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The Carchive: The 1977 Mitsubishi Colt range

Chris Haining March 17, 2017 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 7 Comments

Of the myriad documents found in The Carchive, a big percentage were collected as I grew up, many were harvested secondhand from autojumbles and the like, and a good few have come from generous benefactors – some of whom might be reading this right now. The considerable balance, though, have been purloined from eBay. This is one of those.

There’s a considerable risk, though, in buying something you’ve only seen portrayed in a few small photos. When you’re looking at a brochure, unless it’s properly described it’s tricky to identify whether you’re looking at a catalogue or a pamphlet. Will there be pages to leaf through, or merely a single double sided sheet to glance at? In the case of this one, I had no idea it measured approximately 3″x9″ until it fluttered through the mail slot in a tiny envelope.

Don’t strain your eyes! Click the images with your pointing device to make them bigger.

“Mitsubishi Motors, A name that stands for technology, reliability and a tradition of excellence”

Fortunately, irrespective of its rather slim profile, this slender document contains a fair wealth of information, and fills a gap in The Carchive – previously the Mitsubishi brand – or Colt as it was named in the UK – was only represented back to 1979. This is from 1977.

It opens with bit of background that speaks of all the great things the Japanese company had done since 1917 – most of which was never shared with us in Britain. Next it goes into technical advances, not least the Astron 80 balance-shaft engine which had been rolled out two years prior. Apparently it was “as quiet and smooth as much larger 6 or 8-cylinder engine”. I’m guessing these things are all relative.

“Exciting but practical, and sure to please”

So they said of the Colt Lancer, and I’m guessing that the 1200 Super, 1400EL and 1600GSR we saw in the UK were a fair way removed from those versions that won the Southern Cross and Safari Rallies.

Front end styling was remarkably American – I’m thinking Ford Maverick or Dodge Aspen – while the rear three quarter styling was typically Japanese, although the light clusters would still have been acceptable in the ’80s. The dashboard shot shows a dizzying array of blanking panels where British buyers were denied the various gadgets that models from other markets were blessed with.

“A very distinctive kind of car for a very distinctive kind of driver”

Next up is the Colt Celeste, a car we’ve seen before in The Carchive, except then it was the original ’75 launch model. The lineup in ’77 was the 1600ST, GSR and 2000GT, all of which were powered by the Astron 80. Beneath the surface, it was mostly Lancer, but then, beneath the surface of the Ford Capri it was a blend of Cortina and Escort.

The Celeste – also sold in the USA as the Plymouth Arrow (or the Fire Arrow when the monster 2.6-litre engine was fitted) was quite a neat car, and one that the questionably reliable howmanyleft.com reckons fewer than ten examples survive. I’m inclined to agree – I have no idea when I last saw one, and I can’t guarantee that I ever have.

“And here you’ll find just about everything you’ve ever wanted in a car”

The Colt Sigma, represented in this brochure by the Σ symbol, just as on the badges on the car, was the poshest car in the ’77 UK range. And I’m gonna say it was an extremely handsome machine, especially at the front end. That quad-headlamp face, soon to be obliterated in a 1980 facelift, is the kind of thing that could inspire a retro pastiche today.

There were certain features, too, such as adjustable rear seats in later models, that few European cars could equal – yet in the UK the Sigma never really broke into the mainstream, although strict import quota restrictions rather ham-strung Mitsubishi’s efforts – and led to later imports under the Lonsdale name.

“A hard-working gadabout: The Galant Estate”

This was a bit of an oddity in the ’77 Colt range. The 2nd Generation “A114” Lancer range lived on, but only in its station wagon form in the UK. Here it was afforded just a single image that represented the single 1600DL model we were granted.

It wasn’t an especially exciting car, but it did have one special attraction that the image above amply shows. You see it?

Yes. A band of woodgrain ‘applique’. Pure damned exotica, right there.

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Mitusbishi Motors who should know that we want a new Starion and a new Sapporo, right now.)

 

  • A gap in my own perception of that era, too: Japanese cars were a tough sell in the 70ies in Germany, so I hardly saw these. I had a Colt decal on my stickers’ wall as a kid, though, together with Fendt and Airbus material…
    The dual balance shaft engine did work well enough for Porsche to pay a few Deutschmarks per 944 engine block (2.5L I4) for the patent fee. In my frame of reference, it is as smooth as an 1.2L I4 without such shafts.

    • Ooh, I love me a bit of Fendt Vario action…

  • peugeotdude505

    I have a much newer Galant. As I say, it’s a perfectly cromulent automobile.

  • Rover 1

    These were the start of the days of Mitsubishi introducing some competent Italian designers, including Aldo Sessano,( ex Pininfarina ) and which IMHO was a large reason in their considerable success worldwide. It’s good to see that what could have been Lancias appearing from Japan.

    We saw the Sigma sedan and wagon here in NZ as replacements for the ,(also), Todd Motors assembled Rootes Arrow range of Hillman Hunters. And they are a vastly better car. The Celeste and the Lancer came in to replace the Hillman Avenger and much the same applied. These were thus some of the first Japanese cars to see success against the Euro snobbery that still prevails here in NZ.

    What would you have taken for the same price, one of these five speed nicely detailed Galant Sigmas or the four speed Ford Cortina MkIV built to a lower quality ?
    The wagon was a particular favourite for many years.
    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/YXhTpv8COrI/maxresdefault.jpg

    • Well, the 70s Sigma, and Sapporo never fared very well in UK reviews, particularly when it comes to handling and steering. However, there was probably a fair degree of import-phobia and no small amount of hypocrisy – they rated the Cortina back then and would later come to condemn it.

  • outback_ute

    The 1977 Lancer tail lights are a facelift of the much more distinctive original. Either they didn’t come to Australia or the vast majority of Lancers around predate that – I don’t associate the rectangular lights with the car. Those Lancers were pretty tough cars, as per the rally success. Years ago I helped a friend swap a 2.6 Astron into his, we called it the “big block” 4-cyl, compared to the 1.4 or 1.6 Saturn engine it originally would have had! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9d1d60ac42ca2bdb1c87ec9786c2f96f3fb41531d08d3a5114193a325a4dd176.jpg

  • Noah Lee

    Clicked the article just to see a Colt Vista wagon. Came away disappointed…