The third-generation Mitsubishi Sapporo is an interesting bit of Japanese executive flair. Based on the FWD 1984 Galant, it’s a hardtop four-door sedan with slightly different dimensions to the ordinary Galant – along with them a more handsome roofline. Basically, it’s the same car as the USA Sigma, but the European Sapporos got four-cylinder engines and were only sold from 1987 to 1990. The noticeably more fluid-looking Diamante/Sigma rolled to dealer lots in 1990, and by then the E16A body pictured here must’ve looked very, very blocky in comparison.
With the Mazda pretty much delegated to daily-driving duties under the tender, loving care of my GF, all of my own driving is done in the Sapporo. I’ve owned the car for a bit over a year and a half now, and it’s not a bad idea to finally do a semi-proper photoshoot of it since it’s actually clean inside out. As midsummer graciously passed by here, I spent some underhood time polishing everything that was grimy; today I hoovered and detailed the interior. Bear with me and take a look at it.
My Sapporo was first registered in 1990, but it does seem it was built as early as 1988 and shipped here, after which it sat in the importer’s for a while before being sold. Sapporos cost a pretty penny when new, something to the tune of 60k EUR in today’s money. You could have gotten a W124 230E for the money, and many did. Add the inevitable running-to-the-ground of Nordic Japanese cars, and the numbers of Sapporos have dwindled to under 30 registered cars a year ago. I imagine today’s numbers are lower.
My car is the relatively base-specification 5-speed model. This means no fancy ECS suspension and no sunroof; those were for the auto version only. I imagine this has saved me a lot of trouble. That is not to mean there hasn’t been any, but ECS shocks usually leak by now and sunroofs have rusted on the seams. Still, there’s A/C, cruise and a bunch of electronic things.
The Sapporo is powered by the somewhat everyday 2.4-litre 4G64 four, with 124 horses. The US Sigmas got the inevitable 3.0-litre V6:s instead, but I don’t think any of those were manual.
When I got the car, the SILENT SHAFT balancer shafts of the engine weren’t timed too well, which caused a nasty resonation at 3000 rpm. As numerous engine seals were leaking oil due to dry rot (accompanying documents indicate the car had spent a considerate amount of time not being driven during the last 20 years), I decided to spend money where it was well spent and had all belts and seals replaced. This put an end to coin-sized oil drops every time I parked the car, ones that kept me constantly looking at the dipstick on our last-summer journey to Copenhagen and back.
Another thing in the engine bay was that all of the walls were covered in tight-sitting cack that would not come off whatever product and whatever force I used. This annoyed me to no end, up until Saturday when I picked up the remains of a turpentine bottle and went to town with it. It transformed the look of the engine bay; there were VIN etchings there I could actually see!
At one point, I had also gotten a new heat shield to brighten up the engine bay, and without that the cleaning work would’ve been worthless. There’s still work to do, but at least I don’t need to wince every time I open the hood.
Inside, there’s blue plastic and blue velour every-freaking-where. The cloth is in exceptional condition with no rips, and with the 140 000 kms of ass having sagged the driver’s seat cloth just the slightest.
Most of the car’s controls have been gathered on the steering column control panel. Headlights and wipers are operated with twist knobs, the indicator stalk is a little widget and the cruise control and intermittent/auto wiper functions have small, beeping buttons. The dashboard center only houses the HVAC’s direction buttons, ones that sigh when you prod them.
Rust is not an issue here. The wheelarches have never really rusted, but a year ago I had the rockers’ trim holes redone and the body shop guy was kind enough to sandblast the whole rockers and put a little bit of metal where they needed more. The car’s underbody has remained rust free thanks to a comprehensive underseal coating doing its job.
See that shiny exhaust tip? That’s due to a new muffler, the last new Walker-made one left in the country. It had some serious shelf dust on it when I got it.
The wheels are off a 1997 Galant. They almost suit the Sapporo better than stock alloys, but I’m considering AZEV five-spokes an inch larger.
What’s there left to do? Well, I still haven’t replaced the windshield that’s been cracked along the bottom since the day I got the car. That was a good sign; after that there has barely been a month without anything having to be done.
But with every step the car’s getting better; right now it runs and rides damned good and smooth. With the engine up to cruising speed and the cruise control beeped to action, it’s a highway machine that earns its keep. I’m constantly toying with the idea of getting rid of it, but there still hasn’t been a comparable or better car to rid the Sapporo from me. And with 140 000 km only just coming up, it’s definitely not on its last legs. I like to think it’s the best one in the country.
[Images: Copyright 2012 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]