Every car enthusiast who played Need for Speed Most Wanted remembers Big Lou’s, eleventh blacklist racer, entry during the first race in a black Mitsubishi Eclipse GT with tiger decals on the side flanked by two yellow Eclipses. Such memories don’t fade away that easily.
Besides being used in video games, the Mitsubishi Eclipse made notable appearances in Movies such as Fast and Furious, driven by Brian (Paul Walker) and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson). Today, the Fast and Furious Eclipse is among the most replicated movie cars in the tuner car scene.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse was built as a collaboration between Mitsubishi and Chrysler, who merged to form Diamond Star Motors (DSM). However, Mitsubishi bought Chrysler shares in 1991 and took over production while the first-gen Eclipse was still in production.
In 1993 Chrysler sold its equity stake to Mitsubishi, and the Joint venture was terminated, and Mitsubishi renamed the company Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing America. They later discontinued the G1 in 1994 and other Chrysler variants, such as the Eagle Talon. Mitsubishi would then continue making cars under contract for Chrysler but continued using the DSM platform for the second-gen Eclipse. Thus, only the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Eclipse are considered DSMs.
Buying a Mitsubishi Eclipse is not a walk in the park, and it’s pretty challenging than buying other JDM sports cars. One of the main reasons being that most available for sale are either incomplete project cars or slowly dying away, waiting for a savior. We have compiled an in-depth buying guide with all the common issues to expect in a Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Pros of owning one.
Pros and Cons
Great tuner engine options
Japanese manufacturers are known to use similar engines and platforms across different cars, which is one of the reasons JDM cars are cheap and reliable. The Mitsubishi Eclipse uses the same engines used in other Mitsubishis, such as the Lancer EVO and 3000GT. All these are good engines, but if you want to make more power from a Mitsubishi Eclipse, go for one with a 4G63 or any 6G7 engine.
Base spec G1 variants have the naturally aspirated 4G63, which is relatively easy to tune and modify as it has a similar build structure to the turbocharged 4G63T in the Eclipse GSX. When rebuilt with new or refreshed peripherals, you might get approximately 200 horsepower out of an NA 4G63.
But if you want a little more, upgrading the cam, fuel injectors, exhaust and camshaft take power output to at least 220 horsepower. Anything above 300 horsepower is possible, but with forged internals, an aftermarket ECU, compression alteration, and forced induction. Also, it would be best if you considered an AWD conversion since all Eclipse trim levels are FWD except the GSX.
Among the best 4-cylinder JDM engines made, the turbocharged 4G63T ranks among the best. It has gained a reputation in the car community. A simple Stage one tune consisting of a remap, airbox upgrade, and a sports header will easily increase power output to over 270 horsepower.
The only downside is that the 4G63T in the Eclipse is old; thus, the maximum power output is lower. With stock internals, it can only push around 300 horsepower and upwards of 500 horsepower with an upgraded turbocharger, internals, and a straight pipe exhaust. Luckily in the Eclipse GSX, a rear-wheel-drive conversion is unnecessary as it’s built on an all-wheel-drive platform.
6G7 engines are also relatively easy to tune, thanks to their high displacement. The most common modification is forced induction via a single or twin turbocharger setup adopted from the Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT VR-4. Turbo charging results in a 15-25% increase from the stock 210 (3.0-liter 6G72) or 260 (3.8-liter 6G75). With other mods, 600 horsepower is easily achievable in either engine.
Pleasing to the eye
The Mitsubishi Eclipse might be frowned upon in the JDM car scene, but something about it catches your eye and makes you almost want to buy one. Sure, some owners rice out their Eclipses with Lamborghini doors, under glow, and other ridiculous mods while trying to live the fast and furious dream, but some keep them stock or only change the wheels and paint, and they look fantastic! Aftermarket support isn’t great, so you are limited to a few bits and pieces, such as wheels and wings. Even so, that’s all you need to turn a Mitsubishi Eclipse into a crowd-puller.
Fun to drive
The Mitsubishi Eclipse isn’t as fast as it might look, but it’s satisfying to drive. When driving one, you forget how fast you are going until you look at the speedometer. You feel good driving a piece of automotive history while winding down mountain roads or at full throttle on open roads with the exhaust screaming as the rev counter needle climbs to over 7000 RPM. Handling is not that great compared to maybe a Honda Integra, but it’s nothing you can complain about.
Prices for the Mitsubishi Eclipse remain unaffected by ever-increasing JDM car prices and the current used car price surge. You can easily get a G4 for less than $10,000, and prices go even below $1,000 for a rolling chassis, and most sellers will throw in every Eclipse part they have into the bargain. However, buying a Mitsubishi Eclipse is not advisable if you are a first-time car buyer. You’ll end up getting frustrated like previous owners and selling it at a loss unless you have the patience, willingness, and financial muscle to build the car.
When buying a Mitsubishi Eclipse, one of the areas you’ll spend money and time on is the interior. Mitsubishi didn’t put any inspiration in the interior as it is made of cheap plastics from the dashboard to door panels. Over time the plastics fade and crack, especially if the car is neglected or frequently exposed to the sun.
Refurbishing the plastic interior trims might be easy, but they are too far gone if they crack when removed. Seats are also poorly bolstered, and if you find one with the factory seats, you’re better off with aftermarket seats, especially if you often drive the car. Another common build quality fault is the faulty door handles.
The outside door handles break, and the inside handles jam. Most owners recommend pulling the outside door handles halfway and then pulling the door by the edge to open it. The spring must be replaced for the interior handles, which is an easy fix, but you must remove the plastic door panel.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse can be a pain in the neck to work on
Having a project car at some point is every car lover’s dream, but one of the qualities of a good project car is that it should be easy to work on, which the Mitsubishi Eclipse is not. Working on one will make you almost regret buying it, especially regarding wiring and mechanicals, such as removing the engine and transmission. Also, due to old age, some parts will break if not removed correctly, and you might end up breaking a part that is hard to find and cannot be interchanged with one from another car.
Most Eclipses for sale are beaten up
Part of the reason the Mitsubishi Eclipse is cheap is that most available for sale are beat up. Most owners give up on their cars due to inadequate aftermarket support after starting a project or after the car develops some issues. These are listed cheaply on Facebook marketplace, craigslist, and other online listings.
Buying someone else’s half-done project car can be a solid bargain, depending on how you see the car. You can either decide to strip the car and sell the parts, and you might make some good profits from it. Or, if you have always wanted an Eclipse, put time and money into one and turn it into something you’d enjoy driving and owning; choosing the latter means that you should be prepared since a Mitsubishi Eclipse is a never-ending and cash-intensive project. That’s why you’ll rarely find a well-built Eclipse for sale.
From owner forums and groups, transmission failure is one of the Mitsubishi Eclipse’s major faults and most owners, current and previous, will advise taking a test drive before buying one. The automatic transmission in the Mitsubishi Eclipse has a wave cushion spring that holds back and returns the clutch piston and compensates for wear on the friction plates, allowing smooth gear shifts.
The wave cushion springs wear out due to high temperatures from the friction, and tiny bits get lodged into the pump gear or the valve body. When this happens, the transmission has to be replaced or rebuilt, both expensive options. Thus, most Eclipses with an automatic transmission end up being left in garages or rotting in backyards.
Buying an Eclipse with a manual transmission doesn’t get you out of trouble yet. Some owners have complained of difficulty in shifting and a spongy clutch pedal. What causes this is mainly a defective clutch disc or worn-out pressure plate, and you can’t replace one without replacing the other. One of the signs you should look for is noises and vibrations while shifting gears and accelerating from a stop.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse is notorious for oil leaks, mainly from the head gasket, valve cover gasket, and rear main seal, all common oil leak spots in most old cars. Early signs of oil leaking from the head gasket include high engine temps, loss of power, and white smoke from the exhaust. External oil leaks are rare in the Mitsubishi Eclipse but indicate head gasket failure.
Before replacing the head gasket, you should check if the cooling system is working perfectly, as the head gasket gets damaged by excess temperatures if the engine overheats. Experts recommend using a multiple-layer steel head gasket as it lasts longer than the standard metal gasket due to its ability to withstand high temperatures.
Like in any other car, oil spots around the engine’s perimeter indicate oil leaking from the valve cover gasket. However, oil might leak from a loosely placed or warped valve cover in some cases. It’s important to check the valve cover before replacing the valve cover gasket and ensure that it’s torqued correctly after replacing the valve cover gasket.
Oil leaking from the rear main seal is mainly common on high mileage Mitsubishis, including the Eclipse. The seal hardens due to oil starvation or if the car has been unused for a long time. Any attempts to start the engine cause the rear main seal to tear, dripping oil. You might need to remove the transmission to replace the rear main seal in a Mitsubishi Eclipse, and you can’t drive with it leaking. But before you do that, ensure you drain all the old oil and refill the engine with new oil after replacing the seal.
Braking system failure
Mitsubishi had two braking system recalls for the fourth-gen Eclipse as some units were fitted with defective brake boosters, corrosion inside the ABS unit, and master cylinder assembly. If the previous owner didn’t take the car for any of these recalls, it’s advisable not to buy. A defective brake booster and master cylinder cause an increase in braking distance which can be fatal regardless of the speed at which the car is being driven. Symptoms include a spongy brake pedal and brake fluid leak.
Sunroof leaks and roof failure on the Eclipse Spyder
Driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse with the sunroof open or with the top down is a great feeling until you try closing it, and it doesn’t. Or you manage to close it, but the weather turns against you, and rainwater leaks through. In most cases, sunroof failure is caused by a faulty closing mechanism that jams due to debris accumulation and insufficient greasing.
Simple disassembly and assembly while cleaning out the debris and greasing returns the sunroof to factory condition. Also, check the condition of the weather stripping if water leaks into the cabin after you close the sunroof.
The same case applies to the soft top. You don’t have to undo the electricals if you hear the motor whirring when you turn on the soft top switch. You can pull the top manually if you are in a hurry and inspect the hinges and the closing mechanism. The soft top fabric is also known to tear due to old age and exposure to weather elements, and it might need a replacement or patching.
For around $4,000, you can get a Mitsubishi eclipse in good condition with minimal issues. But if you want to save some cash and get a project car instead, you are not limited to any budget, as you can easily get one for a few hundred dollars. Only owners who have put some major works into their Eclipses sell for more than $15,000.
What to look for when buying a Mitsubishi Eclipse
The first thing to check for when buying a Mitsubishi Eclipses is the front suspension, especially the front control arms known to bend and break. You’re good to go if they have been replaced with better aftermarket control arms. But if the car still has the factory control arms, driving home with it might be risky. In most cases, the control arms break when the ride height is lowered, or the car has been driven on bumpy roads.
Check the car’s overall condition, including the paint and common rust spots, strut towers, rocker panels, side skirts, and underneath the vehicle. In the interior, check if the car has a front passenger airbag delete, as some Eclipse owners have complained of the airbag cover warping. An airbag delete prevents the airbag from randomly deploying.
The best Eclipse trim level to get is the GSX which has an all-wheel-drive platform and better engine options. However, prices are slightly higher, and it’s the only Eclipse that will hold its value if maintained correctly. Lastly, ask for legal documents, even when buying a rolling chassis.
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Models and Specifications
1989-1994 Mitsubishi Eclipse (D21A, D22A, D27A)
In 1970 Chrysler bought a 15% stake in Mitsubishi and sold badge-engineered Mitsubishi cars in the United States under the formed Diamond Star Motors. In 1982 both companies began selling their vehicles independently. This is when Mitsubishi began designing the Eclipse on one of DSM’s platforms and unveiled it in 1989 as a front-wheel-drive 4-seater sports car borrowing engine and transmissions from the Mitsubishi Galant.
Units produced in 1989 have the 1.8-liter SOHC 4G37 engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. In 1990 Mitsubishi began using the 4G63 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission and unveiled the FWD/AWD Eclipse GS-T and AWD Eclipse GSX with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4G63T and an LSD. They also introduced a 5-speed manual transmission for all trim levels, including the base spec GS.
1994-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse (D31A, D32A, D38A, D39A)
Mitsubishi unveiled the second-gen Eclipse in 1994, shortly after they had changed DSM to (MMMA) Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing America but still used the DSM platform for the Eclipse. However, they still produced badge-engineered cars for Chrysler under Contract using the Chrysler 420A engine.
Production of the Eclipse was also branched to Japan, but buyers faced higher road taxes as the second-gen Eclipse had wider exterior dimensions. All other markets got the Mitsubishi Eclipse with the 4G63 or the 4G63T coupled to a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. Trim levels remained similar to what Mitsubishi offered in the first Gen Eclipse, but they introduced a soft top convertible sub-trim for the Eclipse GS and GS-T.
1999-2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse (D52A, D53A)
1999 saw the release of the third-gen Mitsubishi eclipse with a much more aggressive styling than the first two generations, which look similar. This resulted from Mitsubishi’s SST design unveiled at the 1998 North American Auto Show. But the design wasn’t all that changed in the fourth-gen Eclipse.
Mitsubishi discontinued the 4G63 engines and replaced them with a 2.4-liter 4G64 and a 3.0-liter 6G72 V6 engine adopted from the Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO and 8th-gen Galant. Transmission options remain unchanged from the second-gen Eclipse. Unlike previous generations, you can’t get an AWD third-gen Eclipse as the GT-X trim was discontinued leaving the GT-S as the top-spec variant.
2005-2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse (DK2A, DK4A)
When Mitsubishi discontinued the Eclipse GSX and the 4G63 engine, enthusiasts moved to purchase the Mitsubishi EVO. Thus, there was a decline in sales for the third-gen Eclipse. Mitsubishi still unveiled the fourth-gen Eclipse in 2005, offering two engine options, a 2.4-liter 4G69 engine and a 3.8-liter 6G75 V6 engine for higher trim levels. Some hoped that the AWD GS-X would return, but it didn’t. On the upper side, buyers could opt for a 6-speed manual transmission instead of a 5-speed or 4/5-speed automatic.
Regardless of not meeting customer expectations, the Gen-4 Mitsubishi Eclipse was appreciated as it was among Mitsubishi’s dying heritage. The Mitsubishi Eclipse was discontinued in 2012 due to Mitsubishi’s efforts to make more “passenger-oriented” cars to increase sales and shift towards meeting environmental targets.
In 2018 Mitsubishi resurrected the Eclipse name with the Eclipse Cross, which was more than a disappointment for the motoring community. There had been concept teases from various sources that showed the Eclipse return as an all-wheel-drive hybrid sports car, which is better than an SUV.
When kept stock or modified moderately, a Mitsubishi Eclipse can be one of the most reliable cars and will last for around 170,000 miles with minimal issues under regular maintenance.
In 1989, Mitsubishi unveiled the first-gen Mitsubishi Eclipse as a mid-level sports coupe.
No, all Mitsubishi Eclipses are front-wheel-drive except the first-gen Eclipse GS-T and GS-X (1989-1994) and second-gen GSX (1994-1999).
Mitsubishi stopped production of the Mitsubishi Eclipse in 2012 to focus on more passenger-oriented cars and invest more time and effort into developing battery technology to meet environmental targets.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse can be challenging to work on, mainly due to the engine and transmission but once you get used to it, working on one becomes a walk in the park.
Mitsubishi didn’t make a rear-wheel-drive variant of the Mitsubishi Eclipse. Standard trim levels have a front-wheel-drive platform, and high trim levels such as the GS-T and GSX have an all-wheel-drive platform used from 1989 to 1999.
Major problems in the Mitsubishi Eclipse include transmission failure, fluid leaks, braking system failure, rust, and other minor issues such as failing electricals due to poor wiring and a disintegrated interior.
Mitsubishi only used one turbocharged engine, a 2.0-liter 4G63T, in the Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-X and GS-T produced from 1989 to 1999.
How to import a Mitsubishi Eclipse
Read our Ultimate Guide on How to Import a Car from Japan.
- Featured photo VaiHalen