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The Carchive: The 1980 Dodge Imports

Chris Haining August 25, 2017 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 9 Comments

Our last visit to The Carchive took us to mid-sixties Luton, where the Vauxhall Viva veritably glistened with all the trappings of mid ’60s British austerity, providing a striking contrast from the American iron we’ve looked at over the last couple of weeks. We’re heading back Stateside today… or are we?

This 1980 Dodge Imports brochure is a fascinating thing. Not just because so many of the cars herein were processed into Chinese refrigerators years back, but for the fact that Dodge saw it prudent to highlight the non home-grown nature of cars that, nevertheless, bore the Dodge name.

Click the images to make ’em bigger so you can read ’em.

“Meet the eight-speed wonder of the world. The frisky little Dodge Colt hatchback”

Ah, the ‘super shift’ transmission. Essentially a two-speed final drive that effectively doubled the ratios of a four-speed manual gearbox, it was a key feature of the Mitsubishi Mirage and made it unique among compact hatchbacks – and most other cars aside from SUVs. Aside from that, the Mirage was pretty much Japanese hatchback by the numbers. It was also sold as a Colt in Europe and, of course, the Dodge Colt.

It was quite crisply styled, though, and could be made to look pretty sporty if you availed yourself of the RS package, with its snazzy machine-turned alloy wheels and racy graphics. And, if you wanted even more luxe in your life, as well as a little more spring in your car’s step, there was a 1.6-litre Custom. It had styled steel road wheels, white-sidewall tyres and ‘strobe’ body-side striping “…And more. To make it one dressy little car”.

“Obviously, this is no ordinary wagon. It’s a sport wagon, pure and simple”

If you wanted a little more space for passengers, luggage or livestock, the Colt Wagon was at hand. Now, I reckon this little blighter was a rather more fetching machine in US trim than the rather staid version we got here – and I reckon that comes down entirely to the white-banded tyres and colour-coded wheels.

You guys also got the big, honking 2.6-litre 4G54 four-cylinder engine to cruise around behind – an engine that would soon grace the underhood of a huge number of Mitsubishi, Dodge and Chrysler-badged cars throughout the USA…

“The competitive edge. It starts with Challenger’s 2.6-litre overhead cam MCA-JET engine”

…including this one. I can only hazard a guess as to how devoted MOPAR fans reacted to the Challenger name being attached to a Mitsubishi Galant Lambda coupe – otherwise sold as a Plymouth Sapporo and a Mitsubishi Sapporo in Europe. In truth it really was a pretty handsome looking machine, and a pretty lavishly equipped one.

It had all manner of lovely things such as a semi-concealed head restraints, an AM/FM stereo, electric remote control mirrors, a digital clock, swivelling map light and, it has to be said, some heroically vibrant plaid upholstery.

“There’s nothing sportier than a two-seater. Just you and a companion on the road to adventure”

An earlier visit to The Carchive brought us the 1990 Dodge Ram 50, and this is its direct predecessor.  It must be assumed that the D-50 was aimed at the same recreation-focused crowd as the Subaru Brat, hence it appears in this brochure. A less showy version was available as a commercial vehicle, and it looked kind of butch and workmanlike right up to the point that you parked it next to a full-size pickup of the era – and then it looked like a child’s toy.

Once more, the 2.6-litre was available, as was a five-speed overdrive gearbox, but a 2.0-litre was standard fit, alongside a four-speed floor-shift manual ‘box. You could also opt for a ‘sky lite’ sunroof, air-conditioning and power steering. I’d find it hard to resist the Sport interior, shown here with upholstery that gives me a real hankering for chocolate and honeycomb ice cream.

So, which of this little Japanese takeaway menu would you choose?

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me, perhaps not quite as well as it should be. Copyright presumably remains property of FCA, but possibly Mitsubishi. Who really knows any more…).


  • Tomsk

    I’m not ashamed to admit I like the looks of the Lambda clones…and would love to know how well a Gen 3 Hemi would fit…

  • boxdin

    I had 3 of the D50 Sport and the brat is a different kind of vehicle. No box to speak of and no capacity, the dodge cargo capacity was like 1100 lbs or so w a 6.5 ft box. We made slide in campers for these too, sold a ton of them. In JDM these were considered HD trucks.

    • No doubt, but it was clearly being sold on play hard, rather than work hard, in this brochure.

    • outback_ute

      The 2.6 5sp combo was a far better option than the 1.8 4sp of the Subaru too. In Japan they would have been rated to carry a ton. Which they would do, so long as you drove appropriately with consideration that you had doubled the weight of the vehicle.

      The recreational focus is because it is a brochure mainly for cars, I expect that the D-50 rated half a page in the back of the pickup brochure too.

  • Sjalabais

    I’m surprised at how much I’d like a clean and fresh one of any of them in my driveway. Especially the Colt wagon and the obvious Sapporo. Almost got one of three Sapporos in the country a couple of years back, but I ultimately chickened out.

  • Rover 1

    Some great looking cars from Mitsubishi at this time. Every single one a crisply styled counterpoint to the stodge coming from the other Japanese makers. They all look quite ‘european’ because, in fact, they are.

    Aldo Sessano is, as far as I can ascertain, only credited with the ’79 Lancer, but there is a hole in his C.V. around this time that is neatly explained by him being responsible for all the Mitsubishis in this Carchive. as well as the next generation of Mirage/Lancer and Galant/Sigma.

    Some form of confidentiality agreement must apply, or else he just designed the Lancer and managed to train up other designers to do work exactly as he would which I think sounds unlikely.
    Sketch at the time by A.Sessano
    ’79-80s Lancer
    80s Galant facelift

  • mrh1965

    a buddy of mine had a d-50 in the mid-eighties, with the 2.6, and a stick. It was fun; we could get the back end to break loose at a moments notice which excited our high school brains to no end.

  • Kiefmo

    Dodge’s captive imports defined my childhood. The first real family car my folks bought in ’86 was a Plymouth Colt Vista 5spd. My brother had been born, and apparently car seats were becoming more of a thing, and putting him in the back seat of the ’78 Fairmont coupe was getting old (as was the Fairmont in general). That was joined by a ’88 D-50 a couple of years later. Then in ’90 they traded the ’86 Plymouth for a ’91 Dodge Colt Vista, this time with a 3spd auto that my dad would later regret settling for. The second Colt Vista was traded for an Explorer XLT in ’96, but the D-50 stuck around and became my first vehicle in ’98, and it stayed in the family until 2002 or thereabouts, when we sold it to a poor neighbor kid who really needed a car for $1k. It still had less than 100k on the ticker at that point, though it did have an exhaust manifold leak by that time, and had already thrown one timing belt to the gods of rubber dry rot.

  • dukeisduke

    Back when Mitsubishi built some quality vehicles. I can remember going to the dealer with a friend to look at the Challenger, in 1978. Later, a late friend of mine had an ’84 Colt hatchback, with the four-speed. I replaced the clutch cable for him once. That took like ten minutes (I kid you not). It was a bulletproof little car, the only disappointment being the quality of the vinyl used on the seats.