CLASSIC Many years ago, when Trevor StanleyJoblin predicted that Japanese cars would become future classics, many scoffed at the thought
s Greg Price said a few months ago in his column Price On, I predicted years ago that Japanese cars would be future classics. But, back then, many, if not most, classic car enthusiasts scoffed at my prediction. Fast-forward some 15 years or so, and what vehicles do we see increasing in value? Yes, early models from the Land of the Rising Sun. I am unable to recall any Japanese vehicles participating in the annual North Canterbury Classic Tour ( NCCT) in the first six years or so that it ran; however, during the following seven NCCT events, I witnessed a slow but definite increase in the numbers of Japanese cars entering. Our featured Mitsubishi Galant GTO, owned and restored by John Glass from Rangiora, North Canterbury, is one of many.
The Mitsubishi Galant GTO was first shown at the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show as a concept car and was a big hit. Tooling-up and production started in 1970, with the first cars coming off the line later that year, with initial sales in late September, in Japan only. The GTO Galant became the flagship model for Mitsubishi Industries from 1970 to 1976.
The GTO’S exterior was penned by Hiroaki Kamkago, who had previously studied at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, US, so, not surprisingly, the design of the GTO incorporated styles from American muscle cars, such as the Mustangs, Firebirds, and Cougars that have been so popular from the ’60s until today.
The Galant GTO led the way in Japan for others to follow and was destined to be the backbone of Mitsubishi Racing Development (AKA Colt Speed), and competed in the prestigious Japanese Classic Car Association ( JCCA) event. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo of 1973 meant the demise of the JCCA race programme, but the Galant GTOS were successful in rallying, taking part in the famous Japanese Alpine Rally.
John tells his story
Leaving school in 1963, at the age of 16, I started work as a panel-beating apprentice for the Timaru company of Gibson and Lawrence, learning the trade in the old method of hammer-and-dolly-file finish and a bit of body solder. Bog was a new thing and a very dirty word, and not permitted in the workshop at that time. Staying in the trade until 1979, I moved into retailing cars as a salesman in Christchurch.
My love affair with Mitsubishi Galant GTOS started when I was 24, at the Bay Hall function centre at Caroline Bay in Timaru in 1972. The government of the day had not long eased restrictions on new cars, and local dealers were showing off their new models, including Valiant Pacers and Chargers, Datsun 180Bs, and 240Zs. I was hooked on the all-new Mitsubishi Galant Colt GTO 2000GS at first sight and told myself I was going to own one. A visit to the local Todd dealer — Hepburn Motors in Timaru — to put my name on a waiting list was regarded as a joke, as I was just a panel beater with an old Hillman to trade, which did not put me high on the list. However, on a trip to Christchurch in 1973, I found a near-new blue 1973 model with less than 1000km on the clock at Tench Brothers, the Datsun dealer, though I had to pay $5350 to buy it — I think the retail price was $4750. Within a week of purchasing it, I had a call from Mr John Bradley, the sales manager of Hepburn Motors, telling me that there was a new GTO there for me. When I told him I had already purchased one, he said, “I know, but there is no better trade on a GTO than a GTO”. Needless to say, I left it at that, and I sold the blue car three years later.
of ¥ 120K (NZ$1400), and some odd wheels were found that fitted. Once the car became a rolling shell, she was picked up by a transporter and shipped to New Zealand, via the car-carrier ship Hual Tramper.
It’s rare and it’s here
After it arrived in New Zealand on March 4, 2005, the task of bringing the Mitsubishi back to showroom condition started with a total strip-out and taking the body back to bare metal. This included sandblasting inside the boot and engine bay and around the door shuts, while the rest of the body was completely stripped using paint stripper. Then work started on the panel work and rust repairs, which were attended to using traditional methods that I learned during my apprenticeship, many decades ago, at the Gibson and Lawrence panel shop in Timaru.
Like all these restorations, there was a need for some out work, such as the sandblasting, which was carried out by Euro Blast in Christchurch, and chrome plating, which was looked after by Plating Solutions,
As it was first registered in New Zealand in September 2013, the Mitsubishi GTO MII has only been shown in Canterbury at the annual NCCT and the Twin Rivers. It was judged Best Japanese on both occasions, plus Best Overall Car in Show at the 2015 event. Information from Land Transport New Zealand as at August 2013 indicated that this was the only GTO MII chassis code A53C registered in New Zealand, and extensive research confirms there are only limited numbers of original 1970 GTO MIIS left in Japan. There is a number of MRS, and even Toyota has one in its museum, as does Mitsubishi, with one known to be in New Zealand but this is yet to be restored. The body striping is the least common format — in 1970, there were eight different combinations.