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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

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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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.)

  • Kars This article was about Ford not Tesla - you are clearly confused.
  • Ollicat Those are individual charging stations vs entire gas stations that have 8 - 16 pumps. And gas stations take 3 minutes to fill vs 30 min to hours for a charging station. And gas pumps are much more likely to be working vs charging statins. Nice try with more propaganda though.
  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?