Nowadays, Mitsubishi seems to be hanging on for dear life by a thread and it doesn’t look like the Eclipse Cross or, even worse, the Outlander can save them. Once upon a time, Mitsubishi was actually more well-known and well-liked. The Galant was a decent substitute to a Honda Accord, the Eclipse was a hero among high-school kids, and the 3000GT was a dream car on every car enthusiasts’ wall.
Those cars were great, but there is one Mitsubishi model that’s often overlooked. That is, unless you played video games like Gran Turismo or Forza. It’s the Mitsubishi FTO and, chances are, you probably never even knew it existed.
What is a Mitsubishi FTO?
The Mitsubishi FTO was a sport compact car that was produced in Japan from 1994 to 2000. While it never made it to the U.S., it did make it over to Australia and the UK at one point.
The FTO was a two-door coupe that was meant to slot in somewhere between the Eclipse and the 3000GT in the Mitsubishi lineup. And while it might have done well in the U.S., our intuitions detect that they probably didn’t want to take away sales from the Eclipse at the time.
But now, thanks for the “25-year rule,” us Americans can now buy one of these legally and live out our Gran Turismo dreams on the country’s best backroads. Just remember, it will be right-hand drive.
The Mitsubishi FTO was powered by a few different engines during the time of its production. The base engine was a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 123 horsepower.
Stepping up a notch, you could have an FTO with a 2.0-liter V6 that pushed out 168 horsepower or if you were really lucky, then you could get an FTO GPX with the 2.0-liter V6 that was rated at 197 horsepower.
No, that doesn’t sound like a lot by today’s standards but considering it was made 25 years ago, that was a lot. Even more impressive was the company’s use of MIVEC, or variable valve timing, to achieve those horsepower numbers.
The engine choices could be mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed “Tiptronic” transmission. Before you sneer at the thought of a four-speed auto, take into consideration that the gearbox was modeled after Porsche’s original Tiptronic transmission, which Mitsubishi called the INVECS-II.
It was a “smart” transmission that could be put into manual mode, where it would learn your desired shift points and then incorporate them when you put it back into the automatic mode.
When the Mitsubishi FTO debuted, it won the highly coveted “Car of the Year” award in Japan. In order to commemorate the win, Mitsubishi released a special-edition GPX trim level in which only 207 units were produced between 1994 and 1995.
The GPX trim came with the aforementioned more-powerful MIVEC V6, a limited-slip differential, and it was finished in a Dandelion Yellow paint scheme. To make it even more special, they put emblems on the C-pillars that read “94-95 Japanese Car of the Year.”
Gone, but still around
The Mitsubishi FTO received a facelift for the 1997 year, but it was eventually discontinued in 2000, most likely due to declining sales. While it would have been interesting to see how it would have done in North American, the bright side is that they are now being imported.
So if you like what you see in these pictures, then check it out in closed detail at Japanese Classics.