Home » Transverse V6s With Five-Speed Sticks: 1994 Dodge Shadow ES vs 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse GTS

Transverse V6s With Five-Speed Sticks: 1994 Dodge Shadow ES vs 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse GTS

Sbsd 1 23 2024
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Good morning! I seem to have inadvertently turned this into a theme week. Today’s choices both have east-west-oriented V6 engines backed by five-speed manuals. In fact, they’re almost the same V6 engine, though the cars look nothing alike.

Yesterday’s choices had their pistons all in a line, like oily Rockettes. Six in a row may make them go, but not too quickly, with their automatic transmissions. I expected the BMW to put up more of a fight, but the pride of the Badger State simply ran away with the votes. It was the plaid interior, wasn’t it? Gets ’em every time.

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I realize that the results could have been very different if the BMW were in better shape, but there actually was a point to putting these two cars together. For the same price, you could have a tired example of an overplayed classic, with both the wrong engine and wrong transmission, or you could have a left-field choice in far better shape, and lean into the unusualness of it. I’m glad the majority of you chose the Hornet.

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Now let’s turn our attention to an engine you probably don’t think about too often. It’s never on any “Ten Best” lists, and you won’t hear anyone singing its praises, but for twenty years, it powered minivans, family sedans, luxury sedans, sports coupes, SUVs, and even pickups. It’s the Mitsubishi 6G72, and both of today’s cars are powered by different versions of it. They’re both five-speed manuals, both two-door liftbacks, and both the top of their respective model ranges. Let’s check them out.

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1994 Dodge Shadow ES – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Ararat, NC

Odometer reading: 181,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

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First off, I want to give credit where credit is due: Hat-tip to Opposite Lock user HFV_Junkyardin for bringing this car to my attention. The Dodge Shadow, and its twin the Plymouth Sundance, is a car with which I am quite familiar, but only in its base-model “America” trim, with Chrysler’s sturdy but low-powered 2.2 liter K engine. This top-of-the-line ES model has two more cylinders, forty more horsepower, and probably a lot more standard features.

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The Mitsubishi V6 replaced Chrysler’s turbocharged four-cylinder starting in 1992. It’s down a little on both power and torque from the turbo, but it’s still plenty for the little Shadow. This one runs well, and has a new clutch and exhaust, but suffers from a few oil leaks, namely the camshaft seals and the rear main seal. The cam seals are easy; they’re just little rubber plugs at the ends of the valve covers, but the rear main seal is behind the flywheel, and that means the transmission has to come out. Actually, now that I think about it, they should have noticed the leak and replaced the rear main seal while replacing the clutch. Unless it started leaking afterwards? Curious.

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The rest of the car looks like it’s in fine shape. The dash cover would be a red flag, if there were any other signs of trouble, but I don’t see any. Even the headliner looks all right. My guess is that the cover has been on there since 1994. This car does have one annoying feature inside: being a final-year ’94 model, it has an airbag for the driver, but a motorized seatbelt for the passenger. Apparently Chrysler was too cheap (or too broke) to engineer a passenger-side airbag for one model year, when the Shadow and Sundance were about to be replaced by the Neon anyway.

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Outside, it’s nice and straight, and I don’t see any signs of rust. I’m not a huge fan of the monochromatic white look on these – the blue and silver ones look a lot better to me – but at least it still has all its paint, unlike a lot of white cars from the ’90s.

2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse GTS – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Kirkland, WA

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Odometer reading: 136,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

Mitsubishi’s Eclipse was a performance bargain from day one. Sure, you could get a bare-bones base model with a 92 horsepower four, but that’s not the version anyone daydreamed about. For two generations, the top-dog Eclipse had all-wheel-drive, a peaky turbocharged engine, and sharp handling. But the third generation Eclipse grew up, and got bigger and softer, more of a grand tourer than a sports car. All-wheel-drive was out, and the turbo four gave way to a hopped-up 24-valve version of the 6G72 V6, making 210 horsepower in this GTS model.

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Like the Shadow, the Eclipse is a liftback, even though it doesn’t look like one. I don’t know why this feature has disappeared from modern cars; my cynical side says it’s because automakers don’t want sporty coupes to be too practical, lest buyers realize that they don’t need a big SUV to haul stuff, but it probably has more to do with crash safety or structural integrity. Whatever the reason, a hatchback on a car this shape makes a hell of a lot more sense than a mail-slot trunk lid.

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This Eclipse runs and drives well, and like the Shadow, has a new clutch. It also has two new tires, presumably on the front. The interior is in nice condition, and I really like the two-tone effect. The GTS package includes leather seats and a bunch of power stuff in addition to the horsepower bump.

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Outside, things aren’t quite as pretty: the clearcoat is peeling, and it’s plastered with mildly worrying stickers. I hate to generalize and say that any car with more than one Hoonigan sticker has suffered at the hands of a ham-fisted Ken Block wannabe driving too fast, but cheap powerful cars do seem to attract trouble. I can’t see what the stickers on the rear quarter window are, but the other one on the front says “Cars Are Pain,” which makes me think the seller is, to some degree anyway, one of us.

A relatively big engine in a small car has been a recipe for cheap fun for a long time now. It used to mean midsize coupes with big V8s, but by the ’90s and 2000s it meant taking the engine from Mom’s minivan and sticking it in an economy car or small swoopy coupe. Throw in a five-speed stick, and you’ve got a practical, fun car for not much money. Which one of these fits that bill better?

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(Image credits: Shadow – Facebook Marketplace seller; Eclipse – Craigslist seller)

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Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson
5 months ago

I would prefer the Shadow normally, I have always liked the way they look, but the Eclipse would be nicer to sit in as you are waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
5 months ago

Shadow V6 5-speed was kind of a sleeper in the day. Kind of an analog to the notchback mid 80s Z24. Crack open the JC Whitney catalog and order up a Pacesetter exhaust and let it rip with mid-90s swagger. Cool car IMO

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
5 months ago

I had a Shadow, it was an honest tug of a car that I wouldn’t turn my nose up at if I needed transportation.

But WTF is up with the air filter? Why is it hanging out in the open, collapsed like that?

Because the Shadow looks like it has a poorly maintained K&N air “filter”, I’ll lean toward the Eclipse this time. I don’t shop anything with a K&N installed unless it’s half what I’d expect to pay.

Steven Moor
Steven Moor
5 months ago

That generation of Eclipse has underrated looks imo.

Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
6 months ago

The Eclipse was probably mistreated, but even a dead Eclipse is better than a running Dodge Shadow, so this one is easy.

Also, isn’t an eclipse a kind of shadow?

Last edited 6 months ago by Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Greensoul
Greensoul
6 months ago

This one is a toss up. I always liked the chunky looks of the Shadow and the hidden hatchback was clever. That dash toupee would have to go, though. I’ve always liked the Eclipse, too and when I see one like this that Dirty Vegas Days Go By song starts playing in my head due to the ad campaign for this car with the chic dancing away in the passenger seat. Decision would come down to shipping cost.

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
5 months ago
Reply to  Greensoul

Living in the Midwest, I had never seen a dash toupee until I began reading these nice price/showdown articles.

Greensoul
Greensoul
5 months ago
Reply to  DONALD FOLEY

No need to be polite up in here sir. These are shitbox showdowns.

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