CLAS­SIC Many years ago, when Trevor Stan­leyJoblin pre­dicted that Ja­panese cars would be­come fu­ture clas­sics, many scoffed at the thought

New Zealand Classic Car - - FEATURE - Photos:

ASo­phie O’grady

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.

Con­cept car

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.

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