The late `80s and the early `90s were the golden age of Japanese sports cars. During that period, some of the world’s most influential sports cars were introduced, and Japan had finally ascended to match European machinery both in terms of technology and design. These days, everybody lusts after Honda NSX, Toyota Supra Mk IV, or Mazda Miata, but the truth is that Japanese manufacturers had many more exciting models. Here’s a hidden gem from the land of the Rising Sun – The Mitsubishi 3000 GT.
What is the Mitsubishi 3000 GT?
Even though today, Mitsubishi appears to be languishing, back in the late `80s, it was one of the most prominent Japanese brands. In order to showcase its technical achievements, promote its name beyond the economy car segment and compete with the rest of the JDM companies, Mitsubishi decided to introduce a sports car.
Not just any sports car mind; Mitsubishi wanted to build a technology-filled, performance-oriented, computer-controlled and powerful GT car that would punch above its weight and show the world what they were capable of. Introduced in 1990, the Mitsubishi 3000 GT was far more complex and advanced than any other Japanese sports car at the time. From the beginning, it was clear that Mitsubishi’s engineers accomplished their goal.
Facts and figures
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that the base 3000 GT came with very advanced features. From the beginning, Mitsubishi offered this car with full-time all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, active aerodynamics (controllable front and rear spoiler), electronically controlled suspension and active exhaust. Even today, these are very advanced features but imagine how far ahead this model was 30 years ago! Under the hood was a 3.0-liter V6 engine with 24 valves, mounted transversally, with 225 HP in base trim. The first models had signature pop-up headlights and only came as a coupe. However, the best version was the 3000 GT VR4 (or Twin Turbo in Japan), which had 300 HP and a 0 to 60 mph time of just over 5 seconds.
For the early `90s, those were supercar numbers. Over the years, Mitsubishi tweaked the engine, and at the end of the production, the VR4 version developed 320 HP. The car was available with a 5-speed manual in early models, and a 6-speed in later versions; an automatic was also available. In 1994, Mitsubishi introduced a slightly restyled model with open headlights and several design tweaks but with more or less the same mechanics. In 1995 the 3000 GT convertible was introduced featuring a complicated folding metal roof and sold in limited quantities.
Mitsubishi 3000 GT was known for its technical superiority, but that also became its biggest weakness. Simply, such advanced automobile was also very complicated and expensive to maintain. Even though the Japanese tried their best to make it as durable and dependable as everything else on the road, its complicated components and systems sometimes proved to be a handful.
It was often the case that owners could live with a broken active aerodynamics system, but if the four-wheel-steering failed, they parked the car due to high repair costs. The main thing when shopping for this model is to check if everything works properly. In most cases, 3000 GT owners are model fanatics that meticulously maintain their cars, and those are exactly the guys you want to buy the car from.
The other big problem of the 3000 GT is the weight. A car loaded with so much tech simply cannot be light, and an average 3000 GT tips the scale at 1.8 tons, which is a lot for a `90s sports car.
When shopping for 3000 GT, you are probably going to encounter several different names for basically the same car. The Mitsubishi 3000 GT was the name used on the global market, and Mitsubishi GTO was the name used only for the Japanese market. However, in America, Mitsubishi sold the 3000 GT, but Chrysler, which helped co-develop the car sold its version called the Dodge Stealth. The Stealth was mechanically identical but had slightly different front and rear end to differentiate from Mitsubishi.
The top of the line version, comparable to 3000 GT VR4, was called Stealth R/T and this model only came as left-hand-drive. Of course, do not confuse Mitsubishi GTO with Mitsubishi FTO, which is also a sports coupe but with a much smaller engine, front-wheel drive, and less advanced mechanics.
During a nine-year production run, Mitsubishi made just over 151,000 cars (3000 GT/GTO/Stealth), including only over 1,500 convertibles.
In contrast to the Honda NSX or especially the Supra Mk IV, which are already out of reach for your average enthusiast, 3000 GT prices are still pretty affordable. Currently, prices are all over the place because the model is not widely recognized as modern classic and sought-after. This means that you can pick a tired, non-turbo example for just under £3000.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should since those examples will undoubtedly give you a lot of trouble and require expensive maintenance. The well-cared and nice examples are around £10,000, but we suggest you stay away from modified cars which are tempting but often not as reliable.
Should you buy One?
If you are a Japanese car fan and you want a perfect example of the golden age of Japanese sports cars, then definitely, yes. Although not as popular as some of the contemporaries, the 3000 GT/GTO or Stealth is still fantastic value for the money and probably the best and most advanced car Mitsubishi ever built. With all technical components, systems, and design, the 3000 GT is still quite modern and can be considered definitive future collectable or a sound investment.