The Mitsubishi Galant GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) was first shown as the Galant GTX-1 showcar at the 1969 Tokyo Motor Show. Sales began in November 1970, when it was the flagship hardtop variant of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries's then-new Colt Galant sedan.
The Colt Galant GTO exterior was penned by Hiroaki Kamisago, who had previously been sent by Mitsubishi to study at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, it incorporated many stylistic cues from contemporary American muscle cars like the Mustang, Firebird and Cougar, including a long hood, raised cut-off ducktail rear, and rounded quad-headlamps and tail-lamps. It was also the first Japanese passenger car to have full, roll down, side windows and a pillarless design.
Mitsubishi Racing Development (AKA Colt Speed) intended the Colt Galant GTO to compete in the prestigious JCCA Grand Prix circuit. However, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 sounded the demise of GP racing, so the GTO race program was mothballed. Nevertheless, GTO's were successful in Rallying, including the famous Japanese Alpine Rally.
Initially, there were three Colt Galant GTO models offered, all powered by the Saturn engine: the M1 (1600 cc SOHC, 4-speed), M2 (1,600 cc SOHC, 5-speed) and the top-spec MR (1,600 cc twin-carb, DOHC 5-speed), a 125 horsepower (93 kW) version only available in Japan.
In 1972 Mitsubishi upgraded the power plants with their new Astron units. The range now consisted of the LS (2,000 cc single-carb, automatic transmission), GS (2,000 cc twin-carb, 5-speed manual) and GS-R (2,000 cc twin-carb, 5-speed manual). They were also given a mild facelift to distinguish them, comprising a one-piece slats-type grille and three-piece tail lights. Additionally, the 125 hp (93 kW) GS-R had wider 185-section tires, flared guards and a black-painted rear panel between the lights.
There was a second styling tweak in 1974 when the car gained a honeycomb-style front grille. The last Colt Galant GTO's produced gained the Astron 80 engine with Mitsubishi's Silent Shaft system. After relatively long production run, the GTO was finally replaced by Galant Lambda/Sapporo in December 1976, although production continued into 1977.
Mitsubishi chose not to aggressively export the Colt Galant GTO. Besides the home market of Japan, few examples (all right hand drive) were sold abroad. Most were distributed to New Zealand, and smaller numbers ended up in various Asian countries as well as the United Kingdom. At the time, Mitsubishi rarely used their own brand name abroad, so many were sold simply as the "Colt Galant GTO". Surviving examples are uncommon.
GTO name revived
After Colt Galant GTO production ceased in 1977, the name lay dormant for 13 years, but it retained sufficient cachet that Mitsubishi resurrected it for their flagship Mitsubishi GTO sports GT in 1990. However, in order to avoid offending automotive connoisseurs, who might have objected to the evocative nameplate from the highly regarded Ferrari 250 GTO (1962) and Pontiac GTO (1964) being used on a Japanese vehicle, it was sold as the Mitsubishi 3000GT in overseas markets.