By on August 17, 2020

1988 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler sold various Mitsubishis badged as Dodge or Plymouth Colts from the 1971 model year all the way through 1994.

Here’s a Mirage-based fifth-generation Colt in California, the final model year for the Colt station wagon, and it sports both a five-speed manual transmission and the very rare all-wheel-drive powertrain.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAmerican car buyers could get a Mitsubishi Chariot MPV with Colt Vista badging for the 1983-1991 model years, but the true Colt wagons never sold very well over here. 1988 was the last year for the North American Colt wagon.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, hatch badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe four-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive distinction hadn’t been established by automotive-industry marketing wizards by 1988, but this Colt has a genuine center-diff-equipped AWD system that — unlike the earlier generation of Japanese 4WD cars — didn’t require the driver to switch to front-wheel-drive for dry pavement.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, steering wheel - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy the early 1990s, North Americans could buy cars made by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Subaru with power going to all four wheels all the time, no driver decisions needed. Subaru was a little late to that party, while Audi/Volkswagen and American Motors got into the all-wheel-drive game much earlier.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, hatch badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsA car like this would have made a lot of sense in the icy Sierras, and I found this car in a yard just about exactly halfway between Carson City and San Francisco. Michael Hohl Automotive is still around, all these years later.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, instrument cluster - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNot quite 200,000 miles, but close enough.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Colt was very affordable, and few Colt purchasers felt willing to squander extra money on an automatic transmission. This attitude changed around the time the Neon replaced the Colt, especially when the price of slushboxes plummeted.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOf course, the original buyer of this Colt did prove willing to pay for air conditioning, so maybe the five-speed was selected due to personal preference, not Thin Wallet Syndrome.

1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Wagon in California junkyard, ashtray - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsPerhaps this car was a runner at the end, but the intense stale-Marlboro stench would have put off most members of the very small pool of used-car shoppers willing to drive a cramped three-pedal vehicle with 31 years under its belt.

Disappointingly, Chrysler didn’t push the “Cyclone” branding for Mitsubishi engines over here.

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16 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Colt DL 4WD Wagon...”

  • avatar

    Smoker’s cars are so nasty on the inside ;-)

    It’s interesting that small AWD wagons/crossovers aren’t really a new idea, they just took awhile to catch on

  • avatar

    Ashtray full of cigarettes – Check. Monster Sticker on said ashtray – check, Little Trees Black Ice – Nope. I guess you can’t have it all.

  • avatar

    Someone save this and put a DSM 2.0 Turbo 4G63 in it. These Colts are the the ultimate sleeper build. Right up there with a Coyote 5.0 in a 1978 Fairmont.

  • avatar

    For me, the best part is the taillights! Great design. I would have grabbed those for my man cave. The straight edge ruled the 80s!

    Maybe the buyer wanted the 5 speed to deal with the mountains, probably better than the slushbox.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      That’s funny, my first reaction was, “God I always HATED those taillights!”

      I don’t know what about them rubs me the wrong way, but it’s almost like the reaction people have to seeing pictures of holes – Trypophobia.

  • avatar

    My parents had a Mitsubishi Lancer sedan of the same generation when they first moved back to Germany around 1990. Solid little car. Nothing fancy (and certainly not filled with ick like this one)…

  • avatar

    I can almost smell the “old car smell” when I look at that ashtray… used cars after a thorough interior detail (scrub everything, hose off the upholstery with air freshener), the faint smell of a previous owner’s nicotine habit. Hehehe

    Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing out on!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    TTAC’s Rare Rides has featured the vehicles that I cross shopped when before deciding on a Honda Civic ‘Wagovan’. The larger ‘Vista’ had available 3rd row seating and also was available in AWD. Rebadged Mitsu wagons/people movers of this era did however have a fairly decent reputation.

  • avatar

    Put in a contemporary engine and I would buy this car today. Of course, I bought the hatchback version of this car back in the day…

  • avatar

    No center diff on these, they used a viscous coupling in the middle of the driveshaft. So yeah they “4WD” eventually wore out as the seals failed and the goo oozed out. They more or less worked as a slip then grip system allowing some wheel spin from the front before the fluid heated up and started transferring more power to the rear. So yeah give me the in and out boxes in the Tercel or Subaru.

  • avatar

    Photobombs: the 1st gen Chrysler 200 held together with duct tape is noted, as is the 2nd gen Concorde with the probable blown head gasket 2.7 V6.

  • avatar

    Imported for Dodge & Chrysler actually sounds like a good idea as together they have just enough models to form a 5 person basketball team.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Here’s Motorweek’s review of the Colt Wagon:

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