Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were the parent company who then developed another division called Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) sold their cars under the Colt brand, aware of the sensitivity of the Mitsubishi link with World War II fighter jets. Colt started importing cars into the UK in 1974, although there was an earlier attempt to evaluate a car in the UK market in 1968. Just one model was initially sent a 1100F 3 door estate. There’s no reason why the car would have not paved the way for a growing range of Colts but despite the reasonable reviews, the importers decided against importing the 1100F. The car was derived from the 1000/1500 range, which featured a variety of engine sizes and body shells.
After the 6 year hiatus, Colt set up a proper UK franchise and concessionaires in the UK, with the introduction of 2 new ranges at the 1974 Motorshow. The range consisted of the mechanically conventional Escort sized Lancer and the Cortina pitched Galant. The success of Datsun and Toyota in the UK, would have encouraged the large multinational company to consider exports to Europe, despite the companies relatively lowly sales numbers in its native Japan. The Global division of the Chrysler company agreed a deal to sell Galants in America and Australia, was an attempt to help close up global sales on the Toyota and Nissan. However no such plans were introduced to brand the cars under an American badge for Europe, with Mitsubishi preferring to distribute and sell cars under their own name.
Full sales started in 1975 but it took several years to gain momentum. The Lancer was used as the companies rally car and had achieved reasonable success throughout its career which may helped promote sales in the UK, helped by a series of 2 and 4 door saloons and a 5 door estate. The higher spec 1600 GSR 2 door saloons, were close to the rally spec models. The bigger Galant model, sold as the 4 door saloon and 5 door estate, was also briefly joined by a 2 door coupe, which were imported via Cyprus.
The range expanded after the initial batch of cars were available, offering typical Japanese car traits such as a decent level of standard equipment and a wide choice of different models but also also utilised technology that reduced the noise and vibration of the engine. The Lancer based Celeste was a 3 door coupe with a hatchback, reminiscent of the Renault 15/17 range. However, sales really started to take off when the replacement to the Galant, the Sigma was introduced in 1977 – they shared the same lineage but a concentrated marketing tactic through the press and favourable road test reviews helped shift 4 times as many Sigmas compared to the Galants sales in its last year. At around this time the Galant GTO model was released, it was similar in many respects to the Toyota Celica liftback but due to its high UK price, it was considerably rarer but did help to establish a level of credibility of Colt cars. A further sporting model, the Galant based Sapparo coupe offered an alternative to the growing number of Japanese coupes. At the same time a new hatchback design, the 1400/1200/Mirage, was launched into the UK, finally offering the UK public a Japanese take of FWD hatchback motoring. The car also featured a super shift transmission system, meaning that the four speed gearbox would have a setting for low and high ranges, effective making a 8 speed gearbox.
By 1980 the Colt badged was phased out and replaced completely by Mitsubishi badged models at the turn of the 80’s. A new 4 door saloon only Lancer had been launched at the 1981 Motorfair and started a progressive trend that would follow continue on each model of the Mitsubishi range – a turbocharger. The Sigma and Galant ranges remained RWD for the first half of the decade, with some confusion of the different names over what was essentially the same model. A tie up with the Australian Lonsdale company who assembled the Sigma for local consumption were briefly imported up until 1985, to attempt to avoid the cap on Japanese imports. The later models lost their Lonsdale badges and became Mitsubishi badged cars. Like other Japanese manufacturers, most of the range had become FWD by the mid 80’s and had been supplemented by several niche models not unlike those of Nissan, consisting of family hatchbacks and saloons, people carrier, 4×4’s and sports cars. When the Manufacturer changed the branding of their cars from Colt to Mitsubishi, they decided to retain the Colt name for a model. In some markets the Mitsubishi Colt was either the Mitsubishi 1300 or 1500, but never badged with those engine designations – further confusion came up when the model was officially known as a Mitsubishi Mirage. Mitsubishi interest in competitive rally motorsport and turbo charging developed throughout the 80’s, culminating with the Lancer continuing its success forged from the the 1st two generations of Lancers.
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