Writing for Jalopnik certainly has its perks. For example, it allows me to have a comfortable breakfast in bed while hundreds call me an idiot for saying a Ferrari is a supercar. But on rare occasions, there emerges something truly special, in the form of a super rare '90s Japanese muscle car. Here's what that's like.
As the self-appointed Chairman of Used Car Acquisitions at Jalopnik, I'm always on the hunt for something interesting. I buy cars, fix them up, drive them like my hair is ablaze, then sell them on in better shape than when I found them. After posting an article where I bought and sold a Mercedes S600 V12 twin turbo, I received an email from a reader saying this:
I stumbled on your website today and you do a great job detailing how you flip your cars. I have something that might interest you. I am the owner of a 1999 3000GT VR-4. The issue is, I've been living in Seoul, S. Korea for the past three years and it's been hiding in my parents garage forever., with once a month trips to church with my dad. I'm sure it would be a great article on your website. If you are interested, please contact me.
Ladies, if you ever want to know the way to a man's heart, this is the way. Offer him a cool car and he'll be yours forever. If it for some reason doesn't work on him, leave. He won't call you back because his iPhone 6 is probably bent in his skinny jeans anyway.
If you're not familiar with the 3000GT VR4, it's a car made by Mitsubishi from 1991-1999 as direct competition to the Toyota Supra Turbo, Nissan 300ZX Turbo, and Mazda RX-7. Its twin-turbo 6G72 3.0 liter V6 had 320 horsepower and 315 ft-lbs of torque, and was the only car out of the bunch to feature all wheel drive and all wheel steering. It was also unique in that it was only available with a manual transmission, gaining a gear from 5 to 6 halfway through its production cycle. It also came standard with digital climate control and active aero front and rear spoilers on earlier models. It was a GT car in every sense of the phrase.
For those of you saying "I see 3000GTs all the time, how can they be rare? What kind of mickey mouse business are you running here?!", I'll have you know that the '99 is the holy grail of large-and-in-charge Mitsubishis. Only 274 examples were made to import into the North American market, and a fair number of those examples met a grisly fate. So to potentially have a clean running example of the last edition of Mitsubishi's last great GT car was something I just couldn't pass up. This feeling was solidified when I saw the pictures that were posted with the email:
We eventually negotiated a reasonable price over the course of a few months, as I had other projects that needed attention, then had a car carrier take my brand-spanking-old Mitsubishi from the frigid suburbs of Illinois to the sardine can that is New Jersey, which you would know if you followed me on twitter.
After waiting patiently for 2 days, Christmas came early, with Santa Claus being a friendly but flustered truck driver named Slava. This happens very, very rarely, but when it does, it's glorious: the car was better than expected. It looked every bit as good as it did in pictures, and started and ran without a hiccup. As far as driving, that was an entirely novel experience altogether.
Driving a 1999 3000GT Vr4 is a lot like being an amputee from birth. Let me explain. If you're missing a limb from birth and make it to adulthood, everyone wants to know what happened, mistakenly assuming it was lost in some act of heroism at best, or used as collateral in a high-stakes poker game at worst.
The same goes for the 3000GT. Its garish body kit, bright red paintwork, and huge ridiculous wing make people wonder why on Earth someone would do this to their car, not realizing that it came this way from the factory. If this car was a person, it would be the equivalent of a dude unknowingly walking around with his fly open on the day he decided to go commando. The 3000GT is the nip-slip of the car world. But what is it like driving a rolling wardrobe malfunction?
It's freaking great. It's not a super futuristic car from the year 3000 made to impress you with its physics-defying attributes. It's heavy and it knows it. It makes up for it by having a metric ton of power available all over the rev range, in every one of its 6 gears. It's been a while since I've heard a high-performance V6 at full bore, and it feels good that this one, with its twin turbos has such an unmistakeable soundtrack. The car sounds like nothing else on the road.
The clutch is heavy, the steering is light, there is no headroom, the interior quality rivals that of a '92 Dodge Viper, and the placement of buttons is laughable. The seats in the back are for people that are little more than a sentient torso, and you can't sense the front of the car from the driving seat because the sloped hood is so damn long. And I love every single bit of it. Driving this car feels like you're stepping directly into a time when Y2K was a real threat and the largest issue that faced the President of the United States was a chubby intern's unwashed blouse. I can't wait to rip into this thing and really see what she can do, and I'll keep you all updated as I repair/modify/restore this amazing find, both here and on Twitter.
I recommend getting one of your own, but good luck finding a '99. See how cheap you can find them on eBay here. They're seriously affordable, and one hell of a horsepower value.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.