Chrysler began importing rebadged Mitsubishis to North America starting with the Colt in the 1971 model year, with more models being added as the decade progressed. By 1976, Plymouth shoppers could buy a Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste as the sporty Arrow; Plymouth Arrow and Dodge D-50 (later Ram 50) pickups, based on the Mitsubishi Forte, showed up here in 1979. So that those Dodge/Plymouth dealers would have a small personal luxury coupe to sell, the Japanese-market Galant Lambda hardtop was pressed into American service as the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo for 1978. Sales continued through 1983, and I’ve found one of those final Sapporos in a yard south of Denver, Colorado.
These machines haven’t been terribly difficult to find in car graveyards, though I certainly saw more of them a decade ago. So far, I’ve documented this ’78 Sapporo, another ’78 Sapporo, this ’81 Challenger, this ’82 Sapporo, and this ’82 Sapporo. Mitsubishi began importing vehicles under its own badging starting in late 1982.
The 1978-1982 Challenger/Sapporo was a true hardtop, and it came stuffed with the same sort of snazzy features normally found in much pricier machinery. List price on the ’82 Sapporo was $8,043, while the MSRP of the ’82 Chrysler Cordoba hardtop started at $8,258 (about $23,330 and $23,960 today, respectively).
At that price, the Cordoba came with a 90-horsepower Slant-6 engine to drag its 3,315 pounds down the avenue (the 318-cubic-inch V8 and its 130 horses cost a well-worth-it additional 70 bucks). The Sapporo got this 2.6-liter Astron four-cylinder, rated at 105 horsepower, and it weighed a mere 2,410 pounds. That made this car respectably quick by the standards of the time.
The Astron went into so many Chrysler and Mitsubishi vehicles over the decades (including some K-cars that got big HEMI 2.6 fender badges) that junkyard shoppers often grab parts from them. Perhaps this car’s cylinder head now lives on in a Montero or Conquest.
The interior is grimy and the upholstery has become quite crunchy thanks to relentless Colorado sunshine, so I doubt much of this stuff will be sold before the car faces the cold steel jaws of The Crusher.
Mitsubishi was very proud of the MCA-JET high-swirl fuel-delivery system, which was sort of a simplified version of Honda’s CVCC rig, and applied these stickers accordingly.
Unusually for 1982, the Sapporo came with an AM/FM radio as standard equipment. When a company makes consumer electronics (not to mention fighter jets and heavy-lift rocket boosters) in addition to cars, there’s plenty of off-the-shelf audio hardware to put in those cars at a low cost.
The future is here now!
If you’re too cheap to buy winter tires for your rear-wheel-drive car, there’s always tube-sand for the trunk.
Science-fiction robot women with strangely-colored sunglasses agree: 11.9% interest is a steal for this Celica fighter.
The JDM version got some seriously cool package-shelf speakers.
Yes, you could get the padded landau roof in Japan.
For links to more than 2,100 additional Junkyard Finds, including lots of Mitsubishis, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
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I owned a 1983 Sapporo Technica in 1988 for about a year, and I loved every minute of it. Engine was definitely good speed for it’s time. It had a manual and cruise, so it did highways well. Gas mileage was decent in the 25mpg range.
I’ll miss these when they are gone. Almost makes me want to play the lottery so I at least have a chance for enough disposable cash to snag one.
Jeeze, you’ll have to wait for the jackpot to rise above $1200 before you play. No telling when that may happen! (These are neat cars. Almost every RWD Japanese car has something going for it. It’s not always obvious until they’re sitting correctly on the right wheels and tires)
Co-worker friend had one when I was in college in the very early 90’s. Had a surfboard on top 365 days a year. It was in horrific physical condition, but I rode in it a few times and it rode pretty nice. The engines had balance shafts, kind of novel at the time, and it was indeed very smooth.
they called it “silent shaft”. I find it sad they used to be pretty innovative and now are so irrelevant in passenger cars.
Surprised at the decline of Mitsubishi’s reputation. Cars aside, they make a lot of excellent stuff…quite a diverse group of products too…makes me think of Yamaha – they make (or made) a lot of cool stuff. I always buy late 70s/early 80s Yamaha receivers when I stumble upon them…
Golden Yamaha Outboards and snowmobiles are superb. PS- I have a cr 1020 and r (?)400. Will never sell. Only surpassed by old Bang &Olufson.
Mitsubishi was building rock solid cars then, and so was Datsun. Sad, how the mighty have fallen.
got an awesome deal on a “videoconcepts” CD shelf system, made by yamaha. $250 was 50% off so 16 year old me jumped on that. ABC and big audio dynamite were the 2 CDs i got, cuz they were like $18/each.
I read somewhere in mainstream automotive publications back then that Porsche tried to engineer a balance shaft that worked as well or better than the one Mitsubishi had developed and patented, and they gave up and just paid Mitsubishi royalties on the balance shafts they installed on the 3 liter 944 motor. It’s been a long time, I wonder if it’s a true story. Slightly amusing if it is since Porsche is a renowned engineering company.
The Silent Shaft four was a pretty big deal, important on large displacement fours like the 2.6. Early Hyundais used Mitsubishi-designed engines, which explains why some of their newer fours not designed by Mitsubishi still employ them.
The 1979 ad up there is one of my favorite car ads. The disco jazz, the woman dressed up enjoying the breeze. Could be a jewelry commercial since the car is only shown at the end. And it’s complete with opera lamp.
Also, trivia point: This was the very last American branded hardtop coupe.
This always seemed like a weird Mustang that someone drew from memory.
“I resemble that remark” -1971 Celica
Many Japanese designs were ‘inspired’ by American cars. My favorite might be the mini-’70s Charger called Datsun 610.
That was my kind of car back in those days. I didn’t own one of those but I had a ’74 Corona 2dr hardtop. Those kinds of cars looked great with the glass all down. It’s too bad we don’t have that look any more.
There’s a couple left, and they’re Mercedes.
Great styling on these. I was on autotempest with a broad 1980-1992 search and a mint under 30k Sapporo was for sale for over 20k. Good luck with that.
Regarding the tube sand, my old G37s with Michelin winters and a 70ish lbs bag of tube sand in the trunk was damn near unstoppable in the snow. I got up a steep grade up to my office covered with about 5-6 inches of unplowed snow.I think my car being a manual helped alot to keep torque at a minimum
I think I’ve said this before, but the Challenger version of this holds the rare distinction of a car built in my lifetime that completely stumped me as to what it was when spotted in the wild. And then also for being completely unknown to me as to ever having existed. I’d have REALLY been baffled if I looked and saw the Sapporo badge instead. I saw it 10 or 12 years ago in Leon’s, an old-car junkyard in the Culpeper VA area.
I have never seen one in person.
They really tried to up the sports look for the Challenger, where the Sapporo was more luxury GT.
To me, the Sapporo was the disco/pimp/bordello version. The Challenger was the obvious choice.
Every pillarless hardtop is cool. Them’s the rules.
Those wheels always remind me of the wheel covers that Ford Econoline’s got in the mid-late 80’s into the early 90’s. Nearly identical.
I remember going with a friend in 1978 to a Dodge dealer to look at the Challenger (okay, and custom vans), and to a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer to look at the Sapporo. I preferred the somewhat-sporty Challenger to the disco-plush Sapporo. He didn’t buy either, but instead a lightly-used ’78 Cutlass Supreme with the ubiquitous Olds 260 V8.
Don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these on the road and didn’t even know it existed.
Look an awful lot like a Mercury Capri/Fox Mustang of the same era.
It has been at least 30 years since I have seen one of these of the road and during their heyday they were as rare as hen’s teeth.
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