In the 1980s Japan was riding the crest of a wave.
Its strong economic growth and electronics leadership led to tremendous confidence, which was nowhere more apparent than in the vehicles it was creating.
Standalone luxury brands Eunos, Infiniti and Lexus sprang up from Mazda, Nissan and Toyota respectively, while in the performance sector Japan’s first supercars arrived in the form of the Honda NSX and Nissan Skyline GT-R. The likes of Subaru, Mazda and Mitsubishi were also making a name for themselves in rallying by embracing all-wheel drive and turbocharging.
One of the hallmarks of a Japanese performance car was lots of technology and the poster child of this ethos was the Mitsubishi 3000GT. Even compared to the high-tech R32 GT-R, the 3000GT (known as the GTO in Japan) was a complex beast, featuring a transversely mounted, front-mid-engined twin-turbo V6, anti-lock brakes and all-wheel drive.
Heady stuff for the era, but the 3000GT went even further with adaptive dampers, all-wheel steering and active aerodynamics, which could alter the angle of the rear wing by 15 degrees and lower the front airdam 80mm at speed to increase downforce.
Overseas markets had the choice of an atmo version of the 3.0-litre V6, however, Australia only gained access to the range-topping twin-turbo monster, which produced a hefty 210kW/407Nm, 4kW/52Nm more than an R32 GT-R.
Unfortunately, all that technology came at a price – in fact, it came at two. The first was a kerb weight of 1720kg (at a time when an M5 weighed 1670kg), which not even that clever suspension could adequately control.
The second problem was the price. Nissan got away with the GT-R’s $110K ask due to its racetrack success, but at almost $90,000 (soon to rise to more than $117,000) the GTO failed to seduce many Aussie customers.
Engine: 2972cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo
Power: 210kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 407Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission: 5- or 6-speed manual, 4-speed auto
0-100km/h: 5.9sec (tested)
Price new: $89,950-$118,940
Three 3000GT gems
1. Costume Change
Despite more computing power than NASA, the 3000GT driving experience was underwhelming, a 1993 MOTOR comparo finding it “fast and safe, but heavy” with “understeer ’til the cows come home”.
2. Weight problem
In the US a restyled GTO could be had as a Dodge Stealth with either a woeful 119kW/250Nm SOHC, 12v version of the 3.0-litre V6 (which was a Magna engine in Oz) or the twin-turbo R/T.
3. Nip ’n’ Tuck
A facelift in 1994 brought with it styling alterations, a six-speed manual gearbox and 238kW/427Nm. In 1998 the pop-up headlights disappeared (above), however, by this time the 3000GT had been taken off Aussie price lists.