Junkyard Find: 1988 Mitsubishi Precis

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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]

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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  • 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.

  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.