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The Beginning of the Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO - Dodge Stealth
The goal of the 3000GT was to not only perform better than its competitors, but also be priced at a significantly lower price than other luxury automobiles. To do this, they based the 3000GT’s chassis around the Eclipse, a cheaply priced sport coupe that was powered by a four-cylinder engine.
Mitsubishi completely reworked the Ecplise’s chassis and collaborated with Chrysler’s Highland Park International Design Studio to create a much more aggressive vehicle. The car featured a whole host of air dams, scoops, ducts and power bulges that made it one of the most striking cars to come out of Japan at the time.
To power such an impressive looking car, Mitsubishi decided to use a 3.0-litre 24-valve DOHC V6 engine that either came naturally aspirated or with twin-turbochargers. They then kitted out the car with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, four-wheel steering, active aerodynamics, a tuneable exhaust, and electronically controlled suspension.
Base models were offered with front-wheel drive in North America, while Japanese base models featured the same four-wheel drive system found on more expensive models. Additionally, those in North America could opt for the Dodge Stealth, a re-badged 3000GT that featured exactly the same mechanicals.
Like the 3000GT, the Dodge Stealth was manufactured in Japan and shipped to North America. On base models of the Stealth, Dodge offered a SOHC engine that was not available on 3000GTs until 1997.
The 3000GT (and Stealth) enjoyed great success during the early 90s. In fact, the car sold more models than the Nissan 300ZX, the Mazda RX-7, and the Toyota Supra combined. However, by the late 1990s sales dropped off significantly due to increases in price and a lack of demand for sports cars like the 3000GT.
In North America, the Dodge Stealth was discontinued in 1996 while the 3000GT would carry on until 1999. Production for Japanese domestic market 3000GTs (GTO) finished in the year 2000, with the final two cars being sold the following year.
The Different Generations
While the 3000GT remained relatively unchanged during its ten-year production run, there were a number of minor revisions and facelifts. The 3000GT/GTO can be broken up into four different generations. We have explained them below:
Mk1 GTO/3000GT – Internally designated Z16A, these cars were produced from 1990-1993 and featured pop-up headlights. VR4 models from this generation featured a front active air dam that was discontinued on later models.
In Europe, Mitsubishi released a limited run of 30 first generation 3000GTs, which were branded as “Beckenbauer Edition”. These were given a slick yellow paint job, a Remus sports exhaust, OZ Futura rims, a HKS air filter, a model number plate, a C-net phone system and extra power (car now produced 400bhp).
Mk2 GTO/3000GT – Were given the designation Z15A (2WS) and Z16A (4WS). These featured a redesigned front bumper and new projector beam headlights that replaced the old pop-up ones. The interior was redesigned with a new audio system, dual air bags, and revised air conditioning.
Mitsubishi also gave the car a slight increase in power and twin-turbocharged models could now be had with a six-speed manual transmission. Mk2 3000GTs were produced from 1994 to 1997.
Mk3 GTO/3000GT – Was a minor revision, with a slightly redesigned front bumper and spoiler on the rear to replace the active aero system. Mitsubishi manufactured Mk3 3000GTs/GTOs from 1997-2000 and they were given the designation Z15AM.
Mk4 GTO/3000GT – Mitsubishi made a number of minor styling changes for the final two years of the GTO’s production. They fitted a new more aggressive front bumper, new sail panels, lights, and turn signals. They also kitted out the VR4 with an inverted airfoil spoiler that was named the “Combat Wing”.
Mitsubishi 3000GT Models
Japanese Mitsubishi GTOs came in a number of different models – SR, Twin Turbo (VR4), and the light weight MR (Mitsubishi Racing) edition. In the United States, Canada, and Europe buyers could opt for the base, SL or VR4 variants of the 3000GT. In 1995 and 1996 a special hardtop convertible version of the 3000GT was offered for the US market. This Spyder 3000GT was only available in SL and VR4 variants.
The Dodge Stealth also came in a number of variants – base, R/T, and R/T TT. Additionally, during the first three years of production buyers could opt for the ES model, and in 1994 they could choose the R/T Luxury model.
North American Models
At the bottom end of the range was the base model. From 1990 to 1996, the base 3000GT was powered by a naturally aspirated 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 engine with a compression ratio of 10.0:1. This engine produced 222 ponies at 6,000rpm and 201 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Torque would later increase to 205 lb ft. in 1996.
From 1997, the base model came fitted with the 3.0-litre SOHC 12-valve V6 engine from the base Dodge Stealth. This had a compression ratio of 9.9:1 and produced 161 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 185 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm.
With such a drop in performance, the base model was regarded as a disgrace to the 3000GT family by enthusiasts and motoring journalists alike. The worst thing was that Mitsubishi did not drop the price with the downgrade in performance, and in fact, the base 1997 3000GT was as expensive as the VR4 when it first launched in 1990.
All base model 3000GTs were fitted with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. In America, base model 3000GTs came with front-wheel drive and had independent front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. They came fitted with 16-inch alloy rims with 225/55/VR16 tires.
The SL was essentially the luxury version of the 3000GT family. It came with a number of features that were not standard or available on base models of the car. Some of these options included anti-lock brakes, an alarm system, cruise control, leather trim, the wheel size, ECS (Electronically Controlled Suspension), a sunroof, and the engine during the final years of production.
The SL stuck with the same 3.0-litre DOHC V6 engine that produced 222 horsepower. It was priced slightly higher and featured the same transmission options (a five-speed manual and four-speed auto). Like the base 3000GT, the SL sent its power to the front wheels and featured independent front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. From 1990 to 1991, the SL came with 16-inch alloy rims (with chrome being an option in 1995 and 1996). From 1997 to 1999, Mitsubishi offered the car with 17-inch chrome wheels.
The ‘big daddy’ of the 3000GT range was branded with the name VR4. It was powered by a 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve, twin-turbocharged, twin-intercooled V6 engine. VR4 models produced until 1993 churned out 300 horsepower and 307 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. From 1994 onwards, power increased to 320 bhp and 315 lb-ft. of torque.
To compensate for the lower power output of the Mk1 VR4, a modification known as the “Free Boost Modification” was made to increase the first gen’s boost from 10 pounds/square inch to 12 pounds/square inch. This modification made the Mk1 VR4 equal in power to the later generations of the car.
VR4s were fitted with a five-speed Getrag manual transmission until 1993, while a six-speed version of the same transmission was installed on later versions of the car. Power was sent to all four wheels through an AWD system composed of a centre VCU (Viscous Coupling Unit) differential sending torque to the front and to the rear limited-slip differentials. Under perfect conditions, the AWD system sends 45% of available power to the front and 55% to the rear, However, 95% can be sent to either axle deepening on the circumstances.
The four-wheel steering (4WS) system was designed to show off Mitsubishi’s engineering abilities and was claimed to improve high speed stability. Mitsubishi’s system could turn the rear wheels up to 1.5 degrees in the same directions as the front wheels when travelling at 30 mph (48km/h) or more. While the 4WS system did work as intended, it was more of a technological toy rather than a true performance modification.
In addition to the 4WS and AWD systems, the VR4 was also fitted with a tunable exhaust (similar to the one found in Ferrari’s 360 supercar), and an Active Aero system (ditched after 1996). The Active Aero system could drop the front spoiler by 80mm and change the angle of the rear wing by 15 degrees when the car was travelling in excess of 45mph (72km/h). These changes helped to reduce air flow from under the vehicle and increase downforce at the rear. The system would deactivate when the car slowed down to 50mph.
From 1990 to 1995, VR4s came fitted with the ECS (electronically controlled suspension) system. Drivers could choose between two settings – Sport and Tour. The system would automatically switch the damping force in the four shock absorbers to give more performance or a better quality ride. In Tour mode, the onboard computer uses the speed, throttle position, g-force, and steering wheel angular velocity to determine how hard to set the shocks – soft, medium or hard. In the Sport setting the shocks were set to hard mode to improve performance. If any of the sensors broke the computer would set all of the dampers to hard.
The tunable exhaust could be set to two modes – Sport and Tour. In Sport mode exhaust gases could pass more freely through the exhaust system, lowering back pressure and thus improving overall performance. In Tour mode, the system would reroute exhaust gases through the main muffler to reduce the sound coming from the exhaust, however, this would lead to reduced performance.
For the 1995 and 1996 model years, Mitsubishi released a retractable hardtop version of both the SL and VR4 in the United States. They were mechanically identical to their fixed top brothers but with extra weight and a major markup in price ($20,000 over the regular VR4).
While the retractable roof worked well, the Spyder had reduced chassis rigidity and the increase in weight lead to reduced performance. The Spyder was discontinued in 1997 due to poor sales and was never officially available in Japan or Europe. A customisation firm in the United States developed a business converting standard 3000GTs to convertible soft-top versions of the car.
Mitsubishi GTO NA
At the bottom end of the range was the GTO NA (also known as the SR or simply as the GTO). Unlike the bottom spec US 3000GT, the SR featured the AWD system of the more expensive twin-turbocharged model. It also featured the 3.0-litre V6 engine and came with either a manual or automatic transmission.
Mitsubishi GTO Twin-Turbo
The twin-turbo GTO is essentially the same as the VR4 3000GT sold in other markets. It was offered with the same twin-turbocharged engine, AWD system and other technologies.
Mitsubishi GTO Twin Turbo MR
The Mitsubishi Racing (MR) GTO was a lightweight twin turbo model without 4WS, ABS, ECS or Active Aero. Apart from those removed features it was mechanically identical to standard twin-turbocharged GTO.
Dodge Stealth Models
Base Model Dodge Stealth
The base Dodge Stealth was much the same as the base 3000GT, but with a 12v 3.0-litre SOHC V6 engine instead of the 24v DOHC unit fitted to the Mitsubishi. This meant that the Stealth produced 160 ponies, significantly less than the Mitsubishi. The Stealth’s SOHC engine would later be fitted to the base 3000GT, after the car was discontinued in 1996.
Dodge Stealth ES
Moving up the line, the ES Stealth was fitted with Mitsubishi’s larger 24v DOHC power unit and was essentially the same as the base 3000GT. It could come with either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto, and was fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels. In 1993, the Mitsubishi-Dodge team dropped the ES model from the Stealth range.
Dodge Stealth R/T
Compared to the ES, the R/T model featured larger 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, ABS brakes, a better sound system and more. It was similar in spec to the SL Mitsubishi 3000GT and proved to be fairly popular with buyers.
Dodge Stealth R/T Twin Turbo
At the top end of the range was the R/T Twin Turbo. This car is pretty much a VR4 or GTO Twin Turbo with a different bodykit and badge. It features the same 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 and AWD system, but lacks some of the other technologies such as the Active Aero system.