CON­CEPT WE FOR­GOT

NZ Performance Car - - Contents - WORDS: JADEN MAR­TIN PHO­TOS: NZPC ARCHIVES

Like all the con­cept cars we’ve looked at so far, the Mit­subishi HSR (Highly So­phis­ti­cated-trans­port Re­search) was launched in the ’80s boom pe­riod. While most au­tomak­ers ap­peared to be feed­ing off one an­other by way of four-wheel steer­ing and four-wheeldrive sys­tems packed with gim­micky fea­tures, HSR de­signer Aki­nori Nakan­ishi must have been tied up watch­ing re­runs of The Jet­sons.

Un­veiled at the Tokyo Mo­tor Show in 1987, the first of six in­ter­ac­tions drew heav­ily on strik­ing ‘fu­tur­is­tic’ de­sign el­e­ments that saw a large bub­ble roof and long sweep­ing pan­els. It was re­ported to be pow­ered by “a 2.0-litre 16-valve tur­bocharged en­gine pro­duc­ing 295 bhp (220 kW)”, which trans­lates to the 4G63 heart be­ing stolen from a Galant and fit­ted up to form a fully func­tional and drive­able con­cept car — un­like most of the era. In fact, Mit­subishi claimed a max­i­mum speed of 186mph (300kph).

Much like the Ja­panese con­sumers, the Amer­i­cans were im­pressed when the car vis­ited the US — sleek de­sign promis­ing huge vis­i­bil­ity all around the car in a skin more akin to what Ge­orge Jet­son drives than any­thing on of­fer in their mar­ket. The HRS was su­per low to the ground and didn’t have much in the way of head­room, but that was ev­i­dently never the in­ten­tion. It was used to pa­rade Mit­subishi’s new in­te­grated elec­tronic sys­tems, which of­fered au­to­matic con­trol of driv­e­train, sus­pen­sion, steer­ing, and brake com­po­nents, as well as driv­ing po­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to driv­ing con­di­tions and weather.

Come 1989, the buzz­word in the in­dus­try was ‘aero­dy­nam­ics’ — and the HSR-II didn’t dis­ap­point. It had a heavy em­pha­sis on ac­tive aero­dy­nam­ics that used au­to­matic chin spoil­ers, ca­nards, and flaps — six mov­ing pieces in all — which boasted an im­pres­sive drag co­ef­fi­cient of 0.20 to 0.40, de­pend­ing on the con­fig­u­ra­tion; un­heard-of fig­ures that are more com­monly found in aero­planes. This sys­tem was con­trolled by the ‘OSCII’ — an ad­vanced elec­tronic con­trol sys­tem made up of seven com­put­ers that, in ad­di­tion to the ac­tive aero con­trol, per­formed the func­tions of course

trac­ing, au­to­matic ve­hi­cle fol­low­ing, and au­to­matic park­ing, earn­ing it the nick­name ‘com­puter mid­ship’.

This kind of tech can be found on mod­ern cars, but to be med­dling with it back in the ’80s made the HSR truly ahead of its time. It proved ef­fec­tive, too, with the HSR-II achiev­ing a 200mph (322 kph) top speed, and much of the tech­nol­ogy find­ing its way onto the Mit­subishi HSX, the pre­cur­sor to the au­tomaker’s GTO.

If you thought it looked an­noy­ingly fa­mil­iar, the HSR-II fea­tured as an un­lock­able car in Gran Turismo 4, Gran Turismo 5, and GranTurismo6.

As for the fol­low­ing four mod­els, well, the HSR-III ( 1991) was re­pow­ered us­ing the 6A10 1.6-litre V6, which is notable for be­ing the world’s small­est mass-pro­duced V6 and would be used in the Mi­rage and Lancer mod­els. The HSR-IV (1993) gained a tick­led-up ver­sion of the 6A10, and made use of four-wheel drive and an all-wheel anti-lock brak­ing sys­tem. The fol­low­ing two mod­els would de­but Mit­subishi’s gaso­line di­rect in­jec­tion (GDI) tech­nol­ogy and act as a test bed for the com­pany’s ac­tive yaw con­trol, trac­tion con­trol, and an au­to­mated driv­ing sys­tem.

None of the six it­er­a­tions would ever go into pro­duc­tion, but that’s how con­cept cars tend to work. While the con­cept may have been viewed as a fu­tur­is­tic dream, in re­al­ity, many of the com­po­nents were noth­ing short of ground­break­ing. The HSR would do­nate power-train and sus­pen­sion com­po­nents to the Galant and Eclipse mod­els — with the Eclipse specif­i­cally gain­ing from the HSR by way of aero styling that earned it an 0.294 drag co­ef­fi­cient — and ac­tive aero to the Mit­subishi GTO. The HSRs were not the car of the fu­ture, but they con­firmed Mit­subishi’s strength as an au­tomaker and even helped to shape many of the suc­ceed­ing mod­els as real cars of the fu­ture.

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