Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Mitsubishi 3000GT
Mitsubishi’s 3000GT – or GTO as it was called in Japan – is a technology tour de force with a 5.5sec-to-62mph punch. We say they’re reliable and start at £2000

As a former Mitsubishi salesman familiar with the high-tech Sapporo saloon of the late 1980s, with its clever adaptive suspension, and its sportier contemporary, the turbocharged Starion coupé, I was less surprised than most when, in 1992, the company sprang the high- tech 3000GT on UK car buyers.

With its four-wheel steering, four- wheel drive, electronically controlled damping and, under that sculpted bonnet, a twin-turbocharged 24-valve 3.0-litre V6, it should have had sales folk clamouring for fresh supplies. Except things didn’t work out that way.

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A high price, lukewarm reviews and dealers’ inability to sell anything but Shoguns meant too many GTs kept showrooms company. It’s why you’ll find so few used ones for sale today. Not so its Japanese- market equivalent, the GTO. There’s a reasonable number of right-hand- drive, privately imported GTOs, priced from £2000 to £12,000.

The UK-spec 3000GT may have been expensive but it wanted for little. Whereas the Japanese GTO could be bought in naturally aspirated or turbocharged forms, with a five-speed manual or four- speed automatic gearbox and cloth or leather trim, the GT just ticked the boxes that mattered.

So as standard, it had that twin- turbo V6 producing 282bhp and a solid 300lb ft torque, sufficient to hurl the lardy 1740kg GT from zero to 62mph in 5.5sec. The gearbox was a five-speed manual and all fouroccupants enjoyed leather trim. Pop-up headlights and active front and rear spoilers completed the package.

The GT was facelifted in 1995. The pop-up lights gave way to projector- style units and the gearbox gained an extra cog. This Mk2 version endured until the model was dropped in 1999.

The GT is rare but scratch around and you might find one like the 1997-reg example offered, as this is written, on eBay. It has done 169,000 miles but has had a small fortune in refurbishment expenses lavished on it. Could be worth a bid.

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All very interesting but the Japanese GTO is the version you’re more likely to encounter and the one to buy. Such cars are often identified by sellers as a ‘3000GT (GTO)’ but the fact that some are also described as being automatic or non-turbo means they’re GTOs, pure and simple. In truth, so long as you know exactly what you’re looking at, it doesn’t matter. The GT and GTO are galvanised but the GTO resists corrosion far better. This is because the GT has additional underbody protection, which simply traps water. Parts for both are readily available.

Unlike the GT, the GTO had three facelifts: 1993, projector lights and, on twin-turbo cars, a six-speed gearbox; 1997, revised front bumper, hooped rear spoiler; 1999, revised front bumper, angular rear spoiler. Mk1s and Mk2s are the most plentiful and sought after.

Like anything that’s rare and a bit special, prices for GTs, and good GTOs in particular, are rising. Don’t delay.

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How to get one in your garage: 

An expert’s view, Wayne Wamsley, Mitsubishi GTO owner: “I’ve had my GTO for eight years, during which time it’s been completely reliable and a blast to drive. My only serious complaint is how difficult some areas of the car are to work on. There’s so much technology. It’s all crammed in and hard to reach. Fortunately, being a Mitsubishi, it all still works.

The windscreen slopes forward quite a bit, which doesn’t help head room, but once you’re on board, it feels really special. My car is 26 years old but there’s no sign of any rust. I bought it on a whim for £2500. It’s worth around £4000 now so I’m happy.”

Buyer beware...

ENGINE: The oil pressure needle should sit a quarter way around at idle, rising to halfway at speed. Exhaust smokeshould become clear. Black or dark grey suggests failed piston rings or turbo seals; white, a failed head gasket. Regardless of a car’s mileage, evidence of a timing belt change is a must. Check for oil on the insides of the Y-shaped pipe on the throttle body housing. It means turbo seals are failing.

TRANSMISSION: Synchros, especially on second gear, can be troublesome. On autos,check the level and colour of the transmission fluid. (Too low or dark, walk away.) Fluid should be changed every two years. Check the fluid level in the transfer ‘box. Gearboxes can rattle at idle. 

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SUSPENSION, STEERING AND BRAKES: Ensure indicator bulbs are present for the Sport and Tour suspension settings. If they’re flashing, it may just be a broken sensor wire on top of the struts. Check the steering racks are not leaking and rubber gaiters aren’t swollen with fluid. Inspect the rear brakes for wear.

BODY: GTO resists corrosion better than the GT so where there is any, suspect a crash repair. Check the boot and bonnet struts can take the weight, that pop-up headlights work and, where fitted, active spoilers deploy.

INTERIOR: Leather doesn’t wear well. Ensure the powered driver’s seat and air-con work. Check the electric windows operate without (expensive) clunks.

Also worth knowing:

It’s not unknown for a GTO to be passed off as the much rarer UK-only GT. To avoid being duped, check the chassis number. A GTO’s begins with Z15A or Z16A followed by numbers and a GT’s JMAMNZ16A, again followed by numbers. Also, a GT was available only in manual form with leather trim.

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How much to spend:

£2000-£3495 - Mk1 non-turbo autos, such as a 2003/53 car with 90k miles for £2250.

£3500-£4750 - Tidy GTO turbo manuals, including a dealer-sale 1992/J with 130k miles and fine maintenance record for £3500.

£4800-£5995 - Some good-value 1995-reg GTO Mk2 turbos with less than 100k miles.

£6000-£6995 - Good choice of GTO Mk1 turbos with around 80k miles in great condition.

£7000-£8995 - Plenty more low-mileage Mk1 GTO turbos in ‘showroom condition’.

One we found:

MITSUBISHI GTO, 1992/K, 69,000 MILES, £3995: Tidy, low-mileage example with three former owners. Cambelt changed 3000 miles ago. Recent new front discs and pads and complete respray. (Lacquer had been lifting off.) Exhaust is stainless steel. Car is garaged and, says the seller, has been totally reliable.

John Evans

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jason_recliner 26 June 2018

Way cool and so cheap

You Pomogolians are very lucky when it comes to used Japanese cars.