 2.6, the oil pump ran @ 2x crankshaft speed. After seeing that, I wondered how long it would last.

  • avatar

    One thing certainly stood out. The 2.6 Mistu motor sucked. People avoided them like the plague in the Caravans and K-cars/New Yorkers etc. The carburetors were super expensive and impossible to properly tune. They sucked gas like a V6. They used oil, blew head gaskets left and right and that weird timing chain setup as mentioned above was a ticking time bomb. I honestly knew a guy that actually carried around a spare 2.6 in the back of his Caravan because he was on his third motor. When questioned he always stated that the 2.6 was the biggest POS he every encountered. Another friend had an 82 2 door Lebaron coupe FWD old lady special that was 2.6 equipped. it was smooth and quiet when it was running. But I spent many a night rescuing him when that sorry car died. The final nail was when it stalled out on his way to college and ant-freeze was pouring out of the exhaust. And this was with only 66k miles on the clock.

  • avatar

    I had this car. I loved this car. Most especially because my soon- to-be ex had her mouthpiece tell the judge that I had squandered marital assets on a sports car (heh). It was 4 yrs. old when I bought it for 26 hundred dollars. For 5 years it served me well.

  • avatar

    I’d like to find out, where this junkyard is.
    Can any one help?

  • avatar

    Mine was an 82 that same color. Loved it. Chrysler was nice enough to sell for $8000, before a $1000 rebate. By comparison with the Horizon or whatever domestic subcompact Chrysler was selling it was just another whole level of quality.
    Engine did go through a lot of heads; you did not dare overheat it even a touch. What with the scarcity of the car and the frequency of them cracking, you couldn’t get a rebuilt head to save your life, so it was new ones; $800 for the bare head from Chrysler, no valves or anything. Maybe that was why they could sell it for $8000; the razor/razor blade concept. Just before the end I found a speed shop that claimed to have good luck welding cracked heads, didn’t ever get to find out.
    That carb was the real stinker. Very lean mixture (religiously following the tech bulletins discovered a “driveability kit” offered after a couple of years that included some richer jets and changes in various air bleeds, etc. as well as a vacuum delay valve that stopped it from stumbling when the vacuum secondary got opened, closed, opened rapidly.)
    After ten years or so the diaphragm in the carb would open up and you’d have a vacuum leak, whenever the secondary tried to open it would just stall. No rebuild kits or rebuilt carbs available. (I see the car in the pics here has the carb missing). Luckily, you could get an adapter to fit a Weber downdraft two barrel (one of their OEM carbs for European Fords people were marketing as universal replacements in the US) and that made it really get up and go. Presumably a richer mixture, right out of the box. And a glorious sound. The timing chain needed replacement after 100k or so, just because the timing got jittery, wasn’t near breaking yet, but compared to the timing belt replacement frequency these days, no biggie.
    Slightly above normal highway speed stability was good, but improved by the addition of a front air dam (who remembers Kamei?).
    The general styling reminded me enormously of the Mustangs of the era, except for the bubble-butt rear window.
    Mitsubishi Consolidated Industries went all out on the electrics of the thing, courtesy lights everywhere. They didn’t import the Mitsubishi cassette player that would have plugged into the back of the Mitsubishi radio and filled that space below it that the car in the pics has some other player installed; but they were tricky enough to insulate the entire trunk lid with the rubber gasket and rubber bushings on the hinge mounting bolts, and use it for the radio antenna.
    I got hold of the brochure for the Japanese domestic version, the Galant Lambda; had a bunch of different engines available from a 70 horse diesel up to a turbo 2 liter, no 2.6 available. I guess chrysler figured americans wouldn’t like the turbo. The turbo version also had IRS. The next version of the car became the Dodge Conquest/Mitsubishi Starion, with the same basic chassis with the IRS, and a turbo version of the 2.6

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