When I began searching for another car a number of months ago, I knew only two very basic qualities that I was looking for in a potential purchase. The car needed to be fast, and it needed to be unique. With these ideals in mind, I set about searching online for something that fit into these seemingly shallow constructs.
What ended up catching my eye was most certainly – by the pictures at least – what I’d been looking for.
A 1997 Mitsubishi GTO MR. I contacted the owner of the vehicle and organised an inspection and test drive. Not too much driving was needed to know that this was the one for me.
The GTO has quite the impressive set of numbers, particularly for a car not far south of 20 years old. The car features Mitsubishi’s patented 6G72 “Cyclone Series” 3L V6, transversely mounted in the front, with a twin turbo and twin inter cooler system attached. Putting the power down with a full time all wheel drive system, an advertised power output of 206KW, testing has revealed power closer to 240KW, and 427N.m of torque (70N.m more then the Skyline GT-R, a competitor to the GTO), the car feels like a rocket with a bit of weight on the right foot. I’ve timed the car 0-100km on multiple occasions and not once has the car taken longer then 5.5 seconds to reach the common highway pace.
Indeed, the application of a twin turbo configuration is of great benefit to the driver in terms of power delivery for heavy footed driving, and lighter paced driving in town. The turbines spool quickly, so a spirited drive in the hills doesn’t mean wringing it’s neck, rather you can simply enjoy the solid power the car possesses in the lower-mid rev range push you over any hill, or around any corner.
In town, power delivery isn’t quite as smooth as the boost builds so quickly, but on the plus side, you only need to be very light footed to avoid the feeling of being pushed back in your seat for a wild ride. The GTO is very much a tamable beast in that respect.
In town there still are pitfalls though. Namely the GTO’s immense width. Whilst on the open road, the car’s girth is reassuring, solidifying and probably gives further aid to cornering stability, in clustered city streets you’re always fearing that you’re about to side swipe a parked car, that the lanes aren’t wide enough, and that you won’t be able to fit in the parking bay at the mall. The issue of parking the car is exacerbated by the wide turning circle, and to an extent you need to re-learn how to navigate tight car parks.
At the end of the day, you aren’t always going to want to go on an adrenalin fueled run when you’re travelling. A heavy foot in the GTO will have you coughing up more at the bowser, and sports cars can have a habit of being uncomfortable on long trips.
Mitsubishi has luckily answered these problems with this large and in charge grand tourer. Equipped with a six speed getrag gearbox, you can calmly cruise along the highway at 100kmph with the tachometer needle hovering firmly at 2000RPM. This makes long trips reasonably economical, using just over half of its 75L fuel capacity across a 400KM trip.
Inside, you can see that Mitsubishi has gone to the moon and back to make the driver comfortable. The driver’s seat is fully electric, and you can almost mould it to your body. The front and rear of the driver’s seat can be made to rise and fall, the seat itself to move back, forward, up and down, the back to be firmer or softer, and the sides to squeeze you tightly or relax – all at the touch of a simple control. Added to this is a fully electric climate control system complete with a colour screen, drink holders neatly concealed in the centre console, folding rear seats for storage, and downlights that fade on and off under the dash so you can see under the dash at night. Not bad for an 18 year old car, right?
By looking at this car, you can see that it has a road presence quite unlike any other large coupe of its time. From the front, kneeling down face to face with the GTO you see a more or less conservative design, twin projector headlights on each side, underneath of which you can see the seemingly hidden intercoolers. Aside from the prominent Mitsubishi badge in the centre, the front of the GTO is almost too calm for a car of this calibre.
Then you stand up and walk a few steps to the side and you start to see the prowess of Mitsubishi’s design team of the 1990’s. From the sloped nose, the car door begins to integrate the lines that feed the air vents just behind them that one could assume are mostly for aesthetic purposes. Above them, a lot is happening. As the rounded rear window meets the boot at the rear, along the sides a sloping, curved wing almost moulds itself to suit. A design anomaly of the rear wing is that it sits conspicuously in your rear view mirror, partially blocking your view.
Take a few more steps to the rear and the GTO takes on another, more aggressive appearance. The wide stance of the car becomes apparent, the wing curving over a flat, wide boot. The rear lights are wide and eccentuate the presence of this car for anyone behind. The exhaust, originally two twin tips, now two large cannons stemming from a custom exhaust system, add a final touch, without going over the top.
The GTO is as reliable to you as you are to it. I haven’t owned the car long enough as of yet to know of any issues of reliability, but the previous owner stated he has never seen an issue with it, which he puts down to regular servicing.
Servicing such a rare car can be a bit costly, however to keep costs low I have elected to service it myself. When you open the bonnet you are confronted with a mass of piping running from I don’t know where to I don’t want to know where. As intimidating as it is, once you begin to explore the mechanics of the GTO, it begins to simplify itself. If you’re not an overly keen car enthusiast who knows a fair bit about mechanics, it’s probably best you leave it for a professional, which I will be for major services.
Considering the rarity of the car (and the costs associated with that) it may not be the best value motoring you’ll get, but with a purchase price of $11,000 almost makes up for it. Consider the rarity a little more closely for a moment, and it may not be out of the realm of possibilities that the value may even appreciate at some point in the future.
Fast, fun and unique. All good descriptors of the Mitsubishi GTO.