Rare Rides: This 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Can Go Topless

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Over time, certain terms begin to evoke very specific images in the minds of human beings. For instance, when someone utters the word “truck,” a medium-blue color circa-2010 F-150 comes to mind. “Luxury sedan” triggers competing images of a circa 1998 Lexus LS400 (in gold) and a W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class of two-tone variety, probably black over light grey.

And “sports car”… well, that’s a red basket-handle Toyota Supra, or our Rare Ride of today: a Mitsubishi 3000GT.

This is just not any 3000GT. This one has an extra monikers attached — VR-4 — which means it’s four-wheel drive and has a six-speed manual. Our example also has the highest-spec engine: a twin-turbo V6 producing 296 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque.

Oh, and it’s also a Spyder with a folding metal roof, which is the real reason it’s here today.

This 3000GT is undoubtedly the rarest to find. Listed on Craigslist in Phoenix, the ad copy indicates this top trim Mitsubishi retailed for $65,000 back in 1995. I didn’t believe the claim, but NADA Guides backs it up. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, that’s equal to $103,898 in 2017. But it was 1995, and you were buying a Mitsubishi.

According to Wikipedia, Mitsubishi sold just 877 Spyder VR-4 models over the two year period between 1995 and 1996. They were converted in the United States from standard coupes into Spyders by ASC. Those are the folks who made things like the Celica convertible for Toyota back in the ’80s. (And don’t forget the Dodge Dakota Convertible! —Ed)

ASC didn’t do anything to the standard interior, which features a variety of colors such as grey and also-gray. It’s a proper four-seater though, and you could conceivably put two thin children back there, assuming the driver and front passenger were 5’8″ or less.

The 3000GT was quite the technical experiment for Mitsubishi. When the model debuted in 1990, it featured four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, active aero, tunable exhaust modes, and an electronically controlled suspension. Interestingly, the active aero features were not present in its twin, the Dodge Stealth (sad!). The Spyder was created on the bones of the second generation, which ran from 1994 to 1997.

Though the model increased in price as the years went on, Mitsubishi gradually deleted its unique technology to save on costs. 1994 was the last year for tunable exhaust. Electronic suspension died after 1995. And active aero went away after 1996. That year was also the last for the Dodge Stealth, leaving the 3000GT as an only child for the 1997 to 1999 model years. The Mitsubishi lingered on ’til 2000 in the Japanese domestic market, and two remaining cars were titled to owners in 2001.

The relatively insane price put the 3000GT VR-4 Spyder in a bracket with higher performance cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper. But the extra weight and complexity of a metal folding roof and four-wheel drive weighed the car down and made it non-competitive with those models.

It would seem Mitsubishi themselves weren’t sure where to aim with the 3000GT. The list of intended competitors is unusual and varied: Toyota Supra, Subaru SVX, Skyline GT-R, Honda NSX, Mazda Cosmo, and the Nissan 300ZX. With a list like that, it’s easy to see how such a Frankenstein super-sports-cabrio-4×4-touring vehicle came to be.

But where else are you going to find such a mixture of vehicle types, all rolled into one? I put forth this 3000GT as the very pinnacle of engineering and market bubble excess in the Japanese auto industry. For all the adjectives it has attached to its résumé, you won’t find another single vehicle that manages to combine all of them at once, and still look so damn good today.

Though it’s done 119,000 miles, you’d never know it since it looks brand new. You want a “sports car”? Here you go, for a very fair $22,000.

[Images via Craigslist]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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4 of 55 comments
  • THX1136 THX1136 on Mar 22, 2017

    Thanks for the article, Corey. A guy in town had a "plain jane" 3000 in white. Nice looking car and he took good care of it. It was sold a few years back. Now I have something to talk with him about - concerning what his was exactly - when I see him again.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Mar 22, 2017

      He should know a few things about this pinnacle version here, then. And if he doesn't you can tell him.

  • 3S Master 3S Master on Dec 30, 2017

    The "Truth about this car" is its one of the most technologically advanced and still one of the most exciting cars to drive and look at, ever. I own a 95 Red VR4 Spyder. One owner when I bought it. Still only 89k miles. Runs amazing. Had all major items serviced or replaced by Chai Morgan for almost nothing in cost (best 3s mechanic in world) ie water pump, timing belt etc. The car still needs new wheels and a few other basic wear items after 23 years but otherwise its awesome!! And it was not the same price as a vette back then nor would i ever pay 70k for a vette now. In todays money the 3000GT VR4 Spyder would retail for 105K new. Is it worth it new...hell yes. My VR4 Spyder is #478 out of only 877 total units built (ever) bt 95-96. One of the rarest cars on earth, especially if still running. Watch the youtube video on how the spyder was modified in CA before hitting dealer lots. Wow!! I would ask 35k all day (once finished and its still 100% original) and i would get it. Hardtop convertible, twin turbo, all wheel drive, red, all wheel steer, electronic suspension that works and room for 4 with groceries too if you wish. Tell mecwhere to sign especially for under 50k used. Boom. Supra's are reliable but played out, not safe, and frankly dont hold a candlestick to the 3S line. 3S=3000GT & Stealth. I also own '96 Stealth RT Twin Turbo #54 of 57 total units built, last production year, one of the rarest large mfg production cars of all time, imported for Dodge from Japan, 96 Stealth Rt Tt just like the Japan only GTO model, Z15A chassis (lighter, smaller) vs Z16A chassis on the 3000GT. The Stealth faster. No all wheel steer, no electronic suspension etc. just a prime AWD Twin turbo 6 speed getrag trans race car. Dodge did it right on its last year. Above all, these are some of the most exciting and balanced cars ever built. They dont go 200mph...nor do they need too. All you need and none you dont. Dont believe me, go drive a good one. 3S actually dependable too if maintained and maintaining isnt that hard nor is finding parts. Go buy one now and thank me in 25 years when they sell for 100k+ at auction to retired men who in the 90s had posters of these cats hanging on their wall. Im one of those men.. Ps-the 3000GT will soon return to production late 2018. :) So the old ones are getting ready to explode in value. Get em while cheap!! Happy hunting!!

    • John John on Nov 21, 2022

      Hi 3S Master. Took your advice and purchased a 95 Spyder. I'm in Naples Florida, and love the car. My issue is finding anyone that can service the top. Mine is malfunctioning. Is anyone around that still has knowledge of these hardtops? Thank you.


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