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Haunted Highways: A Series Exploring The Ghosts of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

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On: Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 10:56AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Haunted Highways:  A Series Exploring The Ghosts of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

Although many will point to the 1960’s as the Golden Age of automobiles, when it’s all said and done, the 1990’s may be right up there with the best of automotive times this country has ever seen.  Dozens of exciting mobile masterpieces were available in all shapes and sizes, prices, and power ratings.  The car we have chosen today is one of the more visually impressive models to cruise own any road in America:  The Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4

We are going to focus specifically on the 1994-1999 models, because although the VR-4 was around from 1991, the real fun began with the updated 1994 model.  This techno-beast packed everything but the kitchen sink.  All wheel drive, all wheel steering, electronically tunable mufflers, and “Active Aero” bodywork including a tunable exhaust system and adjustable front and rear spoilers all made the Mitsubishi salesmen’s life very easy.  With 320 horsepower spinning the engine at 6000 rpm (and 315 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm) from it’s twin turbo DOHC 3.0 liter motor, this car could move out in a hurry.

Rowing through the Getrag six-speed helped propel the 2+2 sport coupe to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds thanks to all four Yokohama a-028 245/40ZR18 tires scrambling for grip. It will rip through the quarter mile at a still-respectable 13.5 @ 105 mph on its way to an electronically limited 155 mph top speed. The VR-4 was a fierce competitor in almost every comparison it appeared in, but it’s one short-coming was it’s girth. At 3737 pounds, it outweighed one of it’s main rivals, the Corvette, by almost 500 pounds. Consequently, the VR-4 could be likened to today’s Aston Martins: Big horsepower, comfortable ride, but more of a GT car than a track star. Though its double wishbone suspension equipped with Macpherson struts fought hard, even the mighty Mitsu could not fight physics. Though when the weather got to be anything less than perfect, the tide turned quickly in favor of the big Mitsubishi. Nothing could deliver the same all-weather performance short of a Porsche 911 Turbo, which helped real world buyers rationalize their less than nimble purchase.

Astute 3000GT historians would throw a fit if the 1995-96 VR-4 Spyder did not get a mention in this nostalgic look back to yesteryear. Mitsubishi commissioned a brief run of its poster-car in the form of a two-passenger hardtop convertible, the first such car since Ford did it back in 1959 with its less than popular Skyliner. The VR-4 Spyder run was very brief indeed, with a total of 1,618 models, 877 of which were of the VR-4 variation.
The VR-4 went through one last change in 1999 before it bowed out to American buyers, which constituted mostly esthetic changes including a wider front grill that looked like it was lifted from a 427 Shelby Cobra, and a huge Ikea desk sized rear wing.
Having driven a 1994 VR-4, this writer can tell you that there are few things in life that will bring a grin more quickly to your face than 12 pounds of boost kicking in at 3000 rpm to pin you back in your seat. The car is a comfy cruiser that is up for the occasional stop-light brawl. It truly was an animal all its own, and with a little updating, weight reduction, and more power, could very easily fit back into the Mitsubishi lineup as top dog once again. However, until that revival becomes a reality, 3KGT lovers will have to make do with the a more broken-in version if they want to get behind the wheel of one of these monsters of the 90’s. Although prices varied slightly, a new 1997 3000GT VR-4 had a base price of $44,590. Thanks however, to depreciation and a less than unbelievable economy, that same 1997 model will run you anywhere between $6000-15,000 depending on condition and mileage. Happy hunting and stay tuned for the next installment of Haunted Highways!

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