The Mitsubishi FTO burst onto the scene in 1994. The FTO (Fresh Touring Origination), produced and sold in Japan and around the world until the year 2000, is internationally renowned for its high performance and attractive styling. The 2-door sports car was offered in manual and semi-automatic transmissions over two generations. Reliable and powerful, the FTO boasts superior handling and comfortable interiors, and proved a popular sports car on the Australian market.
Originally, the FTO was meant only to be sold on the Japanese market. However, the car gained popularity internationally via the grey market and legal exports. The coupe was especially popular in Ireland, the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia. Eventually, as popularity increased in these countries, Mitsubishi capitulated and allowed the cars to be sold via recognised dealers in those regions. Production on the cars started out at a healthy 20,074 in the year 1994, but began to dwindle in the following years, culminating in just 160 vehicles being sold in 2000, when the FTO was phased out of the Mitsubishi line. In total, just 36,512 Mitsubishi FTOs were manufactured.
There were two generations of the FTO. The first original generation, offered from 1994 through 1997, came in three trims with different options and engines. The GS was the base-level trim, the GR was the sports package, and the GPX was the range-topper.
In August of 2007, Mitsubishi unveiled a facelift on the FTO. These new cars featured several exterior changes but in general things stayed the same under the bonnet. In addition, the FTO GP Version R was released as part of the facelift. The Version R was a racing style car that featured several distinctive aesthetic and body features. Today, FTOs can be found on the used car market, and due to their relatively recent production many of them are still in great shape.
Mitsubishi came out with a couple special editions that can sometimes be found on the market. A special GPX limited edition was created in order to celebrate the FTO’s win as “Car of the Year” in Japan in 1994. This limited edition vehicle was made only in dandelion yellow, and featured “Car of the Year” emblems. Another limited edition offering, sold mostly in Japan, was the Nakaya-Tune FTO, a Mitsubishi that was tuned by Japanese race car driver Akihiko Nakaya.
Through the first and second generation (pre- and post-facelift) there were three main trims available for the FTO. The GS base model featured a 1.8-litre V4 engine with a peak output of 92kW at 6,000 rpm. The sportier GR trim featured a 2.0-litre 24 valve V6 engine that maxed out at 125kW at 7,000 rpm, while the range topping GPX FTO boasted a 2.0-litre V6 with an output of 147kW at 7,500 rpm. A fourth trim was offered with the facelift. The Mitsubishi FTO GX was built with a 2.0-litre V6 that topped out at 132kW. Interestingly, in 1999 Mitsubishi constructed an experimental electric version of the FTO called the FTOEV. This revolutionary vehicle was powered by lithium-ion batteries and set a record for covering 2,000km in 24 hours in 1999.
In general, standard kit on an FTO was pretty stripped down, with most of the production value going into the performance aspects that made the FTO a superior sports car. However, features like climate control, electric folding mirrors, and sound insulation came standard on most models. In addition, anti-lock braking and traction control can often be found factory-fitted on early models of the FTO. Where the car really shines is in its options. These will vary from car to car, but include mudflaps, alloy wheels, side and rear logo decals, a rear reflector panel, side skirts, an Aero spoiler, and strut braces. These mods made each FTO unique to their owner.
The FTO had some stiff competition from the Honda Integra and the Toyota Celica. The former’s range-topper came with a 1.8-litre VTEC engine with an output of 131kW. The latter’s most powerful engine was a 2.2-litre V-4 that boasted 101kW and 197Nm. In general, the Mitsubishi did well against competitors, and continues to be a popular sports car in Australia and around the world.