1990–2001 (Mitsubishi 3000GT) 1991–1996 (Dodge Stealth)
The Mitsubishi GTO is a sports car built by Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors between 1990 and 2001. In most export markets it was rebadged as a Mitsubishi 3000GT. It was also sold by Chrysler in North America as a Dodge Stealth captive import from the 1991 to 1996 model years with only minor detail/appearance differences. It took its name from the Galant GTO, a two-door hardtop coupé sold by the company in the early 1970s, which got its name from the Ferrari GTO, which means Gran Turismo Omologato.
Following the successful showing of the Mitsubishi HSR and Mitsubishi HSX concept cars at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show, Mitsubishi developed the new GTO as a technologically advanced sports coupe to compete with the Honda NSX, Mazda RX-7, Nissan 300ZX, Skyline GT-R, and the Toyota Supra. They resurrected the GTO name, and the car went on to serve as Mitsubishi’s flagship for the remainder of the decade. However, despite the cachet of the badge at home, it was known as the Mitsubishi 3000GT outside Japan; the company was concerned that connoisseurs would object to the evocative nameplate from the highly regarded Ferrari 250 GTO and Pontiac GTO being used on a Japanese vehicle. However, regardless of its badge or eventual target market, every car was built on the same production line at Mitsubishi's plant in Nagoya, Japan.
A Dodge Stealth was initially to be used as a pace car for the 1991 Indianapolis 500 race. The United Auto Workers (UAW), however, did not like the idea of a Japanese-manufactured car being a pace car for the race, and a prototype Dodge Viper was substituted.
The first generation model incorporated many of Mitsubishi's contemporary performance-enhancing technologies, such as full time four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, active aerodynamics featuring automatically adjusting front and rear spoilers, sport/tour exhaust modes and electronically controlled suspension (ECS). Visually, the cars featured pop-up headlights and noticeable "caps" on the hood to accommodate the ECS controllers at the top of the strut turrets.
Second generation models are identified by a revised front bumper to accommodate projector beam headlights and small, round projector fog lights. The caps on the hood were replaced with integrated blisters, and the side air vents and rear bumpers were modified. The interior was redesigned with dual air bags, a new audio system, and revised air conditioning refrigerant. The engines in all models received a slight boost in torque from 307 lb·ft (416 N·m) to 315 lb·ft (427 N·m). To complement this, the VR-4 now included a six-speed Getrag manual transmission. Bigger wheel/tire combinations were provided beginning in 1995. The base and SL model received 16" wheels in silver or chrome with 225/55 tires, while the VR4 now had 18" chrome wheels with 245/40 tires (the Spyder had the standard 17" with higher profile tires from 1994 to handle the additional 400 lb (180 kg)).
As the price of the cars increased, many of the "gadgets" on the car were discontinued. The tunable exhaust was phased out after model year 1994, the ECS disappeared after the 1995 model year, and the active aerodynamics disappeared after 1996. Finally, Chrysler ceased sales of the Dodge Stealth captive import, and for the remainder of its life only Mitsubishi-badged versions were available.
In 1995 and 1996, special edition retractable hardtop convertible models of the 3000GT SL and VR-4 were sold in the USA. Customized by ASC in California, these cars had retractable hardtops which could be opened or closed at the touch of a button. It was the first of its kind in America since the 1957–59 Ford Skyliner, and although it was abandoned after two years because of slow sales (1618 units), it presaged a market which would eventually mature the following year with the Mercedes SLK.
The SOHC engine, previously only available in the base model Stealth, was added to the Mitsubishi range after the Dodge version was discontinued. Slower sales in the American sports car market led to a planned facelift for 1997 being abandoned in favor of minor cosmetic adjustments, including a new front bumper and hoop wing. In 1999 the car received a partial exterior makeover, including new front bumper, headlamps, turn signals, sail panels, and a large wing for the 1999 VR-4 to distinguish it from previous models. Production for the Japanese domestic market finally ceased in 2000, with the last two cars sold the following year.