Junkyard Find: 1979 Plymouth Champ, With Twin-Stick!

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 plymouth champ with twin stick

The tales of the many flavors of rebadged Chrysler Europe and Mitsubishi products sold as Plymouths and Dodges remain perennially fascinating for me, what with all the Chryslerized Simcas and Hillmans and so forth, and one example of this breed that appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth is the Plymouth Champ. The Champ was a fourth-generation Mitsubishi Mirage, a gas-sipping front-driver that received Colt nameplates for the Dodge side of the showroom floor, and I found one a few days ago at a Denver-area self-service yard.

The Champ name existed for just the 1979 through 1982 model years, after which Chrysler must have decided that marketing confusion could be reduced and money saved on emblem production by selling both Plymouth- and Dodge-badged Colts.

This one is a particularly ghastly shade of Malaise Green, which is set off nicely by the tape stripes.

This car features the super-cool Twin-Stick aka Super Shift transmission, which had a high-low range selector that multiplied the four forward gears into eight gears. Essentially, it was an overdrive box built into the transaxle. In practice, just about nobody drove the Twin-Stick by going through all eight gear ranges in sequence— mostly, you just left it in one range or the other and drove it like a regular four-speed.

But still, the Twin-Stick was cool.

This is the “big-block” 1.6 liter 4G32 Saturn engine, which made a mighty 80 horsepower.

I was very tempted to buy this POWER/ECONOMY indicator light for my collection of weird Japanese instrument-panel parts, but did not do so.

It looks to be an original Colorado car.

Cars don’t tend to rust much here in the dry High Plains climate, but Japanese cars of the 1970s could find a way to rust in a vacuum.

It’s worn out, but essentially complete. How many Champs are left in the wild?

Chuck Woolery says the ’79 Champ is the Southern California mileage champ.

Another little mileage car from Japan, right?

Just don’t crash your Champ!

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  • 3Deuce27 3Deuce27 on Oct 30, 2014

    Regarding_ "Chryslerized Hillmans" Long before Chrysler bought the Rootes Group, my mother took delivery in late 1956 of a new Sunbeam 'Rapier'/Sunbeam Rapier 'Coupe De Sport Car', an upscale sporty version of the Hillman 'Minx'. A sassy looking little postless 2-dr hardtop, with sporty intentions, a 4-speed on the column, and an OHV 4-pot with dual side draft carbs producing about 65+Hp with a 0-60 time of about 21 seconds and a top speed of around 85-90mph. With its 3-part two tone exterior and two tone interior of Kangaroo leather on split front seats, and styling's influenced by Raymond Lowry's Studebaker designs, and a full complement of instruments, it was a classy little imported saloon that my dad with deft ease could easily leave American sedans in the proverbial dust on the twisty roads of the county. Lucky for passengers it had those dash and roof grab handles that secured the upper body in the high 'G' corner loads it was often asked to exhibit. . The Sunbeam replaced and earlier Austin that Mom had driven since about the time I could first recognize a Ford or Cadillac at around two years of age. Soon after the Rapier entered our life, dad acquired a new 57' 300SL, and the difference in demeanor and performance between the two cars profoundly affected this boy of ten years. To this day, I love getting all I can out of a small bore bike or car, but the pure exhilaration of very high performance car, can't be denied. Nearly sixty years later, the pleasure of sorted small bore, and the excitement of high performance vehicle, still thrills this old boy. Of note; The Sunbeam had the first seat belts I ever used, whether they were a factory option or dealer installed of dad installed them, I don't recall, but dad insisted that all belt up and belt up tight. It is ironic that in the summer of 1957' dad and his brother took delivery of a new TR-3 with intentions of turning it into a race car. Less then 24 hours after they took delivery, my uncle rolled the car with my dad in the passenger seat, my uncle was thrown clear of the car, my dad was trapped on the windshield as the car rolled three times and was killed. In the trunk of the Triumph were the new seat belts they planned to install.

    • See 2 previous
    • -Nate -Nate on Oct 30, 2014

      @3Deuce27 Look at it this way : he's still riding with you in your memory or heart.... My Son had a 1St. Gen Miata , added a puffer to it and had a blast Autocrossing it and generally embarrassing other , ' faster ' cars in the twisty bits where we both love to spend time . I had 1960's Vintage Honda Benly's back in the 1970's , never a CR though . I had a couple 50's then too but I love my Honda 90's and 125's now . I'm old & fat but still going at it , just _much_ slower . It's good that your Pops shared his love of Sports Cars with you ~ I shared my love of all things Motorized with my Son and he turned out to have a real gift of driving , needed faster vehicles than I like/need/can operate safely . His newest is a Ducati ~ it's too slow for him so he's tweaking and peaking it ~ I may never try it out . -Nate

  • Maria L Lopez Maria L Lopez on Jan 16, 2023

    Hello.I just bought a house and have 3 old cars in the garage One of this one is a original 1979 Champ Japanese.All original paint and body all good.Thank for the information now I know about this car


  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!