A Brief History of Mitsubishi’s Colt Galant GTO
Story by Ben Hsu // Photography by Jeremy Heslup
Would you like an advance look at this week’s Petrolicious episode? Our friends over at Japanese Nostalgic Car have you covered. The subject of our video this week is JNC contributor and administrator Matt De Mangos and his gorgeous Colt Galant GTO GS-R, and we’re partnering with JNC to give our readers a chance to watch this video early, so check it out now at Japanese Nostalgic Car
Marques like Nissan and Toyota get most of the attention thrown at Japanese classics these days, but let’s not forget about Mitsubishi. The automaker, known for turbocharged, rally-bred performance machines, has been building enthusiast-oriented sport coupes just as long as any of them, starting with the Colt Galant GTO.
Like its rivals, Mitsubishi was planning a world-class grand tourer as early as 1964 with the Colt Sport concept. Unlike its rivals though, and perhaps wisely, it never put the high-end GT into production. It probably would have lost money on every one, and as the world proved with the Toyota 2000GT, the climate simply wasn’t right for such car.
By 1969, after the success of the Colt Galant and an apparent golden age on the horizon, Mitsubishi execs gave the company’s first hardtop 2+2 variant, despite the high costs and low sales projections. They revived the idea of a flagship, debuting a stylish coupe at that year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Based on its Colt Galant sedan, the body was updated with contemporary styling trends. This time, the car would be built primarily for the Japanese market, which had really come into its own with an unquenchable thirst for lightweight performance cars.
A year later, the production Colt Galant GTO was unveiled at the 1970 show, further refining the form into an sinister little street fighter. Mitsubishi called it a “dyna-wedge” shape thanks to its crisp contours and a distinct lack of curves. A menacing reverse-angle nose and split grille inspired subsequent Galant designs well into the 2000s. Perhaps most noteworthy, though, was a unique upturned ducktail which prompted the marketing department to exuberantly refer to the GTO as the “Hip-Up Coupé!” in its advertising.
Among the Galant GTO’s motorist-friendly touches were what Mitsubishi called a “flight cockpit” dashboard, with a center console canted towards the driver with no fewer than eight instrument gauges. A sporty three-spoke steering wheel was standard, as was a 4-speed (later upgraded to 5-speed) manual transmission. Originally, designers wanted to match the interior trim to the body color, but it was deemed too costly.
The GTO was aimed squarely at a new segment of driver-oriented “specialty cars” like the Isuzu 117 Coupe, Nissan Silvia, and what would become its biggest competitor, the Toyota Celica. Toyota, in fact, even countered few years later with the Celica Liftback, featuring almost an exact replica of the GTO’s back half, or at least the Japanese motoring press seemed to think so at the time.