Peak Hour Outtakes: The Japanese

mitsubishi scorpion

There was always something very cool about these Mitsubishi Scorpions, also known as the Galant Lambda in Japan, Sapporo in Europe and Dodge Challenger/Plymouth Sapporo in North America. Sadly, they have mostly disappeared from our roads and this lone photo is the only documentary evidence I have of one’s existence in Brisbane.

I recall being a passenger in one of these many years ago in an identical shade of brown. It belonged to someone in my extended family and even though it was about 20 years old at that point, as a kid I found it eminently cool. The Scorpion had an interior that still looks attractive today and it was nice and airy with its pillarless roofline. Exterior styling was also smart although this was a rare example of a car that looked better after a facelift: just compare, say, an ’81 Plymouth Sapporo to a ’79. This is an early model based on the full-width light/reflector panel. But it seems these were targeting an odd niche, being a well-appointed, smooth-riding but not especially powerful, large or sporty coupe. While that type of car may have been better received in the US, in Australia it means they were only mildly successful and today don’t have much of an enthusiast following.

mazda3

Now, this isn’t a Curbside Classic quite yet but the current-generation Mazda3 is a sharp-looking compact. Generally the second or third best-selling compact in Australia (the others on the podium are the Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla), the 3 wears Mazda’s new design language very well and frankly look more prestige than, say, a Lexus CT200h. What made me notice this particular Mazda3 were its aftermarket wheels that appear to be evoking whitewalls. With the white paint, they make this 3 look very appealing – and this is coming from someone who loathes white cars!

honda accord gen1

This is one of two first-generation Honda Accord sedans I’ve spotted in rush hour traffic and both are in magnificent condition for their age. It may surprise North American Curbsiders to learn this but Honda has never reached the heights of Toyota, Nissan, Mazda or Mitsubishi in Australia. Unlike those Japanese brands, it never started manufacturing locally and it has, until the past decade or so, often priced its cars above Japanese and domestic rivals. With the advent of the free trade agreement with Thailand, however, the price premium has disappeared as Honda sources much of its Australian market lineup from its Thai factories. But although Hondas of the 1970s, 80s and 90s may have sold in lower volumes, their relative ubiquity on Aussie roads betrays their excellent quality and reliability. It may also betray their popularity with older consumers, a reputation Honda had for some time.

mitsubishi galant liftback 2

Waiting to cross the street one day, I saw this top-of-the-line Galant liftback. There’s one that lives near my house – albeit a base model – so it wasn’t the uniqueness of the sighting that made me take a photo. Rather, it’s that little hood ornament. I have never seen a car like a Galant with a hood ornament, although¬†certain high-spec Magnas of the time wore a similar little ornament. It’s an odd touch on a relatively sporty hatchback.

mitsubishi galant liftback 1

At the time this was launched in 1989, North Americans were fast losing interest in hatchbacks of this size. Mitsubishi made the decision to launch only the sedan in North America and leave the hatchbacks to more appreciative markets elsewhere. The mid-size hatchback is one body style that really should return to North America, not only because of its superior practicality but because hatchback versions of the Buick Regal/Opel Insignia and Ford Fusion/Mondeo look almost exactly the same as their sedan counterparts thanks to the general styling trend of rakish rooflines and short rear decks. Seriously, I have to stop and look to tell the difference.

mitsubishi_galant_1992_wallpapers_1_b

This Galant was one of the slower-selling mid-size hatchbacks of its time due to its positioning as Mitsubishi’s premium mid-size offering. The Magna, a widened and Australianized version of the previous Galant, was larger and priced around $4-5000 less; even the next generation of Magna, based on the larger Diamante, had a lower base price. However, the Magna didn’t offer anything as exciting as the 4WD VR4 Galant introduced here in 1990. Both this generation and the subsequent one offered lesser, 2.0 four-cylinder models but by 1995 these were dropped; for 1995-96, the Galant came in just one well-equipped hatchback version with a 2.0 V6.

Those were some of the Japanese cars I’ve spied during rush hour traffic. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some cars from another country.

Related Reading:

CC Capsule: 1994 Mitsubishi Galant

Curbside Classic: 1976 Honda Accord

Curbside Classic: 1978 Plymouth Sapporo