Mitsubishi GTO Buying Guide
The Mitsubishi GTO is among the most underrated JDM cars ever made. Mitsubishi created a masterpiece with it, just like other JDM manufacturers did with their flagship sports cars. But to date, it still stands in the shadow of its smaller brother, the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO.
In the US, it was sold as the Mitsubishi 3000GT from 1990 to 2000. However, Dodge produced a badge-engineered version and sold it as the Dodge Stealth. The Dodge Stealth resulted from Dodge collaborating with Chrysler to penetrate the North American market. Other badge-engineered models include the Dodge Montero based on the Mitsubishi Pajero and the Eagle based on the Eclipse.
Being a flagship sports car, the Mitsubishi GTO compares evenly with those from other manufacturers and even beats some. It comes with an all-wheel-drive system with AWS and an active exhaust, among other features, making it the most advanced JDM production car from the 90s.
Pros and Cons
Reasonably Quick and Fun to Drive
For a car produced in the 1990s, the Mitsubishi GTO is quick enough to throw off your seat if you don’t have the safety belt. Of course, it doesn’t have the 320 horsepower it had at the time of production, but it will still give entry-level sports cars a run for their money.
Naturally aspirated DOHC and SOHC versions only made 150-230 horsepower, but a turbocharger and other bolt-on mods will give you some extra juice to beat the school bus to school.
Going against the 1988 Gentlemen’s Agreement wasn’t the only trick Mitsubishi had up its sleeves to compete heavily against other manufacturers. Since every manufacturer was doing it, there was nothing to stop them.
Most models were made as front-engine all-wheel-drive to increase weight traction management. However, North American base spec models were made with an FF platform (front-engine, front-wheel-drive) but better than any Honda front-wheel-drive coupes. Only the VR-4 models were sold with AWD in the US.
Mitsubishi also installed active aero, active suspension, and an active exhaust system. The active aero system automatically lowers the front splitter and raises the flap on the rear wing, thus improving handling at speeds above 50mph.
On the other hand, the active exhaust system is manually activated. Not only does it sweeten the exhaust sound, but it also directs exhaust airflow to a path of less resistance. Thus, improving throttle response. Switching the suspension to sport mode stiffens it, thus reducing body roll.
Most Units For Sale Are In Mint Condition.
Due to their rarity in the US, Mitsubishi GTOs are some of the most well-kept JDM cars in the US. Most owners wouldn’t pass a chance to restore one that has been spotted rotting away in a garage or barn house. Rarely will you see one on the drift track being thrown around. Or one with ridiculous aesthetic modifications.
Capable of Massive Power Outputs
The Mitsubishi GTO might live in the Evo’s shadow, but it has a better engine capable of massive power outputs. With the stock internals, you can easily make the actual power output, of 320 horsepower. And maybe push it to 400 horsepower with some bolt-on upgrades and tuning.
From owners’ forums, milking 900 horsepower from a 6G72 is as easy as doing the same from a 2JZ. But how do you do it, especially with limited aftermarket support and accredited mechs to work on the engine? The first mod on the road to over 500 horsepower is changing the camshaft. This increases high-end torque, which is a common weakness in Mitsubishi engines.
Aftermarket high-flow fuel injectors, intake manifolds, and bigger turbos influence the power gains by a huge margin. Consider a supercharger or turbocharger kit if you have a GTO with the NA 6G72 engines. However, you can’t get more than 400 horsepower with the SOHC variants unless when fully built.
Every JDM sports car made in the 1990s looks exceptional, and the Mitsubishi GTO is no exception. Sadly, manufacturers are no longer making such cars.
From the mean-looking front end to the rear wing, Mitsubishi ensured the GTO would live through the test of time like the Nissan Skyline or the Toyota Supra. It might be hard to identify it at first, but once you recognize the double circular headlights, you’ll never miss a Mitsubishi GTO again.
Some model years come with pop-up headlights with daytime running lights. Which can be used with the pop-up headlights retracted. The Mitsubishi GTO is among the few JDM sports cars made with an electronic convertible roof. Some have a removable Targa top, like the Toyota Supra. But it cannot be stored in the vehicle, so you must do a weather check before removing it.
Heavier Than Most Of Its Competitors
The Mitsubishi GTO can beat most competitors around the track or in a drag race. But it has a poor power-to-weight ratio. Base spec models are the lightest, with the lowest power output figures weighing around 3100 pounds with the 6G72 SOHC variant. Front-wheel drive is also a major disadvantage.
Rear-wheel-drive variants weigh slightly above 3400 pounds, while convertible models weigh around 4000 pounds. The Mitsubishi GTO ranks fourth among the fastest JDM sports cars ever made. If you want to make yours quicker, consider some weight reduction mods and increasing power output.
Parts Are Hard To Come By
The aftermarket world is not that friendly to the Mitsubishi GTO. Most manufacturers don’t even have a catalogue for it unless you are clever enough to identify shared parts with other cars. For example, you can install an exhaust manifold made for a Dodge Stealth on a Mitsubishi GTO. After all, the Stealth is just a badge-engineered 3000GT.
Searching by engine code instead of make and model helps filter results much better if you are looking for Mitsubishi OEM engine parts. The 6G72 was also used in several other models, including the Mitsubishi Pajero and Eclipse.
But finding parts is only one part of the equation. The other part is finding an accredited mechanic to work on your car, which is difficult when you have a not-so-common car. Most mechanics will tell you they know how to, but they don’t; thus will end up breaking something or doing it wrong.
Hard To Work On (Requires A Garage and Special Tools)
It’s everyone’s dream to work on their car on a sunny Sunday afternoon after long drives and car meets the previous day. But with a car with a small engine bay and a large engine like the Mitsubishi GTO, it would not be easy to show off mods at a car meet. Everyone wants to see the twin-turbo setup and custom pipes, don’t they?
Working on the engine becomes difficult with a small engine bay. Something as minimal as a spark plug change will frustrate you enough not to change all of them at all. The major engine works on a Mitsubishi GTO require special equipment and tools. If you are the type of person who prefers working on the engine full-time, an engine lift is a requirement in your garage. Luckily there are only four engine mounts on a Mitsubishi GTO.
Timing chain slippage and breaking
Some Mitsubishi GTO units have a timing chain instead of the traditional timing belt. A timing chain works better by reducing slippage and pulley gaping due to the tension from the sprockets on the pulleys.
Over time the teeth on the sprocket wear out, especially in high-revving cars like the Mitsubishi GTO. If the teeth on the sprockets are blunt, the chain slips, which causes backfires and loss of power at intervals. It might even come off and break the timing chain cover.
The only solution to timing chain slippage on a Mitsubishi GTO is to replace the timing chain and timing chain sprocket. If you leave the old sprockets, the blunt teeth will kill the bearings within no time. The same applies if you replace the sprockets and leave the old timing chain.
Units with a timing belt rarely have issues except for the automatic hydraulic tensioner failure. You can either replace the old one or collapse and reset it, restoring its functionality. Replacing it with a new one is a better option. While doing that, also check the timing belt’s condition. If the fiber cords are showing, it’s due for a replacement.
You get the Mitsubishi GTO with three transmission options, a 4-speed automatic, a 5-speed manual, and a 6-speed manual in models made after 1993. The 6-speed manual transmission isn’t as problematic as the others since Mitsubishi updated the faults in the 5-speed when making it.
Common faults with the 5-speed manual include slippage, especially when shifting from fourth to fifth gear. To drive in fifth gear, you must hold the gear lever, which is not advisable as the transmission might blow. Owners with GTOs that have the 4-speed auto have complained of the transmission not going into gear. Shifting the gear lever does not change gears.
In most cases, the faults in the 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission are caused by low transmission fluid, plugged filters, or worn-out clutch plates. Low transmission fluid increases friction between the gears which shreds the cogs. Thus, causing slippage and hardness when shifting between gears.
You might have enough transmission fluid in the transmission, but a clogged filter prevents circulation. The transmission fluid contains metal shreds that clog up the filter. This is normal, but the filter needs to be changed with time. But if you drain the fluid with larger chunks of metal than ordinary, you need to have the transmission removed and inspected. Replacing the clutch might also solve gear slippage on a Mitsubishi GTO.
Transfer Case Failure
The Mitsubishi GTO has a transfer case responsible for sending power to all four wheels. If you are buying an FWD unit, this is a non-issue. In most cars, the transfer case should last throughout the vehicle’s life span. But this is only possible if it’s regularly serviced.
The transfer case is rarely serviced on sports cars like the Mitsubishi GTO. Most owners would rather service the engine and transmission. Some go to the extent of removing the transfer case and doing a rear-wheel-drive conversion, lowering maintenance costs, and improving power delivery.
Transfer case fluid leak is the main cause of transfer case failure in the Mitsubishi GTO. The first signs you’ll notice are grinding, growling, and humming noises, especially when braking. Transfer case fluid mainly leaks from the gasket. Also, it will leak from the gap created if the securing bolts are not torqued correctly after a service.
With $8,000, you can get a base spec GTO with a 6G72 SOHC engine. It makes the perfect beginner car for a 16-year-old or a first-time car buyer who wants a cheap, low-maintenance vehicle. If you want a high-spec model with a DOHC engine, you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets since most don’t sell for less than $15,000. Units with the twin-turbocharged 6G72 engine and VR-4 spec units average around $23,000.
What to look for when buying a Mitsubishi GTO
A JDM-spec Mitsubishi GTO is better than a 3000GT. The Mitsubishi 3000GT was not sold in the US with active aero, active suspension, and an active exhaust system. Most units with the twin-turbo engine were sold in Japan with all features as standard. Also, most units sold in the US are FWD. Other features you don’t get on the Mitsubishi 3000GT include electric mirrors, a navigation system, and rear bucket-like seats.
Convertible units and units with a removable sunroof are harder to find. So, if you find one for sale, you better snatch it before someone else does. The roof might not work, but it’s one of the easiest things to fix on a Mitsubishi GTO. Due to its rarity, a Mitsubishi GTO or 3000GT Spyder might increase in value in the coming years.
Other rare models include the GTO MR (Mitsubishi Racing) and Beckenbauer edition GTO. These were only sold in Japan and have special edition features. For example, the GTO MR weight is less than that of other models. This was done by removing ABS, active aero, ECS, and four-wheel-steering. Weight reduction enabled the GTO MR to beat the Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R in acceleration.
On the other hand, the Beckenbauer is more of a luxury spec GTO. Only 30 units were made; all come in Lamborghini yellow paint, Remus exhaust, leather seats, OZ rims, and a signed number plate holder.
- Toyota Supra (Read our Buying Guide)
- Toyota Soarer (Read our Buying Guide)
- Mazda Cosmo (Read our Buying Guide)
- Nissan Fairlady (Read our Buying Guide)
- Nissan Silvia (Read our Buying Guide)
- Nissan Skyline (Read our Buying Guide)
- Mazda RX-7 (Read our Buying Guide)
- Honda Integra (Read our Buying Guide)
Models and Specifications
1990-1993 Mitsubishi GTO (Z16A)
Mitsubishi introduced the GTO in 1987, designed by Masaru Suzuki. Production started in 1990 in Japan and North America, where it was sold as the Mitsubishi GTO. It couldn’t be sold as the Mitsubishi GTO due to the presence of the Pontiac GTO and the Ferrari 250 GTO.
In the first generation, few units were sold with the SOHC 6G72 engine. This engine was used in the Dodge Stealth designed by Chrysler Motors. The only difference between the Dodge Stealth and Mitsubishi 3000GT is the exterior design. Everything else, including the interior, is similar between the two.
The base spec model was sold as the Mitsubishi GTO SR in Japan with the naturally aspirated 6G72, which made around 230 horsepower during production. On paper, the twin-turbo 6G72 in the JDM GTO made 280 horsepower. The real power output was 300 horsepower, similar to the US spec 3000GT. Chrysler also used the same engine in the Dodge Stealth R/T.
In 1992, Mitsubishi introduced the 3000GT VR4 in the United States. This model has a larger wing, sportier suspension, and sporty accents on the interior and exterior. However, it doesn’t have an active suspension, exhaust, and active aero like the JDM Mitsubishi GTO, you get the first-gen Mitsubishi 3000GT with a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.
1994-1997 Mitsubishi GTO (Z15A, Z16A)
The second-gen Mitsubishi GTO was produced at a time when Japan was experiencing tough economic times. Most manufacturers had to cut production costs by discontinuing some features in some of their best-selling cars. For example, Mitsubishi had to discontinue the active aero, ECS, and active exhaust. Fewer units were being produced in the US. Thus, Chrysler had to discontinue the Dodge Stealth in 1996.
But Mitsubishi wasn’t going to back down from the competition. Power output in the twin-turbo 6G72 was increased to 320, and a new 6-speed manual transmission was introduced.
Between 1995 and 1996, Mitsubishi Collaborated with Chrysler and American Specialty cars to make the Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder VR-4. This model has an electronically convertible roof, unlike the Japanese Market GTO, which has a manually removable roof.
In Japan, Mitsubishi introduced the Mitsubishi GTO MR and GTO Beckenbauer edition, a luxury spec GTO. The GTO MR was stripped of unnecessary weight, making it the fastest GTO ever produced. This was achieved by removing the AWS, active aero, and stereo systems and using lighter wheels.
Chrysler still used the 6G72 SOHC engine with 160 horsepower in the Dodge stealth. The twin-turbo in the GTO MR, VR-4, and VR-4 Spyder made 320 horsepower. However, in Japan, it was indicated at 276 horsepower on paper. Since the 5-speed transmission was discontinued, you get the second-gen GTO/3000GT with a 4-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission.
1997-2000 Mitsubishi GTO (Z15AM)
There’s not much difference between the third-gen Mitsubishi GTO and its predecessor. Except for a minor front and rear bumper facelift and new headlights. After Chrysler Motors discontinued the Dodge Stealth, Mitsubishi used the 6G72 SOHC variant more in the base spec 3000GT.
The 3000GT SL and GTO SR come with the NA DOHC 6G72, which made 225 horsepower during production, while the JDM spec GTO Twin Turbo, GTO MR, and US-spec 3000GT VR-4 have the twin-turbo 6G72. All turbocharged models were sold with a 6-speed manual transmission, and naturally aspirated versions got the 4-speed automatic.
Production of the Mitsubishi 3000GT ended in 1999 in the US. The JDM-sped Mitsubishi GTO was discontinued later, in 2000.
Production of the Mitsubishi GTO began in 1990 and ended in 2001 after being produced for ten years. The first generation was produced between 1990 and 1993, the second generation from 1994 to 1997, and the third generation from 1997 to 2000.
The Mitsubishi GTO is a smaller sports car manufactured from 1994 to 2000. It was only made with a front-wheel-drive platform, unlike the Mitsubishi GTO, which has AWD and AWS. Another major difference between the two is that you get the FTO with a 4-cylinder engine which was not an option in the GTO. Two 2.0-litre V6 engines were used in the FTO. A 2.0-litre 6A12 and its sub-variant with MIVEC. The Mitsubishi FTO also didn’t get the 6-speed manual transmission like in the GTO.
Mitsubishi used the 3.0-litre 6G72 V6 engine series in the Mitsubishi GTO. Base spec models have the naturally aspirated SOHC and DOHC variants, while high spec models have the twin-turbocharged variant. At production time, power output was between 160 to 320 horsepower depending on the engine and year of production.
No, the Mitsubishi GTO is the same as the Mitsubishi 3000GT and not the Mitsubishi GTO. The Mitsubishi GTO was sold as the 3000GT in the United States. Chrysler motors made a badge-engineered version of the Mitsubishi 3000GT sold as the Dodge Stealth in the United States. However, the Dodge stealth was produced from 1990 to 2006, while production of the 3000GT was from 1990 to 1999.
Regardless of how well Mitsubishi built the Mitsubishi GTO, sales were decreasing in the US and Japan. The competition was also getting stiff, especially from the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R. New side-impact safety regulations were also introduced, and the Mitsubishi GTO couldn’t pass. This led to the discontinuation of the Mitsubishi 3000GT in 1999, and the GTO was discontinued later in 2001.
How to import a Mitsubishi GTO
Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.