The 1990s were a remarkable era for cars. So much new technology was becoming available, which brought a return to performance. Most notably, in Japan, turbo and AWD became the formula for success.
Here in the US, those of us who were teenagers in the early ’90s weren’t all that familiar with the R32 Skyline GT-R. We knew the Japanese halo cars as the A80 Supra, FD3S RX-7, Z32 300ZX and the one often left out of the comparison – the Mitsubishi 3000GT. It really wasn’t until later in the decade that we became familiar with all that Japan had to offer.
Even though they aren’t often in the spotlight, and despite my lack of any actual experience with them, I have always been fond of the 3000GT. One of my most vivid memories of Mitsubishi’s ’90s supercar came about when I was aged 12-13. I convinced my dad (who was a die-hard Nissan guy) to stop in at the Mitsubishi dealership so we could take a closer look. At the time, the 3000GT was the most beautiful car I had ever seen, and I was actually upset by the fact that I could not convince my dad to purchase one.
Ever since then, I have always had a special place in my heart for 3000GTs, admiring them when occasionally spotted in the wild. It seems odd to me that they have gone mostly unnoticed, especially when you consider the technology they offered when new. It does seem, though, that they have a pretty bad reputation from a maintenance standpoint.
Jay Belknap disagrees. He has dedicated many years to this platform, and today owns one of the best examples I could ever imagine. His love of the 3000GT has led to other major impacts in his life as well.
The 3000GT VR-4/GTO community is a very niche one. These all-wheel drive machines are extremely capable when built correctly, however limited aftermarket support (and a movie or two) has redirected the spotlight to other ’90s Japanese supercars.
Even off the showroom floor, the 3000GT VR-4 had an arsenal of weapons to deploy: From active exhaust to four-wheel steering, front and rear active aerodynamics to active suspension; a torque-happy 3.0L V6 twin-turbo engine paired to a Getrag 6-speed transmission; a Getrag transfer case to assist power delivery to all four wheels; 320hp (and 315tq on tap at 2,500rpm) for 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds; curves for days thanks to its Ferrari-inspired styling.
So looking back through the years, it’s hard to understand why there wasn’t more love for the 3000GT platform. Perhaps nostalgia for this beautiful classic has returned us here.
Jay’s first 3000GT VR-4 was purchased in the summer of 2000. It was tuned to 500+awhp on US 93 octane fuel, painted Porsche GT silver, and featured on the June ’08 cover of Modified magazine. Around the same time, Jay met his future wife-to-be at the annual 3000GT/Stealth National Gathering. Jacqueline Belknap (nee Kassen) brought her 1994 3000GT Twin Turbo from the Chicago suburbs to share a garage in Virginia Beach with Jay’s silver car. Jackie and Jay have been married since April 2011.
But what looked like ‘happily ever after’ turned into tough times in 2013. An unexpected job loss led to a silver car part-out, loss of home, then on top of that Jay had to fight a rare neurological disease. These challenges meant that the silver 3000GT rebuild was put on the back burner for some time.
By 2016, Jay and Jackie found their new life in rural southern Virginia. A new career, new house, and a won medical battle meant that Jay could finally rebuild the silver VR-4. His lofty goals meant a lot of time and work was required to get the 3000GT back to its old glory days. At Jackie’s insistence, she convinced Jay to just find a clean driver to enjoy and not go crazy with while the silver car was restored.
Any car person knows how this story ends up…
In late 2017, Jay found a single-owner 1994 Caracas Red 3000GT VR-4 with 42,000 miles on the clock. It was completely stock, the car’s first owner had never let it see rain, and it had all maintenance performed by Mitsubishi. A binder full of receipts even included the original window sticker. It was the perfect car for Jay to not go crazy with. A short flight and drive later, Jay and Jackie’s 3000GTs had a new friend.
Having had many years to plan out the next GTO build, Jay got right to work. The vision for the red car was a great weekend cruiser that would feel at home on track or at a Cars & Coffee event. This meant keeping certain amenities and ditching others; carefully reducing weight, but not turning the car into a tin can. Thermal management would be vital.
Above all though, the 6G72TT engine would be kept, preserving the soul of the VR-4.
The red VR-4’s first service under new ownership included a timing belt inspection and fluids front to rear. A Supercar-Engineering extended capacity oil pan was filled with six quarts of Mobil 1 5W-50, and the 3000GT Stealth Solutions extended capacity oil cooler would receive a 7th quart. A 3SX Performance high-capacity radiator was filled with 66/34% water/coolant mix, and an HKS 1.1bar radiator cap added higher headroom for boiling. Redline fluids freshened up the Getrag gearbox, transfer case and rear differential.
Strategic weight reduction was next. This included the removal of rear seats and belts, plastic hatch trays, spare tire and tools, CD changer, rear wiper and fluid tank, EGR, EVAP, fog lights, active exhaust, cargo cover and many fasteners no longer required. Other items were replaced with lighter versions, such as a carbon fiber roof, carbon fiber driveshaft, carbon wiper cowl, Odyssey battery, tow hooks, lighter seats, wheels, suspension, exhaust, tubular frames, etc.
All in all, weight was reduced by 311lbs, bringing the scales down to 3,470lbs. This number is more impressive when considering that 4WS, ABS, air-conditioning, power steering and the car’s active aero were retained.
Stopping this twin-turbo juggernaut meant an increase in thermal capacity. Supercar-Engineering and StopTech collaborated to provide a 6-piston caliper with 380x35mm rotors up front, and a balanced 2-piston 328x28mm setup out back. GTO MR brake ducts guide air to the front rotors and keep the Carbotech pads cool.
The monstrous brakes are wrapped in square setup of 19×9.5-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37 Ultra wheels wrapped in sticky 275/35R19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.
The 3000GT VR-4 is a nose-heavy car, setup by Mitsubishi to understeer at the limit. Jay revised the handling to a neutral/rear-bias with the addition of Addco front and rear sway bars, 3S Solutions end links, Tein Flex coilovers and Oohnoo steering rack bushings. Chassis stiffness is increased with non-adjustable front and rear strut bars by Pit Road M – Japan’s foremost GTO tuning specialist.
Under the hood, air is filtered through the OEM airbox by a K&N panel filter, routed by 3SX inlet pipes, compressed and heated by twin Dynamic Racing DR-750 turbos, then cooled back down by a pair of Oohnoo/Bell side-mount intercoolers. The Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 DOHC heads are ported and fitted with Supertech valves, Brian Crower 266/272 cams, and revised OEM lifters. On the lower end, torsional vibration is calmed with a Fluidampr crankshaft pulley. The Jester flash-able OEM ECU controls boost and fuel delivered by a FueLab pump. Exhaust gases are routed through gutted pre-cats, GZP down-pipe, 3SX high-flow main cat, and a Tanabe Medallion Touring cat-back system.
Road tuning has power north of 500hp to all four wheels on pump gas. On most of the hot-side parts, thermal insulation is provided by Heatshield Products. The centerpiece of the engine bay is a Pit Road M titanium spark plug cover, signed by PRM boss Bruce Morishita.
In the VR-4’s cabin, Jay installed a period-correct Stack ST8130 display cluster and a trio of Greddy 60mm electronic gauges. The carbon fiber dash bezel is a one-off and has an arc of LEDs across the top to serve OEM indication functions, while the titanium shift knob is a very rare Mitsubishi GTO MR factory option. An Alpine iLX-107 with wireless Apple CarPlay connects to Jay’s iPhone for music and navigation. Furthermore, a SWI-RC allows the OEM steering wheel radio controls to be retained and a Montero rear-view mirror provides HomeLink functionality,
The seats are a pair of long-discontinued Bride XAX-II (leather/gradation) items.
Outside, the low-mile Caracas Red single-stage paint is original and has been corrected to a mirror shine. A Bomex lip shields the front active aerodynamics. Carbon fiber accents can be found in the Retro-Spec side splitters, Retro-Spec wiper cowl, one-off roof, one-off rear brake inlets, and finally the RE Amemiya rear diffuser.
GTO taillamps have been fitted and mega-rare GTO illuminated panels sit inside the rear-quarter windows. All lighting has been converted to LED, except for the headlamps which are powered by a set of McCulloch HIDs from the early ’00s.
From the latest Hot Wheels drop to higher prices on Bring-a-Trailer, the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4/GTO platform has been getting some well-deserved love lately. Despite this, I imagine there will likely be some comments on how maintenance in its engine bay makes a Z32 seem like child’s play.
With the longitudinal layout being crammed with items in every square inch, it would seem that many maintenance items might require countless hours of removing neighboring components, but Jay tells me there are certain shortcuts you must know, like loosening the brake booster to replace the clutch master. OEM specialty tools are also a must with longterm ownership.
Jay mentioned that the 3000GT VR-4’s accessible cost to attain has led to a lot of shade tree mechanics working on, and subsequently destroying engines, drivelines, electrical systems etc. Reliability issues are mostly unfounded. As with any car, maintenance first, modify second. This goes extra for high-end cars that are now 25+ years old. You’re probably going to want to look at a couple of capacitors in the control modules as well…
The goal for the red 3000GT VR-4 is pretty much done: Drive it. Enjoy it. Don’t go crazy with it. Let it tide you over until the silver VR-4 is built.
I guess it’s time Jay gets back to building that one, and we can’t wait to see him go bonkers with a dedicated track build. When it comes to 3000GTs, don’t call it a comeback, Jay has been here for years.
Jay Thanks: Jacqueline Belknap, Team Ultraspeed, Bruce Morishita, Patrick Antell, Russell Hobbs, Chris Hill, Philip Glazatov, David Mennella, Hans Ertl, Steve Burrows, Robert Prinz, Jason Zachariev, Nick Davis, Tony Kwan, Mike Chang, and Aaron Dabrowski
Well, I understand why hat they have gone mostly unnoticed. I had a sticker with 3000 GT on a fridge when I was a kid. I found this car outstandingly beautiful as you do. And once I remembered this sticker and the fact that I hadn't been seen them since the early 2000-s. After a quick research, I found that this beautiful coupe is a transverse FWD. "How comes???" was my first thought. A relatively big car with a long base and a vast hood is an FWD. First of all, most of the JDM cars of 90-s became famous because of drift. Second, I'm trying to imagine the driving experience, and it doesn't seem exciting, I imagine it understeering as hell at every opportunity. If I want an FWD performance car, I probably choose an Mk6 Civic or a 53 Mini, something more FWD by its nature, shorter, lighter, with better balance.
Now we have a perfect formula to be lost in history. A car that screams "drift me!" is a too big FWD coupe that at the same time can't steer like a Civic.
You are correct. The rugular 3000GT is fwd. However, the VR-4 is awd, and has rear steering. The 3000GT VR-4 is the model you're looking for.
Let's clear some things up here: 1. Ilya is just flat out wrong on so many of those stupid claims. 90s JDM cars are mostly famous from drifting???? Maybe the Silvia's which are some of the least "popular" JDM 90s cars. Absolutely RIDICULOUS statement. The 22b STI??? THE SUPRA FROM HELL VIDEO with 6 million views which is literally an auto Supra doing a pull from 45 to the 6th freaking dimension absolutely dead straight on a highway??? The Integra Type-R, a homologation spec FWD car for the ages that has some of the hottest street part value any car has ever seen??? Which of these are known for their famous drifting??? Jesus Christ. You deserve to be flamed with a comment like that.
2. IceAge is partially correct in that case the transverse layout is built with FWD in most platforms however there is a legitimate 55/45 rear wheel bias from the factory setup and it works perfectly fine, comparable to plenty of other manufacturers AWD options. It is not inherently a slower platform just because it has a transverse layout. And the FWD bashing?? Tell me you know literally NOTHING about cars or motorsports without actually telling me you know nothing about cars with that comment right there. Go watch Jordan Cox absolutely blow the DOORS off a Holden Commodore
through one of the trickiest segments on the entire track at Bathurst in a sub 250whp EG hatch. Extra horsepower won't mean much of anything when you're looking at your turn entry/exit speeds especially when it concerns your braking points and your overall stability. An actual good FWD platform vehicle that's well tuned and upgraded could be likened to a learner GT4 vehicle. It's not built to go fast in a straight line, it's very own driving characteristics ENCOURAGE it's stability and tossability THROUGH turning segments both under/off throttle and under braking and that's what makes better drivers, not Dipshit Billybobs that are plowing their mustangs into a crowds of people when leaving a cars and coffee event. Your opinions are flat out bad. Stop calling yourself a car person. Flaming well deserved for you as well.
3. KanyeWest also looking foolish with his comment. Again, a transverse layout is not inherently slower so it's engine bay appearance is largely inconsequential. Please offer us your expertise demonstrating why and how it's worse and it's applicable repercussions on a daily driving or track day situation.
4. LK I believe is mostly correct in that the USDM from the years of 91 to 94 had 3 versions of the 3000gt: the "Base" version with the 222hp/200 ft lb. torque DOHC V6 engine and minimal features, the "SL" which was the same but with some of the VR4 features such as power/leather seats, Tuneable exhaust, active suspension, etc. and because of this they often weighed in at an additional 200-300 pounds and thus were the slowest of all 3 options, and finally 3. The 3000GT VR4 which had all the options as well as a twin turbo setup on the same DOHC V6 motor resulting in roughly 300 hp and 285 ft lb of torque.
From 95 to 99, they introduced a new "base" model featuring a SOHC V6 with a measley 160 hp. And frankly that was not a good idea. The only other vehicle as slow as that one was the UK spec GTO MR, which was a NON TURBO regular DOHC V6 in an AWD layout. That's 222 hp in a 3700-3800 pound layout vs the 222 hp in the 3200+ layout of a regular base model layout of 91-94. By all means, the MR is the worse of the two cars.
Finally, it's cool to see Fabrik8 and JAY in the comments, theyre OGs in the 3S community along with Hans of 3SX, Ray Pampena, Chris Hill (RIP), etc.
The VR4 is an awesome car. John Hennessy literally started his ENTIRE TUNING CAREER with his famous "VR-200". Its a hell of a grand tourer in a great shape and they are despite what people say actually very above average in reliability. It is as much a JDM icon as the Supra, the R34, the FD Body Mazda, and the NSX.
Just to point out the MR was a TT variant without 4ws. it always had the twin turbo engine, other options may have been selective (abs), but it never came with the other options ie active areo/exhaust/cruise control. hence the term "mostly removed" :in place of MR
The MR is the quickest of the bunch! The yanks just never got it. -source GTO MR owner
Please offer us where it was stated "..a transverse layout is not inherently slower.."
Don't need any expertise to point out your reading disabilities
It was simply pointed out that the engine sits forward. Learn to read before you write.
This car is AWD, not FWD.
Yeah, THIS one's AWD, but the platform architecture is inexplicably FWD, so it seems like Mitsubishi was doing an Audi-like attempt to make a top-end FWD platform. Audi, at least, makes ALL of it's FWD-based cars AWD.
And as we all know, FWD is the automotive equivalent of a dog dragging it's ass on the carpet with it's hind legs up in the air.
FWD is the automotive equivalent of a dog dragging it's [sic] ass on the carpet with it's [sic] hind legs up in the air
Sounds like someone's WRX got toasted by a well-sorted GTI/Type R/Focus ST.
FWD platform roots really show up in engine bay pictures. Just look at how forward the engine sits up from!
Still, the 90's was something special from Japan where everyone did a sports car with a different formula: Toyota's classic FR layout, Honda's MR exotic, Nissan's 4WD trickery, Mazda's lightweight rotary, this 3000GT, and even Subaru's odd flat-6 SVX
What are you all smoking?! only the yanks got the pathetic fwd sohc version, the original 3000gt/GTO were and are pure 4wd chassis's.
Hhhmm, where have I seen that
car before.... oh, hi Jay! Hi Jackie!
Beautiful car, nothing quite like a Stealth/3000GT/GTO.
I always thought the Stealth R/T Turbo had more innovative, elegant styling. Particularly that halfmoon wing at the base of the rear window and the top corner taillights.
I’m with you Ice Age. I am still in love with my 91 firestorm red Stealth.
What a beautiful car.
Two things occurred to me while reading this article.
First, the VR-4 has all the things JDM fans love about the BNR-chassis Skylines: 6-cylinder engine, twin turbos, all-wheel-drive, manual transmission, coupe body style. But nobody fanwanks over a VR-4 in America because Mitsubishi actually sold them here. If this were a Japan-only model, it'd have the same fanbase as the BNR cars. It'd be the subject of the same grass-is-greener adulation as the R34.
Second, this car weighs about the same as an R35 - about 3,800 lbs. But the VR-4 looks a thousand pounds lighter than that due to it's sleek, beautiful design. The R35, on the other hand, looks about a thousand pounds HEAVIER than it really is.
The R32 GT-Rs could keep up with Porsche 911s in their day. The skylines had the performance and racing chops to back up their hype.
I'm an American and living in Japan for the past five years and daily drive a GTO while, somewhat similar to this story, building a Skyline GT-R R33. The Skyline GT-R is a world's-better platform in almost every category that matters, especially those concerning performance. One area where the Skyline falls short of the GTO is daily driving. The Mitsu is an absolute pleasure to drive on stretches of highway deserving of a grand tourer. She's a little tough to maneuver on tight neighborhood roads, but once on the road it's worth the small inconvenience to get there.
I remember when the "silver car" was green. Love you guys.
Was not expecting to see this! She is a hefty 3700lbs tho! Thats a stout 2-door lol
Thank you for telling the story of a GTO / 3000GT VR-4. These cars truly shine when built correctly…
I do love the way these looked, as I did then. It was, like you, one of my 4 coveted cars at the time (my fav. being the FD RX7). But as many have commented, weight, cost, complexity and let's face it, Mitsubishi, are factors in why they were and are less prevalent.
Kudos to a passionate owner making a badass modern version!
I was not expecting to see such a familiar name when I clicked on this post....
Jay, if you're watching the comments, I owe you a call or text, it's been too long. My 970 number is the same. Also, hi Jackie! Hope you're both doing well.
I made the carbon dash for the silver car, and it's found a second home. That seems like a lifetime ago.... Where did those years go?
Dude!!! It’s been ages! Your CF bezel, roof, and ducts will always live on somewhere in my fleet of VR-4’s! They’re so much more than parts… memories now. I sent a text…
Oh, and there's the sunroof too! I missed that in the pictures the first time. Super cool!
My buddy used to own a 3000GT full spec, all-JDM-goodness.
After years of ownership and heartache (and headache. haha) , he had to let her go because:
1) impossibly costly road-tax and insurance
2) very hard to obtain body replacement parts (premium prices too)
3) relatively high fuel consumption
4) impractical for daily-drive (at today's living standard) Also nagging wife insisting on a family mover.
5) extremely, tight, inaccessible engine. Ain't the mechanic's fav car to fix for sure.
6) very limited aftermarket support.
Built quality of the 3000GT was top-notch among cars of the 90s.
No doubt the car still has road presence, and a head turner.
Beautiful! 3000GTs are awesome. Unlike what Mitsubishi builds today.
Very clean, very nice and very easily underestimated. Also with that parts list, I wouldn't call it 'don't go crazy'
Its nice to finally see a article dedicated to mitsubishi gto. Such a Beautiful car. Thank you guys
That inspired me a lot! Nice project
So looking back through the years, it’s hard to understand why there wasn’t more love for the 3000GT platform.
if it was 1998! what would you choose to buy from Mitsubishi? Evo V RS or 3000Gt vr4? (also consider MSRP! 30k $ vs 45k $)
and other manufacture had better options. Supra for ~ 40k $ or RX7 fd3s for ~ 32k $.
3000gt was expensive, heavy, over engineered car.
I've had mine for about a year now and I love it
It always amuses me when people compare the 3000GT/GTO with the Supra, RX7 and Skyling GT-R and mention the weight because they're actually missing the point of this car.
It was never intended to rival the relatively lightweight, sports cars from Nissan, Toyota or Mazda, it was simply built because Mitsubishi could. It spanned the market segments of the more focused sports coupes and the high end luxury coupes like the Soarer and Cosmo. Think of it as Japan's answer to the Porsche 928 and BMW 840 and it begins to make more sense.
That being said, it was good in both segments but not brillant at either.
McCulloch HID! wow. i remember dumping an entire paycheck of $300 making $8/hr for a set in my first car. I thought I was hot fire lol. Beautiful GTO/3000GT.
Man if only Mitsubishi can make proper cars again
Just sad to see something that was once great in my childhood is now nothing really