By on December 7, 2020

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler’s run of selling rebadged Mitsubishis began way back in 1970, when the rear-wheel-drive Colt Galant arrived here for the 1971 model year. Those cars sold very well in North America, with sales continuing through 1978. After that, Colt badges went onto the front-wheel-drive Lancer Fiore (later sold here as the Mirage). Here’s one of those first-year FWD Colts, found in a Denver-area yard in nice condition and equipped with the extremely cool Twin-Stick dual-range transmission.

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, gearshift levers - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMitsubishi built the Twin-Stick for Dodge/Plymouth Colts, Plymouth Champs, Mitsubishi Cordias, and Mitsubishi Tredias in the North American market from the late 1970s through the middle 1980s.

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, Twin-Stick handle - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Twin-Stick (known as the Super Shift in Japan) was an overdrive unit inside a four-speed manual transmission, giving the driver eight forward and two reverse speeds. In practice, most Twin-Stick pilots would keep the car in the low range until the top of fourth gear on the highway, then switch to the high range. Various names were used for the Twin-Stick ranges over the years; this car has the POWER/ECONOMY labels, while others might have had P/E or even E and a star. I still find Twin-Sticks in junkyards, but the numbers are dwindling.

Last year, I harvested a Twin-Stick lever from an ’84 Colt and used it as the basis for a beer tap handle, which I donated to a South Denver burger joint. That’s how cool the Twin-Stick is (to car geeks).

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, AM engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 1.6-liter 4G32 engine in the ’79 Colt made 80 horsepower, which was decent for an econobox of the time.

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, MCA-Jet sticker - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMCA-Jet was an emission-control system with a small second intake valve for each cylinder, causing more swirl of the fuel/air mix in the combustion chambers and more complete fuel burning. It didn’t work as well as Honda’s more advanced CVCC system, but it was a lot less complex.

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Bordello Red interior still looks pretty good at age 41.

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, AM radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDo you think modern car audio systems are too complicated? Check out the simplicity of this Mitsubishi AM-only radio.

1979 Dodge Colt in Colorado junkyard, with Ford Granada - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Malaise is strong in this yard, with a Granada right next door to the Colt.

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35 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Dodge Colt with Twin-Stick Transmission...”


  • avatar
    cardave5150

    I always liked these cars, especially when they were new. I haven’t seen one on the streets of northern Illinois in at least twenty years! Something about the angle of that first picture, this Dodge Colt looks somehow related to the AMC Pacer!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    AM radio only….but no CONELRAD markers at 640 and 1240…

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Those markings actually disappeared by the mid ’60s.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        My dads 62 Impala and Bel Aire had the CONELRAD on the radio dial. The Impala had the push button radio while the Bel Aire had the base manual tuning one. FM wasn’t available yet on those models. My friends 65 Corvair still had the CONELRAD on it. I think they were gone by the late 60’s.

        • 0 avatar
          TR4

          Conelrad was actually discontinued in 1963. It is quite likely that some older design radios with the markings were used in auto production for a couple years later.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CONELRAD

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      And is it just me or are the knobs backwards? I remember the volume knob on the left, tuning on the right.
      Unless this is a JDM head unit for right-hand drive cars?

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Since the Colt/Champ was a captive import the radio was the JDM unit. A number of Toyota’s and Nissan/Datsuns were similar though the later models had the tuner and volume next to each other on the head unit.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I wonder if Twin Stick Pappy had one of these?
    ;-)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mitsubishi has/had a knack for cool names. “Twin-Stick” and “MCA-Jet” were two of them.

    No matter how awesome your muscle car was, a Twin-Stick Colt always held a certain unapproachable coolness that no other car had.

    Mitsubishi was certainly doing its part to Save the Manuals!

    • 0 avatar

      Mitsubishi also coined “Silent Shaft” for their engines with counter-balancing shafts that smoothed out the vibrations in their larger 4-cylinder engines (2.5L). Or maybe that was an 80’s porn star?

  • avatar
    marc

    Does anyone know what the “SW” means on old radios. My mom’s old Toyotas had these markers. When I search on Google, it always thinks I am looking up Shortwave radios, and I am sure that is not the case. Thoughts?

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      SW= “switch”, i.e. on/off, i.e. power switch.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      To me it looks like a rudimentary turny-button thing with a collar that can be turned to change the function from volume to “tone” changes. I confess I’ve not spent a great deal of time on the AM band and don’t know if that would make sense. By the time I started driving CD players were starting to take over for tape decks and FM was the primary band for over-the-air radio.

  • avatar
    JMII

    With 80 HP on tap “power” mode was a bit misleading huh?

    Never knew there was such a thing. For a little economy hatchback this was a pretty trick solution, basically a hi/low setting for each gear.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      A friend of mine bought an ’84 Colt new. Pretty basic (four-speed, no Twin Stick, but a/c and an AM-FM). They were pretty light cars, and you could break the front wheels loose with just the right clutch action.

      Speaking of clutches, I had to replace the clutch cable for him once. It took all of about five minutes to change, and IIRC, I didn’t even need tools. Just unhook it at the clutch pedal (and pop off a clip, I think), open the hood, pull back on the lever coming out of the bellhousing to get a ball or barrel (can’t remember which) out of the notch in the clutch lever, then pull the grommet and cable out through the firewall. Installation was the reverse.

    • 0 avatar
      bufguy

      80 hp was pretty respectable in 1980 especially for a car that was probably around 1800 lbs…a comparable 1980 VW Scirocco with its 1588 cc fuel injected engine generated only 76 hp and an 80 Accord had only 72 hp and was a few hundred pounds heavier…The Colt was considered one of the sportier subcompacts of its time

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Never drove one, but the car mags liked these. Light, handled OK, decent styling, and they made the most of those 80 ponies. And significantly cheaper than a Golf or a Honda I believe.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The 79 Colt was all new replacing the previous RWD model that helped keep Chrysler afloat during the oil embargoes.
    There was a turbo version as well. An early hot hatch. One of the automotive magazines called it a rocket powered phone booth.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The Plymouth version of these was called the Champ. I had one. By using both sticks, you had practical access to six speeds. If I remember correctly, the sequence was 1st low, 2nd low, 2nd high, 3rd low, 4th low, 4th high. You went from 2nd high to 3rd low by grasping the left stick between thumb and forefinger, the right between ring and little fingers and moving them together. 3rd high and 4th low were almost identical so it didn’t matter which one you used.

    The Champ didn’t last as long as most of my vehicles. By 60k miles, it was burning oil and down on compression. A kid ran a red light, caught the left rear corner and turned its plan form from a rectangle into an irregular pentagon. It was fortunate he hit the car that far back. Otherwise, my wife, who was driving, would have been badly injured and might not have survived.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    How did we survive without cup holders?

    And just when did Mitsu lose its mojo? For decades they made competitive vehicles with the occasional ‘home run’.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The twin stick lived on past the Colt. When Hyundai wanted to get into building cars the Colt was the basis for the Excel. However Hyundai wanted a proper 5 sp transmission. Mitsubishi didn’t have one but the twin stick was in the bin of left overs. The manual lever was replaced with a vacuum motor and shifting the lever into 5th put the car back in 4th and activated a switch which in turn activated a vacuum solenoid that shifted into Economy range.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Talk about a Rube Goldberg solution!

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yeah and it wasn’t as simple as I made it out to be. I had a customer that had one that she said “5th gear doesn’t seem to be working” which is how I found out about this mess. I couldn’t figure out exactly what all went on between the switch and the solenoid and I eventually hooked the switch directly to the solenoid to get it working again. In hindsight I’m guessing there was a relay somewhere, but this was back when the only way you were getting a wiring diagram for something like this was to overpay considerably for a factory shop manual.

        I had another customer who’s transmission ended up in a neutral position between economy and power. He had wanted to replace the PVC valve and thought the check valve supplying the shifting mechanism was the PVC valve. He did realize that it was not the same as the new part, after he got it out. The problem was that since it is a check valve it has to be installed the correct way and he of course put it in the wrong way.

        Also he wasn’t forth coming with that information, once I dug that out of him, thanks to too much time trying to get that first one to work right it only took a couple of seconds to fix the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Never knew that. Awesome.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The sub-100 horsepower models in the 1970s and 1980s were actually pretty quick with the manual, if you knew how to shift. The RWD pickups imported before the chicken tax kicked in had very usable low end torque with the manual.

  • avatar
    Travis

    I’ve seen these around a plenty in the early to mid 80’s. They dwindled away in the Mid Atlantic. Honestly, Mitsubishi had fairly decent looking vehicles as opposed to some of brand “H”,”T”, and “D” offering. The next gen Colt I can attest to actually driving. A friend’s 87 3-door with 4 speed manual transmission. Definitely hauled the mail if you drove it like you meant it. No power steering, but did fine. Awesome on gas.. Got the job done nicely. If they still built em like it and sold em I’d buy one now!

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I actually know what this is, because in the early 90’s a kid at my first job had one of these, same color, and tried very hard to convince me it was some kind of sports car in power mode. Let me see if I can remember some of the interesting cars that my peers were driving then (all teens, as was I).

    Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel
    ’68 Camaro.
    1978 Chrysler Lebaron coupe (that was me)
    1989 Dodge Shadow
    1984 Camaro
    1990 S-10 Chevy Blazer (Ran into that guy in the early 2000’s and he was still driving it, but it was beyond rough by that point)
    Volkswagen Beetle with a two speed and no clutch. When you touched the stick it went into neutral.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    My parents bought an ’80 Plymouth Colt. It had the three speed automatic. All things considered, it did okay with that tranny.
    Giorgetto Giugiaro was the stylist for this car.
    The motor had some technical interest. The MCA jet system that had a tiny second intake valve. From Wikipedia….
    “The MCA-Jet system has a small third valve separate from the intake and exhaust valves. Separate passages in the intake manifold feed each MCA-Jet valve. Since these passages are smaller than the main intake manifold passages, the air/fuel mixture must move faster. When the faster moving air/fuel mixture from the MCA-Jet valve hits the slower moving air/fuel mixture from the intake valve, a strong air swirling effect occurs that promotes more complete combustion. With MCA-Jet it was found that stable combustion could be obtained even with large amounts of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), NOx could be reduced, and combustion improved.”

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      You can tell that I skipped the pictures with captions to make my comment. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      From the same Wikipedia entry:
      “With the advent of 4-valve-per-cylinder engines, **manufacturers typically design the camshaft(s) to open one intake valve slightly before the other to create a swirling effect**. [This has made the MCA-Jet system obsolete.]”

      (I may be the only person here to have never considered this aspect of 4-valve designs.)

  • avatar

    I remember when these came out. Joan and I stopped at a Dodge dealer and spent some time with one that was on the lot. It was a cute little thing, especially the high-trim version with the aluminum wheels and upgraded interior. The twin-stick manual transmission seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t ready to give up my big V8 Buick Century for one, but I always had a place in my heart for them.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    The mechanically-shifted overdrive wasn’t all that much different than the “electric” Laycock overdrives on a lot of British cars, Volvos, and I think even a few Datsuns from about 1960 through the 1980s. Those all used an electric circuit to allow (or prevent) the overdrive unit to switch between high and low, but only when you were in fourth gear. The point of the whole thing was there were all these tried-and-true four speed gearboxes and it seemed expedient to attach a two speed gearbox to the tail end of the transmission and give the car a better highway gear. The Laycock units, as many gearheads know, used a little electric solenoid and shifted a bit like an automatic transmission changes gear ratios.

    Different way to skin a cat. I’m sure that a few people in the British car industry considered a separate gear handle but chose the electrical solution instead. I’m sure that some people at Mitsubishi asked why they shouldn’t just copy that system, but for whatever reasons they went with the split shift system we see in this Colt.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Liked – “Last year, I harvested a Twin-Stick lever from an ’84 Colt and used it as the basis for a beer tap handle, which I donated to a South Denver burger joint. That’s how cool the Twin-Stick is (to car geeks).”

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