NZ Classic Driver
MITSUBISHI GTO: 50 YEARS IN NEW ZEALAND
Looking back into Mitsubishi’s history, and with ‘classic cars’ in mind, most enthusiasts would instantly think of the Colt Galant GTO – the first performance car to bear the Japanese automakers famous three-diamond badge.
The first Mitsubishi Colt, a two-cylinder sedan, appeared in 1962 and was Mitsubishi’s first attempt at producing a mid-sized saloon. The Colt was gradually developed during the ‘60s progressing through to the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show debuting the GTX-1 (Grand Touring Experimental First Version). A stylish two-door coupé sharing some similarities with Mitsubishi’s Minica Skipper coupé, the GTX-1 made such a positive impact that it was quickly rushed into full production and came to the market as the Galant Colt GTO. The man responsible for the car’s styling was Hioaki Kamisago, who had studied automotive design in the USA. With that in mind, it wasn’t surprising that the GTO displayed an American influence, looking rather like a scaled back US pony car with it’s rear quarter ‘coke’ bottle bulge, pillarless side windows and Mustang-like tail.
The GTO entered full production in 1970 with two models, the 1600cc MI with a fourspeed manual transmission, single carb; and the 1600cc MII with four-speed transmission and twin carbs. Mitsubishi then followed at the end of 1971 with the MR, a 1600cc DOHC twin carburettor model; this was only made until 1972 and discontinued due to being unable to meet emission standards of the time.
1973 saw the 2-litre GTO fitted with fivespeed gearbox. Three models were available – the SL base model four-speed single carb; GS 2000cc five-speed, twin carbs and the GSR 2000cc five-speed, twin carb model, the latter with the same mechanical specification as the GS but with flared guards, wider tyres and vented upholstery but other than that, same as the GS.
At the end of 1972 Todd Motors imported a very small number of another variant that Mitsubishi tried. This was badged as a 17X and the model that came to New Zealand was an X1, 1700cc four-speed, single carb example.
In 1973 Todd Motors started the importation of fully built-up GS 2000s and continued to import these in a range of colours with minor face-lifts and specification changes until 1975 when they replaced it with the Mitsubishi Celeste coupé. Production of the GTO continued in Japan until 1977.
Although popular in Japan, the Galant GTO never really made it big on the export scene although, rather oddly, New Zealand was the only country other than Japan to receive GTOs in any number.
CELEBRATING THE GTO
New Zealand GTO enthusiast groups are celebrating the 50 years anniversary of the 2000cc version in New Zealand over the 2023 Easter weekend in Christchurch. They believe there are between 80-90 GTOs either registered on the road or in storage and are planning on having the greatest number of these in Christchurch at Easter to celebrate these Japanese classic cars. The GTOs will be on display in Akaroa Presbyterian Church yard on Easter Saturday and at the Christchurch Mitsubishi dealership on Easter Sunday. The public are more than welcome to come along and view the classic GTOs at both of these venues.