The Mitsubishi GTO, Gran Turismo Omologato, was a homage to the great Ferrari GTO. Out of fear of offending Ferrari fans, the car was badged as the 3000GT outside of Japan. Therefore, it is likely that any cars badged as a GTO are Japanese imports, of which there are a number on the market.
It entered production in 1990 and finally reached its end in 2001, having served as the Mitsubishi flagship vehicle for the whole of the 1990s. The car was developed on the back of the Mitsubishi concept cars, the HSR and the HSX, and was seen as the Japanese manufacturer’s new grand tourer, sports 2+2 coupe.
The GTO featured a plunging, long bonnet, nicely rounded front, small grille, large air dam, and inset headlight cluster with a separate indicator light on the side. The car had smooth lines leading to a typical small GT boot with a spoiler mounted on top. The bulging side panels are tastefully shaped to allow for the side fins, and the wide alloy wheels add an elegant finish to the look.
Along with its stylish, athletic lines, the GTO was also packed with technological innovations designed to give it as much an advantage as possible in performance tests. The second-generation car, first built in 1994, had some modifications to accommodate the projecting headlight cluster, and there were also changes made to the front and rear bumpers.
Economic problems within Japan at the time led to a discontinuation of many of the earlier gadgets in an attempt to keep the price down. Although Mitsubishi stopped exporting the 3000GT here in 1995, car dealers were still able to import the Mitsubishi GTO directly from Japan. Plans for a major facelift in 1997 were put off in favour of a light makeover instead. Sales had slowed somewhat worldwide. The car manufacturer just altered the bumpers and wing, doing much the same two years later in 1999 when the cars bumper was once again restyled, along with new style headlights, indicators, and sail panel.
The first-generation GTOs were fitted with 3.0L, 24V DOHC V6 engines capable of producing 210kW of power and 407Nm of torque. These engines could take the sportster from 0-100km/h in 7.1 seconds. The GT was not meant to save the world, and at a time where green issues and fuel consumption were not as high a priority as today, it could manage 100km on 18 litres of fuel.
To put the performance of these engines to the test, the GTO was hooked up to either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual gearbox. In 1994, the new Getrag manual 6-speed gearboxes were also an option.
The Mitsubishi performs well at low revs and is content to crawl around crowded city streets, but it is on the open road where you can truly appreciate its engineering. This, however, is where your petrol bills could soar if you try to explore its performance levels too much. Its pace is pretty decent and although some of its rivals outperform it, the GTO is no donkey. It handles great, corners well, and provides great feedback through the steering wheel to the driver. The technology under the bonnet and beneath the car are what make the GTO a joy to drive, and each car came with four-wheel drive, active aerodynamics, and electronic control suspension.
By 1993, the standard kit list for the Mitsubishi GTO was pretty impressive. The cars came with driver’s airbag, a cassette player, cruise control, air-con, powered windows, and alloy wheels. The options packages gave you the choice of leather upholstery, automatic gearbox, rear defroster, AM/FM radio, or an upgraded Infinity sound system.
After 1994, the turnable exhaust pipes were not included and only later in its production was the CD player included, and then only as an option. At this time, front passenger airbags were also fitted as standard.
Home-grown competition came from the Japanese with the Honda NSX, Mazda RX-7, Nissan 300ZX, Skyline GT-R, Subaru SVX, and Toyota Supra. These were all vying for a place in the exclusive sports car market monopolised by the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini.
Mitsubishi created a great-looking car, a stylish and elegant sports car. Yes, it’s cramped for space but you do not buy a GTO and expect to take the kids, dogs, and neighbours on a picnic.