Rare Mitsubishi Coupe Just Won't Give Up, Roars to Life for the First Time in 30 Years

I hate to admit this, but Mitsubishi’s performance division has been a snooze for a while now – since the 2008 financial crisis. Getting out of a financial pitfall is a tedious task. 15-years later, loyal Mitsubishi performance enthusiasts are still wallowing over its past racing glory, hoping for the return of the Lancer Evolution (or anything, really) that’ll make meaning of the faded “The Spirit of Competition” decals stuck on their hoods, suffering from Time’s most relentless characteristic – age.
1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR 12 photos
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/The Late Brake Show
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In Darlington, County Durham in North East England, a little bit of Mitsubishi’s rarest performance history lives. Carefully preserved in storage, away from the elements, the evolving world, or the metal-hungry crusher, a 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR is a living testament to its manufacturer’s engineering ingenuity.

Jonny Smith of the Late Brake Show on YouTube got the rare opportunity to take out this classic, iconic, rear-wheel drive, 70s Japanese coupe out of its 30-year-old slumber.

According to the now 60-year-old owner Kevin, the rare classic coupe has been off public roads since 1993, and the last time he checked on it was in 2008 – that’s 15 years ago!

The Sapporo GSR had different names across different regions

The 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR (Europe and South America), Galant Lambada in Japan, Dodge Challenger, or Plymouth Sapporo in the U.S., is a rare bird among performance classic car enthusiasts. At first glance, you could easily confuse it for a DeLorean thanks to the frontal design style with the black mask and quad headlights.

1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/The Late Brake Show
But unlike the DeLorean, this 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR doesn’t have a considerable following. Information about it online is scanty and patchy compared to its closest competitors, like the Celica, Datsun ‘Z’ cars, or the Skyline.

The 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR was top of the range of the model. It came with a 2.0-liter SOHC twin Solex Carburetor. The lump was matched to a 5-speed manual transmission, sending 107 hp (108 ps) and 149 Nm (110 lb-ft) of torque to the rear wheels.

The two-door coupe borrowed most of its underpinnings from its older rallying sibling, the Mitsubishi Galant. Jonny admits that there are thought to be less than ten Sapporo examples left in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps to woo the American car market, the Japanese automaker came up with some premium finishes onto these 70s RWD coupes, including tartan-leather stitched seats and dash, pillarless doors, and an overhead console with a digital clock.

1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/The Late Brake Show
According to the owner, this 70s Japanese car came off the road after it failed some inspection tests. At the time, he wasn’t in a position to keep it running and decided to put it up for storage for a later time.

There was a lot of stuff wrong with it, and I don’t think I was working at the time, I just couldn’t afford to deal with everything. So it just got put in a garage,” Kevin explained to Jonny.

It was love at first sight 

According to Kevin, his first interaction with the car was a ‘love at first sight’ story. He first set his eyes on the vehicle in Chapel Town near Leeds after a Newcastle soccer match, and his fate was forever sealed. A week later, a unit on sale popped up in his local classifieds, and he couldn’t resist the urge to get it.

As charming as this story might seem, Japanese cars from this era are notorious for rust. Fortunately, Kevin’s decision to have it stored in a garage worked magic on its preservation.

1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/The Late Brake Show
The car's interior is quite impressive for a vehicle that’s been neglected for 30 years. Apart from the steering wheel that had disintegrated entirely, everything else, including the dash and tartan-styled seats, was in impeccable condition.

The 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR might have been hibernating for the last 30 years, but the owner has always had plans of getting it back on the road. A new clutch kit, neatly stored in the car's trunk, is evidence enough that Kevin hadn’t given up hope on this rare gem.

After filling up the tires, unseizing the locked-up handbrake, and rolling it out of the garage, it was time to check if the rare 70s Japanese rear-wheel-drive coupe would fire for the first time in three decades.

It's alive!

If you’ve worked around reviving neglected cars, you understand specific procedures are essential before running a sitting car. For starters, the team had to check if the engine turned over and was not seized, if the fluids were okay, and if there was a spark when the ignition was turned on.

1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/The Late Brake Show
Reviving the car with 30-year-old gas would have been catastrophic. Thankfully, Jonny had a customized, portable fuel can system for revival instances like these.

It didn’t take long for the 70s rear-wheel-drive Japanese coupe to show signs of life. And after a few careful tries – Kevin’s 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR roared to life.

Oh, my gosh! That is so smooth. That’s really smooth. That’s stone-cold, no air filters on. Running on a little can of hope. That’s not bad. That was effortless!” Jonny exclaimed after the classic roared to life for the first time. “I think it wants to live again,” he added.

Surprisingly, all the features on the car worked. The dashboard lights turned on. Getting Kevin's 78 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR to run was just the first step. It's going to take a lot of hours under the hood to get this gem back to its former glory.

Have you ever heard of the 1978 Mitsubishi Colt Sapporo GSR? We recommend checking out the video below for an in-depth tour. This rare classic Japanese coupe deserves some credit.

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About the author: Humphrey Bwayo
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Humphrey is a car enthusiast whose love and passion for automobiles extended into collecting, writing, driving, and working on cars. He got his passion for cars from his Dad, who spent thousands of hours working on his old junky 1970 E20 Toyota Corolla. Years later, he would end up doing the same with a series of lemons he’s owned throughout his adult life.
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