A Missed Marque
There have been plenty of cars that never really lived up to their full potential. Taking budgets and branding into account, it’s somewhat understandable for some cars to not be all they can be (ie. Porsche Cayman), but one car that stands out amongst the rest is the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
First available in 1990, it was known as a DTM (Diamond Star Motors) car which was a joint project between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. The Eclipse was actually built in the U.S. at the DSM plant in Illinois along with the Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser. The DSM relationship made it until the end of the 2G (2nd generation) Eclipse.
The 1G Eclipse was undeniably a DSM car with pop-up headlights, long, slender driving lights, a fastback, big wheels resembling turbines, boxy yet streamlined body, and the turbo models had the iconic offset hood bulge that grabbed teenage attention. In 1994, pop-ups were replaced by fixed headlights.
It was available with several engines/drivetrains;
- GS: 92hp, naturally aspirated 1.8L, 8-valve SOHC, 4-cyl, FWD
- GS DOHC: 135hp, naturally aspirated 2.0L 16-valve DOHC, 4-cyl, FWD
- GST: 180-195hp, turbocharged 2.0L, 16-valve DOHC, 4-cyl, FWD
- GSX: 180-195hp, turbocharged 2.0L, 16-valve DOHC, 4-cyl, AWD
The 2G Eclipse lost some of its late-80s early-90s design cues and gained some curves and sharper eyes. It also gained a Chrysler engine for the lower end models. More excitingly, a spyder was added to the lineup which was available in the GS and GS-T trim level. The car retained the offset hood bulge to fit the turbo.
The following are all trim levels on the 2G:
- RS: 140hp, N/A 16-valve DOHC, 2.0L, 4-cyl, FWD
- GS: 140hp, N/A 16-valve DOHC, 2.0L, 4-cyl, FWD
- GS Spyder: 141hp, N/A 16-valve SOHC, 2.0L, 4-cyl, FWD
- GS-T: 210hp, turbocharged, 16-valve DOHC, 2.0L, 4-cyl, FWD
- GS-T Spyder: 210hp, turbocharged, 16-valve DOHC, 2.0L, 4-cyl, FWD
- GSX: 210hp, turbocharged, 16-valve DOHC, 2.0L, 4-cyl, AWD
Higher end models got bigger wheels, stainless steel exhaust tips, larger spoilers, vented brake rotors, and panels around the bottom of the car that resembled a body kit. There was also a special version released in 1999 called the ‘10th Anniversary OZ Rally.’
The turning point for the Eclipse was Y2K when Mitsubishi became sole owners in the DSM project. No longer would the Eclipse have its own chassis. It was now built on the Galant platform with Galant powertrain making a softer and less sporty ride and no more turbo. No more turbo meant no offset bulge in the hood. Even worse, the all-wheel drive option was no longer available.
The body retained a similar profile shape with an available spyder version but became a little more edgy and geometric. Headlights and taillights veered away from the long, thin lights from past generations and awkward slotted ridges stretched from the bottom of the front bumper to the doors, a lazy execution of the Mitsubishi SST concept seen here.
While Mitsubishi looked back to the 2G for the newest 4G model design with stretched headlights and a fatter, shapelier body, it’s rear end was big enough for Sir Mix-a-Lot to turn the other cheek and most 4G models were under powered aside from the much larger 3.8L SOHC 260+hp engine available only in the GT & GT Spyder. And again, no all-wheel drive or turbo options were available.
Over time, the Eclipse lost most of its spice that made it so popular in the mid-90s. It lost its turbo, its AWD system, and its sporty ride. As a result, the last Eclipse rolled off the assembly line in August 2011 and was auctioned off to benefit the Japanese red cross to help victims of the earthquake.
It didn’t have a chance of taking sales away from the Lancer Evolution, so why didn’t the Eclipse get the TLC it deserved from Mitsubishi? You can say it about pretty much any car, but the Eclipse could have been better, a whole lot better. It never became the car it could have been.
Photos via Mani Azeri Ottawa Photography, Gearbox Magazine, Jon Colt, 707d3k, & various other sources.