(first posted 8/11/2016) Mitsubishi’s “Silent Shaft” engine was the first modern mass-produced engine to introduce the significant benefits of balance shafts, a feature that has become quite common since. Four cylinder engines were becoming very popular in the 70s, after the energy crisis, and as they got larger, the four cylinder’s inherent harmonics became increasingly problematic. The droning and buzzing was a big detriment, especially in more upscale models. The Silent Shaft put those nasty issues to bed, once and for all. Too bad it wasn’t adopted more uniformly and quickly.
The Arrow had the 2.0 liter version. But it was the larger 2.6 L that really revolutionized the market. Almost nobody (except GM, with their various large-displacement fours) would have thought of building a modern four that large. 2.0 liters was considered the limit for a relatively smooth four; 2.3 liters if one really worked at it, like Mercedes with their 2.3 four. But the Mitsubishi 2.6 became very popular, and bailed out Chrysler until it had its own balance-shafted 2.5 (as well as a V6).
The Arrow was quite conventional in every other respect, with rear wheel drive, good handling, a slick 5 speed manual, and a mediocre ride due to the firm suspension and limited wheel travel of the crude rear axle suspension. The 2.6 L version eventually found its way into the Arrow’s body, and became the legendary Fire Arrow.
“Too bad it wasn’t adopted more uniformly and quickly.”
Were there patents involved?
They mentioned the Chevy Monza’s 12.3 cubic foot cargo capacity vs. the Arrow and Celica as though comparing the hatchbacks with the seats down. In that context, how did GM get it that small, were they *trying* to!?!
I think that Porsche had to get a license from Mitsubishi for the early 80’s 944 (or maybe 924)? which had a large 4 cylinder engine…so I would guess you’re right, maybe that’s why we didn’t see more large 4 cylinder cars (although my buddy used to have a 2.4 litre 4 in his Celica, which he jokingly refered to as his “big block 4”)
Yes, 12.3 cubic feet would seem pretty small for a hatchback (maybe they were comparing to the Monza Coupe….not sure why they’d do that though)…even with rear wheel drive, which tends to make the rear area more shallow than on a front wheel drive car…R&T’s specs for the Arrow look to be 10.0 cubic feet plus 13.9 (guess with the rear seat down). Compare that to my FWD VW Golf, which I think is spec’d close to 18 cubic feet (with the rear seat up)…albeit the Golf isn’t a “swoopy” hatchback (i.e. 2 door with very raked backlight).. but it also has a “well” for a full sized spare tire underneath the “trunk”, so it’s pretty roomy for a small car, though smaller than most wagons.
I liked the style of the Arrow, though it isn’t quite as nice as my benchmark, the MK1 Scirocco, it was also a less expensive car, not so much a sports car as a “sporty” subcompact..it was a lot nicer looking that the Datsun 710 I was driving back then…but my very next car was a Scirocco so I “made up for it” rather soon 🙂
944. 924 originally had the VW/Audi engine.
Sometimes the Mitsubishi engines that used belts for the balance shafts (4G63) would still be running, often for a long time as long as the timing belt didn’t also get taken out if a balance shaft belt broke. They were interference motors so this would kill the engine if it happened. They would continue to run, although with more vibration. The 4G54 used a chain for the shafts that wouldn’t break and take out the T belt.
Sometimes when cars came in for a timing belt change you could see the balance shaft belt had been broken for a long time. I’m sure the owners could notice the smoothness after the belts were replaced.
The long front overhang on this short wheelbase car reminds me of the Mustang II’s long overhang and awkward looks.
Yes; Mitsubishi patented their layout in Japan in 1973. Porsche licensed the Mitsubishi design despite a fairly concerted effort to come up with a novel approach.
Balance shafts were invented and patented by Lanchester in 1907, then Mitsubishi acquired those patents in the ’70s, refined the concept somewhat, and repatented their improvements, so other mfrs. who wanted balance shafts had to pay Mitsubishi to license their patents.
The Lanchester patents had long expired by the early seventies, so there was no licensing required by that time. Mitsubishi engineers explained in their patent disclosures that the reason they revisited the idea was a) that it hadn’t ever found broad application, in part because b) the Lanchester design did not completely damp the (very substantial) shaking forces of an inline four, so its cost-benefit ratio was poor. The Mitsubishi arrangement was more effective, although the elements of the design they were able to claim patent rights over ended up being more limited than they originally thought. (They kept the patents, but a reexamination in the ’80s threw out a bunch of the original claims.)
14 seconds to 60 after springing for the optional 2.0 and the 5 speed. The car was not heavy and the gearing was quite short. Perhaps too short with fifth gear still spinning at 20 mph per thousand rpm. Some of Mitsubishi’s horsepower numbers are suspect by me. Were they really matching the early Porsche 924 on horsepower?
With smog and automatics, the Japanese fours had to grow quickly. The Toyota engine in the Corona, Celica, and trucks became very tractor like by the time it got to 2.4 liters. The American big three fours were of course born with the problem. It was a high point for little Mitsubishi being ahead with the solution. We have read here recently how innovative Simca in France was as well. I wonder if Chrysler engineering was at work with their overseas partners.
The the innovative engineering by Simca was just that: by Simca. Chrysler’s version of the Horizon was substantially dumbed down (in the suspension), for instance.
I assure you that Chrysler had zero involvement in Mitsubishi’s engineering at the time. The were struggling to make their Lean Burn engines run half-way decently and other problems at home. Chrysler’s engineering was was not in very good shape at the time. That’s why they had to use Mitsu engines.
Well regarding Mitsubishi that simply is not true. If you ordered that Arrow above with an automatic, you got a low torque capacity version of the torqueflight. I know Chrysler engineering had low budgets at that troubled time. There were many competent people there however and it would be quite usual for subsidiaries to be billed for work dome by corporate staff at any big company.
And when was that TF designed? Not in the mid-late 70s.
My point stands: Chrysler was struggling with its engineering workload at the time. They were getting ready to put the Omirizon into production (for which they bought engines from VW).
Your assumption was that Mitsu wasn’t capable enough engineering-wise to come up with the balance shafts. My point is that Mitsu was very capable of that and more, like its MCA-Jet stratified charge cylinder head, similar to Honda’s CCVC. I can assure you Chrysler didn’t help them with that!
And Mitsu came out with turbo engines in ’82. I suspect Chrysler’s turbo 2.2 that came out a few years later owes more than a bit to that too.
No need to defend Chrysler’s engineers; but as I said they were in no position to help Mitsubishi with balance shafts. Chrysler later copied the shafts for their 2.5 L four.
“Mitsu came out with turbo engines in ’82”
They actually go farther back than that. The Sirius 4G62T in the Lancer 1800 GSR Turbo and the Astron diesel 4D55 in the Galant Σ 2.3 Turbo D both debuted in 1980.
Mmm…I think Chrysler did not copy Mitsu’s balance shaft setup for use in the Chrysler 2.5 (and certain versions of the 2.2). The concept was the same, sure, but balance shafts were not Mitsubishi’s original idea, and there was at least one Chrysler patent for the balance shaft setup used in the 2.5 and 2.2.
(It is a risible irony that the Mitsu 2.6 was referred to as the “silent shaft”—or “silent anything“—engine. “Astron” gets closer to the mark by dint of its first syllable. Ugh!)
Daniel is correct that Mitsubishi didn’t originate the balance shaft, which dates back at least to 1912. However, in the mid-70s, Mitsubishi patented a specific variety of balance shafts for inline fours. Some of their broader claims didn’t survive a reexamination in the late ’80s, but the rest did. (The relevant Mitsubishi patent is U.S. 3,995,610A, which, if anybody’s curious, explains the math for how the shafts work.)
It’s important to recognize that it’s possible to independently patent an improvement on an existing invention — which happens all the time — that would still not be sufficiently different to avoid the need to license the original patent. None of this stuff happens in a vacuum.
Daniel: I didn’t say that they directly legally-actionably copied the specific details. They copied the idea of using balance shafts, as did everyone else that started adding them after Mitsu used them first.
Or are you suggesting it was pure-as-the-driven-snow coincidence that Chrysler, which had complete access to these engines, decided to start using balance shafts on its own big fours a few years later?
Come on; this kind of pedantic pissing match is highly tedious.
If you are saying that a low capacity RWD auto designed to work with an OHC four was on the shelf at Chrysler for years before the mid 70s, I wish you would source that claim.
904 Torqueflite trans with slant six internals, 340 shift governor weights. All parts-bin stuff!
“The the innovative engineering by Simca was just that: by Simca. Chrysler’s version of the Horizon was substantially dumbed down (in the suspension), for instance.”
Simca probably received their torsion bar suspension from their American parent, who had it a decade sooner. As for the engines, the Poissy 4 cylinder was okay for 1961. In 1978 it was an antique. Chrysler’s version of the VW-Audi OHC engine and their own 2.2 Trans 4 were both far more advanced than Simca’s engines, and the switch to coil springs and struts parallels what pretty much everyone has done since. The French Horizons were reasonably successful cars, but survivors are far more scarce there than they are here. I’ve no idea why you’re championing the idea that Simca’s under-powered and obsoletely suspended if crisply styled versions of the Horizon idea were superior to the contemporary and durable versions prepared for our market.
Umm, it’s not like Chrysler invented torsion bars. They’ve been around a long time (think Tatra/VW, among others). Chrysler’s US suspension system was really nothing special; it was a classic SLA system like all the other US manufacturers had been using, except for having a torsion bar instead of a coil. There’s nothing magical about torsion bars per se. It’s really all about the other elements. The US Chrysler system was tuned a bit firmer (until 1966) than GM and Fords, hence their rep for handling a bit better. Firmer coils would have done the same thing. And after 1966, when they softened the torsion bars, Chrysler cars mostly lost any perceived advantage. Read reviews of that time; especially after 1970, GM clearly pulled away from Chrysler in terms of handling quality.
The Simca’s suspension was special not because of torsion bars, but because it was a long-travel suspension, like most French cars then. That gave a decidedly smoother ride. It was a more expensive but superior suspension, torsion bars or not. And hardly “obsolete”. Chrysler imitated the VW Golf’s suspension because it was cheaper and expedient, not because it was better.
I didn’t bring the Simca engine into it.
My whole point was that John. C.assumed that Chrysler’s engineers must have been behind the balance shafts (not). And he asks if Chrysler’s engineers were “at work in their overseas divisions”. My point is that Simca was quite capable of designing and building a world-class small car, one that was one of the most influential ever (1100), without any help from Chrysler’s engineers.
It’s been well acknowledged that the European version of the Horizon had a better ride and handling. But yes, the US version, with its VW engine, was somewhat better suited for the US market by being cheaper to build and having a better powertrain (no thanks to Chrysler, except writing the checks to VW).
BTW, the later versions of the Omnirizon did use the Simca engine as the base engine, and it did the job adequately enough. The reason given for using the VW engine was that at the time Simce didn’t have enough capacity for the 300k Chrysler needed. But after the 2.2 came on line, Chrysler switched to the Simca 1.6 as the base engine.
Everything from Morris before the merger with Austin came with Torsion bar front suspension Alec Issigonis designed them Chrysler as usual was late to the party same with their Hemi they didnt invent that either but claimed it
I thought the base 1.6 was a Peugeot engine? (Or did they own Simca by then?)
The 1.6 was just the old Simca Poissy pushrod four. Yes, they called it a Peugeot because Peugeot had bought Simca by then.
Peugeot didn’t even have a pushrod four of its own in that size class by then.
Looking at this car automatically starts the music in my head, of Harry Nillson singing “Me And My Arrow”. The song was used by Plymouth in TV ads when these were new.
We have trouble remembering the names of people we met yesterday, but we have no trouble remembering 40 yr-old advert jingles♫
Clearly, the solution is to create singing business cards that repeat your name and/or slogan with a catch mnemonic jingle.
Please, NO! 🙂
After learning the basics of driving on my Dad’s ’69 Chevy plow truck, the first car I drove with any regularity on real roads was an ’82 Challenger with the 2.6 silent shaft “MCA Jet” engine and 5 speed. That engine really was smooth and quiet, and had a power band that felt seamless as you accelerated. Being a new driver I can recall driving friends’ 4 cylinder cars of the time and being less than impressed. After the Challenger was terminally damaged by a friend, who was obviously enjoying his “test spin” a bit too much, I replaced it with a Charger 2.2, which by comparison was very buzzy, vibrated like a lawn tractor and was no match for the refinement of the Mitsu 2.6. Later I owned an ’85 Conquest with the fuel injected and turbocharged version of the same engine. Mitsubishi should really have been much more successful than they were in the ’80’s as they really were putting out some great products. I was always puzzled at their “also ran” status. Nowadays it’s hard to even fathom what great stuff they were producing back then. It’s been a sad ride for Mitsu in North America.
Alternative automotive universe here, a.k.a. Australia – where Mitsubishi were so successful they outsold every other Japanese manufacturer and bought out Chrysler’s local operations. They were riding the crest of a wave in the late seventies and eighties. But then Toyota lifted their game, and Mitsubishi imploded.
What always gets me with the balance shafts is how small they are, they look a lot like a camshaft. But the forces do get exponentially bigger as rpm goes up.
A high school friend’s girl had one, it had a bit of rust and since he was working in a paint shop at the time he decided to fix it up and paint it.
We didn’t hear from him for a few weeks so we went to visit him after hours. He was out in the back of the shop with the sandblaster going, the shell of the Arrow on it’s side with a good portion of the floor missing.
That’s the first image that comes to mind when I see an Arrow now, and I don’t think that car ever got put back together…
When I lived in Memphis a co-worker told of his experience working at a Chrysler dealership as a mechanic. He said there always came a time when the technicians would remove the chains linking the balance shafts, and supposedly there wasn’t much difference.
Sport Compact Car did a buildup of a Sentra SE-R and also removed it’s balance shafts….no big deal, apparently.
It was done at the factory level by ford with the 3.8L Essex V6. Initially all versions had balance shafts, then for the 1989 Thunderbird and all longitudinal applications thereafter the balance shafts were eliminated.
Kind of a puzzler why they were there in the first place if the decrease in NVH did not justify the cost of the setup. Though more of a puzzler might be how long Ford produced that engine without ever fixing the issues that caused it to pop head gaskets so regularly.
The geometry of the shaking force in a 90-degree V-6 engine is quite a bit different than an inline four, so the configuration of balance shafts — or shaft, as a 90-degree V-6 only uses one whereas an inline four needs two — is different. It’s a related concept, but on a practical level, it’s apples to oranges.
“supposedly”. Typical for a bunch of mechanics. 🙂
And yes, the kind of guys that would do SCC build up of a hi-po engine weren’t exactly looking for smoothness, right? Hot rodders and “mechanics” were not the target demo for balance shafts.
I assure you that balance shafts really do work. Manufacturers never like increasing the costs of building an engine without real benefits.
The secondary forces vary with displacement (particularly stroke length). The SR20DE, at 2 liters, is a size where I imagine there are some contentious discussions between the accountants, the engineers, and the product planners. There’s a perceptible difference at that displacement, but it’s not as dramatic as it would be with the old Mitsubishi 2.6 or the 3.0-liter four in a Porsche 968, and there are cost and power-consumption penalties. It’s a tradeoff, as with all things.
I had two Dodge Colts(’74 & ’76) in the early 80’s which were the same drivetrain as the Arrow for their respective year. One had a 1600 no balance shafts and the other the 2000 with the balance shafts. Even if you were blind, deaf, dumb and half dead you could tell which engine had the balance shafts. At the same time a friend of mine had a ’76 Toyota Celica with a 2.2 engine and you could tell the engine had no balance shafts. As an aside my ’69 Corolla 1100 was the smoothest engine of the bunch, it would eagerly wind out to 6-7000 rpm’s with no fuss or problems.
Yep. GM performance makes a balance shaft delete that is supposed to yield 10hp. I had a Chrysler turbo 2.5, and it was very smooth. I also had a 3800 with balance shafts, very smooth. Neither of those were revvy, though.
When Chrysler put the 2.5 OHC in the Dakota, there was no room for the balance shafts…so they got pitched. No big deal.
I drove a 2.4-swapped Neon with the shafts removed (won’t fit), and it was not an issue. There was a VERY slight vibration at idle, which would probably vanish by bumping the idle speed 50RPM. From just past idle to 7500RPM, no vibration!
Balance shafts in the oil pan are an all-around bad idea.
The SR20DE never had balance shafts. It used a weighted crank.
These were fairly decent cars, but I guess my eyes were the only ones that thought these cars looked like the suspension was over-extended…..like a toy baby buggy. I also thought they looked fragile compared to the Vega and Pinto. But that could have been my Anti-Japanese prejudice making me think that.
Nowadays, my biggest problem with the “regular” Arrow is the white interior.
When I lived in Memphis in the 90s I would see a Fire Arrow fairly regularly on my way home. I always wondered if the Fire Arrow, with it’s tall looking stance, had any weird handling traits.
You’re not alone, I’ve never even seen an Arrow in the flesh before, and the first time I ever laid eyes on one was in a picture book, which for all I knew this was an in house effort by Chrysler, so any bias I have is purely aesthetic. They had that same stance the 4×4 Eagles had in the 80s, but without the 4×4, and as someone who isn’t nearly as bothered by overhangs as others even I must point out that the front one is HUGE
The stance issue may very well have been due to the 5mph bumper regulations and required height; cars from other markets (Japan, Europe) do not seem affected by this problem:
Now that’s more like it! I dig the fender mirrors and the wheels. Actually, for ’70s economy cars, I like the Arrow and the Colt, even though they were pretty much extinct here in Michigan by the time I knew what was going on around me.
That’s a huge improvement! Nissan and Mitsubishi in particular seemed to be the most ruined Japanese cars due to federalized standards, the marker lights really mar the looks too. Still looks heavy in the middle but the fender mirrors actually help that a lot weirdly.
Yeah, I think cjiguy is right about the bumper height being the big issue, stance-wise.
Big improvement! The add on 5 MPH bumpers really did ruin it’s looks.
Never cared for the look of the fender mounted mirrors, but they do eliminate blind spots. Like the fender mount clamp on mirrors used for towing, common in the ’60’s and ’70’s when cars and station wagons were commonly used for towing.
The brand relationship between Chrysler and Mitsubishi Motors was certainly a win-win in the early going. Chrysler helped Mitsubishi expand in North America, and Mitsubishi helped improve the Chrysler brand reputation, when they needed it most. Competitively filling out the Chrysler small car lineup until the Omni/Horizon arrived.
Even if their architecture was basic, I thought the Arrow was an attractive, well packaged design. As were all the Mitsu offerings in the late 70s/early 80s.
These should have sold better than they did. They were probably the most appealing cars in their class, at least that could be purchased at a traditional American car showroom. By 1976 the Vega had a horrible reputation and the Pinto was seen as old and dull.
But I think the car’s biggest problem was its era. In that era of brand loyalty, Ford and Chevy buyers were not likely to go to a Plymouth showroom and American car buyers (at least the older ones) were probably put off by the Japanese heritage of the car. It is a shame that these did not gain a bigger following.
Truth. The hesitancy to buy Japanese was not limited to “older” buyers, as a matter of fact. My mother, having suffered through a ’73 Vega and a ’75 Monza 2+2, really wanted a Sapporo in ’79, but Dad would have none of it, fearing problems getting parts, and expenses involved in a “foreign” car. It wasn’t until ’82 that he relented and sanctioned the purchase of a Challenger, despite its heritage. And my parents were in their mid 30’s at the time.
I also can’t resist pointing out the vinyl roof treatment on the subject test car. Good Grief. Vinyl on a hatchback?!? And knowing the shelf life of Japanese vinyl at the time, I can’t imagine what that looked like at about 3 years old.
I don’t remember ever seeing a GM hatchback, at least nothing smaller than a Nova, with a vinyl roof….but Ford and Chrysler (at least by way of Mitsubishi) had vinyl roofs on cars like the Pinto/Bobcat and a few that were bigger. A vinyl roof on a fastback Mustang in the early 70s? Why not.
Ford actually offered 2 different roof treatments for the Pinto, early cars had full vinyl roofs while later cars (75, and later) had half vinyl roofs (over the front portion of the roof).
THE ugliest small hatchback car I ever saw was a silver Bobcat with a houndstooth sort of check vinyl roof. The houndstooth was silver/black/maroon.
Chevrolet did offer a vinyl roof option in the Vega two-door sedan in the mid-1970s. Whether this option was available on the Vega hatchback, I don’t know.
My mother, 41 in 1974, downsized to a Pinto wagon for two forgettable years. Then upgraded, maybe, to a 1976 Audi 100LS which hung around 5 years. Then onto a 1981 320i till 1989. I already had a 1980 Civic wagon, and was now driving a 1986 Mazda 626 by 1989, so she decided to get an 89 626. Smart move as that car was with her for 15 years now. That was the longest for any car she ever drove. Oh, after that a used Honda Accord.
I also think Chrysler did an exceptionally poor job in the early going of marketing their Mitsubishi line. I live in Canada, and used to frequent Chrysler showrooms often. Mitsu marketing material and floor space allocation was limited. And I can’t remember seeing TV ads for the Dodge/Plymouth Colt at any time in the mid to late 1970s. Certainly not before the arrival of the Omni/Horizon.
From all that I’ve seen here, “captive imports” like this, even when not built by former Axis powers, had an inherent incentive handicap: why should salesmen hype an inexpensive import when larger & more profitable domestics are right beside them? Imports were like orphans handed off to reluctant relatives, as in a Victorian novel.
Then poor exchange rates finished them off.
Did not stop Capris from Flying out Ford show rooms. Second biggest selling import after the VW Bug less than 30 years after WW2!.
Sold well until the exchange rate between Germany and US shot up in mid 70’s. The Capri II flopped a bit [no actual 1978 models] and was replaced by Fox body for ’79 “Capri III”.
Chrysler dealers were was using the ‘captives’ as ‘bait and switch’ products.
“.. here is a bigger Duster/Valiant/Volare, a real American car…” “Or how about a Cordoba? It’s like a Monte Carlo!”
Not in California they weren’t. Colts were essential for many Chrysler dealers where imports were hot.
I can assure you that the likelihood of upselling someone interested in a Colt or Arrow into a Cordoba was extremely low. You’re projecting your own bias with that comment.
Here in Chicago/MW, Ma Mopar was all about Dart/Valiant/Duster for “small cars”, until the L body. Mainly saw Colts/Arrows in TV ads and ones sold here rusted away in short time.
Sure, in “La La Land”, can see dealers pushing the “Made in Japan” pedigree. Saw many mini Mitsu pickups in LA during mid 80’s extended trip.
In long run, Mitsu products were just not as good as the “Japan Big 3″*. Speaking from experience of a 1981 Champ, was one thing after another after 50k miles. Hence, why they declined since Eclipse/Lancer hey day, and now bailed out by Nissan/Renault.
*Nissan is not as well regarded these days, known for blown CVT’s and BHPH.
I drove a rental Versa recently, and it was one of the most uncomfortable cars I’ve ever been in.
The Dodge Colt and Plymouth Cricket were supposed to be Chrysler Corporation’s competitors to the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. Lynn Townsend specifically refused to develop a Chrysler Corporation subcompact to compete with the Gremlin, Vega and Pinto, and these cars were supposed to be the substitute. This decision would haunt the corporation when the first fuel crunch hit in late 1973.
Subcompacts were increasing in popularity in the early 1970s. I’m not sure that Dodge or Chrysler-Plymouth dealers would have viewed the Colt and Cricket solely as a lure to get buyers into the showroom, where they could be “upsold” a bigger, more profitable vehicle. Chrysler-Plymouth dealers may have balked at ordering Plymouth Crickets because the cars were so lousy, but I doubt that Dodge dealers had the same concerns with the Colt. I never heard many serious complaints about the Dodge Colt, aside from the usual concerns about the rust resistance of Japanese products. After their experience with the Cricket, no doubt Chrysler-Plymouth dealers welcomed the Arrow with open arms.
By the late 1970s, our local Mopar dealer was selling a fair amount of Mitsubishi-sourced vehicles, and I didn’t live in California.
Agree that in early 70’s, Mopar bragged about “no sub compacts”, until OPEC, then went to work on the L bodies. The A body had largest % of compact market share.
Gas Crisis II then pushed buyers to get sub compacts and Omni was right there.
Nowadays? A Honda HRV is considered “as small as I will get” in S/CUV saturated market.
Or, alternately, could they have been something to move customers down into? With nothing “homegrown” smaller than the Dart/Valiant/Aspen/Volare, one would think they’d need a price leader for those with tight finances or shaky credit, while keeping them in a new car rather than shopping the used inventory. I can only assume a Cricket/Colt would have been cheaper as well as smaller than a Dart/Valiant.
I wonder if the upsell is a dying tactic in car sales? Granted, I’ve only shopped new once, but I don’t recall any of the three dealerships I visited trying to steer me to a pricier midsize, or an SUV, or even a higher trim level.
It probably depends on whether the customer knows what he or she wants to buy prior to visiting the dealership. The last time I bought a car, I knew exactly what model and trim level I wanted…the sales representative never tried to push me towards anything else. Any haggling was over the final price.
It was the same with my wife when she purchased her last two vehicles.
We once had an opposite problem: while Sienna shopping, all our choices locally were among LEs, as no CE was on hand & we would’ve had to drive over 2 hrs to see it! So we got unwanted features like alum. wheels, rear-seat audio system, & power doors. At least the latter never failed as we feared it would.
A good point, that. The dealership where I bought the Forte had quite a number of them on the lot, and I don’t know if a single one was the low-line LX. And they only had a handful of the top-trim SX. The vast majority was the midlevel EX, which is what I wanted anyway, so as long as I wasn’t trying to special order there was probably no reason to try to steer me elsewhere. (They had the exact car I wanted except for its lack of a sunroof, and as that would have added $1000 or so to the price, I was okay with that missing.)
Keep in mind as well that very often the sales incentives (like rebates or low interest financing) didn’t apply to the captive imports, which were really only on the showroom floor as “filler” for gaps in the domestic lineup. This was the case for quite a long while, as I can recall shopping in ’89 for a Colt and coming “this close” to being sold a Shadow because the rebates and incentives made it a better deal despite its higher sticker price and option levels.
Not sure if a first time entry-level subcompact buyer is going to be heavily influenced by brand loyalty, so much as the best value for their money. Perhaps in Middle America, where American brand loyalty would be remain strongest.
My Father was born in 1934 (and didn’t fight in WWII). He used to say “If Japanese cars were so good, why didn’t the win the war?” In the 1980’s I used to say “Face it Dad, they did. It just took 50 more years than we thought.” That from a Father who bought his firs Nissan in 1986 and drives a Honda Odyssey now.”
The phrase I remember was, “From those wonderful folks who brought you Pearl Harbor.”
Well they did make the excellent Zero. Now while American pilots might say it lit up like a Zippo lighter the plane’s main problem was lack of experienced pilots after Midway. Luckily for American pilots. Should also note they made some excellent, but not many, excellent submarines with a truly excellent torpedo. Fortunately it was impossible for them to scale up.
-I have a yard full of Nakajimas (Subarus)..
The largest 4 banger I ever worked with is the 224 cu.in/3.7L Mercury Marine built marine engine. Essentially half a 460 Ford. It does not have balance shafts, but could use them; I will say that a fiberglass hull in the water is, however, a pretty good damping device itself. My sister bought one of the first Dodge Caravans in ’84, with the 2.6 Mitsu, and it served her well for 160K before they traded it off.
Beauty is subjective, but I thought the Arrow was one of the better looking small cars at the time. More character than the VW Rabbit, more attractive and modern looking than the concurrent Corolla. And significantly improved over the disappointing B-210 and the uninspired Chevette.
Never thought about it before, but I agree.
Put me down as a fan of these also. Always thought they had cool looking proportions and that they might be fun to drive.
What is ironic, is the Datsun B-210 would have looked significantly more attractive and quite similar to the Arrow, if it didn’t have such a large, slab-sided mid-section. Photoshopped before and after:
I think you just created the Datsun 240Y. 🙂
I like it as the B-210 couldn’t win a beauty contest even if the only contestant. Such a CHEAP car. A girl I knew at Cal in 1978 had one and it did do it’s job well. Drive several miles down College Avenue, from Broadway in Oakland, to Haste and the Underhill Parking Lot and then back. How well it did from Berkeley to home in Los Angeles I wouldn’t know.
The mid-to-late 70s were easily Datsun’s worst years for exterior design. The 200SX even more abhorrent than the B-210. Some of the ugliest cars of the 70s.
I’d say the Omnirizon coupes, O24, TC3, Charger 2.2, had quite a similar profile.
This may have been the first engine with balance shafts to sell in large numbers in the U.S., but the Ford Taunus V4 (also used in the Saab 96) had a balance shaft.
The balance shaft 2.0 and 2.6 were not rev happy engines. They made their power fairly low in the RPM ranges for a 4 banger. I never had any issues with any of the 12 or so owned over a 25 year period, though some had issues with the balance shaft bearings, leading to a balance shaft delete kit.
Little did anybody knew nor even assumed that the unassuming Mitsubishi Arrow would be later on replaced by the Mitsubishi Eclipse. This is how the Mitsubishi Arrow’s Family Tree appears: 1975 Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO 2 Door Hardtop Coupe (Top Row Left), 1979 Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste 3 Door Hatchback Coupe (Top Row Right), 1983 Mitsubishi Cordia 3 Door Hatchback (Second Row Left), 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse 3 Door Hatchback Coupe (Second Row Right), 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse 3 Door Hatchback Coupe (Third Row Left), 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse 3 Door Hatchback Coupe (Third Row Right) & 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse 3 Door Hatchback Coupe (Bottom Row Center).
I thought the Arrow was a nice looking car. Certainly better all around than the Plymouth Cricket it replaced.
Those Mitsu Astron engines with balance shafts were pretty smooth I had a couple of Galant Sigma wagons, one with 2.0L Astron the other with 2.6, both 5 speed manuals they drove well and were reliable, one circumnavigated Australia without breaking down ever, the second one did a stint in NZ without serious problems both were well worn when bought.
Out here Mitsubishi absorbed the remains of Chrysler that brand simply disappeared from the market only reappearing when the Jeep brand resurfaced and the ordinary Neon was foisted upon us, Now we seem to have the full range from Fiatsler, some are good, some are rubbish,you pay your money and take your chance.
Apols KB, the “Galant” sigma was the base model in the GE series. Only 2.6 GE was in the late model GLs with 14inch alloys and auto only. No such thing as a Galant Sigma with a 2.6? Sure you had one?
Depends whether we’re talking JDM, NZ or Aussie nomenclature here, I think. In Australia you’d be right; we called the basic car the Sigma and Galant was the base trim model as you say, with a 1.6; my uncle had one, passed it to his granddaughter as her first car. Elsewhere Galant remained the model name and Sigma was a sub-model. Trust us Aussies to stand things on their head!
Yes I had two both wagons both built in Australia the 2.6 was sold new in New Zealand where the Galant name persisted, it was the high roof model the 2.0 had the regular roof.
These were the first of Chrysler’s captive imports to be based on Mitsubishi’s A7 Lancer platform; the concurrent Dodge Colt continued on with the A11 Galant platform largely until 1978 (not counting the “Mileage Maker” Colt series in 1977). Sales figures of the Arrow always lagged behind the Colt, although I suspect that was in large part due to the Colt being available in three body styles to the Arrow’s one. Sales per year break down as such:
As usual, in Japan as the Lancer Celeste, sportier performance oriented models were available. They also had vastly superior styling due to the lack of 5mph bumpers:
Agreed about the bumpers, but the US-Spec Arrow had a simpler, much more attractive rear panel than the Lancer Celeste (in any guise).
When the new-for-’81 Plymouth Reliant came out (I was in the First Grade), I noticed the similarity between the rear panels of the two Plymouths and thought (as a kid) how it was a shame the rest of the Reliant couldn’t have been as attractive as the Arrow.
I can’t help but think the aspect ratio of that photo is skewed
Looking closely at the image, I believe it is a 3D rendering. Not an actual photo.
I highly doubt that, as it’s an image from the Japanese catalog of the era (1979). Matt is likely right, and I’m sure its airbrushed as well. Other shots from the same set include two tone silver/blue and black/gold cars, red, and this one here:
Thank you. They both are retouched.
Great article on a less well known model. My first “new car” was a 76 Arrow 1600 GT. Very well built compared to what else sat in the Plymouth showroom. Had that typical Japanese 70s car “thrum” as it went down the road. With the 5 spd, it was a fun car to drive – not fast by any means but fun.
You still see a few of the Celeste models here in Japan.
I had the the 4G64 2.4L with balance shafts in my Mitsubishi. It was indeed smooth and reasonably refined, as large 4 bangers go. Adequately powerful and I never felt the lack of a 6 cyl.
Could have done without the typical Mitsubishi ticking valve gear though.
A girl I knew had a Fire Arrow, which was sort of a “Trans Am-ized” Arrow. It had a 2.6 with a 5 speed if I recall. Went pretty good by the standards of the day. When she was finished with it it passed through both of her younger brother’s hands and was still running when the family sold it, so it must have been a pretty tough car. It was a lot more fun to drive than most of the competition at the time. It did burn a lot of gas for what it was though.
Those Fire Arrow graphics also turned up as a dealer option in Australia. I remember a work colleague had them on her Lancer hatchback (as they were called here).
I appreciate Mitsubishi and I felt it had a slight advantage in engineering over Toyota in the ’80s. I seriously considered a 1990 Galant GS with the DOHC engine (I still have the brochure).
However, they lost their way in the 90’s and 00’s when the Koreans pushed them aside. Now they have an emission scandal on Kei cars similar to VW.
What a missed opportunity.
This probably doesn’t have much to factor into the balance shaft effectiveness debate, but it reminds me of something I once read on how Honda manufactured their engines. It seems that when the engine’s pistons are made, they keep them together in lots of four which, apparently, goes a long way to keeping the weight of each piston uniform with the others. This, in turn, results in a more smooth running engine. Domestic manufactures, OTOH, simply throw all the newly made pistons into a box, meaning there’s a wide variation in piston weight when installed. The engine will still run, just not nearly as smoothly as a Honda with a ‘matched’ set of pistons.
Of course, I don’t think Honda’s four-cylinder engines come anywhere near 2.6L in size, either. Still, if Mitsubishi followed Honda’s lead in matching piston weight with the 2.6L counter-balanced engine, it holds the potential to explain the theory that there was a negligible difference in the 2.6L engine’s smoothness with the counter-balance shaft.
Balance shafts are one of those items that are a little frustrating because understanding their function requires an unappetizing amount of math (especially if, like me, you were no good at geometry), but without grasping at least the gist of the math, it’s easy to get the wrong idea about what they do. The point is to balance, at least partially, certain shaking forces that are an unavoidable result of the reciprocation of the pistons and con rods and which are otherwise unbalanced in a lot of common engine configurations. That shake would be present even if all the tolerances and masses were perfectly blueprinted.
If you’re curious, Mark Wan of Autozine.org walks through the mechanics in his Technical School articles, and the Mitsubishi patent I mentioned (U.S. 3,995,610A, Hirokazu Nakamura et al) will tell you a lot more than you probably want to know about the mathematics for four-cylinder engines.
With that in mind, I don’t think anyone would imply that the difference for the 2.6-liter Mitsubishi engine was negligible. The balance shafts were helpful on the 2-liter version and the 2.6 was not only bigger displacement, but also had an 8mm longer stroke, which means a shake of greater magnitude.
I think Honda’s biggest four to date is the 2.4-liter engine in the Acura TSX, which does indeed have balance shafts. As far as I can recall, all of Honda’s fours of 2.2 liters and up have had balance shafts. The smaller ones don’t necessarily, although they also need them less.
Here are some decent videos on primary and secondary balance, along with balance shafts.
Here is the relevant Autozine link.
Sort of like factory blueprinting.
The Silent Shaft is what you got when you bought it new AND when the shaft that drove the oil pump seized up due to lack of lubrication at the rear bearing. When rebuilding such a failed engine, I learned that there was a kit to eliminate the whole silent shaft system. After installation, you couldn’t tell any difference in vibration levels.
I myself believe you couldn’t tell much of a difference; a 2.6L simply isn’t big enough to be a problem, unless the goal is Buick straight 8 velvet smoothness, a complete waste of engineering time with a 4 banger. But when we get bigger like the 3.7L Mercury Marine engine, thats a whole different ball of wax. But balance shafts do work; do you think the cheap screws at GM would have added one to the Chev 4.3L V6 if it didn’t?
Compare an old 2.5-liter Iron Duke with a modern 2.4 or 2.5-liter four with balance shafts — or for that matter an early Quad 4 with a 2.3-liter Honda engine of about the same displacement. The difference is not negligible, and I certainly wouldn’t call it a waste of engineering.
Also, while a balance shaft for a V-6 performs the same type basic function, the nature and direction of the forces involved is substantially different, so it really is kind of apples and oranges.
That’s not a very good comparison. You might as well use the hoary old Trophy 4, 195 cid (3.2L) Pontiac Tempest ‘half of a 389 V8’ lump of an engine, particularly with a Honda engine, which are already pretty damn smooth (see my above comment on Honda matching internal engine parts). Really, the only valid comparison would be between two Mitsubishi 2.6L engines, one with, and the other without, the balance shafts.
If, in fact, there was actually a rebuild kit for the 2.6L engine that specifically allowed for the deactivation of the shafts, that, alone, would lend credence to the theory that the shafts didn’t smooth out the engine all that much.
OTOH, maybe balance shafts on something like the big Pontiac four could have made a much more noticeable difference.
I think there was a limit to what they could do. The balance shafted 2.5 Porsche 944 was much smoother than the related also balance shafted 3.0 968 engine.
The Acura RSX Type-S had about a 200 hp 2 liter engine that was in many ways similar to the 197 hp 2 liter engine in the Honda Civic Si of 2006-2011. The Civic Si’s engine had balance shafts while the Acura RSX Type-S’s did not. I think the difference was that the Civic could achieve acceptable refinement with stiffer and simpler engine mounts.
I’m a bit disappointed by the performance figures. The 2.6 liter Plymouth Fire Arrow was one of the faster cars tested by the magazines during the era, which makes me wonder if the test Fire Arrows were tweaked. Faster is one thing, but five seconds faster to 60 mph is a testing the bounds of credibility.
C/D tested a five speed 2.6 78 Challenger at 0-60 in the 13s. I really think Dodge was listing horsepower on the captives in gross numbers. When the 2.6 went into the K car the hp number listed was 11hp lower despite retaining the Mitsubishi carb setup.
A buddy of mine had a Fire Arrow in the early/mid 1980’s, but by that time the engine was smoking a lot. We thought it might be fun to put a SBC in it, but he got bored with it and sold it off.
Another friend had a (1980-81?) Plymouth Sapporo in the mid 1980’s. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but something with the balance shafts went bad and due to the wait for parts he ended up buying a rather clean but ancient AMC Hornet sedan to drive. Turns out, he liked the old Hornet so much, once the Sapporo was repaired, he sold it off and kept the Hornet! (Yes, I thought it was strange, too.)
Foe whar it’d worth, I think balance shafts debuted on the Lancaster, a British g marque, in the early 20th Century.
This arrow reminds me of the Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT and the Renault 17
Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT
My very first car (this was in 1987) was a 1978 Arrow GT, in burnt orange, no less! I thought it was the absolute best car out there, of course! Five speed, houndstooth interior, faux wood on the dash and that crazy arrow decal on the hood…life could NOT get better. Well, until my best friend (still to this day) bought a 1979 Fire Arrow and promptly blew my 2.0 liter beastie into the weeds with his 2.6.
Next to the 1974 BMW 2002 that I eventually bought (in 1993), the Arrow remains my favorite car. I found another 1978 base Arrow that I bought off of eBay around 2004 (but with an automatic trans) for something like $800. I drove it dutifully for almost a year as DD as it was nearly rust free and ran superbly…until the transmission gave way and I had no place to park or work on an old car in my townhouse community. Broke my heart to see a second Arrow leave my fold and I find myself cruising eBay and Craigslist periodically in search of an elusive Arrow.
Now and then, one rolls out of the barn looking for a new home.
I owned 2 of them a 1977 Arrow Gt and a 1979 Fire Arrow.
Would like to find one again.
Don, we sold that copper ‘77 shown above (original owners) a few years ago to a great guy that had one just like it when he was 16. It had about 35k miles and had not been started since 1996- all original. Happy it went to someone who could appreciate it. I believe many of these ended their lives on a drag strip. The new owner had been looking for one for awhile. Luckily, ours was also the same color as his original. You never stop loving your first car.
Mitsubishi made some good, innovative cars back then and into the ’80s, like these cars, Champ/Colt, etc. What happened to them? They seem more like a 3rd string car company now. More less expensive but high quality alternatives to Toyota and Honda would be welcomed.
What happened? Products didn’t last long and owners went on to more reputable brands.
These were very good cars and as JP noted when this post was first presented, it should have sold better than it did. I was aware of the advacement made by Mitsubishi at the time, thanks to the articles about it when it was first presented to the US market.
The reason I believe the Arrow wasn’t more successful was due to the fact that in the same showroom, the Horizon was competing against it. We were all very familiar with sharp looking rides like the Arrow – but the Horizon was America’s version of the popular VW Rabbit and it was the car to get during this time at Plymouth dealers. Not the Arrow. We all knew about RWD and 4 cylinders, even the Japanese versions. But the Horizon and the Omni were NEW! They were FWD! They had horizontally mounted engines! They were roomy! They came with FOUR DOORS. The were the lastest sensation.
Then within a couple of years, Chrysler offered their FWD version of the Arrow – the TC3. Then Chrysler offered their little pick-up car versions. Mitsubishi moved onto that sweet little FWD twin-stick shifting little Colts and Champs.
America was onto a new thing for the future. They wanted all cars to be FWD.
Now, Americans want ‘high seating position and AWD’.
One of these used to run in SCCA rallies out east..they were quite competitive for years.
So, does every 4-cyl sold in the US in the past 15 years feature balance shafts?
In particular, does GM’s 2.4 liter LE5 (used in Malibus starting 2008) have balance shafts?
I would like to know, thank you Paul and/or commenters.
Usually, only larger 4 banger use balance shafts.
By the late 90s, the relatively large four cylinder engines in the midsize Camry and Accord had balance shafts. IDK about GM.
The 2.7L 3RZ-FE in my brother’s ’98 Tacoma had them. I can’t imagine a four cylinder that size without balance shafts.
I’m inclined to think they all have them.
I remember that anything over 2000-2100 cc was considered a “big four” and the vibration and roughness got worse.
Ford’s Lima (PInto) 2.3 liter engine was certainly a rough and a thrasher above 20 in first–that probably wasn’t even 4000 rpm.
The Saturn SL2 was a thrasher too, but at least it was brisk.
While a lot has to do with heavier cars, more/better sound deadening, it’s been a long time since I’ve driven a “rough” 4-cylinder. So I sense that balance shafts are pretty much standard now. Still, I’d like to hear some one convincingly answer the question
It’s important to understand that secondary shaking forces are only one of the factors that determine how smooth an engine is or isn’t. Some others include swept volume, combustion chamber design, reciprocating mass, block stiffness, camshaft and accessory drive design, and engine/powertrain mount design. It’s possible for an engine that theoretically is perfectly balanced in primary and secondary forces (like an inline six) to be rough and gravelly for other reasons, and for a design that isn’t (like the Ford 1.0 ECOBOOST engine, an inline triple without a balance shaft) to be quite satisfactory in practice.
Modern powertrains have an advantage in that there’s enough computing power available to model the various shaking forces with pretty high precision, making it possible to more effective damp the unbalanced forces, if not in the engine itself then elsewhere in the powertrain, powertrain mounts, or subframe.
Of course, there are many variables.
I’ve driven lots of 4-cylinders lots of miles.
The Lima (Pinto/Fairmont) 2.3 of the late 1970 was the roughest and thrashiest–above say 3800-4000 rpm (no tack).
A 91 BMW 318i 16V, 1766cc (the M42) engine is at the other end–probably the smoothest 4-cyl I’ve experienced. No balance shafts.
In addition to the above design parameters, the manufacturing precision and execution is a factor.
I read somewhere, a long time ago, that in the 1980s, as GM insiders tried to drill down the secrets of the Japanese, the discovered that in a Honda (Toyota?) motor, the pistons were manufactured such that in a given engine, the 4 pistons had very close weights, which affected vibration and harshness.
Today’s mass engines are produced to tighter tolerances than mass produced engines in the 1970s/80s. That makes a difference too
Thank you Roader for your answer!
The 2.4 L Ecotec LE5…also installed with twin counter-rotating balance shafts. These guys spin at twice the speed of the engine crankshaft to minimize second-order vibrations.
In 1992 I was in the market for an entry level, bare bones pick up truck.
I narrowed my choices to the Toyota and the Mitsubishi.
The Mitsu, with it’s balance shaft engine, never shook and whirrrrrrrred like a BMW.
The Toyota’s 4 cylinder engine was rough running and shaky at idle.
I went with the Mitsu. A very good truck it was!
The “silent shaft” gave you the “silent shaft” when the rear shaft seized at the rear bearing due to lack of oil. I’ve seen four of these failures over the years, including my own 86 Caravan with the 2.6. Removed both shafts per the advice of the machinist at the machine shop and never noticed the difference in vibration. Also removed the balance shaft in the oil pan of a Chrysler 2.5 that I rebuilt. Never noticed any difference either. Sometimes, engineers over-engineer things to make them more perfect when in fact the average user can’t really tell.
How unfortunate; if not all that frequent.
Based on my Mitsu truck experience; 3 other co-workers bought later models of my truck (mid/late 1990’s) and racked up trouble free extremely high mileage on them all.