Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Colt

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

By the final years of the Malaise Era, Chrysler had their econobox needs covered on the one hand by much-modified rebadged Simcas, and on the other by not-at-all-modified rebadged Mitsubishis. These cars were no worse than their Ford and GM competitors (which isn’t saying much), but the inherent cheapness of the 4th-gen Mitsubishi-built Colt meant that most of them weren’t worth fixing after about 1992, and these cars are rare indeed nowadays. In this series, we’d seen just one example of this generation of Colt/Mirage/Champ prior to today’s find.

This one was parked illegally in Hayward, California, and the owner couldn’t or wouldn’t rescue it before the tow-truck man came to take it on its last ride.

By any sort of 21st-century standards, these cars sucked. They were noisy, rattly, slow, and broke down a lot. However, we are now living in the Golden Age of Miserable Little Econoboxes, where even the diminished-expectations Versa and Spark are perfectly pleasant transportation applicances, and so it just isn’t fair to apply 21st-century standards to the ’81 Colt.

Just imagine you’re listening to Debbie Harry “rap” about Fab Five Freddy on the AM radio and getting 40 mpg in the grim years after the Ayatollah jacked up gas prices and this car makes more sense.

Not much attempt was made to obscure the Japanese origins of this car, though the same could not be said of the French origins of the Omni/Horizon.


Perhaps Chrysler should have gone with the Japan-market ads for this car.

Imported for Dodge!




Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Xtngarcia1 Xtngarcia1 on Jul 02, 2014

    I currently own a 1982 dodge colt. Everything is intact. no rust. i use it for work still.

  • Chicagoland Chicagoland on Jul 02, 2014

    "By any sort of 21st-century standards, these cars sucked. They were noisy, rattly, slow, and broke down a lot." Even by 1988 standards these were dying painful deaths. That's when I got rid of my '81 after 3 years of constant repairs. Cost more since it was 'Asian'. I bought it in 1985 based on rave reviews in Car and Driver, when brand new. Would have been better off buying a new '85 Escort, Omni, or even Chevette! JK

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