LOL, OMG a VR-4!

On the way to a local pizza joint during my lunch break a few weeks ago, I strolled past Robbie's Service Station, a local garage that's conveniently located near my work. Parked out front was a white Mitsubishi Galant that looked like it had seen better days. I didn't think anything of it as I walked next door, ordered up a giant slice of cheese pizza and returned to my desk. Days went by, and here I am in front of the pizza place again and I just realized that the battered, monochrome white Japanese sedan is actually not your average Galant. The body cladding, and just a few subtle emblems lets me know this is one of the seldom-seen Mitsubishi Galant VR-4's.

This 1991 Galant has seen better days, but runs, drives, and had $3,000 worth of work put into it in the past year.
What was the Galant VR-4 you ask? You may have heard the VR-4 moniker before applied to the twin-turbo Mitsubishi 3000GT sports car, and it was. VR-4 allegedly stood for Viscous Real-time 4 wheel drive, a system similar to Audi's Quattro, Toyota's All-Trac, and Subaru's...well...just plain system. Mitsu wanted a faster car that they could field in the Group B rally circuit, and the Starion turbo was their platform of choice. They were already motorsport players with the smaller Lancer sedan but the virtual lack of rules for Group B meant they could boost the Starion to the moon and come out ahead of the other Group B players such as Audi, Porsche and Lancia. After a series of fatal Group B race car accidents in 1985 and 1986, FIA closed the book on Group B due to safety concerns. The Mitsubishi Starion Group B rally car that never saw the light of day instead donated its turbocharged heart & all-wheel-drive soul to the larger family sedan, the Galant. By 1988, the Galant VR-4 was ready to play rough.

The automaker fielded a successful rally team between 1988 and 1992, racking up 6 World Rally Championships. The driver in two of those was Japan's Kenjiro Shinozuka, who caught air with the VR-4 more than a few times.

Kenjiro Shinozuka piloting the VR-4 to victory in 1991.      Photo Credit:

 The whole time Mitsubishi was enjoying success with an AWD sport sedan and selling them around the world...Americans weren't able to purchase them. Apparently we preferred the Mirage. Ahem.

Mitsubishi finally introduced the VR-4 to Americans in 1991, and we only saw 2,000 of them, and a mere 1,000 the following year. The US-spec cars receieved a 195 horsepower, 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder, 5 speed manual transmission and an AWD and AWS system. Yes, all 4 wheels steered the cars. Similar to Nissan's HICAS or (High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering), Mitsubishi engineers created an equally smart speed-sensitive system designed to make the VR-4 hug the curves at high speed.

Rear window stickers call out the fact that this car steers with all 4 wheels.

Bringing it all to a halt are 4 wheel anti-lock brakes controlled by a computer that's probably still using a floppy disk, but hey its got ABS. On the open road, the cars would do about 130 miles per hour, run the quarter mile in 15.3 and run from 0 to 60 in 7.3 seconds. This is way slower than we've come to expect from its descendent, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution today. But you have to remember this was the 'grandfather' of the turbo AWD sport sedan. Its okay that he's a little slower and creaks a little.

As for the white VR-4 sitting near the pizza place? This one definitely is ready for a little R & R. The owner dropped it off at the shop after the serpentine belt broke, and the car died after running down the battery. Rather than pay for a tow, the owner ingeniously rigged up a rechargable jumper pack to the battery leads and got the car to run. Here's where it gets good.

The hood, front bumper, and radiator are broken on this poor car. Maybe more. But someone would still buy it in a heartbeat for what it is.
 While running off the battery pack and with the hood strapped down with a caribiner clip, the clip broke and sent the hood crashing into the windshield at speed. A subsequent crash (because you can't see with a hood in your face) broke the radiator outlet and tore up the front bumper. Not a pretty ending to a once-great car, but such is life.

I asked the repair shop owner if the car was for sale. "Let me ask the guy. Come back in a few days and I should know more".  Not that I need a Japanese sport sedan in my stable, but it is winter and all-wheel-drive would come in handy. So would a turbo. A turbo would be awfully nice to have.

Gotta run, pizza's ready. 



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