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Dodge Colt Diaries: An American Icon’s Journey from 1970 to 1994

The Dodge Colt, along with its counterparts the Plymouth Champ and Plymouth Colt, were sub-compact cars sold by Dodge and Plymouth from 1970 to 1994. These vehicles were imported from Mitsubishi Motors and started as twins of the Galant and Lancer families, shifting to the smaller Mitsubishi Mirage subcompacts in 1979.

With the introduction of the Dodge Neon in 1994, Chrysler ceased selling captive imports under these badges, although the Eagle Summit, a Mirage clone, continued until 1996.

Launched in 1970 as a 1971 model, the initial Dodge Colt was a federalized version of the Mitsubishi Colt Galant. It was available as a two-door pillared coupe, two-door hardtop, four-door sedan, and five-door wagon.

The Colt featured a 1597 cubic centimeter four-cylinder engine, and its layout was a traditional front-engine rear-wheel drive with McPherson struts in front and a live rear axle. The standard transmission was a four-speed manual with a three-speed automatic as an option.


The engine initially produced 100 hp but dropped to 83 in 1972 due to stricter emission standards. A sporty GT hardtop coupe was introduced in 1973, boasting rally stripes, sport wheels, and a center console.

Originally intended as a response to the AMC Gremlin, Ford Pinto, and Chevrolet Vega, the Dodge Colt ended up competing directly with Japanese imports like the Toyota Corolla and Datsun 510.

The second generation, introduced in 1973, featured a rounder body design for Galant sedans and coupes, while wagons retained the previous body with a new front. The updated version became the 1974 Dodge Colt in the U.S., available in various body styles.

The base engine remained unchanged, but an optional larger G52B Astron engine was introduced. A four-speed manual or three-speed automatic was available, and a five-speed was added in 1977. The silent shaft version of the engine became available in 1977, and a sportier version called the Carousel arrived in 1975.

In 1978, a new larger Dodge Colt wagon, essentially a re-badged Mitsubishi Galant Sigma, was introduced with engine options.

The Lancer-based Colts were phased out in 1979. The third generation in 1977 saw the smaller Mitsubishi Lancer becoming the Dodge Colt with smaller coupe and sedan bodies. The wheelbase remained slightly shorter than the second generation, but overall length decreased.

A freeway cruise package introduced a silent shaft engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A larger Dodge Colt wagon arrived in 1978 using a 1.6-liter MCA jet engine or a 2.6-liter Astron engine.

Starting in 1979, the Dodge Colt and Plymouth Champ names were applied to Mitsubishi Mirage imports with front-wheel drive. These models featured hatchback designs with various equipment levels and engine options.

The lineup expanded to include a five-door hatchback in 1982. The GTS Turbo model, with a fuel-injected 1.6-liter engine, was introduced in 1984. The 5th generation Dodge Colt arrived in 1984 with various engine options, including a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine.

A three-box sedan body became available but was discontinued after 1986. The Colt wagon received a more powerful engine for the four-wheel drive version. The Colt wagon continued until 1991, when it was replaced by the Mitsubishi RVR-based Colt Wagon.

In summary, the Dodge Colt and its variants, manufactured from 1970 to 1994, underwent several generational changes, transitioning from rear-wheel drive Galant and Lancer models to smaller front-wheel drive Mirage subcompacts. The models evolved over the years, adapting to changing market demands and technological advancements.

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Andrew Nussbaom

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