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Over time, certain terms begin to evoke very specific images in the minds of human beings. For instance, when someone utters the word “truck,” a medium-blue color circa-2010 F-150 comes to mind. “Luxury sedan” triggers competing images of a circa 1998 Lexus LS400 (in gold) and a W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class of two-tone variety, probably black over light grey.

And “sports car”… well, that’s a red basket-handle Toyota Supra, or our Rare Ride of today: a Mitsubishi 3000GT.

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This is just not any 3000GT. This one has an extra monikers attached — VR-4 — which means it’s four-wheel drive and has a six-speed manual. Our example also has the highest-spec engine: a twin-turbo V6 producing 296 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque.

Oh, and it’s also a Spyder with a folding metal roof, which is the real reason it’s here today.

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This 3000GT is undoubtedly the rarest to find. Listed on Craigslist in Phoenix, the ad copy indicates this top trim Mitsubishi retailed for $65,000 back in 1995. I didn’t believe the claim, but NADA Guides backs it up. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, that’s equal to $103,898 in 2017. But it was 1995, and you were buying a Mitsubishi.

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According to Wikipedia, Mitsubishi sold just 877 Spyder VR-4 models over the two year period between 1995 and 1996. They were converted in the United States from standard coupes into Spyders by ASC. Those are the folks who made things like the Celica convertible for Toyota back in the ’80s. (And don’t forget the Dodge Dakota Convertible! —Ed)

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ASC didn’t do anything to the standard interior, which features a variety of colors such as grey and also-gray. It’s a proper four-seater though, and you could conceivably put two thin children back there, assuming the driver and front passenger were 5’8″ or less.

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The 3000GT was quite the technical experiment for Mitsubishi. When the model debuted in 1990, it featured four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, active aero, tunable exhaust modes, and an electronically controlled suspension. Interestingly, the active aero features were not present in its twin, the Dodge Stealth (sad!). The Spyder was created on the bones of the second generation, which ran from 1994 to 1997.

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Though the model increased in price as the years went on, Mitsubishi gradually deleted its unique technology to save on costs. 1994 was the last year for tunable exhaust. Electronic suspension died after 1995. And active aero went away after 1996. That year was also the last for the Dodge Stealth, leaving the 3000GT as an only child for the 1997 to 1999 model years. The Mitsubishi lingered on ’til 2000 in the Japanese domestic market, and two remaining cars were titled to owners in 2001.

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The relatively insane price put the 3000GT VR-4 Spyder in a bracket with higher performance cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper. But the extra weight and complexity of a metal folding roof and four-wheel drive weighed the car down and made it non-competitive with those models.

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It would seem Mitsubishi themselves weren’t sure where to aim with the 3000GT. The list of intended competitors is unusual and varied: Toyota Supra, Subaru SVX, Skyline GT-R, Honda NSX, Mazda Cosmo, and the Nissan 300ZX. With a list like that, it’s easy to see how such a Frankenstein super-sports-cabrio-4×4-touring vehicle came to be.

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But where else are you going to find such a mixture of vehicle types, all rolled into one? I put forth this 3000GT as the very pinnacle of engineering and market bubble excess in the Japanese auto industry. For all the adjectives it has attached to its résumé, you won’t find another single vehicle that manages to combine all of them at once, and still look so damn good today.

Though it’s done 119,000 miles, you’d never know it since it looks brand new. You want a “sports car”? Here you go, for a very fair $22,000.

[Images via Craigslist]

Article source: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/03/rare-rides-mitsubishi-3000gt-vr4-can-go-topless/