So Glad They Bothered: 1984 Mitsubishi Galant

A forgotten ’80s gem gains a reappraisal. 

Galant of the 80’s (Source: momentcar.com)

Following coolly on the heels of the first article in this occasional-to-the-point-of-random series, we look back at another rare but strangely appealing car which was imported in relatively low volumes into the UK, thanks to the quaint-sounding ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with Japan.

It interests me, how certain things or events prove to be memorable, and not others. When these things or events were in the present, did I realise then that they would still figure strongly in my memory now? What is it that buries some things forever in the abyss of the mind, and yet somehow others, possibly more trivial stay for longer? Answer: dunno.

Take the Mk5 Mitsubishi Galant (model code E11-19). It was actually launched in homeland Japan in 1983, but had to await until late ’84 to be introduced to the UK. As one might expect, it succeeded the Mk4, but what one might not have expected is that the fourth-generation Galant lasted not three years before this replacement came along and was deemed to have been a sales disappointment to Mitsubishi – in its native Japan at least. I think it may have fared better in Australia and New Zealand where it was marketed as the Sigma.

In the UK, it was also imported for a period as a Lonsdale; a short-lived value-brand oddity. That car was very late-70s in its design, rear wheel drive and neat-but-forgettable (I had to remind myself what it looked like) in a style which I would describe it as mid-pacific-bland.

Has any new model been so swiftly succeeded? The Galant 4 (Source: Mad4Wheels.com)

The Mk5 was a very different and interesting proposition, heralding the switch to front wheel drive and transverse engines.  It had a degree of engineering sophistication: it was only the third Japanese car to adopt four-wheel electronic anti-lock brakes, courtesy of Bosch; its engines had counter-rotating shafts designed to smooth-out the combustion rhythms of the four cylinder engines; and it had the option of a four-speed automatic, which was still relatively unusual back then.

The chassis was nothing special, with struts up front mounted on a sub-frame to reduce road noise entering the cabin and a torsion beam rear set-up – although if it was deemed good enough for Audi at the time, one can’t blame Mitsubishi for following suit.

The styling is one of those factors which, I think, helped this car to remain to the fore of my memory. It’s very clean surfaced and svelte, with tight shut-lines, and a simple rubbing-strip extending the full length of the side, starting just under the front indicators and ending under those at the rear – a feature which greatly helped keep the side elevation taut and lean.

I think one could call it similar to our old friends the Tagora, Rover 800 and even the Audi 100 of the same era. The rear wheel arch has a flattened top-edge which is a little Citroënesque, but, actually, I think it would have made a very nice update for the Peugeot 505 – (cue brickbats).

The front overhang is a little long, but otherwise the proportions are really good. Of course, it enjoys slim front pillars that would no longer pass crash-test scrutiny. The Mk5 was a similar length to its predecessor, but, had a longer wheelbase courtesy of the more tightly packaged drive-train. The front fascia had neat, broad and slim headlamps edged by side-lights and repeaters, book-ending a slimline grille which was topped by an indent of the leading edge of the bonnet; all very much of its time.

The rear was similarly tidy, again with wide and slim lamps and a crisp rear-edge to the boot lid. I remember at the time (I was 16) thinking that the car looked long and elegant – and I would see one regularly because a distant neighbour bought a silver one and it would be parked in an elevated position parallel to the road.

The more interesting dashboard option – note the PRN-lite clustering of minor controls behind the wheel (Source: Pinterest)

Such was my interest in recalling more about this relative rarity, I searched e-bay for an old copy of Car which featured the Mk5 Galant in some way. After a little screen work, I found the December 1984 edition which covered it in the Newcomers section.  By the way, a warning to those who decide to follow a similar route – it’s addictive and I only just managed to stop myself buying my sixth vintage issue, as each one is absolutely packed with interesting articles and memories. Also in the December ’84 Newcomers section is the Giugiaro-designed SEAT Ibiza, which, like the Galant is given a very thorough review which puts modern equivalents to shame.

Something else that the Ibiza and Galant shared was an interesting dashboard design in terms of how minor controls were grouped and organised around the steering wheel. Like the 626 which was the subject of the first of these ‘So Glad …’ reviews, Mitsubishi decided to give the Galant a different dashboard depending on the version of the car.

As this iteration of the Galant only came as a four-door saloon, Mitsubishi differentiated on engine (and thereby trim) level. At launch, the Galant came in 1.6L and 2.0L petrol and 1.8L (turbo)diesel forms. The first of these came with a very conventional, Japan-ordinaire dash layout, whereas, for the diesel and 2.0L petrol, “Mitsubishi have taken a leaf out from Citroën’s book with switch-gear that’s clustered around the wheel on wings.”  These are the words of Paul Scott, the author of the Car review now in my possession. “The combined indicator/ flasher switch, shaped like a sailboard’s keel, works well. But you can’t play the switches blind, as you can the keys of an instrument. Or Citroën’s satellites. With half a leaf missing, it only half works”.

Funky seat designs on the Turbo – retro 80’s cool (Source: wheelsage.com)

Scott praises much about this Galant: the seating is “first rate“, the handling is “secure” and “tracks straight at speed“, nor is there torque steer and “bumpy corners don’t upset the feeling of respectable poise and balance“.  The 1.6L was apparently smoother than the 2.0L, albeit less potent, but the diesel attracted the most praise. The Galant is described as “up with the pack rather than leading the way“, but one area receives specific praise: “the new Galant proved at least as competent in most departments and something of a class yardstick in one.  It’s quiet, very quiet.  Wind noise is a whisper, even with the sunroof open, power roar distant.  Noise suppression is at its impressive best, though, on the sort of pocked, course surfaces that abound in France” (France has clearly changed a lot since then!).

The other reason that this Galant sticks in my mind is that they introduced a Turbo version with about 150 BHP, making it a direct rival to the MG Montego Turbo which was introduced around the same time. One of the motoring magazines did a twin-test, comparing one against the other – I think it was Fast Lane but I can’t be certain (it could have been Performance Car) and I can’t find it on e-bay or anywhere else. I was a bit of an MG fanboy at the time and recall being dumbstruck that the ‘fastest-ever MG’ was trounced from left-field by the somewhat demure looking Galant Turbo.

Neither car was deemed at all perfect, both suffering from degrees of torque-steer, but the Galant was nevertheless triumphant. I don’t recall ever seeing a Galant Turbo on the road – so if you ever owned one, or, know the truth (or own a copy) of said magazine article, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Montego Turbo’s nemesis (Source: wheelsage.com)

I didn’t really warm to the sixth or seventh generation cars, but the eighth had something about it that appealed, not least the blunt, shark-nosed front end. Sadly, Mitsubishi is now in full retreat from the UK and Europe, actions which speak that neither market is worth its bother any more.

Author: S.V. Robinson

Life long interest in cars and the industry

53 thoughts on “So Glad They Bothered: 1984 Mitsubishi Galant”

  1. In certain markets including its homeland Japan, Mk5 Galant’s top range version featured “advanced electronic controlled” absorber / suspension system

  2. Australia had the 65mm-wider Magna, which came with the torquey 2.6 AstronII engine (114hp, 146lb-ft). Family friends had a wagon and I remember it being pretty quiet and refined on the road.

    I had a later model of the Lonsdale/Sigma, 2.6/5sp, and while it was only a modest update under the skin from the 3rd gen Galant the first real changes I’d make would be 1) better valve stem sealing, 2) rack & pinion steering, 3) more luggage space (petrol tank and spare tyre under the floor, under that sloping boot lid)

  3. I’m pretty sure that CAR went on to do a Giant Test of the Galant vs the Montego MG and Saab 900 turbos, but I fear it would take a considerable amount of domestic archeology for me to unearth the relevant issue. If I can find it quickly I’ll report back in a couple of days!

    1. Maybe that’s what I was thinking of. I think it would have been after April 1985 which is when the MG was launched. Either way, thanks for giving it some thought and good luck with the hunt!

    2. I think this it – from November 1985.

      MG Montego Turbo - Mitsubishi Galant Turbo & Saab 900 Turbo Group Road Test 1985 (3)

      The Turbo’s seats, above, look comfortable.

    3. Thanks, Michael. If you click on the picture, it should take you to the article.

  4. I hardly have any memory of the Mk5 Galant at all. The Mk4 was quite popular in the Netherlands, because it was available with a Turbo Diesel engine.

    1. One memory is coming back now. I’ve been a passenger in this car once. It was on a holiday trip where my brother, dad and I went to the Louwman Museum, which at the time was in Raamsdonkveer. We went there by public transport, but my dad thought it took to long and was too expansive, so decided he decided we should hitchhike our way back to our boat that was in a marina somewhere I can’t remember.

      This was mid eighties and I was about ten years old or there about. If I remember correctly we had three rides: a red Renault 18, a brown Mitsubishi Colt and a taupe Mitsubishi Galant mk5. I remember the driver, a gentleman somewhere in his fifties who was on the road, probably as a sales representative. He was very kind and drove us all the way back to the marina, which meant he had to make a detour. A good guy in a good a car 🙂

  5. You can be assured that the Galant was well assembled and robust. The glazed C-pillar is an effective styling trope and overall the car makes me think of a Japenese chef´s knife. It is far more distinctive than the bulky Tagora and cleaner than Rover´s line festival 800. Turning to the interior, it is so Citroenesque and the seating looks superb. The XM had something of the same feel but made with better quality plastic for the trim.

    1. I’m very fond of my Japanese chef’s knife, the car less so, but I do like the analogy.

  6. Good morning S.V. and thanks for the reminder of a car I had completely forgotten about. Isn’t it a delightfully calm and elegant design, both outside and in? It could easily have been a Citroën, in the mould of the Xantia (and Daewoo Espero!)

    Not all versions had the blacked out pillars and floating roof. Here’s an example with a more conventional treatment, in a rather nice colour:

    1. That one has more of a drooping line at the base of the side glass. Is that only perspective at play? I remember these cars being common enough in Ireland. I think Mitsubishi was a succesful player on the Irish market in the 80s and 90s. Galants and Lancers were fairly ordinary sightings. Regarding the Espero, is it possible Bertone thought of that design as a Galant originally? It seems to be an evolution of today´s car. The story would be Bertone pitched the shape to Mitsubishi and then it ended up used twice by Citroen and Daewoo.

    2. Good morning Richard. I think it is just perspective. Here’s another photo that shows the line looking flatter:

      As I understand it, the Espero design was originally one of Bertone’s three(?) proposals to Citroën for the Xantia. As far as I am aware, there’s no suggestion of a Bertone connection to this Galant.

    3. The similarity to the Espero is a great spot, it hadn’t triggered in my mind, but now I can’t not see it. They are all designs I admire to a greater or lesser degree.

  7. I really like the cars from this era of Mitsubishi, but they are getting really rare on the ground since the lack of enthusiasm for the current offerings are stopping people from caring about the old stuff.

    My first car was a silver gen6 sedan, so naturally thats my favourite generation, but i would mind one of these in turbo guise with those lovely multicolor seats.

    1. I had a look around and found a few 1984-1990 cars. I saw two other steering wheels and there are two shown in this thread, making four designs. None of the cars on sale were of the glazed c-pillar type.
      The most appealing is the next model which strikes me as a serious no-nonsense saloon. I like!
      https://www.autoscout24.com/offers/mitsubishi-galant-2000-glsi-h-zulassung-gasoline-blue-a982aea7-9384-4c17-80f5-33196f91f246?cldtidx=4&sort=standard&lastSeenGuidPresent=true&cldtsrc=listPage
      It´s neatly sized, useful and has a decent rear centre armrest. The styling is immaculate.

    2. It was also dold in the US as a Dodge, the 2000GTX:

      My favourite generation of Galant, apart from the one featured today, is the eighth-generation model with its classic BMW influenced styling:

    3. Daniel, yes that’s the one that I rather liked too – as you say, it’s clearly BMW inspired, but still has a character of its own.

    4. The sharknose Galant also came as a hotted up wagon in japan, that is a really big lust object, and especially in purple.
      Its just so sharp and muscular looking.

    5. I believe the Dodge 2000GTX was only sold on the Canadian market. There may have been an Eagle variant in the US.

  8. I owned a Magna (the Australian re-engineered version of this car – wider, with the 2.6 litre engine). It was a rather good thing for its time; very comfortable and spacious, with excellent handling. It could have used more power, but overall it was a rather decent device

    1. Here’s the Magna, 65mm (2 1/2″) wider than the Galant. It’s a rather fine looking car and benefits from the extra width, I think:

    2. I owned a 1985 TM SE for some years and agree with your comments. A minor carburettor modification solved the performance issues.

  9. The Galant/Montego/900 Giant Test is in the November 1985 issue of CAR, p. 180.

    1. Good man! Was I right in recalling that the Montego came off somewhat poorly in comparison with the Galant? I shall now see if I can find that copy on ebay. Thank you.

    2. I’m not sure. All my copies of CAR are in storage at the moment, but I have assiduously catalogued them all, I hope accurately (sometimes I think the only reason I continue to buy CAR is to maintain the catalogue).

    3. Hi, you are correct. I found a copy on eBay and I was correct that, from the contents page, I can discern that the Galant was the winner of the test.

    4. Hi S.V. If you haven’t already bought that copy, I have one and can send you a pdf of the Giant Test, if you like?

    5. Hi Daniel, thanks but I am using any excuse to buy old editions (I am so stupid because I will have owned every copy since about February 1983 but chose not to keep and store them all), and so have already bought a copy of the November ’85 issue. Thanks again for the offer.

    6. Jonathan: I bought “Car” for about six or seven years after the point when I stopped enjoying much about it. One day I found the completist urge (my run was from 1993 to 2007ish) overwhelmned by the fact I was geting nothing for my ten euros. The last few copies had come home from the railways station newsstand and had been more or less unread. I have a stack of them propping up a wobbly bed-leg now. The good ones, pre-2000 I will keep. I will probably dump or give to charity the Phil McNamara-ere copies.

    1. That Grandeur is fabulous. And the interior too. Well done to Hyundai for the confidence and imagination to remake the pseudo-digital 80s into real digital.

    2. One small quibble about the Grandeuretro: Mr Schreyer ought to have insisted on a chair design other than the obviously 50s Eames design. In the 80s the inspriration was 80s furniture. Am I being pedantic? Look at the Trevi as a countexample. Still the Grandeuretro is the kind of luxury I can buy into.

    3. I think that the inspiration for that Grandeur isn’t limited to the 80’s – they say that the dashboard is inspired by grand pianos and it seems to me that the seats are mostly inspired by theatre chairs, with the Eames reference being secondary / by proxy? Great job anyway – and their production cars (Ioniq 5, Staria and Casper) already have elements of that style.

    4. Looking around I see other sites covered the Grandeuretro. It has polarised opinion. Some want it badly and others cast abuse saying its a cod and a sham and so on. I feel more people like it than don´t and I suspect such a vehicle would be saleable for a decade or more, pretty much like Rolls Royces and Jimnys. If Hyundai entered the market with this they´d have the square saloon market sewn up. It´s the first new car I´ve seen in years that would have me considering all the stupid ways one can to obtain something one can´t properly afford. I much prefer this to anything else on sale. And it´s electric too.

  10. Here’s another variation on the same design theme, the 1988 Reanult 25-based Eagle Premier, a product of Renault’s ill-fated tie-up with AMC:

    This was a Giugiaro design, and another quietly handsome one. In my alternative reality, it would have made a nice flagship ‘Renault 40’ for the French marque. In this reality, nobody would have bought it, of course!

    1. It reminded me of that car too. The glasshouse and tail treatment also reminds me of the Subaru XT a little bit.

  11. Cannot say am a fan of this generation of Galant from a visual perspective (unlike the 7th/8th gen models before they lost the plot with the 9th gen), it is the sort of thing one would have expected from the likes of Proton had they decided to build an earlier Perdana from say the 4th/5th/6th gen Galant.

  12. Living in New Zealand in the mid-80s, these were ‘common as’, as were their replacements. A rather nice estate version was done (that might have been unique to Australia and NZ). If anything these increased the Citroenesque looks.
    In the late 80s, NZ began importing second-hand cars from Japan, which meant a plethora of oddities rarely seen outside of Japan. I do recall seeing this generation Galant as a hard-top. Slightly more muscular and perhaps pillarless doorframes. But not as accomplished in its design as the original.

  13. WellMr Robinson, you’ve uncovered another unknown vehicle to me, thank you. What a clean and fresh look this has. And those turbo seats – Marshmallows, ahoy!

    It’s a long time since I’ve seen an old copy of Car – but anything with at least 180 pages must be better than the modern advert/non car related content riddled version.

    Also liking the purple shark nose which sits very nicely. Sporting attributes without going OTT. I can’t remember when Sheffield first got a Mitsubishi dealer. I’m unsure we have a dedicated one even now.

    1. Andrew – one of the delight of spending an evening with a vintage edition of “Car” is the vast amount of text in the adverts. The current version has photoshopped spreads showing unrealitic images and the “copy” amounts to a few words and the legal stuff in 2 pt at the bottom. There´s nothing to read. In the late 80s I vacuumed up the (self-serving but) interesting prose of Ford, BMW and others and it formed my view of the cars. Some of it was valid presentation of the cars´ attributes or explained why the cars were the way they were. These days? Not so much. The implicit message of a car ad to day is “it´s pretty” and “it takes you to a sunny place with not much traffic”. That´s all there is to it. I was looking at the Montego/900/Galant images posted here and there were also 2-page spreads for the Renault 25 which were worth a look. I am still digesting a 1988 edition featuring “your next Cavalier” on the front cover. The ads are a delight!

    2. One ad was so memorable, I cannot resist posting it whenever an opportunity arises (and it’s even on topic, actually).

    1. Hi Peter. The estate version was a nice piece of work. Here’s an example with, presumably, its proud owner:

    2. Not without Citroën clues indeed. The greenhouse is BX estate style, but done much more nicely. The rear wheelarch is a bit higher and the overhang a bit longer than it should be on an actual Citroën.

    3. That lower window line dropping in the middle and then becoming a horizontal line. No thanks.

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