The magical decade known as the 1990s was a great time for car buyers. Manufacturers were throwing out every zany, half-baked ideas in the hopes that they would stick like spaghetti to a wall. One of the more insane offerings made by any automaker was the 3000GT VR4 Spyder, a car that didn’t need to exist, but I’m so glad it does. As luck would have it, this ultra-rare twin-turbo gem can now be yours for less than the entry price of a boring-ass used commuter-spec Hyundai. What a time to be alive.
This 1996 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 Spyder was a bit of an anomaly, especially for a Japanese car manufacturer. It took the already potent 320 horsepower, all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering platform that attempted to set the world on fire and added a totally necessary drop top.
You see, there were only a few Japanese car manufacturers that offered convertible models in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, namely Nissan’s 300zx, and Mazda’s rotary-powered FC RX-7, but the Mitsu was a tad different in one respect.
Mitsubishi’s VR4 Spyder was a quantum leap forward from these designs, as it ditched the traditional soft top for a fully motorized retractable hard top. This made the model the first hardtop convertible sold in the US since the obscure Ford Fairlane Skyline. Mercedes-Benz’s hardtop ‘vert SLK-class was available in ‘96, but just missed the first-to-market mark by about a year. The VR4 was, in a very real sense, in a class all its own.
To add to the complexity of the build, the car wasn’t exactly a full Mitsubishi manufacture. The cars, before sale, were transported from Mitsubishi’s Nagoya plant in Japan to an American company called ASC, with no rear hatch structure and beefed-up A-pillars, made to handle extra load.
The cars were then converted and released as Mitsubishi factory models, in small enough numbers that collectors the world over should be flocking to the model. For the 1996 model year, only 84 VR4 Spyders were ever made, and 38 models with this particular color and options combination were created by ASC. The models at the time commanded a $20,000 premium over the already expensive VR4, making it one of the biggest upgrades to an already top-of-the-line car you could order in the ‘90s.
For the current four-figure price tag of this amazing-looking example, I’m not sure a more rare car exists on the market today.
As with any used car, this Spyder ain’t exactly perfect. However, as I know about the ownership experience of these cars firsthand, I can attest to the fact that if kept reasonably close to stock, there shouldn’t be any major surprises during a VR4's ownership.
Here’s an excerpt from the seller’s lengthy description:
The car needs some minor TLC:
The anti-lock brakes g-sensor is out
Struts & Brakes will need replacement soon
Small leak on the steering rack
Two small paint blisters near the bottom of the rear bumper (below license plate)
The car was recently inspected and got the green light to be driven from NorCal to Salt Lake City, but the bidder flaked out. The car was featured and sold on ‘Bring a Trailer’ 2 weeks ago, but the transaction didn’t occur. An full 5-page car inspection is available to vehicle bidders.
The interior is MINT - all buttons are working. The interior remains standard with no cracks visible in the dashboard. All buttons and switches are in working order, seats have no rips and it remains fitted with the standard post-1994 stereo system with 6-CD changer. Original manuals.
The car has a brand new transmission, installed at the beginning of 2015. Last Owner participated in a group buy to procure the last available transmissions for this vehicle from Mitsubishi in Japan, as there were none available in the US. Ground Zero Performance converted the transmission from Japanese spec to US spec, and Competition Autowerks installed it.
Over its 20 years: The car was in a fender bender (someone ran a stop sign), requiring replacement of the right front fender. The rear bumper was scraped while parked in a parking lot and required repainting. Someone backed into the front bumper when parallel parking, requiring that it be repainted. - Small stuff all taken care of and have paperwork to cover all repairs.
Although the car does have a relatively high 166,000 mileage figure, unless the car’s showing signs of valve guide failure or transmission/transfer case damage, it should be one hell of a reliable cruiser. I’ve also been personally in contact with the car’s current owner, and as far as I can tell, everything about this VR4 is on the level.
If I had the cash and space, I’d be all over this like a bargain-hunting fly on a polished turd. Perhaps that wasn’t the best analogy.