When a rare opportunity presents itself to you in such a way that it must be too good to be true, get out - it’s clearly a bait car, you idiot. However, when something comes along that’s just on the cusp of believable, then it’s up to you to carpe the shit out of that diem. This is one of those times.
Part 1: I Love The ‘90s
In the half-handful of times I’ve been to a nightclub, the DJ paying his way through his liberal arts degree one bar mitzvah at a time always asks this question: “Where are the ‘80s babies?” While the question is met with applause and unintelligible hollers from various comically drunk patrons, it’s always followed up with “Now where are the ‘90s babies?” This is where I get confused because I have no idea which one I belong to. I was born in the ‘80s, but don’t enjoy Safety Dance, nor do I hold any particular fondness for the stock market or the feeling of numb gums. I grew up enjoying the culture of the ‘90s, and it went far to shape my particularly unhealthy brand of car enthusiasm.
Like me, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was born in the ‘80s, but grew into its own in the ‘90s with various changes along the way. The first generation cars, made in an agreement between Mitsubisi and Chrysler called Diamond Star Motors (DSM), were produced as identical triplets representing three different brands - the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon, and Plymouth Laser with the crown jewel being the all-wheel-drive, turbocharged Eclipse GSX and Eagle Talon TSi AWD.
The cars were quite popular, especially with the advent of the hot hatch just years prior, enough to warrant a second generation for every model except the Plymouth Laser because Chrysler loved shooting itself squarely in the foot and creating two identical cars that would compete with one another. No matter, I’m sure this plan made perfect sense on the napkin the company execs scribbled it on during the annual Free Booze And Team Building Tax Write-Off Conference in Aspen.
When the second generation of DSM-built cars hit showrooms, the redesign of the car was quite refreshing, as both the non-turbo and turbo variants had more available power and torque. The venerable and quite sturdy 4G63 four cylinder turbo engine was redesigned with a better flowing cylinder head and better turbocharger performance from its now-standard T25 turbo, giving the manual version of the Eclipse and Talon 210 horsepower, which was on the right side of not bad at a time when Fruit Stripe gum and zebra print was still the thing.
It was a stellar sports compact coupe that lit a white-hot flame under every boy racer’s ass, continuing to this day. Here’s everything you need to know about this awesome little turbo coupe.
Part 2: No Hatchback For Old Men
My story begins, as all good and totally true stories do - on the internet. As I was perusing the Jalopnik chat channel, looking for inspiration to write why people should never consider buying a car unless it’s the price of several used garden hoses, Truck Yeah! editor and Fu Manchu stand-in Andrew Collins sent me a link for a seeminlgy stock Mitubishi Eclipse GSX on Craigslist, which I quickly bought with the help of a better-than-I-deserve co-worker by the name of Raphael Orlove.
Of course, I wrote about this experience when I bought the car and posted shots of the car on Twitter, but I left a few initial details out - specifics that I’ll be kind enough to disclose to you right now. No, it’s not your birthday, so quit asking. Here was the car as I got it:
This lovely example of Japanese compactness and forced induction brilliance cost me a grand total of $3500, but without a one to one analog to compare prices, I had no way of knowing whether it was a solid buy or not. The only knowledge I possessed at the point of purchase was that this may have been the last bone stock Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX in existence, and it was my job and my job alone to protect it from anyone who would wish to install seven-color interchangeable LED ground effects or carbon fiber ghost flame stickers from AutoZone’s “style” section.
The car, despite its initial stock-ness and general well-being had some small issues that could turn into large ones if left unchecked. First, the clutch pedal had so much play that it required a few pumps to get into first gear. This was due to the previous owner doing the clutch replacement himself and not bleeding or adjusting the pedal afterwards because he was an older fellow that was due for a hip replacement. He actually sold the car to cover his medical costs, which worked out quite well for the both of us. Thanks, Obama.
The car also stumbled like a bar fight loser when the accelerator was applied in generous quantities and would hesitate heavily when the turbo kicked on in high gear. It wasn’t jarring or dangerous, but it was a noticeable loss of power, and considering that on these cars, a misfire could in theory be a quite extensive diagnosis process, it was a bit disconcerting.
To add to the list of things that needed doin’, the radio - despite being a unit that had an auxiliary input in freaking 1995 - had an issue with the volume control going from timid nun to a pissed off R. Lee Ermey in a split second, rendering the ride home an unusually somber one out of fear that the speakers would try to stab my eardrums with whatever my phone was playing at the time (aren’t aux inputs awesome?)
However, the worst automotive malady plaguing the gray-haired unicorn was the fact that the air conditioning didn’t work. The heater and blower worked without fuss, but the damn thing didn’t blow any cold air. Fortunately, the previous owner didn’t recite the Craigslist Used Car Seller’s Pledge - “it just needs a recharge”, and had the problem diagnosed by a professional, who narrowed it down to a leaky evaporator along with an estimate in the amount of $1500 for parts and labor. With the consideration that the amount to fix this one component was almost half the money I was spending to acquire the car, this was something I had to attempt myself. Taking a chance on the car, I decided to order parts, cued the music, and got to work.
Part 3: Minor Fixes With Major Results
I originally bought the car with a spare set of wheels with summer tires on them not particularly great for the unusually harsh winter roads we had in New Jersey, so I elected to use the stock GSX alloys with the snow tires I had installed on the car when I got it. I didn’t have access to a wheel machine, nor would I resort to backyard methods of releasing a tire from a rim, so I took it to a nearby tire shop and had them swap wheels with tires.
I got the car home and did a quick once-over with a mild detergent to see what needed attention and if the new (to me) wheels would clean up properly:
Upon a deep inspection of the car’s paintwork and mechanicals, everything was quite original and the engine had no protruding leaks, at least not anything further than what was initially visible from the valve cover. To solve the car’s major hesitation problem, I first took off one thing that the previous owner said gave him “a little more power” - a universal G-Force chip that was spliced on to the car’s Mass Air Flow sensor wires. Turns out, this didn’t do anything and I threw it in the trash.
To give myself the best chance of remedying this mechanical conundrum, I turned to something that’s often the culprit of many turbocharged cars’ spittin’ episodes - the spark plugs.
I replaced the plugs with new NGK Platinums and documented the process so others could learn how to do it without getting into trouble on their first time with a socket wrench. After installing the plugs, the car ran perfectly with no hesitation in sight, in any RPM or throttle input level. To add to the theme of tune-ups, I changed the engine oil with Mobil 1 and transmission fluid with Redline MT90 to prevent grinds or notchiness when cold. While the acceleration was never blistering, at the very least it was now showroom stock. I also had the clutch fluid bled at a nearby shop, the labor and fluid charge was around $70.
To tackle the busted air conditioner, I used the Chilton and Factory Service Repair manuals that came with the car to aid me with taking apart the air conditioning evaporator, which was behind the glove box and held on with five 10mm bolts. I removed it after I removed the battery and disconnected the AC lines. Since there was a visible leak over time, the system was devoid of pressure.
I bought a used, but leak tested evaporator on eBay for $60 and got it in short order. I compared the old evaporator to my new one and it was slightly different, but only when it came to the exterior housing. I re-used the stock housing and removed the faulty evaporator to be recycled, putting the good used part into service. Here’s the old AC evaporator out of the car and out of its case, quite a steam-punk looking thing, isn’t it?
After installing new O-rings in the AC lines and checking for any bent ends and cleaning mating surfaces, I buttoned everything up:
Here’s the part where a less scrupulous owner would usually fill the AC lines with refrigerant and mark the project a rousing success - but there’s a very important step that many forget when they work on an AC system - replacing the receiver dryer. The dryer is the part of the system that removes the moisture and also the first thing to go bad when you develop a refrigerant leak. The dryers are non-serviceable but cheap enough that they could and should be replaced every time there’s a filling from empty situation occurring. Here’s the old dryer next to the new one:
The dryer is installed with one 10mm mounting bolt and the two 10mm bolts holding the lines on. After the dryer was fitted and snugged down, I filled the system with the appropriate amount of R134A refrigerant and oil, using a gauge to cap off any excess pressure.
By the time I completed this project, the weather had taken a turn for the better, namely that the ice-cold AC was now actually useful to an increasingly sweaty me. I checked for leaks on all the AC line joints and junctions over the next few days to make sure that I didn’t screw anything up. Considering that a shop would’ve charged $1500 for this job, I reckon that fixing this issue in particular was time and money well spent.
The last issue with the car was the schizophrenic radio volume, something solved by just spraying the front of the radio with electrical parts cleaner and turning the knob left and right. After a few minutes of spraying, I let the radio dry off, turned it on and it worked just like new. Oh happy day!
After I made sure all functions of the car were within serviceable limits, I prepped the little red rocket for sale. To clean the interior, I used an arsenal of reliable and effective weaponry. Here’s the full list of what I used:
- Dishwashing Soap
- Spray Bottles
- Mr Clean Magic Eraser Pack
- Leather Conditioner/Cleaner
- Microfiber towels
- Invisible Glass (Ammonia free)
- Bissell Little Green Machine
Here were the results:
To bring out the shine in the relatively clean exterior, I washed, clay barred, polished and waxed the car using these products:
- 2 buckets
- Dishwashing soap
- Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash
- Meguiar’s M205 Mirror Glaze Polish
- Meguiar’s Clay Bar
- PC 7424XP w 6” backing plate
- 3 pads for agressive cut , medium cut and fine cut/polish.
- Collinite 845 wax
- Microfiber Towels
I also followed these tutorials, made by Larry Kosilla at AMMO NYC and /DRIVE:
- Audi R8 BLACKBIRD: Basic Car Wash Techniques -/DRIVE CLEAN
- Top Ten Detailing Mistakes -/DRIVE CLEAN
- Interior Detailing: Tools, Techniques, and Materials -/DRIVE CLEAN
- Polishers and Swirl Removal Tips -/DRIVE CLEAN
Here were the results:
If it wasn’t the cleanest example in the area when I got it, it sure was when I put it up for sale.
Part 4: Backhanded Compliments
Whenever you sell a car that’s popular with enthusiasts first and foremost, it’s tough to post a classified ad without having someone letting you know that not only are you insane for actually wanting adequate market value for the car, but their cousin’s brother’s yoga instructor found a car just like yours with half the miles, twice the shine, at the price of a stiff handshake and a glass of milk.
I put the car on eBay with a Buy It Now of $7,599 or Best Offer. With room for negotiation, my target for the car was $6,500 because it was quite a clean example of a top-of-the-line turbo coupe and the market has been shifting upwards steadily for a while now. I’ll be the first one to realize that enthusiasts can be their own worst enemies when it comes to resale value, so any comments that complained about price were taken with a grain of salt. I wasn’t out to gouge anyone, just get a price that was fair for the quality of car I presented - and as it turns out, it no more than three days after the car was put up for sale, it was hauled off by its new owner for the healthy sum of $6,300.
Here’s the breakdown of costs for this flip:
|1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX||-$3,500.00|
|AC Evaporator, Dryer, R134A Refrigerant||-111.77|
|Oil Change and Labor||-70.00|
I had the car for around six months, but it was mostly in storage until the weather got good enough where it would turn a realistic profit, as sports cars usually sell much better in the spring and summertime. It was a ton of fun and I’m sure the new owners will love it for years to come.
Even at the top-dollar market price that I crested, the car was still a monumental performance potential bargain.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes and makes videos 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.