Rare Rides: A Beige Plymouth Champ - American Malaise From 1980

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a beige plymouth champ american malaise from 1980

Rare Rides has featured a couple of Plymouths before, both of which were sporty and boasted two doors. Today’s Plymouth also has two doors, but is perhaps not quite as performance oriented as its brethren on these pages.

Hailing from 1980, it’s a super Malaisey Champ hatchback.

As most of you were already thinking, the Champ wasn’t really a Plymouth at all — it was a Mitsubishi. For their first three generations, the Mitsubishi Galant and Lancer models were sold as Dodge Colts and occasionally as the Plymouth Cricket. It all started back in 1971, when Chrysler brought the Galant to North America as a captive import. Small, fuel efficient cars were all the rage at the time, and became even more important as the oil crisis of 1973 set in. If you were alive, perhaps you remember it?

Offerings were always in coupe, sedan, or station wagon formats throughout the Seventies, until the death of the second-generation model after 1978. That particular year, the Colt’s product offerings branched in two very different directions. A new wagon joined the lineup for ’78, and, though badged as a Colt, it was a Mitsubishi Galant Sigma underneath. Coupe and sedan versions for ’78 were Lancers. This arrangement lasted exactly one model year, as in 1979, the fourth-generation Dodge Colt greeted Americans. This time it was a rebadged Mirage rather than a Lancer, and was front-wheel drive. The rear-drive wagon sold alongside the front-drive Colt for 1980 and 1981, when it was replaced by the homegrown Dodge Aries K wagon.

For the first few years, the three-door hatchback was the only body style on offer, powered by a singular engine: a 1.4-liter inline-four producing 70 horsepower. Critically, manual transmission Colt models were awarded with the nation’s highest EPA ratings for their 1979 debut. Sales started strong — Dodge sold over 60,000 the first year, with sales increasing to over 80,000 for the next two years. The transmission lineup included two manuals and one automatic. Notable was the super-efficient Twin Stick manual. It had a two-speed transfer case, translating into a total of eight forward speeds, and two reverse ones. The automatic was a trusty three-speed TorqueFlite.

Revisions came in 1982, as a five-door version joined the lineup, power figures for the engines fell, and a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine was available only with the automatic transmission. The Champ name was a short-lived one, as the model was renamed Colt after the 1982 model year. Dodge would go on to have three more generations of Colts, running all the way through 1994. We featured the interesting five-door Colt Vista here previously.

Today’s Rare Ride was located in Oregon and was snapped up very quickly. Twin Stick Champs are thin on the ground, and this particular example had just over 50,000 miles.

[Images: seller]

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2 of 37 comments
  • HotPotato HotPotato on Apr 09, 2019

    Very clean styling, great visibility. Nice looking car. The generation after looked even better. I love the idea of a twin-stick in something more the size of a Smart Car than an 18-wheeler. How are you supposed to use it? I assume "low ranges in the city, high ranges on the highway," not 1L - 1H - 2L - 2H - 3L - 3H - 4L - 4H like an 18-wheeler. Has anyone driven one that can say?

  • JimC2 JimC2 on Apr 16, 2019

    "The automatic was a trusty three-speed TorqueFlite." If wiki is to be believed, this was a slightly downsized 904... that's A LOT of transmission for these little cars! I can't imagine that helped their gas mileage. (The 904 was originally made to be the "small" torqueflite for the Slant Sixes and the 273/318 V8s.)

  • FreedMike If it were a GLI, it’d be a decent project car. But at the end of the day you have a base Jetta, and those weren’t all that great. Speaking of project VWs - when I was living at my old house a few years ago, one of my neighbors had an OG 1983 GTI sitting on his lawn. Lord, did I want to take that car home.
  • Dukeisduke "Gouging" - lol. California's gas prices are driven by a combination of the highest state gasoline tax in the US (66.98 cents per gallon) and the CARB-mandated California-only boutique fuel blends.
  • Astigmatism Honestly I'm surprised it's not higher. My parents bought two garage spots in Boston for $250k in the 1980s. When I worked in midtown a decade ago, garage spots near my building rented for $500 a month, which would support a $125k mortgage.Places get expensive when lots of people want to live there.
  • 28-Cars-Later As much as the Orwellian nature concerns me I must say to "add a turbo" as it were to net roughly 20% more bhp for $1,195 doesn't sound too bad. In days of old the V6 -> V8 upgrade was upwards of 20-30% of the base model cost.
  • Nivya Typical Manhattan parking spot price usually ranges anywhere between $15 to $75 for two hours. However, there are plenty of alternative parking options that provide even cheaper rates.