Cold Start: A Hot Mirage Wasn’t Always An Illusion

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We did it! We made it through a full week! Man, that’s a lot of work, but thanks so much for being here with us. To celebrate, let’s all remember that once the Mitsubishi Mirage wasn’t just thought of as the cheapest thing you could get away with, but there was a hot hatch version, too! Remember the Mirage Turbo?

This one is a 1985 one, and it made an impressive-for-then 102 hp from its 1600cc four-banger–remember the 80s were still a time when 70 hp was a reasonable amount of power to expect from a small car.

This thing actually looked pretty good, too! Check out that very graphical eighties-tastic grille, too, with the progressively thinning lines, like the sunset on the back of one of the shirts the kids in my middle school wore from some surf shop they’d never been to.

You know what’s a nice touch? Check out that front side marker lamp. Look how it extends all the way from the edge of the wheelarch to the very front, like an inset amber stripe. It’s clean and sleek. Hell of a marker lamp.

Also, look at this interior:

A desirable Mirage! What a world, right?

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29 Responses

  1. ” Check out that very graphical eighties-tastic grille, too, with the progressively thinning lines, like the sunset on the back of one of the shirts the kids in my middle school wore from some surf shop they’d never been to”
    ????????

  2. My old man was a Mitsubishi dealer when these were new. A bunch of dealers got together to rent a circuit (Donington I think) for a customer appreciation track day. He was politely asked to stop lapping so fast in one of these as it was making the Starions look bad.

  3. Good morning, Torch!

    I’m currently pretending to work but actually watching the final episode of the first season of Severance. Have you seen this show? More importantly, have you seen the CARS in this show? Like most other set elements for this show, they seem purposely picked for their strange timelessness and unfamiliarity.

    You’ve done excellent breakdowns of cars featured in movies/TV shows before on the Jello Picnic site; I particularly liked the Stranger Things one. I think Severance would be worth your time. Just think of the taillights.

  4. I always thought it was odd that Mitsubishi never sold the 5-door hatchback Mirage of this generation that was dropped after being offered as a Dodge Colt only in barebones E trim only in 1995. There wasn’t a huge market for one but it would’ve padded Mitsu’s own lineup out with an exclusive in ’86-88 and any extra marginal sales would’ve helped amortize the cost of having federalized it in the first place.

  5. Jason,

    That photo reminded me that I have often wondered why cars now all seem to have a flat surface on the outer edge of the wheel arches/fender flares. Older cars like this don’t have generally had fender flairs like the front ones in the photo. Any ideas about why this is?

    Also, I really like the seat fabric.

  6. I’m an old ass man (55) and I remember cross shopping this with an Omni GLH and a Chevy Sprint turbo. When I looked at the bright yellow Sprint turbo on the showroom floor, I noticed a trim piece of the brand new car laying on the ground, so I scooted out of there. The Mitsubishi ended up being my choice, but the only one in a 100 mile radius available was white, and I really wanted red. I ended up buying the GLH (first new car) in that awesome ’80s Chrysler blue.

    I miss the days when there was so many choices for a hot hatch. I didn’t even look at the GTI because we didn’t have a local dealer at the time!

    1. Your memory betrays you. The Chevrolet Turbo Sprint was only ever offered in White or Red (the second gen Turbo was only sold in Canada but it was only available in Bright Red or Bright Aqua).
      I have had two Turbo Sprints and FWIW they were exceedingly durable, considering their size and the treatment they generally received. GLH was not a bad choice either!

    2. Yup, the good old days. My cross shopping in 1985 was this, CRX SI, and GLH Turbo. Ended up in the GLH Turbo in Santa Fe blue, definitely a fun yet exasperating (build quality, dontcha know?) car. got really good at popping the shift linkage back together on the side of the road, etc. Good times.

      1. Thanks for promoting a trip down Memory Lane there with the mention of those shift linkages. After a couple of bodge-jobs involving dense piano felt & hose clamps, I realized that those translucent white pieces looked a lot like the ones on my ‘82 Rabbit. I was trying to help a co-worker’s son with his (iirc) ‘92 Omni, and had read that Dodge bought engines from VW to start production because they didn’t have the capacity at platform launch, so, maybe they used other parts, too?
        Sure enough, the cheap and available VW parts fit & worked for several years until one-too-many rutted road tore the spot-welds of the strut tower apart leading to the rf wheel to assume hella-flush status and resulting suspension carnage and ripped-open oil pan. Truly a shame as those are fun, tossable cars.

  7. I really wish Mitsubishi would try to make a hot hatch version of the current Mirage. Would it set the world on fire and make everyone forget about the GTI? No, but other companies have done decent work starting with a lot less in the past, and it would give their lineup a little excitement and style for once

  8. My sister had a Mirage Turbo for a hot second in the late 80’s. When it ran, it was fast as stink. Turbo lag was a thing, but when it kicked in, it launched that thing into orbit. It was enough to scare the crap out of me on twisty backwoods New York State roads. Good times.

  9. I had the ’87 turbo version. It had TURBO TURBO TURBO TURBO TURBO TURBO printed all over the seats — which was the thing I liked least about it. (I didn’t even like it printed on the center of the steering wheel — but at least I was able to paint over that.) The seats were not only tacky, but crappy — they wore holes through to the foam in the space of a couple years. Aside from that, I really liked the car and its (laggy) turbo boost.

  10. I have an ’02 version of one of these, and it’s my second, replacing a ’98 MX-5 that I loved but hardly drove and TBH was a pain in the arse. They can be made decent to drive with an anti-squat kit. They’re the front half of the equivalent Lancer so parts are generally plentiful.

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