Junkyard Find: 1988 Mitsubishi Precis

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1988 mitsubishi precis

The Hyundai Excel had a Mitsubishi engine, and so some obscure tenet of badge engineering mandated a Mitsubishi-branded Excel so it might drive on the same roads as Plymouth-branded Mitsubishis.

This was the Mitsubishi Precis, a car that was so stunningly bad and such a poor seller that this one is the first and only example I have ever seen in all my years of crawling through wrecking yards.

That makes it one of the rarest cars … in the world.

Hyundai makes good cars now, but the early Excel was about as bad a motor vehicle as you could buy in the mid-to-late 1980s (and I include the Yugo GV in that assessment). This one managed to get the odometer into the six-figure range, which makes it one of the most reliable first-gen Excels ever manufactured.

Americans had bought Mitsubishis since the Dodge Colts of the early 1970s, but you couldn’t buy a vehicle with Mitsubishi badges until the 1983 model year. Perhaps the Mitsubishi top brass felt that the Precis would give all those new dealerships in the United States another subcompact to sell alongside the Mirage.

68 horsepower. Yes, 68.

With the automatic, this car would have been hilariously slow even by the tolerant standards of 1988.

According to this schmaltzy ad, the car’s name is pronounced “PREE-ciss.”

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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  • INeon INeon on May 26, 2016

    We turned one of these over in auto shop class back in 1995 or 1996. Big trouble. They paddled us for it! We were really bad. Did you know it only takes a 9v battery to pop the airbags on an Olds Ninety Eight?

  • Yetibiker Yetibiker on May 29, 2016

    My first car was a 1989 Hyundai Excel with 40k miles and a 5 speed for $800 in 1998. I had my dad take it for a test drive. He felt strongly that I should buy it, so I did. It was such a pile. 68 horsepower and I remember a speed run downhill with a good tailwind got me up to 78 mph and the tach (which I pulled out of a better equipped model in a junkyard) was stuck at an insurmountable 3400 rpm. It had sizable rust holes in the rear quarters, which I used to duct cool air through dryer vent across my cheap "Sunday!SundaySunday! Amp that would constantly cut out due to overcurrent. . I put a big sticker in the back window that said "Honk if anything falls off" and cruised the ave like the kids in cooler cars.

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.