Let’s Talk About The Mitsubishi GTO

I often think about the Mitsubishi GTO. It’s a car I used to like a lot, and really, how could I not?

The sports car packed a 6G72 3.0-liter V6 engine in either naturally aspirated or twin-turbo guise, was offered with a choice of manual or automatic transmission, had AWD and 4WS and even active aero. The GTO was so laden with technology it was a tad on the porky side of the spectrum when it came to kerb weight, but it made up for that through its attractive and sleek coupe design. It was in production in Japan from late 1990 all the way through to early 2001, and when I moved to Japan in 1993, the GTO was the first police sports car I ever saw.

I’ve come across a few modified examples in the years since, but they’ve never really been too crazy. The only exception to the rule was the 900hp Pit Road M time attack car I photographed before I even joined the team here at Speedhunters.

While Mitsubishi had the 300ZX, Skyline GT-R and Supra in its cross hairs when it designed and built the car, the GTO was never as popular as the other JDM greats of the ’90s. It was a tougher engine to work on for starters; not only was it packed with a ton of electronics there was hardly any space in the engine bay to do much. To this day I still think the car was better suited to the US market where it was sold as the 3000GT (and the Dodge variant). The long, straight stretches of road stateside would have simply been eaten up by the GTO; this was not a car made for the technical touge passes of Japan.

GTOs are such a rare sight on the streets of Tokyo these days, and it was this recent spotting that brought about the idea for this post. I’d love to hear your opinion on the GTO, and better still see some images of any examples you guys have owned. You never know, there may even be some examples out there we’d be interested in featuring.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

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1

I always thought the technology of the 3000GT or the GTO was really cool and a neat looking car if a bit overdone with all the vents. For some reason the GTO looks better though I don't know why I think they are identical. I always thought they were really heavy and never saw them built up so they seemed like turds. I worry that most of them are thrashed and finding seals and trim and engine bits would be a challenge. I would really like to see a clean and simple one built up as a quick road course/ touring car.

2

My brother's owned two GTOs (1992 Mitsu and 2004 Pontiac) and I was his mechanic - this thing was a bitch to work on.

Did a new steering rack, oil pan gasket with the engine still in the car, transfer case refill - had to get the fluid level EXACTLY right - , brakes all around, tune up, lots of other stuff.

You want perfection for $2,800?

Still, I like this car because it was an ambitious oddball. FWD architecture in a sea of RWD, four powered wheels, active everything and a great-looking shape. My brother had to sell it because the suspension gave him back problems, and it was tough to get in and out of when you're 6'4" and 240 lbs.

Then he got the Pontiac. Which is another story.

Strangely enough, for as much as I like this thing, I always thought Dodge did a better styling job on the Stealth R/T - it had cleaner and more elegant lines, and a more original wing design.

Legend has it that the reason they didn't call the USDM cars GTO was because the Detroit muscle thugs and the Ferrari cognoscenti got all wrapped around the axle about the name.

Which was odd, because the Mitsu was a better GTO than the ones THEY produced up till that time.

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3
Tyler Injaian

"...better GTO than the ones THEY produced up till that time." The second gen. Pontiac was and is one of the most iconic muscle cars ever built and the Ferrari GTOs produced prior to the 3000GT/Stealth were both highly regarded homologation race cars. I understand if the Mitsubishi is close to your heart but honestly a pretty ridiculous statement.

4

Yes, but as AUTOMOBILES, Mitsu's GTOs were superior machines.

They'd run for tens of thousands of miles between tuneups, didn't need constant handholding to function, put out significantly over 1 HP per CID reliably, were well built and easy to live with.

Legends aside, can you honestly say that about either Pontiac's or Ferrari's offerings?

5
Tyler Injaian

I do not agree with your logic that reliability is the primary factor used to determine the superiority of an AUTOMOBILE, especially not in this arena.

Even if I did agree, when it comes down to it, all cars begin to fail eventually. You said yourself the Mitsubishi was tedious to work on; a Pontiac is a much simpler beast and I'm sure GM was putting up way more of a fight than the Italians. Ease and cost of maintenance is a huge part of reliability.

It's just not better.

6

Well, it did have 160,000 miles when he bought it.

7

Those inferior Pontiac GTOs you speak of are from the 60s, and many are still on the road. You actually see quite a few here in Florida. I don't get how they aren't reliable as many are over 50 years and yet still exist and are driven. I'm nearly certain you won't see half as many Mitsubishis last that long on the road and in people's garages. The 3000GT/GTO just wasn't that great of a car, neat technology for the time but hardly the game changer that the Pontiac was in the 60s. I mean come on, the Pontiac GTO is herelded by many as the car that started the American Muscle trend

8

I think you're missing the point here, which was that Mitsu's car was built during what was arguably the Golden Age of Automobiles - the 90s - and thus benefited from the entire evolution of the car up until that point.

Pontiac's vehicle was built with much-less advanced, much less reliable, much-less power-dense late-40s technology, and so had the corresponding weak spots.

I'm not even gonna get into the general problems Ferraris had back then.

And regarding the GTO's kicking off the American Muscle trend, you could say it started the second wave - the first getting off the ground with the '55 Chrysler 300.

But just for something to think about, I remember reading somewhere that the '64 GTO - and by extension the entire muscle car era - was bad for Detroit, and particularly for GM, because the lesson the Big Three apparently learned from that time was that marketing mattered more than engineering.

The thinking seemed to be that you don't need to materially advance a car's technology if you can hype what you've got loudly enough.
It wasn't until the 90s - and the influence of the Japanese - that Detroit started making an honest effort with OHCs, advanced suspensions and non-v8 powerplants.

It was cars like this article's star that helped push them along.

9

Total agreement about the corporate thinking in 'Merca well into the '90's and even 2000's with the crap built, I personally detested even the thought of owning anything available at the time and it all cemented my Nissan Love permanently, even though my favorite Japanese cars are VERY hard to work on.
They ALL pushed the envelope in some way unlike the Stateside stuff, and the commercials...Ken and Barbie and a Z32 anyone, or wanna race a jet with your TT Z32? GREAT stuff!

10

Yeah, the 90's seemed to be a sweet spot of Advanced Meets Usable.

The cars were solid enough to achieve hundred-thousand-mile tuneup intervals and high power densities, while still being simple enough to repair yourself. Plus, the manual transmission was still the undisputed go-to item for hi-po applications.

Besides, any decade that includes the FD3S, the Mk. IV, the Z32, the BNR series, the E36, the C5, the W8 and the Diablo counts as mechanical paradise as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of advertising, this was one of my favorites from that time:

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11

I had a 93 NA 3000gt and honestly it is an awesome car.
IMO i think that the car was ahead of it's time, with a lot of techy things, being FWD at the core (even the VR-4 had a transversally mounted engine) and the fatc that it was on the higher end of the weight scale when comared to its direct rivals definitivelly helped to prevent the car to have more popularity.
Looking at it today, even the earlier ones still have an appeal and the lines blend perfectly to newer cars....

12

Porky, technology-laden, difficult for newcomers to modify. The same characteristics that left the A70 Supra as a lesser-loved car. They were GT cars, not sports cars. And the world wanted sports cars. But the GTO is an awesome car. I'm pretty sure there's one in my town with a V8 swap.

13
Nicholas Dixon

I knew a kid who had multiple VR-4s. None of them ran at 100% ever. First he had a stock red one that caught fire TWICE, once when the ECM decided to hang 3 injectors WFO and raw gas was coming out the tailpipe, and again when the voltage regulator went bad and it charged at 18V and cooked the dash and controls for the active aero and stuff. Then he bought a grey one with a bad turbo to use as a parts vehicle for the red car but then decided to put it on the road instead because it "runs really good" and drove it around blowing smoke like a diesel. Then he found a 3rd one that had a big single turbo conversion and a junk transfer case, that he was going to swap the single turbo onto the grey car with the hurt turbo. I think that one just ended up sitting. And then he was looking at a 3000GT VR-4 Spyder that had some sort of issues. Eventually he sold them all to buy a $20K Mystichrome SVT Cobra with a bad engine. Yeah, he was all about bad decisions

An acquaintance of a different friend had one that was built to the moon and was one bad mother. It made something like 800hp to all 4 wheels. But only for a few seconds at a time, and then it inevitably broke again and spent months waiting for some unobtanium part to get hunted down.

14

sounds like a buddy of mine in Texas

15

I had a 95 3000GT as my first car. It was the relatively mundane 222hp NA/FWD base model, but damn did I love the way it looked. Comfortable for long drives, good trunk space. Could fit 4 people in a pinch. If you could somehow get your hands on a clean one, it would still make an excellent GT car to this day. I drove that thing all over Michigan for 3 years and 60k miles. I once touched 145mph one late night on an empty freeway after a girl I was flirting with asked how fast it would go. Getting the chills thinking about that car now.

I eventually sold it after I didn't want to deal with the burning oil any longer. It seemed like every 3000GT, Turbo or NA would have valve seal issues. I sold it to a pizza delivery kid for $2300. I would see it periodically around my hometown every couple years. Its probably been two years since I happened to see it in the parking lot of my favorite restaurant.

16

I find the GTO more of a luxury these days. Also a showstopper. Also a platform that shows Japanese tech mixed with its car culture

17

I've always loved these cars. Believe it or not, my grandma's first car was a 93' 3000gt in pearl white which she bought brand new at the age of 68. I'm probably the only kid that over it when my grandma's took me to school. She told me the only way I could have it was if I pried the keys from her cold dead hands.
I've looked at buying one so many times, but have never found the one.
Thanks for the article. It brings back good memories.

18

That's one bad-arse grandma!

Author19
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Coolest grandma ever!!

20

I always thought the 3000GT was under appreciated. These cars were still relatively new to me in high school back in 2001. They looked amazing for the time and with a few mods they can be decently fast. As far as I am aware, they don't have that great of an aftermarket support as the Evo but, the GTO looks worlds better. Shame this beauty couldn't have continued production. It was more of a forward-thinking car. Active aero, twin turbo V6, 4 wheels driving the car and I think it had rear wheel steer as well.

-Alex

21

This is my 97 GTO MR. I love driving this car it's not my daily drive it's my one weekend a month Sunday drive car. From a performance point of view the cars are easy to upgrade as the factory turbochargers are quite small. So with some upgraded turbochargers, injectors, fuel pump, exhaust and ECU reflash (depending on the year) you can get quite a big power gain over stock without going crazy.

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Author22
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Super clean!

23

Wow she's beautiful. Almost unicorn status now days don't you think?

24

My neighbor across the street had one in the 90s. I have no idea how he could afford it in his early 20s, but he had one in black. It was the coolest car. He blew the transmission racing it at an air base in Quonset, Rhode Island. I never see them on the road here anymore, and if I do they're usually horrifically modified and unkempt.

25
Thelamus Ceasar

I absolutely love the GTO. It is my first love in the JDM world. You are right Dino is is not suites for the touge but I bet on the Wangan straights it will hang with the best of them. The styling is awesome. And while it was heavy think about this...what car is popular now with a v6 and awd layout? In a weird sort of way this was the R35 before the R35.

Author26
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Very good point! Never really seen many on the Wangan either

27

There are still a few different spec models getting around in Australia. Sadly, most I see are pretty beat up and not looked after.

There is one Red GTO I see from time to time that looks like it is reasonably maintained. would love to find out if it has any cool upgrades under the hood :)

28

I have owned my GTO for a few years now and since I purchased it it has been my daily driver. It has never let me down (knock-on-wood) but i am pretty proactive when in comes to maintenance. Ive only upgraded suspension, brakes, rims and tyres and some bracing to better balance the car for spirited mountain drives. I cant disagree with anything in this artical. It was a great read and makes me want to just jump back in it and drive again.

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29

This Mitsubishi could be ready for a race car or drifting event also

30

I'm now on my third 3000gt. First 2 were 1995 vr4's. The best baby is a 1999 vr4 spyder with 53000 original miles. Still one of the safest, fastest and coolest cars on the road!

31

Spyder was only made in 95 and 96

32

Jeff is right here, 99 (although the best looking) did not come in a spyder.

33
Alfonso Mireles

I'm the proud owner of 99 VR4 That I bought brand new and I still have to this day, and it's my daily driver. I do agree the car never got the respect it deserves. Yes it is heavy but lots of fun to drive. And in the 18 years since I purchased the car it's been very reliable to me, not a single issue. Besides it's regular maintenance. I will keep the car till I drop or the car drops, which ever comes first.

34

when we talk mitsubishi we miss #suzywallace

Author35
Dino Dalle Carbonare

She still has her Evo! We should get her to give us an update on how things are going with her project!

36

Oh yes. The fat evo! I was on the fence about these ones, until I drove one. Mostly because of the slightly busy styling, and the interior that just doesn't speak to me. The allure of a Skyline or Supra is just so much more obvious. I myself ended up driving a n/a mk4 as a daily for a long time. A few years ago a mate had rescued a 5 speed vr4 facelift that he found in a farmers yard. It had been standing for years, and wasn't in the best of shapes, but he let me have a go a few times, and it really surprised me! The way it feels and responds is very balanced and agile. I was expecting more of a boat, but I was completely wrong. It drives much more similar to a mk4 supra, than it does an Impreza or legacy gtb, or even an s4. The front end just doesn't feel heavy and plagued with understeer, like so many other 4wd cars do. In fact the only other 4wd I've driven that had similar turn in, and in corner balance, was a celica gt4 with widened front track, revised geometry, coilovers, etc. The full works. But that had much lighter, more precise controls. The gt3000 really feels like cross between that, and a stock supra, because the weighting and feel of the controls are very similar. I could just get in it, and go fast. On the bumpy narrow mid-Wales B roads and country lanes, it was incredibly competent! As I live in Norway now, where we get loads of snow, I'd love to have one of these as a daily driver. I'd probably go for a stealth, and remove the rear wing, as it looks a little cleaner than the gt3000, but any one of them would do, really. Any car that feels like a 4wd supra, boosts to the moon, and shoots out of a corner like it's possessed, is good in my book. The fat evo can really dance. It's just a shame so few will ask it to.

Author37
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Fat Evo lol

38

This is one of Brian 's cars.some say it's 3000GT but I cannot find a single picture of this version.Dose anyone know what it is on earth???

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39

It's actually a 1991-1993 Dodge Stealth. 1991-1993 Stealth or 3000gt by the pop-up headlights. Stealth base or ES model by the A-B-C pillar design. There used to be a page for this car, I'll see if I can still find it.

40

It is the 3000gt! It has the "Shogun" body kit and wing!

41

I've only found "shogun"an SUV of mistubish.Could you please tell me somethingabout the"body kit"? I'm hoping to make a model of this gt3000.

42

Its face.

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43

I bought my 1991 GTO about 4 months ago and would never go back! It took 3 months to get it to pass Shaken (parts are rare to come by). It's been totally worth it.

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Author44
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Omedetou!

45

Correction to my previous comment. My 1st 2 vr4's were 1992. My current spyder is a 95

46

Mine, too. I've had zero problems - owned it since 1999.

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47
Philip Velasco

dino,
here is my gto from japan which i began working on as of late last year. i agree with you about the 6g72 being hard to work on as it takes so much space at the engine bay. hopefully i can get this one running before the year ends.

cheers!
philip

p.s.: here on the philippines i can only see a handful of these big boys enjoying the road

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Author48
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Good luck with the project, hope you get it completed. Watch those knuckles! (your hands, not the steering lol)_

49

Had a 3000gt poster on my wall as a kid, loved how it looked and always wanted one, then at 25 years old a 4wd model came up at the right price and I didn't buy it due to being put off by massive repair bills and I really try to stay away from transverse engines in all drivetrains, so I passed. Probably for the best really.

Author50
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Would you shy away from a Miura? Transverse lol...

51

Erm...........if I have enough money to buy and run one I would get something else. If it's given to me then I'd accept it and sell it.

I'm a simple man and always go for simple cars.

52

It pains me to see nice Mitsubishi's these days. All I can think about is how the company has died a Lancia-like death.

Author53
Dino Dalle Carbonare

They allowed it to die. Mitsubishi didn't do much to save it, they have far more profitable industries to give attention to

54

The MR facelift was marginally quicker than anything out of Japan at the time to 100kph/mph if memory serves. Probably deserving of their reputation, but the facelift was a great looking car and the earlier shape is reasonably common here in NZ, though getting less so by the day. I drive a Legnum VR4 and often think about looking for a late model GTO as a change of scenery.

Author55
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Love the Legnum. Props

56

Proud owner of a 1995 VR-4. Generally considered ahead of its time. Even today they are making new cars that nod to its features like active aero, twin turbo, AWD V6. See: Alfa Romeo Guilia and Jaguar XE as examples.

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Author57
Dino Dalle Carbonare

So true. I still laugh about rear steering. For years the poncy Brit jurnos mocked Japanese cars like the GT-R for having so much tech that was "useless." Now Porsche uses it on the 991 and it's like it's tech sent from the God. Morons

58
Joseph kraus iii

I love my Gto. Not only do I have a Gto stateside, but the only one in Cali. Although it's not easy to find parts she's coming along great. It's awesome that you took some time to write about these awesome cars. I do feel these cars along with other 90's classics are on the rise.

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59

Oh, that looks so CLEAN...congrats!

60
Joseph kraus iii
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61

The main thing I remember about the GTO is that it was always the winner in Gran Turismo arcade races! That thing was fast!

Author62
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Haha so true! Mine would fly around the high speed ring lol

63

Ha! I used to always have a built one in sim mode for the hard races and enduro!

64

Man, I love this car!!
My buddy had one or two back in high school/college of the VR-4 variety. He would always ask how fast he thought we could go from Queens to Brooklyn in NYC in the nighttime hours. It was way more nimble than everyone ever thought. You'd be surprised at how fast you could go thru quick "bendies" with that beast. A friend of mine is actually building a stealth r/t right now using bits and pieces from a donor 3000 gt and shooting for 600 hp. Expensive project. she dailys a fwd 3000 gt. Pretty nuts about it. Sad thing about these rides is that they're always really jacked up if you ever look for em. Although prices are almost worth it since no one wants to deal with them. Make a good ride for someone lookin to be different

65

I absolutely love mine. I converted my n/, auto, fwd base model to Twin turbo, 5 speed and AWD using a GTO front clip. The looks you get while driving around are the best, because so many people don't even know what kind of car it is and some can't do anything but appreciate how clean it is.

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Author66
Dino Dalle Carbonare

That sits so good, love the wheels and what you've done with it!

67

Thank you Dino! Got so hype when I saw a GTO getting more love on SpeedHunters!

68

I remember collecting car magazines as a teenager in the early 90's and lusting after the 3000GT/GTO. In Ireland at almost £40,000 they were more expensive than most houses! I remember promising myself I'd have one someday no matter how outdated it would have become. Today I have two :) my 91' Jap import GTO VR-4 and its grandad a 1971 Galant GTO. I especially love cruising along playing classic Synth tracks in the VR-4. Its a beautifully designed and comfortable rocket ship IMHO. I will never sell them either

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Author69
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Incredible, that's the winning combo! It's like if I added a Hakosuka to my line up! Bet it feels good :)

73

As a realized that a '90's Japanese sportscar would be my final choice of vehicle to buy as a "project" car, I was leaning towards the 3000GT and Z31 until I drove a Z32, and it was final- Z32 wins hands down.
Both cars have the same basic issues with space and early new technology not-so-helpfully applied, but the Z32 has been my choice now since 2003, an NA and TT both.
However, the 3000GT still is a car I'd love to try out and it's cool to see one here, and especially hear about some of the ownership issues shall we say...thanks, Speedhunters!

Author74
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thank you for sharing! Damn, 2 Z32s. Badass!

75

Thanks!
Z32's are great until you have to work on them, and you will have to as they have several issues commonly, and then you either bail or learn them. My NA served as the test mule so to speak, and that led to moderating on a Z site (NICO) and then the TT...which then needed major help two years later. I've modded it pretty heavily since- turbo upgrade and integration of all of that plus some dress up work, doing everything except the heavy-lifting engine work myself.

76

Do you have a paypal account. because if you do you can generate an additional 1000 every week in your profit only working at home 5 hours each day... check

77

My first car was a 1994 3000GT base model. It made "220" hp (so realistically 175-180 at the wheels. Those cars ran notoriously low). It was a blast for a first car, I loved it to death and did all kinds of little mods to it (while still keeping it classy).

2 years into ownership I hydrolocked it (cue tears) and it sat for 7 months while I, instead of doing the smart thing and moving on, waited to do an engine swap. Lo and behold, a friend of mine ends up getting rear-ended and totals his VR4. So, I buy the totaled car and tow both to a shop 7 hours away in Pennsylvania. 5 days and a nice chunk of change later and I've got a FWD twin turbo beast. That thing was boatloads of fun at around 300whp/320wtq in the lighter FWD body (3200lbs vs the 3800 or the VR4. Thanks, AWD).

Unfortunately, I couldn't keep up with the maintenance and random repairs related to sending lots of power through two wheels (see: 5 axles in as many months. 2 of which sheared off inside the trans). There were a bunch of other small things, as well, that kept costing me money. So I traded the car for a motorcycle and a chunk of cash.

Will I ever own another 3000GT? Noooo way in hell.

Would I do anything differently if I could go back? Not a chance. Despite being a pain in the ass in its TT form, it was still an awesome car to own and I miss it all the time.

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78

I can't edit it for some reason. Figured I should mention the reasons I wouldn't own another...

Maybe I just got one that hadn't had much maintenance done, but I ended up doing LOTS on mine. In the 40k miles I owned it, I did wheel bearings twice, went through lots of axles, did front ball joints twice, replaced a harmonic balancer, had to do a 60k maintenance (involves timing belt, water pump, oil pump). Also did a clutch, replaced engine mounts....there was a lot more. Also, keep in mind this all happened while in college/high school. So it was pretty rough on the 'ole wallet.

Once turbo'd, it was fairly solid apart from tuning issues, blowing up axles, chewing through tires like nobody's business and a turbo on its way out, but I saw more money coming in the future and couldn't afford it at the time, so decided to cut losses and let go.

79

Hell yes :D Here's mine

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80
Rickard Angeria

Cool cars :D Here's mine

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81

I owned at 92 VR4 for 5 years. It was a great car but I always felt, while this may be good I bet GTR is worlds better! Magazines were constantly talking about how amazing the GTR was and rarely mentioned the VR4.
A month ago I got to drive a R34 GTR. The entire time I kept thinking, this feels a hell of a lot like my old VR4. The hype behind the GTR has been so great for so long here in the US and little did we know that beat up VR4 that's for sale for $4k in the used car lot down the street could have been the answer all along.

82
Justin Porter

Interesting side note, given that it IS the Month of May: the 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T was that year's pace car for the Indy 500.

As woeful as those bruisers could be to tune, they're actually quite lovely cars as delivered and certainly an in-period interesting alternative to a non-ZR1 Corvette. Shocking as it may be to consider, but in a time when the Viper was just an eye-gasm concept with Ol' Shel leaning on the fender, the Dodge Stealth was the other "American" sports car.

83
Ryan Senensky

I actually have been saying for years that this is a great prospective collector car. A lot of people overlook them as being hefty but they weren't too far off from the weight of a R34 GT-R and was faster stock for stock in a quarter mile. Plus simple weight reduction (removing random stuff) can net nearly 1000 lbs of weight savings.

Hopefully one day they will come back.

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