It’s a handsome and dramatic-looking car, and it backed that up with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 under that long bonnet. And it backed all that up with a ton of tech, including four-wheel drive and even four-wheel steering. But for a nation more used to Shoguns from Mitsubishi it seemed an odd one, and it never sold so well in the UK. Not so in Japan.
Known there as the GTO, it sold handsomely, helped perhaps by the fact that you could get it with less tech and lower-powered engines if you wanted. Japanese sales are relevant because some of those right-hand drive cars have made it over here over the years, to increase the number on the market – although it’s still a rare sight on UK roads.
That might make it attractive to some, something enhanced by the standard GT spec. It had leather trim to the sporty cabin, pop-up headlights, active spoilers front and rear, electronically controlled damping and, under the bonnet, that 282bhp turbo V6.
The pop-up headlights disappeared in the 1995 facelift, after the 1992 launch. The facelift also added another cog to the original five-speed manual gearbox, but changes weren’t huge. In 1999 Mitsubishi threw in the towel.
The Japanese GTO model had more attention lavished on it, as it had simply sold better. Instead of that one facelift it had three, and you’ll notice them because often you can find them without a turbocharger, or with an auto transmission among the other differences.
One difference was that the GT got better underbody protection but the result was that it simply trapped salt and water, so the GTO is usually in a better state, even though both had a galvanised body. The law of unintended consequences fully on display there.
Like so many cars at this sort of stage, they’re actually becoming more collectable, so if you’re interested then delaying is not in your favour. Generally, all Mitsubishis have a good reputation for reliability and that definitely applies here. However, there are a few things to watch out for.
You really must check the timing belt has been changed on schedule, and check for black/grey exhaust smoke which indicates worn piston rings, or white smoke which shows a failed head gasket.
Whether manual or auto, check the gears work well, particularly second. If you find an auto, check the transmission fluid and leave it alone if it’s too low or too dark. Check the transfer case fluid while you’re at it.
The GT will be more expensive than the GTO on a comparable basis, so check exactly what it is you’re buying. A GTO chassis number starts with Z15A or Z16A, while the GT’s begins with JMAMNZ16A. So, having deduced what it is in front of you, what should you pay?
As we mentioned earlier, prices can start from as little as £2000, which will be an early non-turbo auto with close to 100k on the clocks. At about £3500 you’re starting to see some decent GTO turbos with manual boxes, although possibly second time round the clock.
Starting at about £5000 you’ll find good-value GTOs from about 1995, the Mk2 turbo hopefully, with average mileage. Up that to £6000 or more and you’ll find really good Mk 1 GTOs with lower mileage.
Go as far as £7000 to £9000 and you’ll be rewarded with a Mk 1 GTO in great condition with low mileage.