We arrive at the end of our Dodge Colt journey today. Colt started in 1971 as a cooperative program to provide Mitsubishi with a sales outlet in North America, and Chrysler with a compact and fuel-efficient car it didn’t have to design or build. Over the years the Colt evolved with the needs of the consumer and branched out into several different body styles.
Eventually, the tides shifted. Mitsubishi established their own dealerships in the United States (but not Canada) and started selling identical cars as were on Dodge/Plymouth dealer lots. Then, as Eagle came into being it also needed product to sell. Chrysler turned Eagle into its de facto outlet for imports and Mitsubishi cooperative products: Colts of regular and wagon persuasion became Eagles called Vista and Summit, in addition to their Dodge and Plymouth twins.
Last time we left our tale it was the dawn of 1993, and Colts were badged at Eagle dealers as a new generation of Summit. The Vista Wagon name was dead, now called Summit Wagon. Dodge, Plymouth, and Eagle dealers had an exciting new Colt as well! But it didn’t last long.
We rejoin the world of the Colt today, specifically the lineup on sale at various Dodge, Plymouth, and now Eagle dealers in the United States and Canada in the early Nineties. The addition of Eagle to Chrysler’s brand portfolio for the 1988 model year had a direct effect on the future of Colt: Almost immediately the Colt sedan was drafted onto the Eagle team, where it became the more expensive Summit.
Remaining as Colts in the US in 1990 were the hatchback and the dated Colt Vista and wagon. Canadians were offered the contemporary Colt sedan and hatchback, while the Colt Vista was sold over the border as the Eagle Vista Wagon. The Vista Wagon was accompanied in Canada by the old Colt sedan from the mid-Eighties, branded as Eagle Vista sedan and offered only as a very basic vehicle. We pick up at the beginning of the 1991 model year.
When we last left off in the tale of Dodge, Plymouth, and Eagle’s various Colt branding adventures, it was the late Eighties. After a wave of modernization in 1984-1985 where the first Colt sedan appeared and the range extended into the larger and very forward-thinking Colt Vista, Mitsubishi got in on the Colt action and sold a hatchback with its OEM diamond star up front and Mirage lettering on the back. As the Nineties approached, it was time for a new generation of Colts, and more options from a hot new brand: Eagle.
By the early Eighties Chrysler was deep into its product partnership with Mitsubishi, which in North America was most visible via the mutually beneficial Colt. A lineup of rebadged Mitsubishis, the Colt expanded from its rear-drive beginnings in 1971, morphing into a rear- and front-drive mix by the end of the Seventies. In the earliest part of the Eighties, the line was consolidated into a single front-drive hatchback model. Around the middle of the decade, it was time for a fifth-generation Colt and some more lineup expansion. But this time, Dodge and Plymouth dealers wouldn’t be the only ones selling a Colt.
After Mitsubishi vehicles made their way to Dodge and Plymouth dealerships as the Colt in 1971, Chrysler expanded the fledgling model’s lineup quickly. Nine years after its introduction, the third generation Colt offerings (two different Mitsubishi models) were being discontinued. Accompanying the old Colts on the lot were all-new ones, though old and new alike were sold as ’79 model year cars. It’s Twin Stick time.
Chrysler had its first involvement with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in 1971. With a considerable stock purchase by Chrysler, the two companies’ long-lived captive import cooperation began. Introduced immediately to Americans in 1971 as the Dodge Colt, the nameplate was on its second generation by 1977. We pick up in the middle of that year, as third-gen Colts started to arrive from Japan. In the unusual arrangement, brand new (and differently sized) Colts were sold alongside second-gen Colts during the same model year.
For over 20 years Chrysler offered various Mitsubishi offerings as rebadged captive import vehicles in the North American market. For a handful of years, a Colt at your Chrysler-Dodge-Plymouth-Jeep-Eagle-DeSoto-AMC dealer was the exact same one you’d buy at the Mitsubishi dealer across the street. Let’s take some time and sort out the badge swapping history of Colt.
There’s a lot of wiggle room in what constitutes a concept vehicle. While they frequently foreshadow production models, there’s nothing stopping a company from gluing together some balsa wood, throwing a lawn chair on top, and telling the press it’s scheduled for production next year. It doesn’t have to be a working car, it doesn’t have to accurately represent real-world technologies, and it doesn’t need to be taken all that seriously by the media when that’s the case.
In fact, this author doesn’t even find it particularly useful to reallocate meaningful childhood memories to free up the room needed to recall some minor detail of a fantastical vehicle that will never be manufactured. Which is why I wasn’t totally surprised when Associate Editor extraordinaire Steph Willems reminded me that Mitsubishi’s e-Evolution Concept debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show last year.
But here we are again, this time in LA, and the brand is literally pulling the sheet off it again while everyone pretends it’s new.
Hunting for interesting junkyard Mitsubishis has become more difficult during the last five years or so, as the Cordias, Tredias, and Sigmas have mostly disappeared, leaving endless fleet-spec 21st-century Galants and Outlanders plus the occasional weird Chryslerbishi.
One of the few bright spots is the Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally Edition, an econo-commuter that looked quick but had a tough time catching Tercel EZs. Here’s one in a Phoenix self-service yard.
Mitsubishi’s sedan offering in the United States may very likely begin and end with its Mirage ( which Mark says they didn’t ruin for 2017) as the company builds more and more crossovers to sell.
“We are strong in SUVs and four-wheel drives. And that is what we would like to focus on as core models in the U.S. market. We have changed direction,” CEO Osamu Masuko told Automotive News. “We are going to allocate more resources to the areas where we are strong in the U.S.”
Mitsubishi will announce a mid-sized crossover to fit between its Outlander and Outlander Sport, which are both due for a redesign in 2017 and 2019 respectively. The automaker is also betting big on electrification: all of its crossovers will either offer a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric version.
Judging from the comments on my Beetle review, some of you clearly think I’m using this whole “shattered leg” thing as an excuse to just phone it in until I can obtain a prescription for Dilaudid and start writing the authentic Hunter S. Thompson psychedelia once again. Do not worry, my little kittens. Papa has heard your cries and I will do right by you in every particular. I have plenty of time to do so, since my injuries will keep me from having sex for at least four days, possibly five. Which for me is a long time, because as you know I like to get down whenever I can.
Let us begin thus: Yesterday, I was relaxing in pre-op, waiting for a bunch of screws made from the same material as my IWC Ingenieur Titanium to be placed in my second-favorite tibia, listening to “Last Train Home” from Metheny’s first “Brazilian” record, 1987’s Still Life Talking, when the young lady next to me said “Your phone’s buzzing. Maybe it’s important.” I recognized the number: a dedicated TTAC reader and occasional contributor with a definite fondness for Mitsubishis.
“I’d better take this,” I said, waving off the surgery team.
Chrysler hadn’t been making the K Platform for long before they branched it out into the bewildering K Family Tree that confuses everybody to this day. Iacocca’s Chrysler-saving (or demise-postponing, depending on your point of view) platform gave us both the worst car in human history and a Dodged-down version of the swanky LeBaron GTS. Here’s an example of the latter that I saw in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.
At the same time Chrysler was selling heavily evolved— if that’s the word— Simcas, you could walk into the same showrooms that sold Turismos and Omnis and buy yourself a badge-engineered Mitsubishi Lancer. By the late 1980s, Mitsubishi itself was selling these cars (badged as Mirages), which meant that car shoppers could choose between three more or less identical versions of the same car, all priced within it-doesn’t-matter distance of one another: Dodge Colt, Plymouth Colt, and Mitsubishi Mirage. The owner of this Plymouth Colt, however, decided that he or she wanted to go all JDM and convert this car into a Lancer (on a shoestring budget).
I review fairly few new cars, but when I head to the American Irony 24 Hours of LeMons race at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, I feel like I need to take on a country club sort of approach. That means I need the appropriate press car for an official at the race that feels like Caddy Day at the Bushwood Country Club pool. In 2011, I tried to get Chrysler to get me an Avenger R/T, because who wouldn’t want the fallback rental-car Dodge with 283 front-drive horsepower? Instead, I got the Challenger SRT8 392, which was fun but certainly no Avenger R/T. For the 2012 American Irony race, I decided that what I needed was the nice version of Mitsubishi’s contribution to the current rental-car gene pool: the Galant SE. What I got, thanks to Mitsubishi axing the Galant (though not cold blasting it) and generally acknowledging that the Evo is the only big Mitsubishi blip left on Americans’ car-awareness radar, was this white ’13 Evolution MR. Hey, that’s what I’ve got, that’s what I’ll review.