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Black Widow: Saving the Mitsubishi 3000GT

The 1998 3000GT VR-4 is the most rare Mitsubishi ever made for the US market. I meet up with one during golden hour.

1998 3000GT VR-4

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that it revolves around the world of BMW. But you’d also know that I have a weakness for 90s Japanese sport coupes, specifically the Mitsubishi 3000GT. With parts supplies dwindling and the miles adding up, I’ve decided to preserve as many as I can through my lens. And we’ll start with the rarest Mitsubishi ever made; a 1998 3000GT VR-4.

The 1998 3000GT VR-4

1998 3000GT VR-4
Projector-style lights still look modern on this car.

231. That’s how many VR-4s were made in 1998. While the ’99 model, with its unique headlights and combat wing, might be the most sought after (287 made), it’s the ’98 model with the fewest produced.

By the time Mitsubishi got to this model year, the 3000GT had lost a lot of unique features. Adjustable suspension and exhaust, and the active aero lip and spoiler were all cut. I find it amazing that my G80 M3 has almost everything that was said to be “too much” or “gimmicky” in the 3000GT.

This particular example is number 64, painted in clean Solano Black Pearl over tan leather interior.

1998 3000GT VR-4
By 1998, many of the unique performance features of the car had been dropped.
1998 3000GT VR-4
Lowered with a Tein suspension and Rays wheels, the car looks even more aggressive.

In the case of the Mitsu, this resulted in the lightest version of the car produced outside of Japan, and the best-looking, in the author’s humble opinion. That hoop-style wing was the perfect compliment to the rest of the car’s coke-bottle shape. About the only thing missing to make it perfect is the sail panels from a ’99 model (a configuration that does not exist from the factory).

Also gone by 98? The Dodge Stealth and Spyder VR-4. Yes, the 98 model is even more rare than the convertible hardtop.

1998 3000GT VR-4
Inside is full of buttons and dials. No screens here.

What goes wrong?

All 3000GTs are powered by a variant of a 3-liter V-6 named 6g72. It’s actually a common motor (Google 1988 Chrysler New Yorker), but the VR-4 is the only car that adds turbochargers to it. This 3000 had an extensive rework by its owner, including refreshed seals, a new timing belt and water pump, spark plugs, and oil cooler.

1998 3000GT VR-4
A transverse-mounted engine shows its FWD roots.
1998 3000GT VR-4
It’s not an easy upkeep.

With 170,000 miles on the clock, it’s seen some things. The rubber boots protecting the axles of the four-wheel drive system rip. The check engine light was on, if such things matter on a car like this.

Going for a ride in the 1998 3000GT VR-4 was enlightening. Sometimes it’s best not to meet your heroes, but that wasn’t the case here. It’s a rough ride, with squeaks and rattles all over the interior. But this car has personality. Stomping on the gas produces a loud roar from the exhaust, and it’s still pretty powerful. The interior itself is very high quality, on par with BMW from the same time frame.

The original 18-inch chrome wheels are very hard to come by, and they all suffer from peeling. The “VR-4” badge is discontinued and almost impossible to find. Dash speakers dry out from the sun. Climate control units usually need new screens. I could go on, but as you can see, owning this car requires real commitment.

Full list of items replaced

If you’re wondering:

  • Full 120k and 60k Service
  • OEM Head gasket replacement, Oil Pump, Water Pump, Timing Pulleys and Components
  • 3sx Solid Belt Tensioner
  • Gates Racing Kevlar Timing Belt
  • Big bore lifters from Ninja performance
  • OEM valve stem seals, valve cover gaskets and spark plug seals, camshaft seals, thermostat, throttle body gasket, and upper and Lower intake plenum gaskets
  • Six-speed Shift Knob
  • OEM gas cap
  • Serpentine belts
  • Replaced all worn rubber hoses
  • Exhaust gaskets
  • Injector Seals
  • Red Line 75/90 gear oil – rear differential, Shockproof Heavy Transfer case, and MT-85 gear oil for the transaxle
  • OEM inner and outer tie rod ends
  • Left and right outer door weather strips
1998 3000GT VR-4
These dials were originally laid out in the Nissan Z, and Mitsu borrowed the idea.
1998 3000GT VR-4
Sportbike-inspired gauges are clear and easy to read.
1998 3000GT VR-4
Automatic climate control was revised on the “Gen 3” model.
1998 3000GT VR-4
A big steering wheel provides excellent feedback.
1998 3000GT VR-4
Finding original wheels has become hard.

Aftermarket support for the 1998 3000GT VR-4

Which brings me to the next point. This is no Mark IV Supra. Aftermarket parts are also hard to come by. A set of RAYS bronze wheels and a lowered stance with Tein coilovers help the look. Under the hood is a strut tower brace, polished Y-pipe, and HKS air intake.

There’s some good stuff in this one:

  • Stock 98 ECU Flashed with the 99′ Chromed V2 rom
  • Stock Tune
  • Launch control/2 step
  • MSD spark plug wires
  • HKS Super Mega Flow intake
  • Pit Road M Front Strut Bar
  • Fluidampr Harmonic Balancer
  • Gutted front pre cats
  • 3sx Pre turbo pipes
  • IMR America Cat-back exhaust
  • Polyurethane Motor Mounts
  • IMR America Side Mount Oil cooler
  • Spark plug cover by Frank Gaggi
  • TurboXS Blow off valve
  • Powder coated valve cover by IMR America

You can find other parts from specialty shops. Turbos are not a unique piece to this car, and larger brakes will fit (though the stock calipers look great in red). A few exhausts still exist, including a Borla. However, you’ll never find a parts catalog for the 3000GT like you might for an RX-7.

Still, I have hope. These are beautiful cars, and I’ll be using my lens to preserve as many as I can find in the coming months.

1998 3000GT VR-4 mega gallery

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Special thanks to @matrix_vr4 for bringing his beautiful VR-4 out.

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I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

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