Archive for the ‘Classic Japanese Sports Cars’ Category
Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 June 2, 2018 | 12:37 pm

You know what was an amazing car?Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Front

The Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4. You could even argue this was the best Japanese car of the decade. After all, back in 1990, Mitsubishi set out to make this the JDM on everyone’s mind. And this major goal included surpassing cars like the Nissan 300ZX and the ultra sexy Mazda RX-7.

So, did Mitsubishi succeed?

You bet it did! Released as the GTO in Japan, this epic car revved up quite the storm with its release. And even today the 3000GT VR-4 still remains one of the best-designed cars out there. In fact, this sleek car even set the standard for the modern JDM car. So buckle up! We’re about to dive into everything that makes the 3000GT VR-4 one of the most epic vehicles of all time!

Okay, so before we begin, let’s clear up a big question:

What’s so great about the VR-4?

If you’ve looked at the 3000GTs on the streets, you’ll notice that most of them lack the VR-4 logo. This might seem like a minor detail. But when it comes to the drive, these letters (and number) make all the difference.

First off, the VR-4 offered a twin turbo engine. This amounted to a solid 80 more horsepower than the SL counterpart. Putting this into practical terms, this was enough power to allow the VR-4 to race from 0-60mph 3.2 seconds faster than the non-VR-4. Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Logo

Also, note that the VR-4 offered all-wheel drive. Other 3000GTs only offered FWD. So put all this together, and you’ll find that the VR-4 drives quite differently than its other 3000GT counterparts.

3000GT VR-4 Specs

While we’re on the topic of horsepower and drivetrain, let’s take a look at what the VR-4’s engine packed back in the 90s.

As we already covered, this is a Twin Turbo V6 engine. To be exact, this was the 6G7 series that you’ll find in countless other cars like the Hyundai Sonata.

Back to the 3000GT, this motor was more than capable of pumping out 300 horsepower. In other words, Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Twin Turbo Enginethis little Mitsubishi could drive pretty fast when compared to its competition. Specifically, this was enough power to push 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds.

Not convinced this is fast? Then let’s do some comparisons to other Japanese cars from that time. The 1991 Acura NSX needed a full 5.7 seconds to reach 60 mph from rest. Even the 1991 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo took 5.5 seconds for a 0-60 mph. So it’s safe to say that the Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR-4 dominated its fellow JDMs back in the day.

Of course, it wasn’t all horsepower that led to this feat. Instead, this Mitsubishi was pretty innovative in the early 90s with its active aerodynamics. This fun little feature kicked in at 50 mph. Visually you’d see the spoiler tilt automatically. The front lip would also lower to reduce any downforce. So the active aero not only sped up the 3000GT but also made this sporty vehicle look pretty cool in the process.

Another nice feature here involves the two exhaust modes. With the flick of a switch, you could effortlessly jump between sport and touring mode. Really, the names say it all here. Touring mode is what you’d use for your casual Sunday drives. Meanwhile, you already know what sport mode does—this is where all the fun begins.


The Mitsubishi 3000GT does much more than drive well. It also happens to be one of the sexiest Japanese cars you can buy.

In truth, all models of the 300GT look alluring. But the first generation (1990-1993) easily wins when it comes to the aesthetics.

Everything about this car simply looks sporty. The sharp angles and contoured sides even seem reminiscent of the Ferrari 348.

But what really helps the first generation stand out is those pop-up headlights. Seriously, this feature alone adds cool points to just about any car out there!Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR-4 Pop-Up Headlights

Take a seat inside this sleek JDM, and you’ll find the design continues to impress. The leather interior is nothing short of sporty and trendy—even by today’s standards. Even better, every switch and button feels functional. Nothing feels excessive or out of place here.

Can it Race?

Okay, so we’ve established that the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 carries some stellar performance, right? Good. But that’s just with stock parts. If you ever plan to take the 3000 GT to the racetracks, you’ll find just as great of results there as well.

If it’s any motivation at all, check out this video of a 3000 GT VR-4 whooping a Toyota Supra. Again, there are definitely some mods here. But it should give you an idea of the potential these cars bring to the table. Read the rest of this entry

1991 Mr2 Turbo January 9, 2017 | 06:58 pm

91 mr2 turbo side view

A side view of the 1991 Mr2 Turbo for sale on ebay

The second-generation Toyota Mr2s are known as being the “poor man’s Ferrari”.

The 2nd gens were sold during the 10 year period from 1989-1999. For the US market, there was a normally aspirated version making 130 hp, and a turbo version rated at 200 hp.

The turbo version uses Toyota’s 3S-GTE engine. This is a 2.0 liter four-cylinder. It is equipped with a small air-to-air intercooler, which helps keep intake temps down and makes for a more consistent (and knock-free) power level.

Turbo models were initially rated at a brisk 6.1 second 0-60 mph time, with a quarter mile in 14.2 seconds. They could hit a top speed of 142 mph, certainly nothing to sneeze at.

As a mid-engined car, they can occasionally inspire some butt-clenching moments during aggressive off-ramp driving. Some consider these cars to have “snap-oversteer”, not unlike some of the Porsche 911 cars back in the day. Although all cars had staggered wheels (with larger rubber in the back helping tame the oversteer), some suspension changes were rolled out for the 1993 model year that revised rear toe links and further tame the trait.

1993 models also got the benefit of dual-cone syncrhonizers on 2nd and 3rd gears, improving shift quality and transmission longevity.

These design improvements didn’t really seem to help sales. US sales by year:
1984 | 1,217
1985 | 37,674
1986 | 31,352
1987 | 15,742
1988 | 8,144
[2nd generation]
1989 | 2,537
1990 | 17,606
1991 | 9,505
1992 | 3,740
1993 | 1,742
1994 | 625
1995 | 933

Of the 129,977 1st and 2nd generation Mr2s sold in the US, the tally is:
1st gen = 93,289
2nd gen = 36,688
Obviously, the 2nd generation cars never struck the same chord of popularity as the 1st gen cars. Why is that?

Incidentally, the 3rd gen cars really didn’t fare any better:
2000 | 7,233
2001 | 6,750
2002 | 5,109
2003 | 3,249
2004 | 2,800
2005 | 780

One reason for the 2nd gen miss was cost. A 93 Turbo Mr2 had an MSRP of $24,728, while the base car ran almost $19,000. But in 1991, the base car only cost $15,000.

When Car & Driver Magazine tested the 1987 MR2, it’s base price was $10,999. Clearly, cost/value was one thing that hampered MR2 popularity over the years.

And as the car evolved, the design strategy shifted a bit as well. The size of the car grew, as did its weight. Performance obviously improved as the turbocharged version became available, but it was certainly a departure from the original, more minimalist theme.

Year | Length | Weight
1987 | 154.5 in | 2,396 lb
1993 | 164.2 in | 2,915 lb

91 Mr2 turbo front view

Front view

Regardless of their popularity during the 1990’s, these cars are a tremendous pleasure to drive. The interior is reasonably spacious, and although “dated” in the sense that a 1990’s car doesn’t have the style or standard of a new car, they are of great quality.

The 3S-GTE engines are real gems. Toyota tweaked and improved them throughout their lifespan. The version used in the MR2, and also in the Celica ST185, was actually the 2nd generation. It used a CT26 turbo pushing 10 psi. They are known for being very tough and moddable.

Speaking of mods, these turbo cars can be modified to reliably perform and very high levels. Generally accepted:

Stage 1 – 40-65 hp increase (240-265 hp)
requires boost controller, exhaust, intake
approx 15-16 psi
Stage 2 – 90-115 hp increase (290-315 hp)
upgraded turbo
upgraded intercooler
18 psi
fuel cut defender
Stage 3 – 140-185 hp increase (340-385 hp)
quite a bit of upgrades required
18-20 psi on pump gas, 20-22 psi on race gas
stock head gasket is usually good for 22 psi

I tangled with a few Stage 1 or Stage 2 cars in my youth, and they are certainly a force to be reckoned with. A stock car is sprightly and enjoyable, whereas the modified cars can perform as well as pretty much anything on the road.

In late 1993, a 3rd generation 3S-GTE engine was introduced in the Japanese market, and it was rated at an even stronger 242 hp. A quick internet search (note this certainly doesn’t make me an expert) suggests it’s possible to import a nice Mr2 from Japan for between $8-$10k. As far as I know, only RHD cars are available. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure my left hand would be able to shift a 5-speed without a little practice!

These cars are becoming more and more rare. Finding one in good condition and unmodified is becoming quite a challenge. Here’s one for sale on ebay. It’s at $4,600 from 8 bids with 2 days left on the auction.

It’s a 1991 Turbo, so it doesn’t have the benefit of several of the improvements unleashed by Toyota for the 1993 model year. With 106k miles on it, it’s no spring chicken. The description by the dealer, located in Reno Nevada, leaves a lot to be desired.

I love the red color. The exterior looks to be in great shape. The dealer just says there’s no apparent “major” damage, so it’s hard to know if it has ever been repainted. Red tends to fade with time in the sun. I see some minor fading in places, but the paint appears good. I think the detailer could’ve done a better job, since some of the spots low on the car don’t appeared to have been cleaned/polished.

I see a few nicks and rock chips on the front end, but the rest of the body looks good. The OEM factory wheels look surprisingly unblemished. The tires are mismatched, with some Sumitomo and some Falken. The power antenna is extended in the photos, but it appears the radio is on so it would be premature to assume it’s not functioning properly.

The interior looks amazingly nice, if not a ten I would at least rate it a 9. Seats have a bit of fading but almost no wear. Door panels looks good, with only a small spot on the passenger’s side. The shift knob looks ok, but the boot could use a refresh. The oem factory cassette and CD player look nice, with no cracks or peeling plastic. There are no close-ups of the dash, but from what I can tell it’s free of cracks.

Again, I wish their detailer had done a better job inside too. Going at some of the crevices with a q-tip and getting many of the interior glass and plastic surfaces clean as opposed to just wiped down would make it look much better.

The AC isn’t mentioned in the description, but it appears to be turned on and presumably functioning in the photos.

The spare time appears to be there. In the same photo, I think I can see a 2-prong electrical cord coming out of something. I’m not familiar enough with the cars, or have forgotten what this could be.

There’s a photo of the trunk full of hoses and possibly an intercooler. There’s an HKS manual in there too. HKS is a fairly popular manufacturer of performance parts, often for turbocharged cars. This makes me think the car either is or was modified, but again the crappy description from the dealer doesn’t mention it.

Photos of the underside of the car don’t appear to show any corrosion. I wouldn’t expect any with a Reno car, but of course without access to a vehicle history report, we can’t be sure it wasn’t owned/operated in a more corrosive climate in its past.

I’m not sure what the reserve is, but I personally would probably be willing to pay $5-$6k for a car like this. I think one with lower mileage, with fewer unknowns frequently fetch in the $8k range.

Edit 1/13/17:

I have a horrible track record of not following up on auctions and sales to report back on the post what the car actually sold for. I’ll break that habit today, by letting you know the bidding for the MR2 mentioned above got to $4,650, apparently didn’t reach reserve, and was subsequently relisted. You can find the link to the relisted car below. As mentioned above, the dealer didn’t do a very good job of describing the car in the initial auction, and just copied/pasted into the relisting. With some of the imperfections and unanswered questions about the car, I don’t think it should net huge dollars, so it may be interesting to see how much lower the new reserve is, and how high the bidding will go over the course of the next 5 days.


1986 Mitsubishi Starion October 10, 2014 | 06:13 pm

The Mitsubishi Starion is a cool example of 1980’s sportiness. The sister vehicle is a Chrysler Conquest.

These 2.6L turbocharged four cylinder engines are known for being capable, efficient, and peppy. But they actually aren’t known for being particularly tolerant of modifications, ie giant increases in boost. Improvements were made throughout the product life cycle, but output typically falls between 160-190 hp. At less than 3,000 lbs curb weight, the zero to sixty time is around 8 seconds flat.

This particular example is for sale by a used car dealer in Missouri, and is a beautiful silver color with black leather interior. It has 58k miles on it and seems to be in pristine condition. I doubt this has been refurbished or restored. It’s always a wonder to me that a car this old (28 years!) can be in this kind of shape. Did somebody just park it in a garage, maybe with a plastic bag to keep the dust and rodents away? It looks like the right-hand flip-up headlight or headlight cover is slightly misaligned. That could be indicative of a prior accident, but it’s just as likely that it needs a minor adjustment as a result of 28 years of normal use. The interior looks basically spotless. Did you notice the “Turbo Turbo Turbo” logo on the seatbelts? I could do without the goofy two-spoke steering wheel, but as mint and original as the interior is I would certainly be loathe to change a single thing. The dash and instrument panel scream “1980’s” and are so unique and welcome. It’s refreshing to find something so different from stuff we see today. Read the rest of this entry

Craaaazy FB Mazda Rx-7 Swap August 30, 2014 | 12:52 am

It’s very rare, but occasionally I will come across a swap so insanely built that I am awestruck. This is certainly such an occasion.

Mazda released the first generation FB-Series Rx-7 in the States in 1978. The Rx7 always had a unique rotary engine. The FB had a 12a, which was a 1.2 liter and had 100 horsepower with 100 ft-lbs of torque. By 1984, the car had grown into a version called a GSL-SE. It had a 13b engine, which was fuel injected, 1.3 liters in size, and had 135 horsepower with 133 ft-lbs of torque. At only 2,400 lbs, these things were pretty peppy. I owned one in high school. Mine got pretty bad gas mileage, and the steering (which is a recirculating ball design) was pretty bad. But I remember when Car & Driver magazine did a write-up on the SE version, and they something about “entire city blocks can be covered sideways.” Well, maybe if you are a Car & Driver editor, and not a pimply teenage dude with an 89k mile example with worn out steering. I introduced mine to a ditch or two trying to prove that statement.

I digress.


Doing a high quality swap in a nice shop when you have lots of money and the best tools and just buying all the parts you need is one thing. But when you see something ultra-fine and it’s apparent that it was all done by hand… awesome. Read the rest of this entry

Toyota Celica GT – 4th Generation February 5, 2014 | 07:27 pm

Totyota made their fourth generation Celica from 1985-1989. They aren’t my favorite series Celica, but the example below was so clean it sparked my interest. To me, the biggest drawback was their conversion from rear to front wheel drive starting with this generation. In 1986, the GT came with the ST’s engine, which was a ST-161 with a 2S-E. These only lasted one year so they are pretty rare. But they have a 2.0 liter eight valve four, rated at 97hp at 4400 rpm and 124 ft-lbs at 4400 rpm. They weight right at 2500 lbs.

For a 1980’s car, these came loaded with sunroof, power windows, and fancy 13″ alloy wheels. Trivia time – the GT came with a front strut tower bar, as seen in these photos. They had ventilated disc and rear drum brakes.

The interior on this car is like a way back time machine. Dang, is it clean. This auction has a buy it now of $5,995. That seems overpriced considering what this car is – ie not a performance freak, just a very nice shiny fwd sporty gas sipper. But hey money isn’t much of an object, we are allowed to buy “1 car per day” right?


Original 1987 Honda CRX Si Time Machine February 2, 2014 | 03:49 pm

This original 87 CRX Si looks to be in fabulous shape. With 77k miles on it, you probably won’t easily find another one in the entire country that shines up quite as pretty. Looks like the rear bumper is a bit droopy, but come on if the car was perfect we would be afraid to drive it. Speaking of perfect, check out that interior. No airbags to worry about in 87, so we could let the kids ride in the front seat. No milkshakes or goldfish crackers though, because the interior is just remarkable in terms of how clean it looks and totally devoid of wear or age.

I believe 1987 is the last year of the 1st generation CRX. The HF version I think got around one meeellion miles per gallon and came with a 60 hp engine. 0-60 time was 14 seconds. Nope, I didn’t say quarter mile, 60 mph. The Si faired better, with a 91 hp engine to propel 1,840 lbs. No lie, 1,840 lbs straight off the factory floor. They were rated at 36 mpg on the highway, but with that sweet little transmission and that super light clutch and that very direct manual steering, you are going to keep that thing buzzing near redline constantly right? Base price for the Si in ’87 was $7,999. They made 48,355 CRX’s in 1987.

A friend of mine owned one of these in high school. She had a red one just like the one in these photos.

This beauty is currently posted on ebay. It’s at $4900, with a day and a half left on the auction. It’s at $4,900 but the reserve hasn’t been met. Whatever the cost, if I were rich, into my stable it would go.


**Update: The car ended up selling for $5600

1972 Datsun 240Z Race Car May 26, 2013 | 12:46 pm

Although you only have about an hour left to bid on this car on ebay, I couldn’t resist posting it up. It’s very unique and looks to be in great condition given its age and profession.

Seller says:

1972 Datsun 240Z race car. This car is owned by the same person 28 years. This is a highly modified car built for earlier competition in Eastern Motor Racing Association (EMRA) and SCCA autocross events. It has spent its life running track day events with PDA and a number of other driving schools in the New York area. This is a former Bridgehampton EMRA Time Trial Car (won the Drivers Championship for GT2) and SCCA FP class autocross car. Since Bridgehampton, it was used exclusively at Pocono, Lime Rock, and Watkins Glen. The car is uni-body with tube chassis construction, all other panels are fiberglass. The heart of the car is a 3.1 liter competition motor built by L.A.B. Machine in Lindenhurst NY. It’s fitted with 44 mm Mikuni’s, Electromotive Ignition, Datsun Competition Oil Pan, 5 Speed, and R200 rear. It has all the correct parts for this type of service, Tilton Fly Wheel, ATL Fuel Cell, fully adjustable suspension, wildwood brakes, etc. The interior was fitted with the best available components, Recaro, Momo Simpson, and Autometer. The car construction and condition is fully documented. Every component in the construction is detailed right down to the wiring schematic. Log records for every event including engine performance tests are also documented. This is a carefully constructed, highly modified car. It needs nothing more than the pre-event inspection and typical brake service before another track event. All of which is also documented. Contact me with any questions and thank you for looking.I’m adding more pictures of the cage because a few people have asked. The cage passes thru the firewall and triangulates at the base of the A pillar. Very strong, copied from the bible (How to Hot Rod and Race your Datsun) and years of track experience studying cars built better than mine. Thanks for all the interest.

It looks and sounds like he has set this car up to be a ton of fun. I’d love to know what it weighs with the extensive weight reduction and the mega-cage. It would also be interesting to know how competitive it is. I’ve never seen wheels like that before. The big risk with old Datsuns is always rust. There’s no mention of that in the ad, but looking through the spectacular photos, I would think it’s not a problem. Good luck to the seller. If I can remember, I’ll come back and update the post with the final selling price.

Incidentally, the bad part about posting cars is that I end up wanting them for my own!

240z Race Car Pic 4240z Race Car pic 3240z Race Car pic 6240z Race Car pic 7240z Race Car Pic 8240z Race Car pic 1240z Race Car pic 2240z Race Car Pic 5240Z Race Car pic 9240z Race Car Pic 10