Launched in Japan in 1994, the Mitsubishi FTO became the first sports car to win the coveted Japanese Car Of The Year award since the MK 1 Toyota MR2 in 1984. Based on a modified Mitsubishi Galant platform, the FTO was offered with three engines, a 1.8-litre 16v four-cylinder unit developing 125bhp, a 2.0-litre V6 developing 180bhp and a MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Timing and lift Electronic Control system) version of the V6 which utilised variable valve timing in order to generate 200bhp.
Six models are available as imports. The 1.8-litre GS is the base model, whilst the GR is similar except for the fitment of the 180bhp 2.0-litre V6. The GX Sport is a GR with bigger alloy wheels, better brakes and an aggressive spoiler kit. The most popular model was the GPX, which used the 200bhp MIVEC V6, but was outwardly similar to the GX Sport. Two lesser-known versions are the GX Aero, which opted for a more aggressive spoiler kit, and the specialist GP version R, which is a lighter, stiffer version of the GPX. A GPX Type-R if you will. 'Intelligent' four speed INVECS II automatic gearboxes could be specified, with five-speed auto boxes available from 1997, when the FTO range received a mild facelift. The indicators and front foglamps were now mounted in separate housings whilst the 'mouth' at the front of the car was changed from an ovoid shape to a more rectangular appearance.
Originally only intended for the Japanese market, official imports to New Zealand began in 1998 and whilst a few cars were reaching these shores via the 'semi-official' route of Mitsubishi's Ralliart arm, it wasn't until May 2000 that the FTO GPX got the official thumbs up from Mitsubishi UK, priced at £22,995. With over 20,000 grey imported FTOs having already arrived, Mitsubishi may just have missed the boat, so as to speak.