Is there a sports car that typifies the 1990s more than the Mitsubishi 3000GT (and its mechanically identical companion, the Dodge Stealth)? It seemed so exotic at the time – almost like a Ferrari, except that you might actually be able to afford it.
Well, you could afford it if you kept to lower-level models. At the top of the 3000GT food chain, the VR-4 stickered at about $40,000 in the early years. That was Corvette territory. The lowliest 3000GTs stickered at about $17k at first. That’s equivalent to about $30k today, definitely within reach of someone with a middle-class income who wants to look like he drives a fast car.
A buddy of mine had a red 1990 or ’91 VR-4. When he rolled up in it for the first time, I admit to feeling a little weak in the knees over how gorgeous it looked. When I got in and we drove around a bit, I quickly noticed how nose heavy it felt and how it handled a little ponderously. No wonder; it weighed 3,800 pounds. I could never sort out whether the all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering helped or hindered handling. But damn, was it fast. 60 arrived in about 5.5 seconds – the 300-hp twin-turbo V6 was very able to motivate that much metal. And the braking was outstanding; it felt like God Himself was reaching down to stop the car. But his VR-4 replaced a first-gen Mazda RX-7, which I quickly came to miss. Even though that RX was pretty used up, it was still very quick and nimble and just a joy to drive. My consolation was all the attention we got while cruising in that VR-4.
Lesser GT3000s were much lesser. Packing a 222-horsepower V6, low-line 3000GTs were said to be more show than go, like a contemporary six-cylinder Mustang or Camaro. 222 hp sounds like a lot, but it’s apparently not enough to move this much car with true sporty zing. This SL is one step up from the base model and offers mostly extra interior comfort and convenience goodies.
And it’s wearing Champagne Yellow Pearl paint, which was available only in 1994 and 1995. So many of these rolled off the line in red that I’m not sure I’d notice one in that color today, even in a sparsely populated parking lot. Unfortunately, the 3000GT doesn’t wear this color well. Maybe that’s why it got my notice – oh em gee, what is that? At least this 20-year-old sort-of sportster still looks new.