By on September 6, 2012

Remember the Mitsubishi Sigma? Nobody does! It was a semi-oddball four-door hardtop version of the Galant that was sold in the United States just for the 1989 and 1990 model years, and I believe this car— which I spotted at a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard over the weekend— is the first one I’ve ever seen in person.
Four-door hardtops were big in the 1960s, but you didn’t have a lot of choices in that department by 1989. Mitsubishis had only been available in North America with non-Chrysler badging for a half-dozen years when this car was new, and Mitsubishi salesmen must have experienced major bouts of hopelessness when trying to convince Camry and Maxima shoppers to buy the Sigma instead.
I’d thought the Big Nose HVAC Guy was a Cordia-only thing, but it turns out that many Mitsubishis of the 1980s used this graphic.
The forward-stop-backward arrows on the shifter positions were a nice, if somewhat puzzling, Mitsubishi-style touch.
Since a lot of Detroit slushboxes were still three-speeds in 1989, the shifter handle got this bit of bragging.
I’m going to keep my eyes open for more Sigmas now, because they must be out there!

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28 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Mitsubishi Sigma...”

  • avatar

    My dad bought one in 89, just as I was graduating from high school, and I got to drive it on vacations and summers.

    Truly, a great car. Beautiful automatic transmission. I want to say a Chrysler? First car with steering wheel controls for the radio. No CD player, I think.

    His office manager bought one at the same time, and she kept it until about 2003. I think it had less than 75K miles at the time.

    • 0 avatar

      Technically, that’s a pillard hardtop–the glass is frameless, but you can see the shoulder belt attached to the B pillar. There was a little vogue for these about that time, as I recall–Lexus had one about the same time the Neon came out.

      The only small-sized true four-door hardtop I can think of was the second generation Corvair, BTW.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Frameless windows were fairly common on upmarket Japanese cars well into the ’90s: Acuras, Subarus, the first few generations of the Lexus ES, and piles more back home.

        True four door hardtops were rarer, but Nissan built a few for the Japanese market in the ’80s.

    • 0 avatar

      I had an ’86 Pontiac 6000-STE that had factory steering wheel controls for the radio (New for ’86! as the brochure screams). I’m not even sure it was the first application of that either.

      The only time I’ve seen these cars is in the wrecking yard. I guess I didn’t pay much attention to them on the road.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, I should have said first car that I drove that had the controls. Like most things in automotive history, probably invented in 1913 and used in some obscure french car.

  • avatar

    A friend’s dad had one also and it was a pretty damn nice car for the time. Rode beautifully and showed a lot of promise for the future of Mitsubishi. Didn’t the 1988 Trans Am have steering wheel controls for the radio already?

  • avatar

    I drive the European equivalent of the Sigma, it was called the Sapporo over here, in honour of the earlier coupes. Mine’s one of the few left pretty much alone by the rust worm. I was hoping you would find an American Sigma somewhere, this is really interesting.

    Check mine out over at Hooniverse:

  • avatar

    IIRC, the Sigma was a “followup” to the then top-of-the line Galant. Both were being marketed as upscale sedans, similar to the Maxima in concept, but perhaps more tilted toward luxury than sport, and priced like a Camry. The Sigma’s “pods”, if memory serves (again!), contained stubs that controlled turn signals, wiper, and had provisions for climate adjustment, and perhaps other controls (radio seek/scan? Volume?) It was a pretty advanced system, and futuristic since remote controls were still somewhat unusual.

  • avatar

    Oh, so that’s what the difference was… I was under the impression that the Sigma was just a loaded Galant with a V6 and slightly different plastic parts, but now I see it, it’s the windows.

  • avatar

    This is very weird. Last Friday, some co-workers and I were hitting the Craigslist Crack Rock hard, trying to round up a sub-$1000 beater to run in the local enduro race that night. One of the cars we ran across was a freaking Sigma. For $500. We tried to buy it, but while it was an alleged running car, the owner confessed to it having some “oiling” issues, and we were afraid it might not have made the race.

    We ended up striking out in the mad car search, and ended up at the track drinking beer out of the back of a clapped-out 10 year old Escalade just watching the race. I think a mid-70’s Nova ended up winning.

  • avatar

    That’s the biggest rear bumper I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • avatar

    Do I spy rear disc brakes?


  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    The one-spoke steering wheel reminds me of a Citroen and the control pods on the steering column also have a very French appearance.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    While it is called a Mitsubishi , it was in fact designed in Australia by the remnants of Chryslers staff. Mitsubishi only recently shut down the factory is South Austraqlia after almost 90 years of car manufacture.
    These were as common as geasy dirt in scrap yards in Australia but thankfully most were sent to China years ago.
    The following model,the magna was famous for eating transmissions and those have dissapeared too. later model magnas remain on the road as cheaqp disposable transport for those without pride .

  • avatar

    Love the gravel floor covering. Could it be a way to get the weight up on the scale?

  • avatar

    The Sigma (OR Magna) as it was called in Australia was created out of the Japanese market Galant. It was essentially the same car with some width added down the guts of it. Powered by a 2.6 liter Astron 4 cylinder. It was touted for it’s ultra quiet ride at the time. I remember my father having one as a company vehicle. Later generations were exported to the US as the Diamante. I think this generation may have been also, not too sure.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen one or two of these on the road.

    Going back probably 20 years, I’ve also seen an early generation of Galant, with Sigma displayed as the actual Greek letter following the name.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this a Renault Medallion / Eagle Premier / Dodge Monaco? Just wondering b/c Chrysler had a relationship with both Mitsubishi and Renault (through the acquisition of AMC).

  • avatar

    Isn’t this just a Galant? When my dad had a short stint at a Mitsubishi dealership in the late 80s (when the Precis was on the lot) he brought home a “Galant Sigma.” The rear badge was “Galant” followed by the Greek capital sigma.

    I remember you could change the suspension tuning with the touch of a button. From “hard” to “soft.” I couldn’t tell the difference, but my dad always had it on “hard.”

  • avatar

    The Stigma! A neighbor of mine had a blue one, and it was as boring as any other Galant. He called it the “Stigma”. His wife drove it for years, then it was passed down to the daughter and the wife got a 4Runner. The one in the pic is the first one I’ve seen since their daughter went off to college. She came back in 4 years, but the Stigma didn’t.

  • avatar

    I remember my sister test-driving a used 1988 Galant Sigma back in the mid-1990s. She wanted it because “it drove like an Infiniti”. I convinced her not to do it because of the fuel-thirsty V6, all the electronics, e.g. adjustable suspension, etc. It was bound to be a costly car to run, considering she was coming out of a Corolla.

  • avatar

    I just bought a 1990 Sigma from a friend. been fun to work on so far but can get a bit frustrating being that’s its a bit rare. if anyone sees another one around i could use parts.

    • 0 avatar

      Keep your car as a parts car and pick up this beast instead!

  • avatar

    I inherited my 1989 Sigma from my father in law. It has 38K miles and is in mint condition. Kept in a garage for 12 years.

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