Japanese Cars That Never Made It To The US: Mitsubishi FTO Edition


This could have been sweet.

The name Mitsubishi is peppered with a presence that spans a wide spectrum of positive and negative criticism. Take the second generation Eclipse, for instance. That car was FWD, big, slow and bubbly. However one of its trims did have a turbo, and AWD. While it wasn't the fastest car it was fun as all hell. The AWD made the driving very entertaining, so really after all the bad and good comments the one thing you could not take away from it was that the Eclipse was not boring. It almost seems like the FTO would have fit this category, alongside its Eclipse brethren.

The FTO was made from 1994-2000, and it was named after its 1970s predecessor the Galant FTO, which was halted in 1975. The 94+ FTO was a front-mounted, front-wheel-drive sports coupe that came with either a 1.8-liter inline-four or a 2.0-liter V6 as engine options. It was offered with either a manual transmission or, interestingly enough, a semi-automatic gearbox called INVECS-II. Possibly even more interesting is the fact that there were two different kinds of V6s offered, the second called a MIVEC which made something like 168 horsepower. The FTO was very light, weighing around 2,500 lbs. In its debut it won car of the year, and to commemorate that Mitsubishi came up with a limited edition of the FTO's "GPX" trim.

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The limited edition came with LSD (limited slip differential) and a specially tuned MIVEC V6 that produced somewhere around 200 horsepower. That might not sound like a lot but it's a small engine, and it's naturally aspirated so it's impressive nonetheless. Mitsubishi made the limited edition GPX from 1994-1995, and only produced 207 examples. The FTO was popular but eventually fizzled out. In 2000 side impact safety standards were revised in Japan, and that with the dwindling sales meant the car was no longer worth making, and thus the FTO was discontinued. This car was supposed to be available only in Japan, but in its zest of unexpected popularity it was sold to other markets like New Zealand and the UK.

So why not the US? It probably has something to do with the Eclipse, which was revamped for 1995. It got a new body style and was sort of in the same vein as the FTO, and the American market might have figured people would prefer the 3000GT which was basically a faster version of the FTO. It's too bad that the FTO, so much better than an Eclipse, couldn't make it overseas. Mitsubishi just made too many cars. So instead of getting awesome cars like the FTO we get Starions and Eclipses, which are still pretty cool, but come on. FTOs are pretty sweet.