BJK FTO profile picture BJK FTO 6 years ago
Japanese

Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO

Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese

I wanted an FTO from the moment I set eyes upon one whilst browsing for my first car. I knew next to nothing about cars and even less about this Mitsubishi I’d never even heard of, but it looked stunning, had a V6 engine, and I could drive it on my probationary licence. My parents were less thrilled about the prospect of their son driving an imported coupe, so, since they were sharing the cost and thus it partly belonged to my brother, I settled for a 2002 Mazda Protege. I grew to appreciate it, and it was the start of my “Car Enthusiast” journey, despite the modifications I performed on it being indicative of my age. Unfortunately I failed to give way turning over a yellow light at an intersection and it was subsequently written off.

Financially, it was a horrendous experience, having only been insured under third party cover. The silver lining, of course, was that now I was finally able to acquire the car I had initially pined after. After the automatic Mazda, I had wanted a manual, but since I had limited time to find a new vehicle, and also a limited budget, I ended up with a 1995 FTO GPX semi-automatic, with it’s tiptronic technology licensed from Porsche.

When I'd first picked it up.
When I'd first picked it up.

I bought it off the vice-president of the FTO Australia club, who has wrecked quite a few of the cars and stashed spare parts to supply to members, and who had acquired this particular car off a colleague. It was stock, aside from a front strut brace and Tein lowering springs. Often considered gutless compared to other JDM cars of the same era, the 2.0L V6 MIVEC (Mitsubishi’s variable valve timing) was definitely a step up for me from the 1.8L 4-pot in the 323.

Late-night photoshoots became a habit!
Late-night photoshoots became a habit!

I drove it the 1200 kilometres back in a day from Canberra to Adelaide where I lived, which went smoothly aside from some overheating issues that I had to stop for occasionally. Upon returning home, the issue was later diagnosed to be a blocked radiator. Dwayne, who had sold me the car, was generous and refunded me some money to help pay for a replacement, and soon I was back on the road.

Unfortunately, not even half a year into my ownership, and (ironically) on my way to getting the rotors, pads and brake fluid changed, it hailed in the city. I’d never driven in anything worse than heavy rain, and, determined to be cautious, I slowed down and attempted to pull over.

Which is, of course, when I locked up, lost traction and rear ended a parked car.

Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese
Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese

Fortunately, I’d learnt from my mistake and comprehensively insured this car, and despite having to fork out my excess ($1100AUD), it turned out for the better. With my insurer’s permission, I was able to source an aftermarket front bar, and the “facelift” headlights which have an inbuilt parker light and updated projector lenses. Unexpectedly, I also received money back for the items the repair shop didn’t have to install, which was equal to the excess I had paid.

At the same time I had the guards professionally rolled to accommodate the 17x9 +22 Enkei RPF1s I had purchased to replace the 16” stock wheels, and when I finally picked up the car, I couldn’t have been happier!

The only worry now was steep driveways!
The only worry now was steep driveways!
Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese

I continued upgrading various components, mostly suspension. Slotted rotors, a rear strut brace and 22mm Whiteline rear sway bar; a K&N filter complemented an aftermarket intake pipe, and RPW extractors and a custom Y-pipe gave the exhaust a rowdier note and a bit more punch from the engine.

It wasn’t all fun and games. I hit a kangaroo, was defected twice and had to replace a number of mechanical components (starter motors, alternator, fuel pump); bought a “low mileage” engine to replace my old one when my 200,000km service came around, only to have it spin a bottom end bearing and need to put the old motor back in. But the handling was superb, and the manual-select fun despite still being automatic, and I relished after-work night-time cruises through the Adelaide hills. None of which could have been enjoyed without my patient and excellent mechanic Tim, whose know-how with the FTO (owning one himself for a decade) has saved me countless headaches and a not insubstantial amount of money.

Despite my attachment to the car, another of the same model came up for sale that had all the modifications I was planning to do to mine and more for a fraction of the cost, so concurrently on a road-trip with friends I was able to pick up FTO #2. I had my brother take some memento shots before I took the good components from the car (notably the wheels).

Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese
Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese
Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese

A number of set-backs have kept me from moving the first FTO on, so I have had both since almost the start of 2015, but the potential of the new one is already great, despite the body work not being as tidy.

I don’t mind that it’s a front wheel drive. I don’t mind it’s not as fast as everyone else’s Skylines and Silvias. I only care that it excites me each time I climb into the seat, and that I can never walk away without a backwards glance.

Mitsubishi - Oft-Forgotten: Mitsubishi FTO - Japanese

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