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Retro review: 1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT

Take a tour of my first car, an old 1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT SL, with shots from my film camera. It was beautiful, but also challenging to own.

Mitsubishi 3000GT

Cars have always been important to me, and welcoming a new car is always a special day. But there’s nothing like your first one, which in my case was a 1997 Mitsubishi 3000GT SL.

My parents are moving from the family home, and they came across some old film shots of my car. You can consider these my first attempt at automotive photography.

Mitsubishi 3000GT
Taken in March of 2000. I’m glad to have taken a shot like this, with the towers in the background.

Time framed

It’s important to start with some context. This 1997 was coming off a lease, and I happened to find it parked in the front of a Mitsubishi lot in the year 2000…twenty years ago.

So why this 3000GT? First, it was the right body style for me, the 97-98 “gen 3”. I loved the hoop wing and cleaner front bumper compared to the original popup design, and the final 1999-style body was still in the hands of original owners, so they were few and far between.

Remember, minimal internet in those days, so I couldn’t really be searching far and wide for what was a very rare car.

Show us around the car

This 3000GT was an SL model, so it had the 218-hp V-6 mated to a four-speed automatic. The car used to have 222, but was “detuned” with a more restrictive exhaust to meet California emissions. The real travesty of the lineup was the base model, with its SOHC V-6 and 161 horses. It was a cost cutting move that Mitsu was hoping would sell more cars. Instead, it just cheapened the more expensive models.

By the time 1997 had come, Mitsubishi had decided to delete the electronic suspension and automatic climate control from the mid-tier model. 97 also saw the deletion of the glass sunroof, with a body-color one in its place.

The car was Caracas Red over tan. Only 4 total colors were available for the car; Black, Galaxy White (a pearl white color), this red, and green.

I would have preferred a stick, but in hindsight I’m glad I had the automatic. Being 16 in this thing was distracting enough.

The car was otherwise fully loaded, as most SLs were. Leather seats with adjustable bolsters, 10-disc CD changer in the trunk, 17-inch chrome wheels, cruise control, power windows, fog’s basic by today’s standards, but this was a luxury car at that point in time.

Mitsubishi 3000GT
Non-turbo models did not get any writing on the small black sail panels aft of the side windows, so I added the DOHC 24V.

Why not the VR-4?

Simple. First, it was expensive. Second, it was impossible to find one back then. Third, the maintenance. Speaking of which…

What went wrong with your Mitsubishi 3000GT SL?

Enough to make me sell it with 80,000 on the clock.

  • Chrome rims peeled badly. This was due to Mitsubishi not using enough nickle plating to adhere the chrome to the wheel. This lead to them leaking air, and I had to replace them.
  • That automatic was a pain. The torque converter went on it twice, the second time stranding me on the Garden State Parkway at 1AM.
  • The sunroof would stick open. Greasing it usually helped
  • The throttle cable would loosen over time, so I’d have to pop the hood and adjust it to pick up the slack.
  • Engine mounts went
  • Weather seals around the door would pull up.
  • Power window motors went
  • This car needs a timing belt and spark plugs at 60k intervals. This job was as fun as doing the plugs on the E92.
3000GT SL
The lines and proportions of the car are what make it so beautiful, and it’s a credit to Dodge. Their Stealth design was the basis for Mitsubishi here. 1997’s redesign resulted in a much cleaner look.

Did you mod it?

I did! Some of this was heavily influenced by the times of Fast and Furious, but hey…

  • K&N FIPK filter. In reality this probably didn’t help much, since it just pulled hot air from the engine bay.
  • Chromed intake pipe. Again, hot air, bad idea.
  • I had to install 18-inch Eagle polished alloy wheels. I wasn’t a big fan of them, but not much fit the offset of the car.
  • Infinity speakers. The stock system also used Infinity, so I simply upgraded to stronger ones. But, finding ones that fit in the dash were a challenge, and the sun blasting them directly meant they wore out quickly.
  • I put on a polished front strut tower brace from a shop called 3Sx, which specifically works on 3000GTs. The issue was that the engine would move from bad engine mounts, causing an air flow sensor to rub against the bar and eventually break.
  • A DNP cat-back polished exhaust, again from 3SX. It was meant for a VR-4, but it fit, and it was loud. Probably too loud.
  • A DNP polished downpipe, because race car.
  • Clear side marker lenses, and a chrome Mitsubishi badge on the front from later model cars.
  • AAM machined spark plug cover (I still have this!)
Mitsubishi 3000GT
These were taken with a Yashica film camera and Fuji Chrome film.

What was it like to drive?

Without tainting my opinion too much from modern M cars, I’d say it was enjoyable for what it was, a grand touring car.We’re talking hydraulic steering (a good thing), a trans with 4 speeds, front-wheel drive, and only 218 horsepower. Torque steer was not really an issue, as it only had 205 lb-ft.

The car did rev to 7,000 RPM, but if you flicked a switch by the shifter labeled PWR/ECO, it would make the transmission shift at 6,000. It didn’t actually add any power, and if you drove around with the PWR mode on, it stayed lit up in the dashboard for some reason. My quarter-mile times were in the low 16s. Pretty slow, but on par with coupes of that era.

Part of what made the 3000GT special was its interior. The 3 dials set on top of the dashboard, the sport-bike gauges in the middle, and the way the car wrapped around you inside, made it feel like you were sitting inside an F-14 Tomcat. It was comfortable and of course, the most beautiful car ever made.

Attending the East Coast Gathering in 2005

While cars like the RX-7, Supra and 300ZX had more historic beginnings, the 3000GT community was Each year, there is an East Coast Gathering in Ocean City, MD.

I decided to attend in May of 2005, and there are things you’ll see like…Lambo doors! Colored spark plug wires! It’s a Fast and Furious-inspired culture at the show.

Imagine waking up to this view.
This is my favorite, a black 97-style VR-4. Love those wheels.
Colored ignition wires and polished everything was a fad of the times.
Blue might have been the rarest color of all.
Repainted yellow, before wrapping was a thing.
Everybody loves the Spyder.
Lambo doors!
1999 3000GT
This was a real 99 VR-4, if I remember correctly. It was a beast.

Where did it go?

Eventually, I had enough, and when the 350Z came out, I pounced on a car that was smaller, faster, and more enjoyable to drive. It sounds common now, but NISMO had an entire parts catalog dedicated to the Z, while I couldn’t even find original OEM floor mats for the 3000GT.

I came across the car a few years later with its new owner. That’s my 350Z next to it.

Will you ever get another?

I’m a big fan of Top Gear (with the original hosts), and James May recently sold his Ferrari 328, explaining that while he’s always wanted one, modern cars are just nicer to drive. He grew tired of it and sold it.

If I did get another, it would be a VR-4, but imagine hopping in only to find that the M3 is a better car. It no doubt is, but is nostalgia enough to carry the day? We’ll see.

Regardless, it remains my favorite car of all-time. If you have one, take care of it!

Maybe some day…
3000GT SL
16 year old me loved this thing. My mom once said she never worried when I went out, because she knew I loved the car so much I wouldn’t do anything stupid in it.

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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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